The Innovation Imperative – 5 Questions to Ask


Going into the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all organizations were facing myriad challenges in terms of fiercer competition, more discriminating customers, longer sales cycles, and difficulty in differentiating their offerings, mostly due to tremendous advances in technology and a demand for greater transparency.

The pandemic has accelerated what forces were already in play, in addition to changing the way we all live and work, and devastating certain industries and business models. Now more than ever, every organization should be aggressively looking to innovate…or go extinct.

Every organization is different, with its own set of unique markets, customers and business drivers. As we work with our portfolio companies in helping them innovate, we start with the following 5 questions:

  • How congruent is the way you innovate with your vision and appetite for innovation?
  • How effectively do you articulate your vision and appetite for innovation to your stakeholders?
  • Is innovation a crucial part of your team members’ job descriptions?
  • Do you have the right processes to create and bring innovation to market?
  • How do you measure ROI and your ability to meet customer expectations?

Tying vision to appetite for innovation – This is core to a company’s ability to succeed as it iterates and pivots. Is the innovation imperative part of your company’s DNA? Those who embrace creativity and boundaryless thinking are essentially building innovation into the way they operate.

Articulating your vision for innovation – It’s not enough to just think in a vacuum. It’s necessary to evangelize the need for different thinking and changing for the better. The most innovative organizations talk about their innovation goals and progress, and they actively share this with their teams, shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc. “Walking the talk” brings it all together for stakeholders and they can all participate to help companies innovate.

Team members as “innovators” – We have heard the mantra that “everyone is in sales.” Embracing this mentality has benefitted many companies and their employees. The companies who are most effective at innovating think that “everyone is an innovator,” and they actively engage all team members in formal and informal exercises and conversations for ideas on organizational self-improvement.

Processes for Innovation – This takes leadership from the top, and an assignment of resources to execute on the innovation imperative. The most innovative organizations create and implement innovation processes,  measure results, and iterate off that feedback. This set of processes is a playbook for how companies can continue coming up with the best and most creative ideas.

Measuring ROI – The best kind of innovations have a direct and measurable ROI. Some will not be measurable, but will have benefits (examples could be improved employee morale, increased retention, customer lifetime, value, etc.) and should therefore be undertaken. The discipline of calculating ROI by itself is extremely useful, as it forces a closer examination of the various drivers of a business.

In summary, what we are looking for are the vision/desire for innovation, how it’s communicated, engagement of team in this effort, execution structure, and tangible ROI. The answers to these five questions will form a good foundation from which any organization can start looking at things differently and innovating its way to greater success.

The TikTok Moment – lessons learned from the modern day Sputnik Moment of #DigitalTransformation

Free Stock Photo of Leadership Concept with Paper Airplane Created by Jack Moreh

This is a Guest blog post from Jet Lu, digital innovator and digital transformation leader who is Director of Digital DevOps for the City of Baltimore.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It was perceived as a technological gap between the United States and Soviet Union, and caused public fear and anxiety. Days later, president Dwight Eisenhower addressed the nation with a subdued message: “So far as the satellite itself is concerned, that does not raise my apprehension-not one iota,”. However, it wasn’t long before Eisenhower declared the true crisis and threats the United States must confront. The true crisis and propaganda coup as the result of Sputnik was not truly suppressed until 10 years after, when we put the first and only humans on the surface of the moon. That is still standing true until this very day.

We got over the crisis and took lead in the competition by accepting the competing factors, and excelling ourselves to be the best at it. We have to give the same sense of urgency and priority to digital transformation.

In August 2020, executive orders were issued aimed to ban social media platforms TikTok and WeChat. These may not be familiar names to many prior to the political hype, but it does not change the fact that they have 500 million and 1 billion active users respectively. There’s a global competition over artificial intelligence, cyber security, digital connectivity, and digital influence. Unfortunately, we do not have a solid lead in the race anymore, and some analyst may say we are losing the lead position. If you haven’t come to the realization this is at the same scale, if not greater, than the historic Sputnik crisis, then you have positioned yourself behind the eight ball. 

We have hit a ‘TikTok moment’, and I want to coin this phrase. I want our children to remember this moment and what it means in history. Why? Because once again, we are in reactive and defensive mode. It is the crossroads of a modern day revolution, a digital revolution. We should use this as fuel for digital transformation to truly come out ahead of the race from this ‘TikTok’ crisis.

We have long been in the state of a developed country. However, have we achieved being the first digitally developed country? The digital equity issues across the States screams “digital crisis.” The digital world is borderless, and it invites your competitors to your front steps. It can be a healthy competition though, or even a healthy collaboration if handled right. It is not all necessarily negative. We must take the right steps as we confront the challenges and threats it presents, and take aggressive and transformative steps forward. I’m not a politician. I’m a transformation leader, and in today’s world, the focus is digital transformation. Banning TikTok or WeChat is an attempt to avoid the risk, but there are more effective steps we should take in order to mitigate the risks & threats in a more transformative way.

Lesson #1: Honor the duct tape solutions, and take them seriously

Digital innovation has been disruptive for quite some time, from the dotcom era (from 1995 to the dotcom bubble burst in 2000), to physical to cyber, and now cyber to physical. Much of how we are adapting to the digital solutions are seen as duct tape approaches, such as injecting social media usage to existing sales & marketing outreach, as well as employee engagement.

Two reasons to take these duct tape approaches seriously: First, businesses use the new digital capabilities creatively. The business value we could extract from a particular technology is only limited by the appetite of an organization to try new things, and take on calculated risks. Just as there’s not only one right use for duct tape. Second, it is a misconception that these digital duct tape solutions are temporary. As technology disrupts the status quo, we can expect to strategize using these digital equivalents of duct tape as a long term approach. We should come to the realization that how we used to run our businesses is becoming the band-aid we should rip off quickly to minimize the pain.

The China-based messaging app, WeChat, served as the most popular duct tape solution testbed for personal and business use in China. Just as Mark Zuckerberg once said that “private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication”, and messaging is at the core of Facebook’s future. WeChat is taking a similar approach. Today, WeChat is the go-to app for personal messaging, group messaging, information sharing, ride hailing, making payments, receive payments, and digital wallet. These are just a few of the digital duct tape equivalents that have proved their effectiveness.

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to challenge established ecosystems

This is exactly how technology such as TikTok, WeChat, and many others are disrupting the digital maturity we proudly exhibit. For example, our banking industry is an established ecosystem with very mature endpoint capabilities. Businesses are able to equip themselves to accept different means of payment, and Point of Sale (POS) support is very common. In many parts of the world, affordability to join this ecosystem continued to be a major challenge. Square disrupted this space by lowering the cost of entry and improving the end user experience. Furthermore, platforms like WeChat and Alipay disrupted the space again by providing a contactless and zero-cost endpoint support alternative, the pay by QR code option. This is by far the most impactful digital duct tape equivalent in 3rd world and developing countries. Today, WeChat and Alipay QR code payment is the default method of payment for over 1 billion users globally. This digital duct tape has earned a permanent seat at the high table.

Lesson #3: Digital Transformation has a leading role in responding to today’s business challenges

One thing we have to be very clear about is that digital transformation equals business transformation in the current landscape. What digital transformation is NOT, is to simply make changes on how your IT supports your business. Technology is an enabler, but how you apply and mobilize it to transform your business is the key. Because it takes enterprise level leadership to take the charge in shifting the culture, transform operating processes, bridge knowledge gaps, and repurpose resources. There are deliberate implications to all areas of an organization, such as procurement, legal, product development, sales & marketing, business administration, manufacturing, and etc. 

The low hanging fruits of digitization in a mature business environment are digital workers, digital influence, and turning data into action. 

Digital Workers

The concept of digital workers, via Robotic Process Automation, is a widely adopted and practical way to apply to operational challenges that are time consuming and repetitive. Robotic Process Automation solutions are not meant to replace human workers, but to enable workers to do more while eliminating human errors. The human worker still owns the business intelligence to support the delivery of the business value. Robotic Process Automation is perfect for business processes that contain tedious tasks such as data processing, user notification, task hand-off, document routing, calculations, calling APIs and etc.

