Written by Jay Turo on Monday, July 8, 2013
Every day I see entrepreneurs trying to find that right balance between keeping their intellectual property confidential while sharing and promoting their business model - especially to investors - 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 “post your business 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 are so incredibly 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 - of the should be expected ethical type that 999 times out of 1,000 – that 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 almost always more subtle than the fear of idea theft.
You see, for the vast majority of entrepreneurs without eight to nine-figure research and development 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 business confidentiality derives not so much from the threat of a nefarious competitor stealing an idea.
Rather, it is how the aura of confidentiality can bestow on a business that lovely element of mystique that draws people and resources to it, and does so in such a way that a nicely high perception of value follows.
And from this perception 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 or television or 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 marketplace mystique - deprived people of North Korea must unconsciously suffer through every day of their lives.
And then come back and tell me that mystique doesn’t matter.
So appreciate mystique - that beautiful elixir of the modern marketplace – for its own sake as the incredible gift and blessing it is.
And you entrepreneurs understand how confidentiality and discretion, when utilized gracefully and not ham-handedly, can help create it.
As for investors, look for this “you know it when you see it” quality in entrepreneurs and business models to back.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, July 1, 2013
On this great day when we celebrate America, our freedoms and our way of life, please enjoy (and please share with a Facebook like below and on Twitter with the hashtag #SpiritofAmerica) our list of twenty of why this is the greatest country in the history of the world:
#20. Hollywood. Disneyland. Broadway. Entertainment happens here.
#19. Heat - Spurs, Bruins - Blackhawks, The Super Bowl, The Final Four. Sports are spectacle here.
#18. Jesus. Moses. Mohammed. The Buddha. Religion gets along here.
#17. Gates. Jobs. Page. Zuckerberg. BIG stuff - invented here.
#16. Murphy. Martin. Seinfeld. Rock. Life is a laugh here.
#15. Madonna. Mariah. Whitney. Elvis. Michael. Frank. Songs are sung here.
#14. Faulkner. Hemmingway. Roth. Franzen. Stories are told here.
#13. Kaiser. Pfizer. Genentech. Merck. Healing happens here.
#12. Boeing. Caterpiillar. Deere. UPS. FedEx. Stuff gets built here and gets there.
#11. Amazon. eBay. Ecommerce - transacted here.
#10. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Networks - connected here.
#9. Google. Yahoo. Bing. Information - organized and accessible here.
#8. Kleiner. Sequoia. Mayfield. Ideas - backed here.
#7. The Inc. 500. The Fast Company 50. Entrepreneurs - inspired here.
#6. Alaska. Montana. Wyoming. Space - open here.
#5. Chicago. Boston. San Francisco. NYC. Cities pulse here.
#4. Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt walked the Earth here.
#3. The first guy in charge here voluntarily gave up power, when he could easily have been named ruler for life. Character stands here.
#2. The current guy in charge was born to an immigrant father and a teenage mother who was so poor that she received government assistance in raising her only child. Possibility abounds here.
#1. The Greatest Generation was born here, fought and won there. And then they came home, put their heads down, and built a new America. Civil rights, cities, suburbs, highways, schools, and more.
So on this day especially, we say THANK YOU!
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 24, 2013
The fundamental challenge of modern business is finding that right balance between tactics and strategy, between execution and innovation, between management and entrepreneurship.
Typically, as companies grow and age, they naturally become more tactical, more execution - focused.
In contrast, the “tabula rasa” of startups has traditionally been the best milieu for out-of-the-box strategy and innovation to thrive.
Now in the old days, businesses could do ok by being very good at just one of these.
Big businesses could sustain profitable franchises for years by leveraging their resource advantages to keep smaller competitors out and margins high.
As for startups, pre Global Internet, it was easy to stay in the “idea bubble.”
Investors were more patient and it often just wasn’t that obvious if your team and technology had the right stuff. You had time on your side.
But no longer - businesses must now be either good at both or they perish.
This is extremely stressful for most entrepreneurs and business owners, and especially for investors working to determine which of them to back.
Luckily, there is an easy shorthand to separate the superstar company wheat from the chaff.
It is the simple idea that super business PEOPLE must be all of these things too.
And superstar companies are really just ones where lots and lots of superstar people work.
So, find the superstar people, and the money will follow.
