All in Leadership

How Do You Measure Success?

We’re in a business environment that, for the most part, is fixated on growth. One that values year over year, double and triple digit revenue increases as absolutely essential to being considered a “successful” company, to not be considered a failure.

In particular, if the organization is funded, that’s almost always a base level expectation. You aren’t being funded to simply create a going concern, you’ve been given a charter to create something transformative, huge, the next proverbial unicorn. (The more prominent the funders, the more prominent this expectation becomes.)

There's Always Room For Value (Part 2 - Competition)

In my last post, I talked about how there’s always room for value when deciding to enter a market and that the key is in defining that value in a way that matters to the customer, and is profitable for you.

In this post, I’ll discuss the idea of competition and how defining who you compete with, as well as how they go to market, can and should influence your decision to play within a specific space.

Now, our initial tendency as we evaluate a specific market will be to consider the most obvious competitor in that space. This is our direct competition, and they are always the ones with the biggest brand, revenues, mindshare.

There's Always Room For Value (Part 1 - Markets and Customers)

All too often, when we’re evaluating a new product or service idea, we get caught up in the notion of '“competitive dominance”. That there can only be one competitor who owns that space and, hence, competing in that market is a non-starter. Or, alternately, that there are so many players that that market has become commoditized. Either way, there’s no point playing in that space because the opportunity (for us) is gone.

When We Rush To Judgement

The more time you spend on social media, the more you see examples of it.

Someone posts a video excerpt of an altercation, or footage of someone acting a way we don’t agree with, or an article about someone making statements that don’t resonate with what we believe in.

And our tendency, our natural instinct, is to react. To make our judgement. And then to share that judgement with someone else, and someone else, and someone else. Because the emotion of the moment is hard to get past, hard to get over.

Own The Message

Back in my early consulting days, I was asked to give a presentation to a prospective client and was handed a deck to present. My instructions were to go through the material, get comfortable with the content and then do a run-through with the partner with whom I’d be doing the pitch.

The content was right in my sweet spot, so I was pretty comfortable with the key messages that we needed to get across. But some of the material in the deck didn’t sit well with me.

When You’re Sick of Fitting In...

“People want companies and the world around them to align to their values, their goals, their needs, their interests. People want to find where they belong. They’re sick of fitting in.” Chris Brogan

We’re in a very different age from the one I grew up in. Back then, consumer brands exhibited personalities along parameters that were, generally speaking, non-controversial. It was important to offend no-one and “to stand out” was to do so along ‘conventional’ lines (sexy was cool but in a heterosexual way; models were never plus-size; family units started with a man and a woman, etc.).

If You Have To Brag About How Busy You Are...

I’m so busy. I’ve got a ton going on. I don’t have the time. We hear (and say) these phrases regularly, and to little surprise, given all that we might have on our plate at any given time.

In most ways, of course, it’s good to be busy. To experience the buzz you get when things at work are humming along, when you’re in full flow and driving towards whatever goals you’re working towards.

The flip side, though, is when we feel as if we have to be this way all the time - and worse, to show it, and constantly say it.

The Experienced Entrepreneur: What The Data Says

In my post on Monday (Are You Too Old?), I argued that, as an experienced professional, you had to lean into your age and experience instead of trying to downplay or avoid it. As such, you either look for those who value your experience and work with them, or take matters into your own hands, and do something for yourself. In other words, take it as a Call To Action and do what you want.

The interesting thing is that in trying to do what we want, many of us are hounded - constrained - by the same conventional wisdom that drove us to this point in the first place.

Are You Too Old?

I recently came across a survey of US Tech Start-Up Founders by the venture-capital firm, First Round Capital, that yielded an insight that I think most of us, explicitly or implicitly, know to be the case:

37% said age is the strongest investor bias against founders, while 28% cited gender and 26% cited race.

Age is the strongest investor bias. No surprise there. And while the survey was focused on Tech, I don’t think it would be a stretch to envision this to be the case across start ups in other sectors as well.

Cutting The Cord

Earlier this year, I got rid of my landline. It was a decision that, frankly, much harder than it should have been.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve had a cell phone since the late 90’s and I’ve been using my cell for all personal calls, almost exclusively, for the last half decade at least. In addition, the only calls that I (or any of my family) have been getting on our landline the last few years have been from telemarketers, and we pretty much never answer those calls.

3 Reasons This Post Will Change Your Life (Disclaimer: It Won't)

Yes, that title is clickbait. (Partially anyway.)

A title that is designed to lure you in and make you read what I’ve written.

Because it promises you salvation (or resolution or clarity or closure) in some form. Because it suggests that that salvation will come from a few discrete steps. Because it suggests that salvation is going to be easy (implicitly anyway).

You're Not Perfect. That's OK.

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us.” (Brene Brown)

There’s an illusion in the business world that we cannot expose our flaws to anyone around us - not our colleagues, our clients and certainly not our bosses. The fear is, of course, that we will be judged, perceived as someone who is fundamentally flawed and, accordingly, cast off to career obscurity.

It’s an illusion that becomes all the more exacerbated at the management level. I can’t afford to show any weakness. I have to always impress that I know everything. I can never say ‘I don’t know’.

When You Need A Burning Platform

Change doesn’t tend to come easily to most of us.

For the most part, we don’t typically choose to change. More often, change - or at the very least, the need for it - is thrust upon us due to some exterior event, shift or development. When profits are severely impacted, when a competitor introduces a revolutionary new product or when an external environmental shift occurs, shifting the steady state we’ve become so comfortable with.

Lessons From Springsteen On Broadway

By the time Bruce Springsteen released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, in 1973, he’d already had almost a decade of playing experience under his belt. He’d started playing back in 1964 with a band called The Rogues, then another, then another, ultimately morphing into the now famous E Street Band.

That first album met with critical acclaim but little commercial success. The one after (The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle) fared pretty much the same, and he didn’t really achieve commercial success until Born To Run was released in 1975.

It Matters More When No One's Looking

It’s easy to be nice (or virtuous or kind or thoughtful) when the eyes of the world - or even a single person, for that matter - are on you. It’s much harder, and frankly, far more telling and meaningful when they’re not.

This is true in all walks of life, but especially so in the business world, where we allow ourselves to use the “capitalist filter” to make decisions that, if we were to step back and assess them in a broader social or moral sense, we likely would have acted otherwise. (Putting aside why people are so completely comfortable divorcing moral or fairness considerations from economic ones. That’s a conversation for another time.)

What Is Your Ambition Based In?

I think most of us accept that ambition is a necessary ingredient for success.

Whether we’re growing a business, launching a new initiative or pushing forward on a creative project, ambition is needed to not only get the project going, but more importantly to take it to fruition. It’s a foundational requirement for creating lasting, meaningful change.

So the important question to ask is not whether or not we have the ambition needed to succeed. That’s a hygiene factor. If we don’t, there’s no point even getting started.

Don't Believe The Hype

To be human is to be complex. It means we aren’t one thing. We’re multi-faceted.

For example, that sports star that won that coveted trophy actually isn’t perfect. She’s made (and will continue to make) plenty of mistakes along the way.

And that team that finished in second place, the one whose faults are being picked apart by all critics? Well, they still played better than all the other teams in the league - except for one.

When AOL Tanked (Or Paying Attention To The Right Metrics)

Sometime between late Spring and early Fall, 1996, AOL’s stock fell from a high of $70 all the way down to $24.

These were the early days of the internet. The space was booming: startups were popping up everywhere, investors’ ears were perking up, and the big, established players were taking notice and/or beginning to get involved.