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Archive | June, 2010

Show me the money!

You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to sort out whether this is no small business lending because there is no capital … or because small businesses aren’t asking. There’s a lot here so keep reading if you want to gain a better understanding of what’s REALLY going on.

The Wall Street Journal recently carried an article, Big Bank’s Lending Programs Yielding Few Results So Far, which summarizes efforts by big banks like Goldman Sachs Group, Citigroup and Bank of America, under pressure from the Obama Administration, to launch programs to increase lending to entrepreneurs. Most of these programs are Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) – oh, great, another financial algorithm – which primarily lend to small businesses in low income areas – a worthy program but hardly a program targeted at the broad small business community.

Three days earlier in, A Credit Crunch That Lingers, the WSJ pointed out that only half of small businesses that tried to borrow last year got what they needed according to (more…)


Empower to the People!

I’m a big believer in the Ritz Carlton’s program of providing a $2,000 allowance to empower their employees to enhance the “Guest Experience” … and I think it’s noteworthy that the Cadillac division of General Motors is applying this concept to strengthen their relationship with potential Cadillac customers.

It’s not the money. It’s not the ability to gloss over errors and omissions in your customer service process … and the Ritz Carlton experience confirms that it’s rarely abused. It’s a great idea because it will not only “WOW” your customers … but most importantly … will demonstrate to your team that they are always on the front line of the customer experience and need to actively seize the power to solve problems for customers … right now!

What have you done to astonish your customers and build an impregnable customer relationship?


Where’s the key to the liquor cabinet?

Yesterday, I referenced a shorthand version of a business plan outline. Most of you saw the words “business plan” and immediately started looking for the key to the gun cabinet, conveniently placed right next to the liquor cabinet … because that phrase usually incites a painful, grinding noise between your ears.

If you still don’t think business plans have much value, check out this survey courtesy of Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software.

Short answer? Those who completed a business plan WERE MUCH MORE LIKELY to grow their business, raise investment capital and obtain a loan.

Stay tuned for the longer answer. In the meantime, why don’t you think you have a plan? What’s holding you back?


What are the right questions?

I’ve written numerous posts about business plans … the importance of preparing them, what should be in them, etc. Seth Godin has another, very simplified concept about what’s really needed:

* Truth * Assertions * Alternatives * People * Money

Cuts to the quick, doesn’t it? What do think is the most important question to answer in shaping your business plan?


Vol. 67: Get it right the first time!

Making one mistake, an umpire shows rare integrity

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” –George Washington Carver

This week I chose to digress from our series on strategic finance to offer a few observations about some powerful leadership lessons threading their way through recent headlines.

It’s mind-boggling how many repeat offenders of the “cover-up” appear in the headlines every week, denying the indiscretions that inevitably lead to slow, tortuous “uncovering.” Watergate fostered the relentless pursuit by the media of anything they rhymes with “lie and deny,” and Woodward and Bernstein launched plenty of investigative journalist careers when the Watergate secrets led to the downfall of the Nixon presidency. More recently, the political cover-ups, void of any sense of personal accountability, continue ad nauseum with a cast ranging from John Edwards to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the Catholic Church, etc.


Umpire Jim Joyce

Their attitude and comments have been devoured by a suspicious public that believes BP has not taken the oil spill seriously. Instead, BP ignited an irreversible media firestorm because it hesitated, then hedged about what is clearly the largest environmental disaster in American history.

Contrast this with the extraordinary personification of accountability by umpire Jim Joyce in the controversial call made on the third out in the ninth inning of the perfect game almost pitched by Armando Galarraga in Detroit on June 2.

Mr. Joyce overcame overwhelming animosity and disgust over his flubbed call by immediately and publicly acknowledging his error and facing the media head first, speaking candidly about a call that he clearly missed: “This isn’t a big call, this is a history call. And I kicked the s— out of it. There’s nobody that feels worse than I do. I take pride in this job, and I kicked the s— out of that call and I took a perfect game away from that kid over there who worked his a– off all night.”

Mr. Joyce didn’t hesitate or hedge or attempt to invoke the tricks and techniques that have toppled so many public figures. The alacrity with which he took full responsibility immediately turned a bitter and acrimonious episode into a bittersweet victory of integrity that is unparalleled among public figures.