Digital Influence

In today’s world, influencers do not have to spread their ideas in person. With the help of digital technology, mass outreach is immediate, targeted, and traced. Most importantly, audience feedback works the same way. This is being used heavily today, not only in businesses’ sales & marketing campaigns, but also political campaigns. 

The effectiveness is beyond the traditional media. Today’s technology enables influencer campaigners to predict personality traits, consumption habits, as well as political orientation of their target audiences. Then through a series of effort to put information in front of their audience, while the messages may be directly or indirectly related to the objective, to shape or shift the audiences’ decisions. The decisions are often perceived as your own without even realizing the influencing factors. A study of the infamous case of how Cambridge Analytica turned data from Facebook that was publicly available into political campaign tools, makes me ponder just how powerful and destructive it can be for data to be in the wrong hands. Especially for those who have possession of your private data.

While that may be a bit extreme, but a simple digital outreach to get information to your audience, and automate the feedback loop from your audience, is definitely a low hanging fruit.

Turning data into action

Many organizations today are looking for innovative ideas with different motives. Some are trying to align solutions to their digital transformation strategy, some are for making the headlines, and some are trying to improve existing Key Performance Indicators (KPI). However, a common misconception is that it has to be a new product or solution. There are so many existing products and solutions that were put in place and never executed to its full potential. In most cases, leveraging data from existing solutions is a low hanging fruit to upgrade these solutions to realize additional business value.

In a panel discussion earlier this year, I talked about exactly how this applies to the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, and how we can turn existing Operational Technology (OT) into IoT solutions by the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). If we look at all IoT solutions in stages of maturity, I would have to agree with John Rossman. The four levels of IoT are

  • Level 1: tracking capabilities – this is where a single device collects data, but the value it provides is limited, and it is only available to the owner of the data.
  • Level 2: insights and adjustments – this level of IoT devices comes with sensor based analytics, and data is captured in the cloud. There may also be simple analytics and machine learning algorithms applied to the data. However, there’s no real-time adjustment, and there’s no network value where it connects & interacts with other devices.
  • Level 3: optimizations – this is where a network of devices are in play, and based on the data generated, they are making real-time and automated adjustments.
  • Level 4: network coordination – this is the ultimate goal and the most powerful state of IoT solutions. At this level, insights and actions are improved with not just one type of devices in the network, but variety of devices. In addition, the network is capable of handling entry and exit of devices to the network.

Many IoT solutions that were put in place by businesses and local government are of Level 1. As a matter of fact, many legacy operational technology solutions that are in use today can be considered as Level 1 IoT solutions. What they all have in common is the opportunity to level up to Level 2 or Level 3 by simply putting the data to work.

Lesson #4: Regulatory effort needs a sense of urgency

Digital transformation is not just about tech solutions, it should be include the full package of solutioning and operationalizing the solution with the support of necessary laws, regulations, and policies.

Today, mobile devices are tethered to users worldwide running a variety of applications, and they are generating an immense amount of data. The number of devices and data streaming agents per capita is growing by the day. The challenge is no longer who can obtain the data, but how we regulate a level playing field to embrace it, exploit the opportunities, control the risks, and stay ahead of it. When mobile phones were first widely adopted, getting information from an individual isn’t a secret weapon anymore. This also means minimal cost of entry to leverage real-time point-to-point communication. Such technology was once only accessible and affordable by businesses and military use. Technological advancement caused a shift in the society and put the power in the hands of individuals. To that extent, smart mobile devices ignited disruption in many areas. Some were not so obvious at the time, such as ride hailing services. There are risks and threats from every piece of technology, but there are also opportunities. Risk and threat mitigation is not as simple as disallowing the use of new tech. We are still dealing with phone scammers today, but we have legal and regulatory support. Most importantly, we have innovated beyond that and gained new grounds and new competitive advantages.

Conclusion

The overarching lesson to be learned is that we must get serious about digital transformation. We have to do it now, and we have to do it right. The impact on our economy and our quality of life will be substantial, and the impact is in all industries.

A stroll through Chinatown anywhere in the world will give you a taste of the Chinese culture. A few good ones will even make you feel like you are visiting China. Authentic food, sounds of the native tongue, and structures and signs resembles the culture to a tee. But it does not stop there. Paying for food and services just as they do in China is widely adopted as well. That’s right, it’s part of the culture to have a QR code in front of every cash register of every business. Customers open their WeChat app and scan the QR code to transfer funds from their WeChat wallet to the vendor’s WeChat wallet. The Chinese Yuan moved from one account to another in China, and never set foot in a foreign market, with zero recorded impact on the GDP of where the products and services were provided – and zero taxes collected!

That’s just one example of a problem created by not being in the front of digital innovation. With enough of these kinds of problems, we will find ourselves in a crisis. However, looking at it from a different angle, these are good problems to have. It means that someone is trying to do something right, a ripple effect is created. There are opportunities in every crisis. We should not panic, but instead exploit the heck out of those opportunities so that we can come out ahead of the TikTok crisis.

Jet Lu is a digital innovator, speaker and digital transformation leader. He is Director of Digital DevOps for the City of Baltimore and can be reached at jet.lu@outlook.com.

6 Ways Innovation and Entrepreneurship Promote Prosperity

entrepreneurship innovation

This is a Guest blog post from Andre Averbug.

It is not a coincidence that the most developed nations are also the ones with the highest levels of entrepreneurial activity and innovation. While starting from a minimal level of development helps support the latter two, for example through basic access to capital and institutional stability, the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship on the economy and society more broadly cannot be overstated. In fact, it goes beyond usual suspects such as increased productivity, competitiveness, and job creation, spilling over to areas as diverse as regulation, infrastructure, the environment, and social inclusion. Below I provide a (certainly non-exhaustive) list of six such effects. While every issue deserves an article (or even a book!) of its own, I provide but a brief overview on each point, leaving the interested reader to dig deeper on his or her own.

  1. Innovation can drive regulatory improvements

Although ideally the right conditions, including regulations, would be in place to enable the occurrence of innovations, the reality is that the order is often inverted. Regulatory changes can be drawn by the innovations themselves, from the bottom up. For example, in Kenya, Safaricom launched a series of increasingly innovative financial services through its M-Pesa platform, such as e-money transfer, virtual savings accounts, and virtual credit. The government watched while the company experimented and innovated and, once the demand for its services were demonstrated, the government enacted and amended laws to adequate the functioning of the financial system to M-Pesa’s offerings. This set a new regulatory stage in Kenya that benefited other fintech startups and helped democratize access to finance. When regulation follows innovation, it tends to work better than ex-ante efforts, which are often based on non-transferable international practices and struggle to support innovations that are not yet fully understood.

  1. Innovation can support infrastructure progress

Innovation can also promote infrastructure development. In the early 2000s, in Africa, the growth of telecom pioneer Celtel was hindered by insufficient cellphone coverage in countries like Congo, Gabon and Zambia. But the company did not just wait for government investments. It took matters into its own hands and invested in cell towers itself, as well as other complementary infrastructure such as roads, to be able to service the towers effectively, and water supply, so workers and their communities could have basic water access in remote areas. This investment has paid off for Celtel, enabling the exponential growth of the business, and the countries where it operates, which benefitted from improved infrastructure. Similarly, in Nigeria, Tolaram launched its popular brand of instant noodles Indomie, the first of its kind in the country, which quickly became a hit and a must-have dish across the country. The growth of the business, however, was being hindered by the precarious infrastructure and logistic capabilities in Nigeria. Tolaram invested more than $350 million in developing its own logistics company, with over 2,000 trucks, and building infrastructure including electricity and sewage and water treatment facilities. Furthermore, the company took a leading role in developing a $1.5 billion public-private partnership to build and operate a deep-water port in Lagos, all to support the long-term growth of its business. Both cases are discussed in details in the book The Prosperity Paradox.

