Monthly Archives: November 2012

Aim, Fire! Adjust :-) Lead, Learn & Innovate like an entrepreneurial startup

You don’t have to be a start-up to learn, lead and innovate like one…

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1. Entrepreneurs are built, not born 

By correlation we can imply all businesses have innovative capacity and building that capability can be through strategy, resource allocation, process, culture and leadership.  Most importantly having a go!  After all is not the best form of learning the practical as opposed to the theory.

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2. Start-ups are unique

They are not small versions of large companies and hence traditional business thinking tends to stifle the start-up.  Likewise if a large organisation is looking to innovate and ‘learn by doing’, they need to be open to start up ways of working, managing, funding.  Less ruling by command & control and more by seeking, solving, encouraging and seed funding.

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3. The Search for a Business Model

Under lean start up models the founders search for repeatable and scalable business models, rather than settling on one when the venture is launched.  For larger corporates they tend to apply new ways of doing things through existing business models more often than not as the ‘status quo’ police of middle management apply traditional ways of reaching customers and consumers.  Instead a healthy start point might be a small venture team based diverse group of individuals starting with a blank sheet of paper literally and saying ‘without constraint’ what is the best way we can create value from this idea/insight/trend/unmet need and take our product or service to customers and consumers in new and innovative ways.  Senior leadership should give encouragement for the venture teams to take this approach and be open to growing some babies or children outside the corporate home or traditional business model.

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4. Run Fast

Successful start ups observe when their business model is struggling, respond to new facts, decide which parts of the business model require urgent change, and act.  Less time on detailed business planning and more time on testing in market with real live tests.  How often do you sit in board rooms with your peers either a) presenting or b) picking apart detailed business cases on products or services with 5 year business revenue and profit projections that could be better spent on inquisitive questioning like “how can we test this for small dollars to get large learning”.  What are some creative entrepreneurial ways we can find out if this is going to work before we scale it and go full blown national launch for example?

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5. Pivot and Turn

Pivoting is about iteration, testing and validation, and can be as simple as realising you have priced a product or service incorrectly.  Start up founders realise that several pivots maybe required in the early years to reinvent the venture.  They ensure the culture and staff are flexible enough to turn on a dime if required.  By correlation in many corporate cultures its often launch and leave or launch and run in case things don’t go well.  Culture is an integral part here of creating a testing, learning and adaptive team based culture where the venture teams are kept together post product/service launch and report back in frequently with learning and recommendation to pivot, stop, start again, push harder, invest more/less, etc.  Some large businesses realise that traditional leadership structures or meetings and forums do not allow for this type of learning and iterative process and set up incubators, skunk works, or get senior grey haired veterans to run these entrepreneurial business units.  Cell based structures may also be appropriate and leaders will need to work out how and when the satellite businesses are brought back into the mother ship or scaled and grown by the battalion as opposed to continuing to operate like the special forces.

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6. Lean and Learn 

True learning comes from testing aspects of the business model and market hypothesis early and quickly. Rather than spending months researching start ups get their minimum viable product (MVP) to market quickly and let their customers inform them.  Speed is the imperative and their most precious asset.  In the age of ‘accelerate everything’ where we live by the mantra ‘I want it now!” and I can find it in 7 seconds or less on Google this is a very potent message to large corporations.  Research is often done to reassure internal stakeholders and appease layers of management the homework has been done before the big artillery of $$$ of Advertising and Promotion are spent in the market to support this new product or service.  More thinking can and should be devoted to how multiple controlled live tests can be launched simultaneously for e.g. 7 different products in 7 different states and review and learn after 6 months which 1 or 2 continue and we invest redevelop and roll out.

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7. Feedback Loops 

Start up entrepreneurs create feedback loops to measure customers response to new products, at least at the very start, to decide whether to ‘pivot or perserve’ with their business model.  They constantly source customer feedback and let it  shape their business model.  With the advent of social media this process of continuous feedback loops should arguably be much easier for the larger corporates than the start ups.  They have the millions of likes on Facebook constantly feedback criticism or favourites on new products and prototypes.  Corporates often have very sophisticated customer engagement models and survey tools as well through third party providers.  Turning these tools towards active engagement on product and service beta development, controlled market tests and post launch analysis with equally prompt redesign and redelivery will increase customer and consumer engagement and arguably make the large corporates a more nimble and liked business by their customers.  The challenge is on the big to be ‘small & nimble’ far more so than the other way around in the modern age of instant gratification, response and listening.