Nothing could more powerfully illustrate the public’s appetite and respect for true accountability than the standing ovation Mr. Joyce received when he took the field in Detroit to umpire the game the very next evening. (Just as impressively, Mr. Galarraga could not have been more graceful in accepting Joyce’ apology, conducting himself with extraordinary aplomb and dignity in the face of a crushing disappointment.)

Jim Joyce personifies the concept of personal accountability. Moreover, he wasn’t just playing us but genuinely regretted his error and took immediate and unequivocal responsibility for the call. His integrity put him ahead of the curve and turned the story completely around as a great lesson in humility, honesty and accountability. His example is a powerful reminder that you can’t outrun a moving train … so if the train leaves the station and you’re not on it, it’s too late. BP is excoriated daily for failing to get on that train and has been chasing it ever since.

Real integrity can’t be imitated or mimicked, so in many ways, the case of Jim Joyce can’t be replicated. Immediate acceptance of responsibility, however, like McDonald’s recent reaction to the handling of its recall of defective Shrek glasses, can be achieved. The examples of Jim Joyce and McDonald’s stand in stark contrast to the half-hearted acknowledgements by BP or the stonewalling tactics that Goldman Sachs has recently been employing. It turns out that true accountability is always welcome … but too rare.



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Change is exhausting!

Many of us accept that the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. Our world is buffeted on all sides by change … kids grow up, technology abounds, friends move away, the list is endless.

Dan Heath at Fast Company describes a recent experience with subjects who were offered either chocolate chip cookies … or radishes. (If you’ve even been cut from a sports team, you’ll know how the radishes felt!). You can also see a short video there explaining the experiment. (more…)


It’s not the person

Fast Company recently carried a brief piece which described how what appears to be a personal shortcoming may obfuscate a problem situation. In psychology, they call it the Fundamental Attribution Error but the example they used is particularly poignant for many situations we’ve all seen.

Have you experienced situations that seemed like “people problems” … maybe you took it personally? … only to learn that a modest tweak in the situation resolved most of the problem?


Do we need a Federal Escrow Fund?

I’m sure this will be a popular post … but set aside your emotions for a moment about the BP disaster… and consider the insistence by the federal government that an independent agency take over the claims resulting from the oil spill,  purportedly overriding BP’s authority, and that of the other 12 entities on board the oil platform, in those matters. The suggested prototype is the independent examiner appointed to handle claims resulting from the events of 9/11 … but recognize that those events were NOT directly caused by a legal entity with rights and responsibilities and shareholders, or that was subject to a myriad of legitimate national and international governing bodies.

Who should decide how much to pay whom for oil spill claims?

What I wonder is whether BP … in most cases, any corporation … shouldn’t have some rights and control over the claims paid from funds ultimately belonging to their shareholders? Take special note that in BPs case, a powerful example of the global economy in which we live, 18 million British citizens own stock in BP, many of them retirees.

Emotions are running high and many people would prefer to see BP hanging from the nearest rafter. At the same time, shouldn’t a company be allowed to settle claims in a fair and reasonable manner? There are plenty of ways in which individuals and organizations can seek redress if they disagree on the results, either through appeal or in claims or civil courts if a reasonable settlement cannot be made.

What paperwork? (more…)


John Wooden: Words to live by

The simplest things in life are free … and sometimes, it’s the simple things that make so much sense.

Here is the simple creed that John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach whose winning record is unlikely to ever be surpassed, received from his father and carried in his wallet throughout his life:

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day. Pray for guidance, count and give thanks for your blessings every day.”

Simple. Clear. Unequivocal.

Is there a particular creed you live by each day?

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Any control freaks out there?

Those of you who are willing to admit …  or deserving … of wearing this crown have probably stumbled down the staircase more than once trying to exert your control over every fiber of the carpet beneath your feet.

Researchers have found that when test subjects are even subliminally exposed to the name of a person they believe is “controlling”, they unconsciously do the OPPOSITE of hard work. It seems that people value their freedom “so much so that even an unconscious memory of a controlling person stimulates a behavioral reaction.”

Combine this with The Productivity Paradox and the work done at Sony Pictures to focus more on employee energy management rather than time management, (more…)