  1. Innovation and entrepreneurship can promote environmental sustainability

There is plenty of evidence that this generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, especially younger ones, tend to be more environmentally conscious than businesspeople from previous generations and government bureaucrats. In fact, many startups are set up specifically to mitigate environmental challenges. Colombia’s Conceptos Plasticos, for example, contributes to the circular economy by using recycled plastic materials to form Lego-style bricks which are then used to build affordable housing. Global startup Airborn Water, in turn, designed a technology that efficiently produces fresh (potable) water from the air’s humidity, contributing to sustainable water supply in even the remotest areas. Moreover, even when the business itself is not focused on solving an environmental issue, (younger) entrepreneurs are generally more mindful of mitigating potential negative externalities, following sustainable practices, and adopting a triple-bottom-line approach to business.

  1. Innovation and entrepreneurship can mitigate social problems

Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers who understand that a problem can become the opportunity for a profitable business. They often build companies around solving pain-points they have identified in their own lives and communities. Many startups have business models that rely on resolving social problems or targeting the base of the pyramid as consumers, workers, and suppliers. In fact, three of the examples provided above – Celtel, M-Pesa and Indomie – illustrate businesses that have great social impact. Also, there is a subset of social entrepreneurs that run non-for-profit enterprises which are committed, first and foremost, to addressing community challenges. Hospital Beyond Boundaries provides health services to poor, underserved communities in Malaysia and Cambodia. Zomato Feeding India combats food waste in India and provides meals to the poor. It has a network of about 25,000 volunteers across more than 100 cities and has served over 33 million meals to people in need.  She Says is an organization that fights for gender rights in India, especially those of women and girls that have been victims of sexual assault and harassment.

  1. Entrepreneurship can promote inclusion and change cultural norms

Many countries face challenges when it comes to the inclusion of minorities and women in the economy. In certain regions of the Middle East and Africa, for example, business is still not seen as an appropriate activity for women. They are expected to take on domestic roles or perhaps become teachers, nurses, or work in traditional agriculture and manufacturing. In Africa, only 9 percent of startups have women leaders, according to Venture Capital for Africa. In such context, the development of programs that promote women’s entrepreneurship, for example through business education, incubation and acceleration, helps debunk taboos and shake the status quo. Initiatives such as New Work Lab, in Morocco, and the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) in Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania, are making targeted efforts to support women entrepreneurs. Similar initiatives abound throughout Africa and the Middle East and are paying off. The landscape for women in the workplace is changing for the better, as female entrepreneurs become role models and serve as inspiration to others, regardless of sector and occupation. And the economy benefits too. According to the Women’s Entrepreneurship Report, women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa are 60 percent more likely than male entrepreneurs to offer innovative solutions and 30 percent have businesses with international reach, which also exceeds their male counterparts.

  1. Entrepreneurship can strengthen ties with diaspora and help address brain-drain

Many developing economies suffer from brain-drain, with an important share of the well-educated and resourced leaving the country to search for better opportunities in developed countries. The growth of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem creates the opportunity for people to choose to develop their talent and invest their resources locally, instead of voting with their feet. It also motivates the diaspora to re-engage with the local economy by becoming (angel) investors, mentors, connectors – and eventually even returning to their countries. For example, ChileGlobal, part of Fundación Chile, promotes and facilitates the development of business projects and the introduction of innovative technologies through its network of influential Chileans living in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Pangea, in turn, connects African entrepreneurs and successful diaspora members by providing both training and business intelligence for diaspora investors and engaging the diaspora in the startups Pangea has invested in.

Do you have additional points to raise? Examples to share? Agree or disagree with a particular issue? Leave your comments below and let’s keep this discussion alive!

Andre portrait

Andre Averbug is an entrepreneur, economist, and writer. He has over two decades of international experience working in the intersection of economic development, entrepreneurship, and innovation. He has worked and lived in multiple countries across North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Central Asia.

Andre has started and run four startups, in Brazil and the US, and was awarded Global Innovator of the Year in 2009 by World Bank’s infoDev. He has extensive experience supporting companies as mentor and consultant, both independently and as part of incubators such as 1776 and the Kosmos Innovation Center, and programs like Shell LIVEWire, StartUp Weekend and WeXchange.

As an economist, Andre has worked in topics ranging from innovation ecosystems, entrepreneurship and MSME development policy, competitiveness, business climate, infrastructure finance, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and country assistance strategy for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). He has also consulted for clients such as DAI Global, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), TechnoServe, among many others. He holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of London (UK) and an MBA from McGill University (Canada). Andre lives in the Washington, DC area.

He writes an awesome Blog called Entrepreneurship Compass and you can sign up here: https://entrepreneurshipcompass.com

Leadership Transformation in 2020 – Change is inevitable. Transformation is by conscious choice.

This is a Guest blog post by Bei Ma, Founder and CEO of The Pinea Group

Leadership Transformation in 2020

Change is inevitable. Transformation is by conscious choice.

 

lighted brown lighthouse beside body of water

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

 

As Bill Gates recommended 5 summer books in his recent Gates Notes on May 18, 2020, he wrote: “The Ride of a Lifetime, by Bob Iger. This is one of the best business books I’ve read in several years. Iger does a terrific job explaining what it’s really like to be the CEO of a large company. Whether you’re looking for business insights or just an entertaining read, I think anyone would enjoy his stories about overseeing Disney during one of the most transformative times in its history.”1

Yes, indeed. Robert Iger, in his 2019 book “The Ride of a Lifetime”, shares in great detail on how the ten principles that strike him as necessary to true leadership have transformed Disney. And the ten principles are: Optimism, Courage, Focus, Decisiveness, Curiosity, Fairness, Thoughtfulness, Authenticity, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, and Integrity.

While each of these ten principles speaks the truth of leadership, we need more, we need more for an unprecedented year we are in at this very moment. The year of 2020 perhaps manifests every aspect you can imagine that life does not always go the way you expect it will.

We are still in the middle of the global pandemic. Period. The director of National  Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci spoke at BIO Digital virtual healthcare conference on June 10 that the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be his “worst nightmare” and warned that it’s not over yet.2

Millions of people still have no jobs or steady income despite an optimistic labor report of May by the Department of Labor. According to Business Insider, US jobless claims totaled 44 million, meaning more than one in four American workers have lost a job during the pandemic.3

Social reform is well likely underway with the “Black Lives Matter” movement amid nationwide protests. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo says he intends to sign the package of bills passed by New York legislators for comprehensive police reform.4

In the business context, CEOs have been facing an ultimate leadership test. While business executives shall absolutely continue to incorporate and implement in their daily business life the ten principles of true leadership by Robert Iger: Optimism, Courage, Focus, Decisiveness, Curiosity, Fairness, Thoughtfulness, Authenticity, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, and Integrity, leadership transformation is imperative. CEOs must make conscious choices for leadership transformation facing one crisis after another in the year of 2020 and onward.

In this article, we explore two actions, accompanying mindset and qualities that can help executives navigate such perfect storms and future crises and consciously make leadership transformation.

Leading with Compassion

Numerous studies show that in a business-as-usual environment, compassionate leaders perform better and foster more loyalty and engagement by their teams.5 However, compassion becomes especially critical during a crisis.6

Four months into the pandemic, the nation is seeing a historic wave of widespread psychological trauma driven by fear, isolation, uncertainty, anger, and distress. Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.7

To an organization, collective fears and existential threats triggered by the crises call for a compassionate, empathetic, caring and highly visible leadership. If executives demonstrate that everything is under control with business-as-usual meetings and overconfident emails with an  upbeat tone, afraid of showing the genuine vulnerability, empathy to connect and compassion to support their people, reduce their stress and burden, absurdly, this might backfire and will certainly not create the confidence, innovation and creativity from people to enable them navigate through the crises and recover the business.

       “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people

       will never forget how you made them feel.”

       – Maya Angelou –

People feel it and will never forget when leaders act with genuine compassion, especially during the crises.

 

     Leading with Rooted Power

In routine emergencies, experience is perhaps the most valuable quality that leaders bring. But in novel, landscape-scale crises, character is of the utmost importance.8 Deliberate calm is the ability to detach from a fraught situation and think clearly about how one will navigate it.9

Crisis-resistant leaders, as the captains of their ships during a perfect storm, will be able to unify the teams with deliberate calm, clarity, and stableness, making a positive difference in people’s lives. The calmness comes from well-grounded individuals who possess rooted power of humility, hope, and tenacity.

