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Steve Kaplan – Be The Elephant

Businesses large or small cannot afford to stand still in midst of rising costs, diminishing profits and changing market realities. Rather, the trick is to become an elephant big enough to make a difference, healthy enough to withstand financial currents, strong enough to influence the market and smart enough to avoid growth pitfalls. The author suggests a few key ideas and processes to consider in order to grow the business safely, while maximizing product/service value

1) Approach & mindset to sustainable growth – The secret to successful growth is to approach it as a solid, well thought out project, with focus on sales, infrastructure and domain knowledge, the same way you would approach starting a new business from scratch. We tend to have a huge bias towards believing our business model will succeed, which can be destructive. Strive to be pragmatic with your business model and acknowledge the risks. Invite criticism by surrounding yourself with people who will tell you what they really think, rather then what they think you want to hear.

2) Effective business modeling & decision making – A business model is essentially an assumption model based on your cost estimations and profit projections. The best way to minimize guesswork then is to shoot for specifics and/or hard numbers. The four statements you need for successful business are the month by month – projected revenue, projected cash-flow, projected income (profit/loss) and finally the fiscal year projected balance sheet.

3) Assembling a growth matrix – There are two possible growth strategies – horizontal and vertical. Horizontal growth entails finding new customers for your existing products/services. Vertical growth focuses on getting your current customer base to buy new products or services. A growth matrix can help you organize your revenue stream(s) such that you can identify white space in areas you are not serving with products, services or customers, consequently growth opportunities. Rank these opportunities in terms of their probability of success, evaluating each growth opportunity objectively, comparing potential risk with its potential rewards.

4) Successful action plan – One you have decided on the growth initiative, its time to implement it by putting together a successful action plan as follows. First, the team & leadership needs to be in place that are driven and committed to success. Second, detailed operational process for the new business, while also keep current customers satisfied. Third, execution timeline, metrics and accountability against each task. Fourth, is communication that is seamless and consistent across the organization.

5) Creating value & the perfect USP – There are four categories of customers. Quality seekers who are looking for the best product regardless of price. Service seekers need to feel cared for and that any product related problems after the sale will be addressed right away. Price seekers want to get the lowest price. Finally, the Satisfaction seekers are motivated by the need to feel safe and enjoy a sense of belonging via status, security and/or approval by others. Your product or service USP (unique selling proposition) and thus your branding should be aligned with the category of customers you are enticing to buy your product.

Measures to ensure a successful transition to greater growth include:

  1. Respecting the microscope
  2. Sharing the spotlight
  3. Involving others in shaping the business
  4. Promoting from within
  5. Communicating effectively

6) Process building –  Well thought out processes enable you to manage growth and build the organization.  Create an overview map of key processes of your company and go through each process step and chart out actions to complete that step. Re-examine the  processes in light of your growth expectations and make necessary modifications as well as combining tasks for higher efficiency.

In the end, the key  is to try and have all your bases covered, with the right people, right plan and key resources at hand, before you enter the growth phase.

The book is an excellent manual for current and future entrepreneurs to understand what pitfalls to avoid and best practices to apply to their business.  You can find more details on the book and/or the author here.

Paul Laudicina – Beating The Global Odds

In the book, the author argues that in today’s complex,confusing and constantly changing world, individuals and organizations of all kinds are faced with too much information and not enough understanding of it resulting in paralysis by analysis or on the flip side, frenetic and unfocused activity, devoid of clarity or purpose.

In the midst of these changing realties, characterized by hyperconnectivity, digitization and every growing complexity, consumers and companies alike that cling to outmoded concepts of products and services are continually left flat-footed.

On a macroscale, the decoupling of wealth creation from value creation has led to increasingly divided, alienated and atomized societies lacking a shared sense of purpose. The resulting provincial thinking has impeded diversity of ideas and inclusion of people, stifling innovation and value creation, which in turn drives wealth creation for businesses, societies and individuals.

To overcome these obstacles and beat the global odds, the author suggests a few fascinating approaches including

1) Values based leadership – We need to move from a world and a system in which people do good by doing well – that is, benefit others and the planet only as a byproduct of focusing on personal profit – to a system in which one does well by doing good – when providing true leadership and service is the central priority and financial returns and personal enrichment are merely their corollaries.

2) Keep it simple – Excessive abundance of choices and options in every aspect of life causes anxiety, stress and diminishes our sense of well-being. Instead, focus on simplicity – in products, lifestyles and in operations. The key is to not avoid modernity, but to identify and eliminate unnecessary complexity.