In his excellent book “The Global Achievement Gap,” author Tony Wagner flags seven crucial and “superstar” skills to look for:
1. Critical thinking and problem solving
2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
3. Agility and adaptability
4. Initiative and entrepreneurship
5. Effective oral and written communication
6. Accessing and analyzing information
7. Curiosity and imagination
To this, let me add one more: Ambition.
Now I am not talking about the garden variety get good grades, go to a nice college, start a small business, complain about taxes and regulation and how hard it all is type ambition.
In this multi-billion person, highly educated, hard-working world of ours, that just doesn’t cut it.
No, the ambition I am talking about is one that burns so deep and hot that it is deeply dysfunctional.
An ambition that usually translates for sure into an insane, other-worldly work ethic, but one that goes beyond that.
It is an ambition that is channeled daily into ongoing personal and professional improvement and learning.
An ambition that leads to goals beyond the realistically possible.
Like Steve Jobs leading Apple into the music business, or Richard Branson Virgin into airlines, or Tony Hsieh with Zappos putting his life and considerable fortune on the line, for of all things, to sell shoes online.
This kind of ambition is the unifying force. It demands that everything be done right – strategy, tactics, innovation, execution, entrepreneurship, management.
Find this kind of ambition – channeled to ethical, capitalistic ends – and back it.
And you and the world will be better for it.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 17, 2013
Holding constant for socioeconomic factors, the typical entrepreneur makes less money, works more hours and suffers more work-related stress than their employed counterparts.
And when we combine these statistics with those that show a very low percentage of businesses ever attaining meaningful profitability, it is remarkable that people ever even dream to be entrepreneurs and start businesses at all.
But start them they do!
Quite possibly the most amazing and inspiring number in all of American business is 550,000.
That is the approximate number of new businesses that are started in American each and every year.
Now these opposing statistics beg the question, “Why?”
Why would 550,000 people - who statistically are far better educated and wealthier than the population as a whole - engage in behavior that on the surface clearly seems contrary to their self-interest and dare I say, delusional?
Well, on the cynical side, many of these brave folks probably think the odds of economic success are greater than they really are.
And even if they know the odds, they think that they don’t apply to them.
On the slightly less cynical but still not totally inspiring side, one could argue that businesses are started out of boredom - out of the need for that “action rush” that in the realm of business often only an entrepreneurial endeavor can truly provide.
Inspirationally, many believe like I do that entrepreneurship is the greatest force for positive change in the world today, and they start and grow businesses to be positive change agents, on levels big and small.
They start restaurants to create and share beautiful food, service, and atmosphere.
They open day care facilities to provide quality, spirited child care for working families.
They start creative agencies - graphic design, publish relation, web development firms, and the like to leverage their business and creative talent to its most effective end.
And they start drug development and medical device companies to help people live longer, healthier lives.
And thousands of types and forms and sizes of business in between, led by entrepreneurs with aspirations big and small, driven by motivations both pedestrian and soaring.
But at the heart of all of their reasons for starting businesses, at least of the ones that survive, is that often begrudged but really most inspiring motivation of them all.
They start businesses to make a lot of money.
Now the key word in that sentence is make - as in bringing into existence through creativity, effort, and as often as not more than a little serendipity and luck, something that did not exist beforehand.
Now often, for the entrepreneur and those that back them, the touching of this money often takes many years, even decades, of under-paid, hard, and often thankless work, before a cash windfall in the form of a business sale or a public offering.
But that is a story for another day.
For now, find those entrepreneurs and businesses that can truly make money, encourage and back them, and you and the world will get to a better place.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 10, 2013
GREAT businesses find the balance between:
a) Making the right changes at the right time and
b) Having the discipline to “keep on keeping on” and just doing more of what is working.
Note well that b) is particularly hard to maintain when the tasks and activities that ARE working become repetitive and lack in excitement and drama.
So how do executives find this balance - between being creative and just keeping their heads down and plowing forward?
Well, luckily in the past few years a large and impressive business literature has sprung up that codifies best practices of how to find this all-important balance.
It can best be summarized by the phrase “immersion plus spaced repetition” and goes like this:
1. Everything, of course, begins with ideas, with the best ones arising from a series of introspective strategic planning and goal-setting sessions that clarify objectives and the obstacles standing in the way of their accomplishment.
This immersive process - done at least annually but at the best companies quarterly - both defines what needs to be done and inspires all to take on the hard work of getting it done.
The value of inspiration cannot be underestimated – Thomas Edison famously said that “genius was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” but that 1% “spark” is uber-critical in propelling an organization through the first threshold of change.