Crisis-resistant leaders return to their roots, core values, beliefs, and principles during a perfect storm. They pose questions to themselves and teams about what the organization stands for, what the purpose is, and what should continue to do or stop doing, what need to be created as new practices or ways of working, new norms that are emerging.10

The rooted power of crisis-resistant leaders is originated from physical health providing energy and stamina; mental health providing optimistic and positive view; intellectual health providing acute decisiveness and clarity; and social health providing the trust and transparency.

Only grounded leaders with such rooted power can beat landscape-scale crises.

………………………………..

The crises and overwhelming consequences ask for leadership transformation. Besides the ten principles to true leadership1, business leaders who make conscious transformation: leading with compassion and leading with rooted power, can support their organizations and communities, navigating through the perfect storms.

 

Reference

  1. https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Summer-Books-2020
  2. https://www.today.com/health/dr-anthony-fauci-says-coronavirus-his-worst-nightmare-isn-t-t183838
  3. https://www.businessinsider.com/us-weekly-jobless-claims-coronavirus-layoffs-unemployment-filings-economy-recession-2020-6
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/10/us/new-york-passes-police-reform-bills/index.html
  5. Jane E. Dutton, Ashley E. Hardin, and Kristina M. Workman, “Compassion at work,” Annual Review Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Volume 1, Number 1, 2014, pp. 277–304; Jacoba M. Lilius, et al, “Understanding compassion capability,” Human Relations, Volume 64, Number 7, 2011, pp. 873–99; Paquita C. De Zulueta, “Developing Compassionate Leadership in Health Care: An Integrative Review,” Journal of Healthcare Leadership, Volume 8, 2016, pp. 1–10.
  6. Jane E. Dutton, et al, “Leading in times of trauma,” Harvard Business Review, Volume 80, Number 1, 2002, pp. 54–61; Edward H. Powley and Sandy Kristin Piderit, “Tending wounds: Elements of the organizational healing process,” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Volume 44, Number 1, 2008, pp. 134–49.
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/04/mental-health-coronavirus/
  8. Gemma D’Auria and Aaron De Smet, McKinsey & Company, Organizational Practice, “Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges”, 2020.
  9. Helio Fred Garcia, “Effective leadership response to crisis,” Strategy & Leadership, 2006, Volume 34, Number 1, pp. 4–10.
  10. Adapted from Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, “Leadership in a (permanent) crisis,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 2009, hbr.com

 

About the Author

Event Registration (EVENT: 796935 - SESSION: 1)

 

Bei Ma is the founder and CEO of the Pinea Group (Pinea). Pinea serves as a trusted partner specialized in cross-border fund raising, market access, clinical studies, regulatory pathway, licensing, and distribution to help medical devices, diagnostics, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical organizations to achieve the best patient outcomes and commercial success.  Previously, Bei Ma served as Vice President of Global Healthcare Business Development at British Standards Institution (BSI) Group. Bei can be reached at 410.271.7267 and beimalong7@gmail.com; her LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/beima/

CONNECTpreneur enters our 9th year with a bang

Recently, I was interviewed by the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation about The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum, of which they are a sponsor. Following is the transcript of the interview. I have been a Board Member of this tremendous organization for the past 4 years.

CONNECTpreneur recently entered our 9th year. To date, we have hosted 47 events, the last 4 being “virtual” events. Over 20,000 business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the world have attended our events. Our website is connectpreneur.org. Please check us out!

 

THE BIG IDEA
CONNECTPRENEUR FORUM

IN CONVERSATION WITH TIEN WONG, CEO, OPUS8, AND
FOUNDER & HOST, CONNECTPRENEUR

Get to know CONNECTpreneur, a unique forum which attracts the region’s top entrepreneurs, investors, innovators and game changers. Organizers of the top tech and investor networking events in the region.

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WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN BUSINESS LEADERS OF ALL STRIPES – CEOS, VCS AND ANGELS – TO EARLY STAGE COMPANIES?

Not just for early stage companies, but all businesses of all sizes, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” still applies very relevantly. People want to do business with people. Early stage companies, in particular, have many needs: capital, talent, customers, vendors, partners, product development, marketing, etc. and having a large and deep network gives an entrepreneur a huge advantage in the marketplace, for obvious reasons. There is a proven correlation between the size and quality of one’s network, and one’s overall success — in entrepreneurship and most endeavors.

 

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WHAT IS THE SECRET SAUCE THAT MAKES CONNECTPRENEUR A TOP TECH NETWORKING EVENT IN THE REGION?

It’s our ability to attract the region’s top entrepreneurs, investors, innovators and game changers. We pride ourselves on organizing the top tech and investor networking events in Montgomery County and the Washington region as a whole. We think that the reason that over 70% of our surveyed attendees rate CONNECTpreneur as the “number one” tech and networking event in the Mid-Atlantic region is because of the high quality and seniority of our attendees, which is unprecedented. Over 20% of our attendees are accredited angel investors or VCs, over half are CEOs and founders, and we intentionally keep the ratio of service providers as low as possible. This makes for more meaningful connectivity among the participants.

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HOW DOES CONNECTPRENEUR SUPPORT FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS AND ENTREPRENEURS OF COLOR?

CONNECTpreneur is very intentional about providing a diverse set of presenters and speakers in our programming. Our community of entrepreneurs and investors is highly diverse, and our selection committee is very tuned in to the benefits of gender and cultural diversity. We actively work with and partner with local, regional, and national players who share our values of “double bottom line” ethics which value social impact as well as financial gain. Some of our partners include Maryland Tech Council, TEDCO, Startup Grind, Founder Institute, Halcyon and Conscious Venture Labs to name a few.

 

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WHY IS MONTGOMERY COUNTY A GOOD LOCATION FOR AN INNOVATIVE STARTUP COMPANY? AND, WHAT’S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SUCCESS?

Montgomery County is a top tier County nationally for startups, and that’s evidenced by numerous awesome success stories. MoCo has a tremendously educated talent base, world class government institutions, top schools, and a large base of angel and high net worth private investors who can provide seed funding. The best advice for success is to understand thoroughly your customer and their needs and pain points very deeply. That way you can get to “product market fit” more quickly, de-risk your opportunity, and be more capital efficient. Too many companies get enamored with their product and design, or culture, or getting media coverage whereas the true essence of any successful business is to provide excellent products and solutions to its customers and sell into their markets like crazy.

 

WHAT ARE SOME UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EARLY STAGE COMPANY THAT SPARK YOUR INTEREST TO EXTEND AN INVITE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FORUM?

We are looking for presenting companies which have truly disruptive ideas, products and/or solutions which could be sold into huge markets.  And of course, the most important criteria are the quality, expertise, and coachability of the founding team. We have had presenters from all kinds of sectors including life sciences, cyber, telecom, blockchain, wireless, mobility, e-commerce, marketplaces, fintech, medical devices, IoT, etc.

Learn more about CONNECTpreneur at our website: connectpreneur.org

 

 

 

Next Mission: Co-founder, Seth Goldman, exits Honest Tea to focus on plant-based “meat,” a segment of the $300 billion meat category

This is a Guest blog post from Janice Mandel.

It made sense to sell to Coca-Cola in 2011 for greater distribution, scale and purchasing power. The Honest brand is selling billions of servings through McDonald’s, Subway, Chick Fil-A, and Wendy’s while supporting communities through fair trade and a healthful alternative. He says that his work with McDonald’s alone has removed 1 billion calories from the American diet.

CONNECTpreneur founder, Tien Wong (L), interviews Seth Goldman at George Washington University.

 

 

Seth said his company has been connected to Coca Cola for longer than it was an independent company: “The brand has its own life, its own momentum. The teams in Atlanta and Europe we’ve seen they’re doing the right thing with the brand. They are innovating the right way and it’s large enough that I can’t see anyone saying ‘Let’s make it sweeter or discontinue certifying it as organic or Fair Trade.’  I’m not putting a toddler out into the world. This is a 22 year old entity with its own personality and it’s strong enough to survive on its own.”