“We need to move from a world and a system in which people do good by doing well – that is, benefit others and the planet only as a byproduct of focusing on personal profit – to a system in which one does well by doing good – when providing true leadership and service is the central priority and financial returns and personal enrichment are merely their corollaries.”

3) Repair social fabric – Personal bonds of trust between employee/employer, consumer/manufacturer, borrower/lender are broken and need to be reforged as they are the glue to good business. To rebuild this sense of community and common purpose within a for-profit company, people need to spend time together.

4) Don’t wait for the next big thing – Though conventional wisdom suggests to start with market research, companies need to avoid being reactive and get on with innovating – seizing smaller opportunities instead of waiting for the next big boom.

5) Open the aperture – Expose yourself to different interests and points of view. Become an information omnivore,and ideally a discerning omnivore.

6) Turn pixels into clearer picture – Engage in scenario planning. It will not only expand an individual and an organization’s field of vision but also helps them powerfully imagine the future.

This book is a fascinating read with exciting new ideas and highly recommended. You can get more information about the book and/or the author here.

Intellectual Property 101

Companies across a variety of industries that actively manage their “intellectual property” consistently produce  higher stakeholder value than their peers.  But what constitutes an intellectual property (IP) of an organization?

The IP portfolio of a company includes – patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets.


A patent is a government grant of rights, for a limited period of time, to exclude others from making, using and selling within the territory controlled by the government a novel and a useful invention.  Companies typically seek Utility or Design patents. There is also another category of patents called plant patents, which won’t be covered here.

  • Utility patents are meant for devices, compositions of matter,  methods of operation or manufacturing, new uses of existing devices, business processes etc.
  • Design patents focus on ornamental appearance of a useful article.

Patents are are only approved on inventions that are novel, useful & on-obvious.   An invention meets the criteria can thus be protected by filing a patent application with the USPTO.  A patent once issued, is valid up to 20 years from the date the patent was issued.

An idea is just a problem statement. An invention is a solution  to that problem. Ideas aren’t patentable – only inventions are.


A copyright is a government grant of an exclusive rights to reproduce, display and perform the original form of expression embodied in creative works, such as writings, movies, and computer programs.

A copyright is only granted for original works of authorship and is protected by applying for copyright protection (copyright notice, registration) from the government. A copyright lasts for the life of the author + 50 years.


A trademark is a government grant of a right to exclude others from the use of a word, logo,  design or a similar identifier of source in connection with specific goods or services in commerce.

A trademark is granted if the identifier of the source is capable of distinguishing (e.g.  apple logo) and is protected by use in commerce and registration of the trademark with the government.  Additionally, a trademark once granted can be held indefinitely.


Any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information, which is not generally known and when used in one’s business, gives  the possessor a competitive advantage can be categorized as a Trade Secret e.g. coca-cola recipe

A trade secret  given its nature is protected by keeping it a secret or sharing it with partners under limited confidential disclosure or non-disclosure agreements.  A trade secret once divulged to the public can no longer be protected.

Jill Konrath – Snap Selling

Potential customers are under growing pressure to do more, with less  money, less time and fewer resources.  This challenge is exacerbated by  increasingly crazy-busy workplace with excessive workloads, information overload and 24/7 availability.   Under these conditions, making a sale can be a daunting task.

 According to the author, there are four factors that should be at the forefront of every sales person when working with busy prospects. These are called the SNAP factors.

  1. Simple: Can you help eliminate complexity and effort from your prospect’s decision making process?
  2. INvaluable: What value do you, personally, bring to this relationship with a potential customer?
  3. Aligned: Are you able to stay consistently focused on the client’s needs at all times?
  4. Priority: Finally, are you able to convey to your client that your services are not only valuable but essential?

Every touch point (e.g. email, phone call,  in person meeting) should be evaluated against these factors, so that you stay on point and are laser focused on the client’s needs. The first step to a successful sale is to understand the customer pain points and then create a message that  piques the prospect’s curiosity and allows access.

But piquing their curiosity, is not nearly enough. You have to demonstrate value and consistently, that differentiates you, personally, from your competition.  Do you demonstrate understanding of customer’s needs, issues or objectives? Are you able to offer ideas or suggestions that might be useful to clients, outside of your product or service?  If not,  you should, by getting intimately familiar with their business. This is a key step to building loyal customer relationships.

Once you have their attention and become invaluable to them, the next step is to demonstrate the value your product or services offer. And beyond that,  demonstrate alignment with the core beliefs they value in their business relationships. Let’s face it, we prefer to do business with people, who are like-minded.

