Doug McMillon, the newly appointed chief executive of global megastore Wal-Mart, recently met with the company’s top execs, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. We’re not sure exactly what the meeting entailed, but we do know that it ended with a surprising assignment from McMillon: they were all told to read The Everything Store, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s book that depicts the rise of the company’s early days where it was run out of a garage, to its current standing as a leading global retailer.
It might seem strange, but in The Everything Store, Bezos reveals that the Wal-Mart business model was something he frequently referred to when developing a plan of attack for growing his online retailor. So McMillon’s thoughts? For a company that has seen five consecutive negative quarters of sales in the U.S., the executive team had to come up with a different strategy; why not learn from someone that successfully learned from their own company so many years ago?
In a manner of speaking, they had to look back to Amazon’s earlier days and, instead of thinking for the next (literally) big thing—i.e. expanding the company’s megastore presence—the real solution may actually be to think on a smaller scale…dial it back, so to speak. They need to look into developing convenience stores, modest-sized grocery stores and even freestanding liquor stores.
The company also readjusted its pricing schematics for its online sales. Whereas in the past, it maintained its low prices guarantee, it was decided to keep that limited to the brick and mortar stores, while the website would take on the Amazon model, with prices that fluctuate based on the market competition.
It’s a smart move on Wal-Mart’s part to make it a priority to study its competitors in the wake of slowing sales and the need to come up with a solution, and a practice we feel all business professionals should be on top of. If you want to check out The Everything Store and see why it is such a compelling read, you can find a summary of the book here.
How many of your clients and prospects are focusing strategies around their corporate brand? I’m betting no matter what the number is, it grew from last year. And it’ll grow even more in the coming years. In fact, the 2014 CEO Challenge report I shared a few months ago showed an upward trend in CEOs focusing efforts and strategies on corporate branding, not just to attract customers but to also attract top, desirable talent.
So What is the Recipe for Creating a “Simply Irresistible” Workplace?
Can you guess what some of the top “Simply Irresistible” workplaces are? If you guessed companies such as Google, Amazon and Zappos, give yourself a pat on the back. Leaders in those companies have mastered instilling purpose and passion into their workforce. They inspire, lead with kindness and invest in their people. Camaraderie, work-life balance and opportunities for growth are all part of the recipe for creating a “Simply Irresistible” company.
“Simply Irresistible” companies provide:
• Meaningful work
• Good management
• Flexibility and inclusion
• Growth opportunity
• Trust in leadership
What makes leadership such a popular business book category? Business books are a resource that people follow in order to achieve success, with the goal of taking their career or their business to the next level. Leadership books, on the other hand, are almost the opposite, in that their goal is to inspire people to stop following and start leading. An intrinsic quality of those books is that they challenge the status quo, teaching us that we should not be afraid to act and think differently from the rest. Three books epitomize this notion: “The Rebel Entrepreneur: Rewriting the Business Rulebook” by Jonathon Moules; “Fear Your Strengths: What You are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem” by Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaiser; and “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love,” by Cal Newport.
Jonathon Moules, author of “The Rebel Entrepreneur,” and a writer for the Financial Times of London, studied successful business owners who didn’t play by the existing rules, but instead forged their own path. He concluded that contrary to the stereotype of the start-up entrepreneur, rebel entrepreneurs are interested in neither funding their business with angel or VC capital nor trying out a brand new, untested business idea, even if they have the potential to be disruptive. Rebel entrepreneurs simply create new businesses that evolved out of already proven models. The author also identified the following traits that set the rebel entrepreneur apart:
5 Common Traits of the Rebel Entrepreneur
Thanks to new guidelines, the FAA has officially given us the okay to keep our phones on during take-off and landing. By the end of the year, we will have more time en route – gate to gate – to maximize our use of our electronic devices.
This change means more reading time in transit. And while in the past that required carrying your books and journals on board an airplane, now you can simply download your reading materials to your smartphone, tablet or laptop. When you combine that flexibility with getAbstract’s quick-to-consume summaries, efficiency has never been more, well, efficient. In a three-hour flight, say, from New York to Miami, you could absorb the key content of 10 business books without even turning a page.
Derek Sivers is the quintessential serial entrepreneur and TED speaker who time and time again has successfully challenged the status quo. Sivers has given three short and concise Ted Talks including, “How to Start a Movement,” “Weird or Just Different” and “Keep your Goals to Yourself.” He’s let us know that the way we think about leadership, motivation and goals or the notion of weird is all wrong. This is a recurring theme in his career which started with the creation of CD Baby – a start-up that changed the way independent musicians distribute their music. In “Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur” Derek described his motivation for selling CD Baby for $22 million and donating the proceeds to charity.
Sivers grew up in the United States but moved to Asia in 2010. In 2013, he launched his new company Wood Egg, which publishes guides for entrepreneurs interested in starting a business in Asia. He now resides in New Zealand where he focuses on his latest project MuckWork, a business designed to help musicians with the “mundane, boring work that wasn’t (about) making music.” He recently talked to us about changing his “operating system” and his experience preparing his TED Talks.
For the first time in 10 years, I had free time. So I thought of what seemed to be most needed next. In all my conversations with musicians for 10 years, the main thing people said they wanted was someone to help them with all the mundane, boring work that wasn’t making music. So I got inspired to try to solve that problem.