What’s Next?

Seth remains Executive Chair of the Board of Beyond Meat and says he will continue to support the alternative protein brand as it pursues its mission to transform the supermarket’s meat case into the protein case.

He summarized Beyond Meat’s approach: “Rather than define meat by its origin, which says meat always comes from animals, we’re going to define it by its composition. So when you look at it that way, meat is just an assembly of amino acids, which form the proteins; lipids that form the fats, 70% water and some trace minerals and carbohydrates.”

Although some are concerned that products such as Beyond Meat are “processed,” Seth says it is produced with the same equipment used to extrude pasta. And, the sustainability benefits are well worth pursuing.

“It will take 2 1/2 worlds to feed the growing population the same kind of protein diet we have in the United States, but we have only one,” Seth observes. The brand counts the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among its early socially responsible investors out to feed the world responsibly.

Seth also remembers fondly another major “investor” without whom Honest Tea would not have been able to fill its first order for 15,000 bottles for Fresh Fields, which became Whole Foods. He’s referring to the bottle supplier in Pennsylvania who helped him respond to the cyclical nature of the beverage industry by agreeing to extend payment through each difficult winter.  Seth is proud of bringing the payments each spring, well before the seasonal 90 day payment terms were up. The weekend before his fireside chat at GW, Seth learned the bottle supplier who had believed in him since the beginning had passed away.

“I would not have been able to succeed without him,” he says.

Read more about Seth Goldman’s detailed account of his co-founding Honest Tea here.

About Janice K. Mandel

I’m a multimedia storyteller following evolving voice-first opportunities. Early adopter experience in New York City included: Sr. Editor, EIC/Intelligence, the first online, commercial database (1980s);Communications/Voice of Equinta.com, like Zillow but in 1999; and Reach networks — like Mosaic, only four years sooner. I’ve recruited speakers for VOICE Summit (https://voicesummit.ai) and conducted its microcast leading up to the event. Would love to do more microcasting in the future.

 

Musings about Work, Equality, Social Justice and Capitalism: Human Capitalism

This is a Guest blog post from Jeff Cherry, Founder and Managing Partner of The Conscious Venture Fund and Founding Partner of The Laudato Si Startup Challenge. He is a tech CEO and mentor, investor, philanthropist, and community builder.

 

What comes next?

I recently listened to a thought-provoking episode of the TED Radio Hour on NPR entitled What We Value. Its premise was that this economic and societal crisis in which we find ourselves is accelerating the move towards a new set of values when it comes to the practice of capitalism. Those of us in the social impact and Conscious Capitalism space are heartened to see this discussion gaining momentum, but the question remains: How will capitalism change now that the unhealthy state of business and our major societal institutions have been laid bare?

There are many indications that this shift was in the offing far before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Although late to the game, the statement released by the Business Roundtable in August 2019 signaled a transformative move away from the outdated notion of shareholder primacy and towards a more human and effective form of business. It certainly garnered the attention of the press. And others in the business mainstream who had been either unaware or hostile to the market forces driving this change, are now finding it hard to ignore discussions of stakeholder management and whether business should have a broader role in society.

These ever-expanding discussions about the purpose of business in society are now taking place in the context of what does a return to “normal” look like in the economy. And a growing sentiment that the normal we were experiencing — where greed, inequity, declining living standards, crony capitalism, rent-seeking, regulatory capture, share buy-backs, corporate welfare and environmental depletion were the norm — isn’t in fact normal. Nor a state of being for which we should collectively yearn. As you might imagine, I agree.

The challenge we face now then, is how do we actually execute on this new idea? Many people talk about business for good and changing the purpose of the firm. But in the real world of competitive advantage, pricing models, customer needs, shareholder demands, supplier, employee and community relationships, knowing what to do is hard. We speak to entrepreneurs all the time who are philosophically aligned with a new narrative about business. They can cite anecdotes about others who have been successful, and they lack a cognitive frame that they can use to build an organization that embodies this day-in and day-out.

I’ve written at length about why I believe a focus on stakeholders in business and capitalism needs to replace the old story. In this article, the first of a two-part series, I’ll describe a framework to begin the journey to business as an institute of societal well-being: Or Human Capitalism.

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu on Unsplash

The New Narrative of Business in Society: Human Capitalism
What does a new story about the practice of business and capitalism look like in practical terms?

In order to fully bring this new narrative to life, I believe we need to re-define the purpose of business as a societal institution. Then, we need to translate that definition into tools that real entrepreneurs and executives can use every day to guide how they formulate strategy, individual decision making and implementation.

When a new cohort of the Conscious Venture Lab convenes, I ask a question to frame the work we’ll be doing over the ensuing 16-weeks: “What kind of world could we create if investors, executives and entrepreneurs cared as much about people as they care about profit?” It isn’t a question I expect any of the teams to answer outright. It’s a rhetorical challenge to think about how these ideas impact their businesses and the broader society.

Over the last few months, I’ve reframed that question: What kind of world could we create if we decided our first duty in business was to simply care for each other? This is the essence of Human Capitalism.

This version of the question doesn’t pit people against profit, which I believe is a false construct. Instead, it captures the meaning we’re all experiencing in this moment: can we be a complete society if the overarching purpose of business is only to increase profits and not primarily to improve the human condition? Both of these questions are variations of the age-old investigation of “What is a business for?” Academics, economists, politicians, social scientists and businesspeople have been asking this question for decades, if not longer.

Liesel Pritzker Simmons, co-founder of the impact investing firm Bluehaven Initiative, has said, “A crisis gives us an excuse to have conviction earlier.” What we are experiencing in this moment has emphasized how interconnected we are as a society and as a world. It has emphasized the importance of health as a public imperative. The importance of economic, community and personal resiliency as interdependent societal imperatives to which individuals and all societal institutions, even businesses, need to contribute. This crisis is bringing along those who may not have reached a level of conviction to move to a more human form of capitalism had things stayed … normal.

In this new reality it’s clear that the question about what type of world we want to create can no longer remain abstract or rhetorical. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the truth, that a focus on our interdependent well-being is necessary for society’s survival. Succeed together or fail together the choice is ours, but we can no longer hide behind a narrative that separates individual financial self-interest from our mutual survival.

In the post-COVID world, the new narrative of business in society is a narrative about authentic caring, societal resilience and collective well-being.

Practical Ways to Integrate Human Capitalism
Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines, once said, “The business of business is people — yesterday, today and forever….” But what does it actually mean to structure your business around people? What can you do tomorrow to transform the structure of your business, respond to this new reality and become the type of leader that society needs?


Caring is Job 1:
Above all there is one thing leaders must do first in order to be successful in this new world: They must actually care! To be clear, leaders who embrace the idea of caring for stakeholders as a core value and primary motivation for running a business will be well-positioned to succeed in this new world. They’ll be more able to execute on the ideas described later in this article and more likely to attract talent, customers and investors in a post-COVID world of business as a vital instrument of society.

At first this seems obvious and perhaps, some would say, no different than the status quo. But the nuance of authentically treating employees, suppliers, customers and communities as individuals deserving of your care for their own sake, as opposed to primarily as fodder for creating returns is critically important. Not only to how your company will be perceived, but authentic caring — or the lack thereof — will have a tremendous impact on your competitive performance. People understand instinctively if you are treating them fairly simply as a form of manipulation for other ends. And, unless you’ve created a true culture of caring in your organization, you’ll be tempted to abandon that care when it comes into conflict with your “real goals.” The best leaders however will understand this simple truth: how we think about creating financial value is now, more than ever, clearly tied to the way we create societal value. Authentically caring is a key component of this new narrative.

What wins in the marketplace is that you are responsible for taking care of everyone who encounters your organization” Tom Gardner: CEO and Co-Founder, The Motley Fool

With that as our foundation, there are two things that every leader can do to build caring into the operational DNA of their business:

First, adopt a specific set of guiding principals about what it means to care for each other in service of societal well-being. And second,

Institute a practical business operating system that provides a framework for living into those guiding principals.