Last but not the least,  be aware of customer priorities as they are constantly shifting.  Target prospects whose priority projects you can help with and if possible help raise priorities.  If you can address a priority pain point, the sales process goes much faster.

I think the book is a very good read and offers useful ideas and techniques to hone our sales conversation skills.   You can get more information about the book and/or the author here.

Max Mckeown – Adaptability

Deliberate adaptation is the key to a smarter future in this ever changing world.  The outcomes of adaptation or lack thereof could be positive or negative. However,  the author suggests that by recognizing the need for adaptation, understanding the rules of adaptation and doing what is necessary to adapt proactively leads to more options than otherwise would be available.

The rules of deliberate adaptation include:

1) Playing your own game –  Anticipating changing situations or possibilities thereof and seeking to act preemptively puts you in the position, where you are playing the game by your rules. On the flip side,  if you are reacting to a changing situation, you are already behind the 8-ball with fewer options available.

2) All failure is failure to adapt – “Failure” is in actuality failure to adapt.   You need to identify what adaptations are needed to succeed or survive and make the necessary adaptations.

3) Embrace unacceptable wisdom – When seeking to adapt,  don’t limit yourself to obvious options. If anything, seek out unconventional  ideas. They may provoke and increase your adaptive options

4) F**K with rules – Rules are based on experience and often valuable. Even so, when situations changes, those same rules may no longer hold true. Knowing when to break them is critical to successful adaptability

5) Stability is a dangerous illusion – Change is a constant, so any illusion of stability is just that. Trying to hold on to that illusion out of fear or complacency could be bad news for the future.  Rather than wait for situation to change, seek it out, anticipate and adapt.

6) Stupid survives until the smart succeeds – Science seeks to disprove its own theories in search of more and more useful theory. Similarly, the idea that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, runs counter to progress and  deliberate adaptation. The new way of looking at situation isn’t necessarily better than the old way, but to avoid new thinking is to limit effective adaptation.

The rules of adaptation:

  1. Play your own game
  2. All failure is failure to adapt
  3. Embrace unacceptable wisdom
  4. F**k with the rules
  5. Stability is a dangerous illusion
  6. Stupid survives until the smart succeeds
  7. Learning fast better than failing fast
  8. Plan B matters most
  9. Free radicals
  10. Think better together
  11. Get a kick-ass partner
  12. Never grow up
  13. Hierarchy is a fossil fuel
  14. Keep the ball
  15. Swerve and swarm
  16. Get your ambition on
  17. Always the beginning

7) Learning fast better than failing fast –  The point is not learn to fail, but to learn what works from failure.  The shift is from gaining insights to acting on it and learning until you get it right.

8) Plan B matters most – Adaptation is often initiated when the need is recognized, the nature of adaptation is understood and appropriate action taken.  There are often disastrous consequences for being late to adapt. Even so, successful adaptation depends on not so much on what has happened before, but on what can be imagined next.

9) Free the radicals – There are those who apply inherited knowledge to succeed. But a point comes when new knowledge needs to be created and that requires radical and sometimes divergent approach.  These knowledge creators, radicals if you will, are often instrumental in permitting effective adaptations.

10) Think better together – Improving collective ability to think is helpful to winning adaptation.  Moreover, motivating a collective to adapt does not need to start with majority support; it often starts with key individual(s) who lead the change culture and subsequently move the majority in to action.

11) Get a kick-ass partner – Effective adaptation is helped by having people with diverse skills and talents that can be leveraged into synergistic working relationships.

12) Never grow up – Most corporations become victims of their own success, grow stale and lose the edge that got them there in the first place. Successful adaptive companies stay forever young  constantly fanning the flames of curiosity and never grow up.

13) Hierarchy is  fossil fuel – Traditional corporate hierarchy as a structure resists constant learning and evolution in favor of  institutionalized self-interested behavior.  Obviously, this is counter to effective adaptation.

14) Keep the ball – If your adaptation becomes extremely successful, it then becomes the new industry standard.  That said, you and the competitors now get to the play the game by your rules.

15) Swerve and swarm – Efforts to bring attention to a particular situation and the need to adapt  can be a decisive factor in providing the impetus for change.

16) Get your ambition on – Ambition is a way of seeing the future that is possible. Any changes  and adaptations can only occur in the future; ambition is what gets us started.

17) Always the beginning –   Deliberate adaptation never ends.  In this context, if you are still in the game, then its always the beginning. Adaptation then is a never ending game, until you decide to quit.

It’s a great read and highlights the key element of successful careers and organization. The willingness of these people and organizations to  eschew status quo in favor of never-ending and deliberate adaptation to stay ahead of the game. You can learn more about the book and/or author here