2. But, as anyone that attended an exciting or invigorating conference or strategic planning session can attest (and as I am sure Mr. Edison reflected on often during long nights at the lab), inspiration fades over time.
Even worse, when the inspiration is not followed through on, cynicism can set in and actually leave an organization worse off than if the planning sessions were never done in the first place!
So how to avoid this distressing fate?
3. Well, by keeping the ideas, goals, and objectives of the planning session alive through their regular review and adjustment.
Think of it this way - if a well-run strategic planning session is the essence of good leadership, then repetitive goal reviews are the essence of good management.
Great managers check in with their teams as often as daily - if only for 5 or 10 minutes - to review the day’s objectives and to keep the shorter term work flow aligned with the longer term planning and mission objectives.
The old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time is never more true than when is comes to these spaced and repetitive management check-ins.
When done right, they measure, acknowledge, and reward incremental progress and prevent the desire for the perfect from getting in the way of the doable and the done.
Then, the organization reconvenes and reviews progress against stated goals, assesses what worked and what didn’t, and then refines and updates the key goals and objectives.
And after this next round of strategic planning, what is done?
Well, the spaced and repetitive management check-ins begin anew.
Wood is chopped, water is carried.
Following this simple but disciplined formula, over time great ideas become great realities, businesses are built, and legacies and fortunes are made.
And for investors, far more than technology these “above the line” leadership, management, and company culture disciplines separate the well-run companies to back from the disorganized ones to avoid.
So what are you waiting for?
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 3, 2013
Every time I moderate a strategic planning retreat, I learn something.
About the investment of life force necessary to build and sustain a successful organization in the modern business day.
About the importance of heartfelt and mutually supportive communication among and between an effective executive team.
About how there is no more efficient use of business time than to step away from the day-to-day, to reset, and to talk about the big “whys “of an enterprise.
And from this talk, to refresh, refine and define the best, most strategic, and highest ROI use of executives’ time and of an organization’s capital.
I have the great, good fortune to moderate 1 - 2 of these “big” strategic planning retreats each month.
This past week, the group was the eight person executive leadership team of one of the larger and more prestigious hospitals here in Los Angeles.
A dynamic and highly experienced group, these eight executives have management and leadership responsibilities for over 1,500 hospital employees - providing care to over 17,000 patients, including 4,000 deliveries and 8,000 surgeries annually.
Yes, these executives have their strategic and tactical hands full to the highest degree.
In addition to the sheer scale and breadth of their organization and of the truly life and death impacts of their decisions, they also must grapple with and adapt to the sea changes beyond their control in our brave, new healthcare world.
The Affordable Care Act.
Payor consolidation, driving down reimbursements.
An increasingly Byzantine thicket of regulatory, liability, and organizational complexity that can easily make a hospital executive feel that even their best work will and cannot “tilt the windmill” toward high quality and cost effective care.
But here’s the inspirational rub of it all…
The bigger the challenge, the more engaged does become the effective executive.
And in this hospital executive team that I had the privilege of working with this past week, well they were engaged and committed at the highest level.
Well, how about this - in spite of having a more than a century of collective experience, and having to travel from their homes an average of more than 50 miles through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, all eight members of the team arrived at the retreat 30 minutes before its scheduled 9:00 am start!
Or, how about the fact that the organization’s CEO, in spite of being on the job for 17 years and being honored as one of the nation's top hospital CEOs, seeking critical feedback from a staff member on the job less than 90 days?
How about a willingness to, in spite of leading a wildly successful and highly respected 100 year old+ organization, to in an afternoon agree to scrap the team's existing meeting structure and try something completely new?
And my favorite, how about a willingness to take on the challenge of fundamentally rethinking the performance review structures of their vast and complex organization, knowing that yes, doing so will result in far more work on their already stretched plates, but committing to it as it is in the profound interest of the organization's mission and reflective of its values to do so?
And that is all that matters.
These kinds of discussions, and of course many more of the highly confidential, and often heated and pointed type, resulted in a high emotion and results-packed retreat day.
Undertake this work like our fair and fine hospital executives did this past week and watch the magic happen.
And, of course, ignore it at your peril.
Because, as Thoreau once famously said an unexamined life is not worth living.
And an unreflecting organization will, in the end, almost always turn into one not worth having.
Written by Jay Turo on Saturday, May 25, 2013
Compared to its original intent, Memorial Day has become an overly “leisure” - focused day.