Here in Part-1, I’ll discuss a set of guiding principles we’ve created at the Conscious Venture Lab to help entrepreneurs execute upon these cultures of caring.


Guiding Principles: The Five Promises of Collective Well-Being
In order to seed this new culture of caring into the DNA of your operations, it is crucially important that you articulate and codify a set of guiding principles that the entire company can use to organize your thought processes and create operating norms, policies, procedures and metrics that will keep your culture on track in good times and in challenging times…like during a pandemic.

Companies that will lead us into a more effective model of capitalism and a future of broadly-shared prosperity have structured their business to deliver on what I call The Five Promises of Collective Well-Being, through which we vow to use business to make the world:

  • More just,
  • More joyous,
  • More equitable,
  • More sustainable and
  • More prosperous for all.

Let’s examine each principle:

Business as a path to a More Just society:
Leaders who are best at this will work to create social justice by structuring their organizations to level the playing field and authentically create access to opportunity for all those in their ecosystem who want to contribute.

Conscious Venture Lab and SHIFT Ventures portfolio companies Hungry Harvest and R3 Score have built this promise into their business models, which drives impact and returns.

Hungry Harvest creates a more just world by providing fresh food to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it and dignified work opportunities to people in need. As a result, they create scores of “Harvest Heroes” who loyally buy wholesome food from the company that otherwise would have gone to waste. In the process they have increase sales by more than 34,000% over the last 4 years.

R3Score creates a more just world by providing a dignified return to civil society for millions of formerly incarcerated Americans and allowing banks a way to engage with people they would otherwise ignore. Thereby expanding the banks’ customer base, putting financial assets to work that would otherwise lay fallow and giving the 1-in-3 Americans with a criminal record the opportunity to build a new life.

Business as a path to a More Joyous life:
Leaders who bring more joy into the world will do so by focusing on a combination of the quality of the human interactions in their operations, eliminating misery as a core aspect of their business and/or creating products that bring authentic joy to more lives.

One of my personal favorite companies, Union Square Hospitality Group, uses a culture of caring and enlightened hospitality to bring joy to employees, customers and suppliers alike.

Startup Aqus Water, that was a part of the Vatican Laudato Si Challenge in 2017, has created a product that puts “three years of clean water in the palm of (the) hand(s)” of people in places where lack of clean water has been causing extreme hardship for centuries. With more than 780 MM people in the world lacking access to clean water, bringing joy will undoubtedly bring prosperity to many.

Business as a path to More Equitable communities:
When leaders focus on creating a mutual exchange of value between all stakeholders, they move their organizations away from the negative consequences of shareholder primacy and create more equitable communities for everyone. Paradoxically, an equitable approach to business, or removing the shareholder blinders, often creates new paths to greater value for shareholders.

Greyston Bakery in Yonkers New York is a pioneer of open hiring. They create a more equitable world by focusing not on the tyranny of weeding people out in the hiring process but by providing the dignity of work to anyone who wants it.

Here in Baltimore, Jacob Hsu and his company Catalyte have created an entirely new way of identifying undervalued individuals who have the aptitude to become exceptional engineers. Creating new paths to equity and unleashing massive financial potential for communities, his clients and the company.

Business as a path to a More Sustainable world:
The winning leaders of the new narrative think and plan for the long-term. They understand that sustainability in every sense is the key to enduring organizational health. They establish a circle of growth for the planet, the people who serve or are served by the organization and the organization itself.

Billion-dollar clothing company Patagonia has rejected the world of “fast fashion” by creating high quality, long-lasting products and offering a repair and reuse program to discourage customers from buying things they don’t need.

Orsted, a $9BB energy company based in Denmark was named the Most Sustainable Company in the World by Corporate Knights in 2020. The company has transformed itself from a fossil fuel company to a total green energy juggernaut, significantly outperforming its peers, the European stock indices and returning over 42% ROI over the last 12 months.

Business as a path to a More Prosperous existence for us all:
The best leaders view value creation with a polarity, or both/and mindset. They actively look to create real wealth for employees, customers, communities, suppliers and shareholders. They work to manage the polarity of creating value for all stakeholders by asking themselves questions like: “How do we simultaneously achieve the upside of paying our employees as much as possible, and, the upside of creating great returns for shareholders?” This is in contrast to shareholder value leaders who see all stakeholder relationships as tradeoffs that need to be solved for the benefit of shareholders.

Starbucks has fed more than 10 million people through its FoodShare program, redoubled its commitment to eliminate gender pay equity gaps, and committed to becoming “… resource positive — storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste and providing more clean fresh water than we use …” — all while rewarding shareholders handsomely — even during the coronavirus pandemic.


Why Human CAPITALISM?
In Part-2 of this series I will discuss how the tenets of Conscious Capitalism and stakeholder management will allow organizations to clear the clutter and build these principles into everyday operations.

For now, a note before we end to my main audience: The Skeptics:

I spend the majority of every waking hour thinking about how to support entrepreneurs who have previously been neglected and who are creating world changing companies despite the immense hurdles they face. I also spend a majority of that time thinking about how to invest on behalf of my limited partners in a way that will create exceptional returns. I am a capitalist who believes capitalism can and should be practiced in a way that unleashes its power to elevate all humanity. That we can create a more humane form of commerce and human cooperation. What I am suggesting is that capitalism, like any man-made system, must evolve as society evolves. To paraphrase my friend and mentor Ed Freeman, professor at the Darden School at The University of Virginia, the alternative to capitalism as we know it today is not socialism, but a better, more human form of capitalism.

For those who would push back on these ideas as leaving shareholders behind and giving away profits I would simply ask you to suspend disbelief for a bit. Take a few minutes to think not about what you might lose, but about what you might gain. What kind of world could we create if we decided our first duty in business was to care for each other? Look around…I think that time has come.

 

Jeff Cherry, is CEO and Managing Partner of SHIFT Ventures, and Founder & Executive Director of Conscious Venture Lab, an award-winning and internationally recognized early stage accelerator. He is also Founder and Managing Partner of The Conscious Venture Fund and Founding Partner of The Laudato Si Startup Challenge. Jeff is a pioneer in conscious capitalism and double bottom-line investing. He can be reached at jcherry@consciousventurelab.com.

5 years as an entrepreneur | Advice on how you can build your own business throughout this pandemic

This is a Guest blog post from Thomas Ma, an awesome up and coming entrepreneur whom I have had the pleasure of watching grow these past few years. He is the LA-based Co-Founder of Sapphire Apps Media.  This is great reading for any young person or aspiring entrepreneur.  Lots of lessons learned. Enjoy!!

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I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was heading home from my last final of the semester to wrap up my junior year in college.

I had no internships lined up, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All of my friends had internships and it seemed they had their professional career figured out.

Nope not me. No one called me back. Since it was the last day, I decided to take one final stop at the college career center to see if they could help me out.

This is when I bumped into one of my friend at the career center and we started talking. Suddenly I started to get all these ideas in my head.

From that moment, I went back to my apartment, and continued to carve out my idea. I didn’t stop. I put 100% into it from that day. Of course it started out slowly. I had a lot to learn.

One Fun Fact:

It took me from May 9, 2015 — April 2017 before I had my own company bank account. That’s nearly 2 years!

In light of this 5 year mark, I wanted to put time and share what I would do today especially in this pandemic. My hope is to get other people to progress with their own journey. This advice is good for any type of industry.

Chapters:

1. Marketing yourself on upwork.com

2. Building out your network

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

4. Learning a New Skill

5. Tools that you should know about

6. Outsourcing Talent

7. Digital Marketing

8. Building your digital brand

1. Create an upwork.com account to market yourself

Study other people in your industry. If you are into consulting, you look up consulting on upwork.com

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Look at the following:

Hourly rate, $ they’ve earned, success rate, and country their from.

In this case, Kim has a great profile. He has a high success rate and over 6 figures earned.

Here’s his profile:

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Look at is his hourly rate, title and what he is putting in his summary. It’s clear that he’s getting reached a lot.