That said, I got halfway to completion before pausing it, and deciding to go explore the world instead. I felt that if I started another company immediately after selling my previous company, I’d just go right back to my workaholic ways, without making a real change in my life.
So that’s why I started travelling the world, going to TED, speaking at TED, moving to Singapore, learning about Asia, and basically changing my operating system.
We all hit a time in our life when we feel we need to make a major change. Maybe it’s a breakup, a graduation, or quitting drinking. For me, it was when I sold my company. Literally the day after I sold my company of 10 years, I started the next one. I incorporated it, registered the domain, started programming it, and even hired a manager. A few months into it, I realized that if I stayed on this track, I was in for another 10 years of the same thing I’d been doing for the previous 10 years. That’s when I decided I needed to make a major change, instead.
I call it “changing my operating system” because it’s about looking at the way you do things and make choices, and replacing your previous habits with new ones. For years I had been very head-down in my work, so I decided to go head-up and take in all kinds of new experiences. Say yes where I used to say no, and say no where I used to say yes.
Moving to a very different place is a great way to make a big change. That’s why I moved to Singapore. For three years there, I immersed myself in every new experience I could.
Then, after three years, I found I wasn’t getting any real work done, because I was so busy immersing myself in new experiences, and meeting with everyone who wanted to meet. (Singapore is a very small and very social place.)
I felt it was time to go “head-down” again, and focus on my work. So I moved all the way to New Zealand, where I don’t know anyone, and nobody comes to visit. It’s a wonderful place to work without distractions, and also a great little country I’m really proud to be a part of.
Today’s business climate revolves around innovation and new product development, so entrepreneurs increasingly need support from venture capitalists. The individual entrepreneur’s problem is determining how to stand out in a sea of other impassioned visionaries.
The flipside of the growth in entrepreneurship is an unprecedented increase in the competition for funding. So, to catch a VC’s attention you need more than just a good idea. But how do you hook and reel in bankers and other investors, and convince them in to fund your venture when the competition is so steep? Your edge may simply come down to your pitch. Its content and its delivery may matter even more than your product or service itself.
Of course, a strong “advanced elevator pitch” requires a working prototype and a strong presentation,” but what else do you need?
First, make sure your PowerPoint presentation follows author Guy Kawasaki’s oft-quoted 10/20/30 rule? (that is, 10 slides, lasting no more than 20 minutes, and containing no font smaller than 30 points.)
To get the scoop on pitching to VC’s, we turned to two well-regarded speakers, both leading authorities on gaining start-up funding. Kawasaki himself and David S. Rose, who offer their top tips on pitching a VC:
BusinessWeek calls David S. Rose a “world conquering entrepreneur;” he calls himself the “pitch coach.” He’s an investor who has raised millions in venture capital and invested millions in more than 75 pioneering tech start-ups. His top tips on how to pitch venture capitalists successfully include:
Top Tip # 1: Entrepreneurs themselves are the most important aspect of any business investment. They must display as many of the following characteristics as possible: integrity, enthusiasm, experience, expertise, skillfulness, leadership, commitment, vision, realism, and willingness to learn.
It can be all too easy for leaders to settle into familiar patterns and habits over the years. But if you haven’t looked up from your hectic schedule and evaluated areas where you could stand to improve, you might be stuck in a leadership rut. So even if you’re wary of personal New Year’s resolutions, consider entering 2014 with a focus on leadership resolutions that can strengthen your entire organization.
Forbes shares four common pain points that leaders often struggle with: becoming more thoughtful, focusing on employee benefits, transforming talent recruitment and investing in continuing education. These measures not only address frequently overlooked areas, but they directly drive improvements in employee satisfaction and retention rates, which can, in turn, fuel organizational stability and long-term success. To learn more about these four leadership resolutions, read the full article here
How many meetings leave you feeling as if nothing was achieved? The meeting did not achieve its purpose; the people who attended did not meet their goals. In essence, it was just a time-wasting conversation and you would have rather been at your desk, answering the pile-up of emails and tending to your work.
If you find yourself trapped in the hamster wheel of hapless meetings, you’ll empathize with Jason Fried’s TED talk, Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work. He discusses the time wasted at meetings that don’t move projects along and that serve only to prevent people from working.
Given that such meetings are the traditional course of business, how do you get out of the rut and find a more effective vehicle for communication and project development? Turn to Martin Murphy’s book No More Pointless Meetings.
Murphy proposes a technique called Workflow Management. First, managers assign a facilitator to run meetings. Facilitators choreograph workflow sessions to assure that the group is collaborative, productive and efficient. The impartial facilitators assume responsibility only for process – not the meeting’s content. They do not join in the discussion, instead, they use separate content (the focus and purpose of the meeting) from process (the logistics of the meeting: place, seating layout, tone, energy level, numbers and types of attendees). Surprisingly, Murphy suggests that meetings are more effective when a junior ranking member officiates.
“If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them” (Forbes.com)
Organizations implement leadership programs to expand their employees’ competencies, skills and abilities to execute current and future business objectives. A development program should teach leaders to drive performance effectively and to help their teams excel.
Your corporate goal is to build a pool of talented people who can lead your workforce and who can generate business improvement, innovation and profits.
Great leaders gain a lot of their knowledge by accumulating years of experience, but good organizations accelerate their leaders’ professional growth by investing in programs that develop their skills. Of course, human resource senior managers need to know how to plan their companies’ leadership development efforts and how to measure, track and evaluate how well each programming investment meets its goals.