Rather, it is a day where we can and should take pause and remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy our blessed, modern lives.
Along with President's Day, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving, Memorial Day is one of the Big Four quintessentially “American” holidays.
Yes, days to step aside from our normal work routines and responsibilities, to relax, to have fun, to spend time with friends and family.
But also days to "pay forward" the sacrifices of those that gave their lives, in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, “so that that nation might live.”
And a great way to pay it forward is to stand strong for freedom.
Freedom is a word that too often has become stripped of much of its inherently spiritual meaning by politicians and others seeking to further narrow agendas.
And, also too often, a distracted (and distraction-seeking) populace has let them get away with just that.
But freedom stands alone as the highest of all of the great “American” virtues - this country’s revolutionary gift to the cultures and economies of the world.
Now, to the degree that the success of the American experience has inspired freedom worldwide - such that economies and cultures and lives of people in places like China, India, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, parts of Africa - that until recently have been clothed in medieval darkness, poverty, and rigidity...
... well then if freedom perishes here in the years to come, it will go on living elsewhere to a degree and on a scale many, many multiples greater than on these shores.
And yes, that is inspirational in its own right.
BUT it would not make it any less discouraging and dare I say sinful for those us blessed to be born and living in the cradle of freedom to let it perish here.
Or, as badly, to not take full advantage of the opportunities for self-expression, self-actualization, contribution, and prosperity this freedom affords.
And, of course, on this Memorial Day it would also be highly dishonorable to those who gave the ultimate sacrifices to preserve and protect it.
So how can one rightfully honor this gift of freedom?
Well first from that simple, profound place of gratitude and thanks.
But build on that.
Stand up for justice.
For good, limited, effective and neighborly government.
But stridently and ever vigilantly against corrupted, self-serving, expanding, "celebrity" and far away government.
And when it comes to work, knowing that freedom’s truest modern, civic expression is in the realm of private enterprise.
The realm of business.
So go for it.
Think. Plan. Act. Do.
To the fullest of our ability and with all of our effort.
In the service of noble missions and visions that call to us.
And when done to the fullest of our ability and with all of our effort…
…well on this Memorial Day then, we are honoring the sacrifices of those so they truly did not die in vain.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, May 20, 2013
I had the great good fortune this past weekend to co-host Growthink's Business Blueprint Live event at the LAX Sheraton Hotel, next door to our Company’s Los Angeles offices.
At it, 53 entrepreneurs and business owners gathered for two days and nights with the Growthink team to dream, plan, and network as to how to best grow the revenues, increase the profits and better fulfill the missions of their businesses.
What is really neat is that because of its longer group and in-person format, there is time and space to really listen and, correspondingly, to share best business practices, ideas, and inspirations.
Golly - what a weekend!
The attendees that ventured from near and far and from the comforts of their homes and regular routines took a chance.
The chance that by "mixing it up a bit," that breakthroughs would follow.
And they did.
From the aerospace engineer developing new quality assurance processes that make the engines that fly our planes safer and more efficient, to the software entrepreneur helping community banks better manage their loan portfolios (and by so doing freeing up more capital to lend to entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow their companies and create jobs), to the doctor re-designing the nature of care to focus more on prevention than cure, new and powerful business ideas and tactics were hatched and committed to.
And I was reminded of an old wisdom that I forget way too often.
It goes like this: when there is something “nutritious” in my life and business that I am resisting, it is that thing that above all else I need and should be doing.
It could be getting up early and doing that workout.
Or not having that second glass of wine.
Or taking that vacation.
Or, in business, making that call, writing that plan.
Going to that meeting, that conference.
And when you do, hold nothing back.
Don’t let any nagging doubts about whether this strategy, this decision, this job is the right one.
Just dive in.
What is brought to mind is Joseph Campbell, author of a “Hero of a Thousand Faces,” and the world’s great scholar on mythology and the foundational stories of humanity.
He famously said that what we all seek is not “so much meaning in life, as we do the experience of being alive.”
Well, this weekend what I and very many of the attendees that participated and shared with that full-on entrepreneurial commitment experienced this weekend was very much that of being fully “business alive.”
And from it and because of it, new business and conceptual breakthroughs and lovely relationships naturally flowed.
And when I reflect on these amazing outcomes, and then when I think back to the resistance I felt of not wanting to organize, not wanting to go to the event…
Well, it hits home that so important wisdom that when I really don't want to do something that I know in my heart that I should…
…well that is the exact thing that I must do.
And then let the magic happen.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, May 6, 2013
One of the great joys of my work is the unique opportunity it affords to meet and to learn from talented, committed, and effective executives - working hard and long on their entrepreneurial journeys
Men and women like Mike Kovaleski and Carrie Kessel of Mahar Tool Supply, a Michigan-based, mid-sized automotive technology distributor that is reinventing how vendor partnerships are structured and maintained in the global, high-tech, and oh-so competitive modern car business.
And as they do, they are creating both good jobs and an inspiring culture that's reflected in both the great longevity of their company (66 years young and counting!) and in the average tenure of their executive team (10+ years and increasing daily!).
Leaders like Dr. Ezat Parnia - President of Pacific Oaks - a small and fast growing Pasadena-based college that under his leadership is merging traditional offline educational values with the promise and power of online learning.
And as he does so, everyday demonstrating his fierce commitment to his students, mostly adults going back to school mid-life to earn training and degrees in early childhood education…
…who armed with their Pacific Oaks’ educations go out into the world and effect the school’s mission of seeing every child - no matter race, gender, or economic circumstance - be treated as a unique, special, and able learner.
And men like Good Samaritan Hospital’s CEO Andy Leeka, with his so articulate commitment to seeing his 1,400 employee strong, inner city Los Angeles Hospital become both a leader in care giving and…
…be a beacon of hope that says YES even budget and regulatory-strained hospitals can be places of high staff camaraderie, great patient care, and dare we say, even a little fun, too.
What do these brave and inspiring executives all have in common?
Well, first of all, in spite of them all leading very different organizations, with different reasons for being, competing in very different marketplaces, with very different sets of challenges and opportunities, they all think and act fundamentally the same.
Recognizing that even though they lead organizations that are on average more than 80 years old on average…
…that their fundamental business reality today is constant, unrelenting, everlasting, and fundamental change.
And that their job as leaders is to respond, pivot, profit, and win in the midst of all of it.
Second, they all "get" strategy.
Not as some academic or consultant’s exercise, but strategy as at the core of why they're organizations exist and what their mandates are to lead them.
Strategies that are big, as in where do they want their organizations to be 5, 10, 20 years hence?
And strategies that are “small,” as in what CRM, what eCommerce platform, what project management software to use?
And yes, they are all definitely contenders.
They just don't talk about reaching for the brass ring, they sacrifice every day to actually do so.
They plan their work.
And then they work their plans.
They (and everyone around them) know that it is not about them. Their glory, their rewards.
They’re in it for the mission.
Because they are blessed to be given the opportunity, and now by golly they are going to strive and strain with every fiber of their being to make the most of it.
For contenders like them, I have only one thing to say.
For making all of our lives healthier, smarter, richer, and all in all just better.
Oh, and maybe a quick word of advice.
Every now and again do come up for air and give yourself a pat on the back.
Because you've earned it and more.
P.S. Think you’re a contender? That you have the right stuff?
Are you committed to taking your career and business to the next level?
Then join Growthink President Dave Lavinsky and me in-person next weekend at our Business Blueprint Live event.
Click here to learn more and to apply to attend.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, April 29, 2013
Remember the bull markets of the 1980s and 1990s, when everybody was making money in the stock market?
Bad News: Those days are GONE… and they’re not coming back
Click below to discover mine and Growthink’s exclusive report on WHY today’s stock market is broken -- and what you can do about it:
http://www.growthink.com/stock-market-dead <-- Click here
It’s almost hard to imagine how strong stock market returns used to be…
Just look at the average annual returns of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1982 to 1989:
• 1982: 19.61%
• 1983: 20.27%
• 1984: -3.74%
• 1985: 27.66%
• 1986: 25.58%
• 1987: 2.26%
• 1988: 11.85%
• 1989: 26.96%
The good times continued in the 1990s. On January 1, 1990, the Dow Jones was at 2,810. By December 31, 1999, it had exploded to 11,497 -- an increase of 409% in just 10 years.
But today’s stock market is BROKEN.
From 2000 to TODAY, the Dow Jones has only moved from 11,078 to about 14,000 (only 27%). And INFLATION has reduced purchasing power by 37%... which means the net returns of the Dow Jones have been NEGATIVE.
Download this report and discover why the stock market is broken – and what you can do about it.
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