Below his profile is his work history. Study how much he has earned and how much people are paying him.

Do this for 5–10 of the top earners int his category. This is the benchmark.

Try your best to optimize your profile so that it matches up with some of the best on Upwork. When you apply, at least you will stand out.

As you build your account in the beginning, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to be relentless. This means applying to as many jobs as you can. It may even mean not making a lot of $ to build up your profile.

Review and job success rate is critical to standing out as an applicant.

2. Build out your network

When starting out, it’s critical that you have a network. In order to thrive in what you do, you have to surround yourself with like minded people. These are the people who you will hang out with the most and learn from. You will also progress with these people and it’s amazing to celebrate milestones together and also being there for one another when things don’t go as planned.

If you don’t have a business network, it’s okay 🙂 I will share some of the things that I would recommend.

Before you build your network:
Make sure to optimize your social media profile with what you do. That includes Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, etc…

This way people get a sense of what you do when you connect with you.

Here are a few places you can find events or meet people:

The strategy applies to all the platforms below: When you join the platform, go to the search bar and enter keywords that relate to your niche. If you were in fitness, you could try wellness, health, fitness, coaching etc.

Facebook Group:

Eventbrite (Tons of free online events)

Meetup:

Linkedin

Instagram DM (search out hashtags in your industry and engage with people)

If you join a new group, read what members are posting. Engage with their post if you like it, and add them as a friend.

If they accept you as a friend, shoot them a compliment and let them know you liked their post. If they respond, ask if they are interested in connecting with you via zoom.

While on zoom, spend time genuinely getting to know the person.

Things you can talk about:
How covid has impacted you

Your background on how you started

Sharing what you’re passionate about

Favorite books

Why you started

The purpose of this is to build your own network. If people genuinely get to know you, they’ll support you. You never know who they know.

After you connect, you continue to stay in touch with them and invite them to events that you hear about.

As you continue to evolve your network, you will have access to more events.

This strategy can even be applied to zoom hangouts. To engage on zoom, you can send them a private message and use the same strategy.

In the space of creating your own brand, showing up is half the battle. You have to show up and build your network every day. Make it a goal to fill up your entire calendar with zoom events and zoom meetings.

Things to avoid at networking events:

1. Don’t ask the “what do you do” question. That’s straight to the point of what they do and it shows you don’t even want to get to know them for who they are

2. To be efficient with your time, you can state that you have 30 minutes or whatever at the beginning.

3. Don’t talk too much about yourself unless people ask you questions. If you talk a lot, you’ll never be able to learn about the other person. You have to make the other person feel special that you are talking to.

A small recap on networking:

If you are starting out, you can do the following to ensure you progress every week.

  1. Start off by booking one event per day on your calendar
  2. Make a goal of how many zoom connect meetings you want to take. Maybe in the beginning, make a goal to meet 5 people per week and then scale up.
  3. If you meet someone and share common interest, offer to collaborate with them. You can collaborate by co hosting a happy hour with your joint network. This way you meet more people and so does your new friend.
  4. If you are able to host events, you become the go to person for that event. People will get to hear you. This way you expand your network at a faster pace.
  5. If you host great events, make sure to do it on a weekly bases. As you host more events, people will bring their own network.

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

When I started, I used to take a selfie photo everyday of my Starbucks cup or wherever I was at in the world. I’d post most of the stories on Linkedin.

I wanted to show people what the journey was like. Overtime, I was able to build more followers because people liked hearing my story.

The reason for doing this is because it builds your digital brand. The more people know about you, the more they can potentially help you.

One networking tip here is to connect with people who like your post. Right away you have something in common.

4. Continue to learn

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One of my favorite podcast to listen to is NPR how I built this by Guy Raz. It has stories from some of the great entrepreneurs in the world.

It’s nice to hear how someone started and made traction.

Read articles on medium.com especially the entrepreneurship articles

Stay active in the reddit entrepreneur community. A lot of people post insightful advice on there, and it’s an easy way to connect with a small group

5.) Tools/Sites you should know about

http://www.hemingwayapp.com : Spell checker you can use before you post or email someone

https://unsplash.com: Website with great stock images you can find

https://clipchamp.com/en/video-compressor/ : Compress large files

https://www.squarespace.com : Easy website builder. When you make your website make sure it’s optimized for mobile

https://hunter.io : Tool that lets you find emails from brands you are trying to reach

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/inshot-video-editor/id997362197 : App that lets you edit videos. You can put around a white border and text over your content

6. Outsourcing Talent

What does this mean? It means you are hiring someone remotely to complete the work for you. They can be from anywhere in the world!

Talent you can hire for: video editing, graphic design, app development, website, basically anything you can think of is on there.

As you expand, you are going to need help. Upwork is the best place to find remote talent.

If you want to save cost, I would highlight recommend looking for talent in Philippines, India, and Ukraine.

When you have your job list up, you can filter for people in those countries and invite them to your job.

I highly recommend upwork.com

Here are some tips to hiring talent:

When you make your job listing, you want to have the following:

-Catchy Header (study other people)

  • Clear instructions on exactly what you want and keeping it short and brief
  • Follow up questions that the applicant should respond to

Here are some I recommend:
What is your hourly rate

What is your working hours
Have you read the instruction? If so, how much and how long would it take to complete

Do you have a portfolio?

All the questions above help filter out who is a good candidate and who isn’t.

If you like their answers, you can give them a small paid tester. If they pass it, you can give them a larger project.

Always let people know if they do good work that you will have more projects for them.

When you find someone you like, you can add them to your roster.

If you master the ability to outsource, you can scale a creative agency. This means you can find clients who need a service. An example is if you had a bunch of designers you liked, you can market yourself as a creative agency who does graphics.

Add your creators work to your portfolio. Show people your work. Find clients who are willing to pay.

Once you find clients who are willing to pay, you give the work to the person you liked.

Recap for Agency via Outsourcing

  1. Find talent
  2. Test talent. If their good, add them to your roster
  3. Show case their work
  4. Find clients who are in need
  5. If client is in need, then they will pay you for the services.
  6. Give the project to the remote person. Make sure they meet your deadlines

7. Digital Marketing:

Learn how to run paid media ads on Facebook.

Steps I would suggest:

  1. Start to do a deep dive on free courses that they offer online

Free Resources that I like:

Tristan’s Facebook Ads Course: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Ic8HZSPfIW9TES3jPgpCg

Once you learn one platform, you can figure out other platforms such as Snapchat etc..

A few advice:

Start small when you run Facebook ads campaigns. Learn how to track your ROI (return on investment)

At the end of the day, your goal should be to make profit.

Study your competitors advertisement through the Facebook tool. You can look up every single company and what ads they run.

8. Building your digital brand

I never envisioned myself as a live fitness coach, but I found a new passion.

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What started out as an opportunity to learn turned into something that I look forward to every week.

I had no idea what it was like to coach. I wanted to change that. To build a great brand, I wanted to learn everything. The coaches are important. They are the ones leading the tribe for ~1 hour.

My first class had 4 people. My second class had 4 people.

Week 2: Started to get 10–15 people for my two class

Week 3: Averaged 30 people for my two classes. This time people are referring their friends and family to join.

I love this because it’s so fun to see people enjoying something that I teach and having them bring their friends.

Take a look at the Eventbrite photo. Eventbrite drove over 100 users to my listing.

Eventbrite drove over 100 email sign ups to my fitness class. Facebook drove ~30 and I spent about $150.

Here’s how you can build out your digital brand throughout this pandemic

List your events on the following platforms:

Meetup (Yes you have to pay $30 group fee, but you will gain users over time. Study other groups in your niche and optimize your group title)

List your events on all the builtin websites. They have cities in Austin, NYC, Chicago, etc. It’s FREE!

List your event on Facebook Events. Make a page. This is the group I made:

Facebook

Log into Facebook to start sharing and connecting with your friends, family, and people you know.

List your event on Linkedin Events. Invite all your network. Yes it’s tedious, but you have to hustle when you’re building something new.

DM people on Instagram. Find hashtags that relate to your target demo. In my case, it’d be #fitness #peloton #soulcycle #boxing

Find people commenting in fitness related post.