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8. The Critical Formula 

Under lean entrepreneurship thinking, chaos + speed + pivots = success.  Start ups  realise they need to operate in environments of extreme unpredictability (chaos), use great skill to change quickly as circumstances dictate (speed) and reinvent aspects of their business model (pivot) to respond to threats and opportunity.  This seemingly choatic, manic, back flipping or zig zagging appearance will not sit well inside many corporations where the mandate is often 10% topline and 10% bottom line growth year on year.  However, entrepreneurship be that corporate or start up is never 10% steady year on year growth and its up to senior leaders to create ‘gambling funds’, set aside intrapreneurial seed capital and manage their own intracompany adventuring like a venture capitalist.  Not all bets come off and provided the company accepts that some bets and teams are like the house money in the casino but that it could be the next one or the next one that comes off they are on the road to learning and the more they learn by doing the more that appearance of fast, pivoting, chaos will start to feel like the new normal around here and that will be a demonstration that culture has come to match the business innovation strategy, they have succeeded in allocating scarce resources to new ventures and they have a process that is producing results.

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9.  Entrepreneurship is Management 

While it may not sit well with many strong minded entrepreneurs or creative innovators, Ries notes entrepreneurship is essentially another form of management.  The start up management style recognises the uncertainty of entrepreneurship with its increased risk and reward profile and the need to adapt and develop a stream of constant innovation.   For many large corporates like conglomerates who operate across different industries, geographies or have multiple business units they are already a great example of using multiple business models and management styles.  To them entrepreneurship may not be new and maybe something we have been doing for years without the name tag e.g. Wesfarmers, Tata, China Resources Enterprise to name a few.  For other large corporates who have not yet tackled this head on or are thinking about tackling it head on I can recommend a couple of immediate things to do.  Step 1 Pick up a copy of Lean Start Up and note down everything as you read that is interesting and new, anything you learn and lastly but most importanly, what you can take and apply to your own context.  Step 2 immerse yourself in the learning process.  Go and see some start ups in action in your industry or adjacent industries.  Go and seek to understand how large conglomerates can operate with multiple entities and entrepreneurial divisions inside a large business structure.  Step 3 and the most important step.  Get the strategy out, make sure it has an innovation strategy component and invest some ‘gambling chips’ into starting some ventures.  Back those ventures and applaud their bravery across the business until what seems unnerving, unnatural and unreal becomes the new ‘way we do things around here’

It might take a lot of guts, determination and persistence but then again so does starting your own business as any entrepreneur out there will tell you over a coffee or cold beer or glass of wine.

Create Innovate Grow 

Dermott Dowling @Creatovate

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7 Steps to Conquer the Web like a Giant Spider Killer!

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In a year where Fairfax announces 1,900 redundancies and News Ltd announces restructures and right sizes (read redundancies) James Tuckerman (founder of anthillonline.com) hosted a series of seminars on conquering the Web with a guest list of Giant Spider Killer entrepreneurs.  Here are their 7 secret steps of web marketing I learned in a day:

1)       Remember the Commanders Intent! (Your Mission Statement)

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Just like when a platoon tries to take an enemy position your business needs a mission statement to guide you when you hit the marketplace and bullets fly in all directions?  In the internet the commander’s intent in the top right box of your mind must always be:

  1. Make it Measurable (if it can’t be measured don’t do it, it’s that simple)
  2. Findable (otherwise your wasting your time)
  3. Shareable (maximise the value of word of mouth and social media)
  4. Manageable (use tools and systems to reduce the workload and focus on value creating activity vs. ‘rinse and repeat’ tasks that can be outsourced)

2)       What’s your Pitch and does it make sense to your 15 year old nephew?

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Anthony Gaddie shared his wisdom on breaking down your business value proposition into simple, easy to understand language your 15 year old nephew understands and your target market.

  • Who is your target market?
  • What we do…
  • Benefits (to target market)
  • Feelings
  • Problems

When you verbalised your ‘elevator pitch’ it should come across like:

You know how…target market & problem

What we do…benefits & feeling

In fact…evidence from past work or client experience (NB: In 30 seconds or less – jargon removed)

Then, Part 2: Set Measurable Goals e.g.

1) Get qualified sales leads

2) Sign up for my blog

3) Click and download a shareable piece of knowledge (Product for Prospects) e.g. YouTube video

3)       Who is Wang Xing? He’s China’s Mark Zuckenberg and here is what he wants to tell us?

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Xing says, “Too many entrepreneurs sell vitamins instead of selling headaches. “  What does he mean? Put simply, what is your customers’ pain point? It’s no good selling them benefits when they are healthy.  Be there when they have a migraine with your aspirin (value proposition).  Be top of mind when they type ‘“help me” into Google.  Do this by giving them relevant small doses of business information in advance of the migraine.  For example which of the following two offers is more effective?

1)       20% off Folate Web Ad or,

2)       Ten Things a Pregnant Mother should not eat with a tear off coupon on the bottom (for 20% off Folate)

Market to the ‘headaches’ of your target market and remember the 7 deadly sins or Maslow hierarchy of needs in understanding their migraine points.

4)       Your Website is Your Home Planet – bring them home!

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What is your website purpose? If it’s not one of the four below you are wasting your resources:

I.        Sales

II.        Pre-qualified leads

III.        Coupons

IV.        Out-going clicks (advertising)

Use Measurement tools to measure your website effectiveness, for example.  They are widely available and many are FREE! Examples include:

  • Google analytics
  • Crazy Egg
  • Unbounce

5)       Don’t try and bed your customer on the first date.  Charm him/her slowly, Barry White style.  It’s a funnel not a tunnel on the Internet.

sales funnel

  • 1000 visits =>
  • 100 email registrations =>
  • 40 surveys =>
  • 10 sales

6)       Even Dummies can do Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Hire the celebrity chefs and not the lawyers of SEO and by that, they mean do not be fooled by the mystery and mastery of the 142 secret steps you need to get a Google #1 ranking.  Hire the celebrity chefs and pay for their implementation.  Understand how search engines work.

It’s the number of links and the quality of links on your website.

Understand how ‘spiders’ & ‘bots’ work and how they like the size of the site and ease of navigation, plus SPEED & RECENCY count.  Don’t forget Keywords.   Update ‘title tags’ on your page

  • Home page
  • Permanent pages
  • Posts

Use “about 60 characters”, and lead with the Noun for title tags and if you use a Content Management Systems utilise the headings under the paragraph drop down to maximum effect.  Last but not least, create measurable shareable content i.e. ‘retweetable’ headlines that are interesting and sharable.

7)       Facebook: Like us like Lorna Jane and play by the rules.

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It’s a virtuous cycle and it goes like this: Acquire => Engage => Convert => Engage => Acquire…

Some Facebook tips for newbies from Sam Zivot @LornaJane that will help you on your way include:

  • Learn by doing (there are no experts out there, we are all learning social media)
  • One thought per post (reduce redundancy & duplicated links, etc.)
  • Aim for >1% engagement ratings (comments over likes over fans)
  •  People don’t read Facebook posts, they skim, make your post clear, simple and stand-out from the crowd
  • Only 11-23% of your fans on Facebook will actually see your post
  • Use authorised 3rd party apps for competitions or risk being banned from Facebook
  •  Use simple multi-choice options e.g. like A or B or like or dislike this prototype.  Do not ask open ended questions
  • Follow the leaders to learn e.g. George Takei


Bonus Step & Guiding Principle: Consumers only care about themselves and content relevant to them self

Marketing has changed…from… rent the eyeballs…to….own the eyeballs e.g. twitter

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How often do we spend all our time trying to convince other people and our customers what we have is of value to them?  When if we step back and think what they care about, what is relevant to them and how can our knowledge and the freely and widely available tools and systems at our disposal enable us to put that aspirin within reach so when their migraine hits and they stay calm and Google it, our business comes up trumps!  Thanks James, Anthony, Sam and Pete for sharing your 7 secrets to personal mastery of the tinternet!  This Luddite is convinced it’s time to start practising what I’ve learned.

Dermott Dowling

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