LIST ON EVENTBRITE. YES IT’S BOLDED FOR A REASON.

OPTIMIZE the keywords. They give you 10 for a reason. Think of words people would search if it was someone looking to attend your online class.

Leverage all the keywords in the main title

State the time, timezone, day, and date in the header

Find a clear stock photo that stands out. I use Unsplash.

Add questions they have to answer. In my eventbrite, I ask people where they come from. I also suggest they join my Facebook fitness community.

Facebook Groups are key! It reaches more people. If you post an event, you are able to invite every single member in the group.

Nurturing your audience:

Engage with people before class. Ask them where they are from

Throughout your class find a way to get users to engage. In my fitness class we do virtual high fives and fist bumps

Bring people together after the event. At my events, we take a group photo online

Reach out to people who attended your class and thank them. They’ll appreciate it

Remember people’s first name. Especially if they come back.

Livestream your events. This way more people have access.

Why you should build out a digital brand:

People can learn about you. If they like what you do, they will come back. If they continue to come back, they will bring friends to join them. Overtime, this is your fan base that supports you. It’s important that you are able to identify your super fans.

My hope is that this will give you the small push to get you started.

No matter what happens, be proud of what you do. Do things because you want to. Don’t do it because of someone else telling you what they want for you. It’s your journey. Make sure you can smile and have fun with your choice.

If you are looking for a good community to join, this is the one I created:

Sapphire Stories: A Community of Passionate Doers

Community of Doers who are pursuing their passion. Our goal is to connect and inspire you with your own journey. Follow…

If you’d like to stay connected with me, you can always reach out @boredwithtom on Instagram

 

 

The Innovation Imperative – 5 “Must Ask” Questions

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The Innovation Imperative – 5 “Must Ask” Questions

Going into the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all organizations were facing myriad challenges in terms of fiercer competition, more discriminating customers, longer sales cycles, and difficulty in differentiating their offerings, mostly due to tremendous advances in technology and a demand for greater transparency.

The pandemic has accelerated what forces were already in play, in addition to changing the way we all live and work, and devastating certain industries and business models. Now more than ever, every organization should be aggressively looking to innovate…or go extinct.

Every organization is different, with its own set of unique markets, customers and business drivers. As we work with our portfolio companies in helping them innovate, we start with the following 5 questions:

  • How congruent is the way you innovate with your vision and appetite for innovation?
  • How effectively do you articulate your vision and appetite for innovation to your stakeholders?
  • Is innovation a crucial part of your team members’ job descriptions?
  • Do you have the right processes to create and bring innovation to market?
  • How do you measure ROI and your ability to meet customer expectations?

Tying vision to appetite for innovation – This is core to a company’s ability to succeed as it iterates and pivots. Is the innovation imperative part of your company’s DNA? Those who embrace creativity and boundaryless thinking are essentially building innovation into the way they operate.

Articulating your vision for innovation – It’s not enough to just think in a vacuum. It’s necessary to evangelize the need for different thinking and changing for the better. The most innovative organizations talk about their innovation goals and progress, and they actively share this with their teams, shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc. “Walking the talk” brings it all together for stakeholders and they can all participate to help companies innovate.

Team members as “innovators” – We have heard the mantra that “everyone is in sales.” Embracing this mentality has benefitted many companies and their employees. The companies who are most effective at innovating think that “everyone is an innovator,” and they actively engage all team members in formal and informal exercises and conversations for ideas on organizational self-improvement.

Processes for Innovation – This takes leadership from the top, and an assignment of resources to execute on the innovation imperative. The most innovative organizations create and implement innovation processes, measure results, and iterate off that feedback. This set of processes is a playbook for how companies can continue coming up with the best and most creative ideas.

Measuring ROI – The best kind of innovations have a direct and measurable ROI. Some will not be measurable, but will have benefits (examples could be improved employee morale, increased retention, customer lifetime, value, etc.) and should therefore be undertaken. The discipline of calculating ROI by itself is extremely useful, as it forces a closer examination of the various drivers of a business.

In summary, what we are looking for are the vision/desire for innovation, how this is communicated, engagement of team in this effort, execution structure, and tangible ROI. The answers to these five questions will form a good foundation from which any organization can start looking at things differently and innovating its way to greater success.

Internet Legend Doug Humphrey and Sid Banerjee, CEO of Clarabridge Featured at Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Fall, 2014 Forum

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The next Big Idea CONNECTpreneur FORUM is coming up this Thursday, September 11, 2014 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
 
Doug Humphrey, CEO of JETCO Research and Founder of DIGEX and Cidera, will moderate the Panel of Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors.
 
Sid Banerjee, Founder and CEO of Clarabridge, will talk about his company’s story, growth, and bright prospects for the future.
 
The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forums are quarterly gatherings of 300+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.
 

The event is regarded by many as “The Best Networking Event in DC.” InTheCapital calls CONNECTpreneur a “NETWORKING JACKPOT” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

CONNECTpreneur events are “essentially the be-all-end-all of networking events in the city” 

The “premier networking event in DC tech and investing”, CONNECTpreneur is “networking on steroids”

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is a “Networking Jackpot.”

Presented by appnetic, Tech 2000 and LORE Systems, this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, because of the high quality of its attendees, speakers and presenters.

And YES, the networking is unprecedented!

 
 
Program Highlights:
 
  • We expect 300 business leaders, includng 175+ CEOs & Founders, as well as 60+ angels & VCs
  • Conversation with Sid Banerjee, Co-Founder and CEO of CLARABRIDGE
  • All-Star Panel of INVESTORS
  • SHOWCASE of Emerging tech companies
  • Heavy NETWORKING before, during, and after the event
 
The venue is the Tysons Corner Marriott in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.  A plated breakfast is included.  CONNECTpreneur is a quarterly networking mashup, which has been attended by over 2500 business leaders in the past 3 years. We expect another SELL OUT crowd, so there will be no on-site registration.
 
All attendees MUST BE pre-registered.  Register now!
 
 
And visit our Website.
 
 
DATE:  SEPTEMBER 11, 2014
 
AGENDA
 
7:00–8:15 am – REGISTRATION / NETWORKING
 
8:15 – 8:20 am – WELCOME
 
8:25 – 9:15 am – FIRESIDE CHAT with SID BANERJEE,Co-Founder and CEO of Clarabridge
 
9:15 – 10:15 am  –  COMPANY SHOWCASE
 

10:15 – 11:15 am –  ALL STAR INVESTOR PANEL:  LATEST TRENDS IN VENTURE CAPITAL AND EARLY STAGE FINANCING

 
Introductions: JEFF REID, Founding Director, Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative
 
Moderator:  DOUG HUMPHREY, Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Internet Pioneer, President of JETCO Research; Founder and CEO of DIGEX and CIDERA.
 
JOHN BURKE, General Partner, True Ventures
JIM PASTORIZA, Managing Partner, TDF Ventures
 
11:15 am – NETWORKING
 
 
EXPECTED INVESTOR PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
 
We expect 65+ angel and VC investors including Core Capital, Grotech, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, Revolution Ventures, True Ventures, Edison Ventures, Amplifier Venture Partners, SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, RLMcCall Capital Partners, Multiplier Capital, Updata, Saratoga Investment Corp., DFW Capital Partners, Farragut Capital, NextGen Angels, CIT GAP Funds, New Markets Venture Partners, BluVenture Investors, Leeds Novamark, Maryland Venture Fund, TEDCO, 1776 / K Street Capital, Fortify Ventures, Acceleprise, US Boston, VentureCross Partners, Berman Enterprises, Dingman Center Angels, Neuberger & Co. Ventures, McLean Capital, Angel Venture Forum, Exhilirator, National Capital Companies, Enhanced Capital, MTECH Ventures, Mosaic Capital, Opus8, Starise Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Duncaster Investments, Private Capital Network, Next-Stage Development Group, Lancaster Angel Network, Harrell Partners, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, Conscious Venture Labs, Great Falls Capital, Hafezi Capital, and Keiretsu Forum.
 
 
EVENT PARTNERS: