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Sunday, July 6, 2014

CEOs walk a fine line when using a positive spin

That CEO said WHAT?

One of the many tasks a CEO performs is engaging and explaining the company to the investment community.  They may use a positive spin to present their data in the best manner.  Positive spin is a method were data, while factual, is presented in a manner to highlight the positive and down play any negative.  You may hear this term a great deal in politics as it is a means of trying to get public sentiment on the side of the politician.  Whether one is a CEO or a politician, there is a fine line between positive spin and over doing your story.  It does not take long before the public sees the spin for what is and they become less likely to believe future statements.

Investors expect to know the facts! It is not good practice to present incorrect information and it may even be fraudulent if you stretch the information too much.  Selling your story must be done while retaining your integrity and ensuring the listeners trust you.  It is reasonable to explore all the positives and negatives of an event and try to present them in a more positive light.  However, there is a balancing act required in order to prevent presenting a story that is not believable or seen as dishonest. 

Honesty is the best policy and CEOs must adhere to this when selling to others. Investors must trust the CEO and believe they are receiving the facts regardless of the event.  With this in mind, I am providing a joke found on Facebook because it relates to the topic and may lighten up your day.


A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: 'Talking Dog For Sale 'He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

'You talk?' he asks.                                                                                                                                

'Yep,' the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says 'So, what's your story?'

The Lab looks up and says, 'Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so... I told the CIA.

In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.'

'I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running...

But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering nearsuspicious characters and listening in.

 I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.'

'I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired.'

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

'Ten dollars,' the guy says.

'Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?'

 'Because he's is a Bullshitter. He's never been out of the yard'

I hope you got the take home message from this story.  I for one have listened to investor pitches that went over the line.  It did not take long before the CEO was considered to be like the talking Labrador throughout the investment community.  Occasionally, there is a fine line between selling to gain investment and stretching a story so far that the investor sees you as not factual and misleading.  So, Think Agile and prepare your presentations to remain positive but also HONEST AND FACTUAL.

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via the book Think Agile; also, the company  website ,  photo  website, Google+, or  Facebook.  Check out the group Startup  Group on Linkedin or his articles in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Startup Blog Insights - Thinking Agile is Important to Your Business

Taffy Williams can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC ,  photo
, Google+,   Facebook, and Startup  Group.  He has written more than 300 articles for: Startup Blog and Examiner Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book:  Think Agile

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Agile and non-agile entrepreneurs must communicate clearly

It is impossible to know what is being communicated in these!

Some people are able to see a problem and rapidly determine solutions; the problem may be business or non-business.  Clear communication is required when describing a fix to a problem and information provided must be explicit; remember, you see the fix, they may not.
Recently, I was asked to help repair a lamp.  The lamp was missing the knob that rotates when turning on a lamp.  My instructions were, “pick up the complete part from the hardware store. The complete part includes the piece that the bulb screws into and the switch.  If the rotating knob does not fit, we can replace the whole unit.”  A few days later I asked to see what was purchased.  The person that selected the item in the hardware was not told to be careful to purchase a part with a switch that rotates rather than move from side to side.  The individual (a Ph.D.) rarely repairs anything and has limited experience in such matters.   In addition, the individual did not carefully examine the broken lamp prior to purchasing the new part.  The result was that the wrong part was purchased!
People are not always familiar with solving a wide range of problems.  When providing instructions it is important to ensure that the communication you intended to make was clear to the other person.  They may not see the problem and solution the way you do.  Take a look at the photos above.  One has to wonder what problems led to the creation of these signs.  I do not understand what is being communicated and clearly there is a different message the creator intended to convey.
The same is true in marketing products or services.  Some venders will provide a more optimistic scenario. It is easy to believe the information as standard when what was stated was really the maximum result.  For example, being told that a proposal may net as much as $50K, when that amount is rarely given can mislead the recipient. People tend to hear the information that is most beneficial to them and assume their result will be close to that presented. It may require follow up questions to determine a range of what to expect and the likelihood that you will get that result.
Agile thinkers may see the pieces of information come together in a manner to generate a new solution.  Describing that solution to others is nearly as critical as conceiving of the means of solving a problem.  This is because great execution is often needed to reach the end goal.  If the team does not understand your directions, your result may not be what you expect.
In short:  Practice your communication skills and try painting a complete and clear picture to others.  You may find you get more of what is needed and less of what they thought you said!

Taffy Williams can be found on Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC ,  photo  website, Google+ Facebook, and Startup  Group on Linkedin.  He writes the Startup Blog and articles for the Examiner: Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book:  Think Agile


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May Startup Blog Insights - Entrepreneurs Get Agile! with Taffy Williams

Taffy Williams can be found on Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC ,  photo  website, Google+ Facebook, and Startup  Group on Linkedin.  He writes the Startup Blog and articles for the Examiner: Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book:  Think Agile

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Focus is important but so is agile thinking

You must learn when to take your "eyes off the ball"!

Entrepreneurs must learn to balance two skills and know when to use them; a) Focus and, b) Agile Thinking.  Focus is driven into entrepreneurs by investors and experienced managers.  The ability to be more agile in one’s thinking comes from practice. When the situation dictates, agile thinking should take the lead over focus. 

Examples of these two skills are found in discovery experimentation in a laboratory.  Scientists must conduct extensive literature to learn about the field they pursue.  They then develop a hypothesis that requires testing.  Proper experimental design forms the preparation leading to the testing and results that either confirm or refute the hypothesis.  A high degree of focus is used in the execution of the experimentation to ensure proper procedures and completeness of the tests.  However, the agile thinking comes into play during the learning phase and interpretation phase.

The learning phase is the time when a scientist may let their mind run wild.  The goal is developing a hypothesis that covers the total of all facts known to date.  Once the tests are complete, the interpretation of the results and any future experimental designs require agile thinking.  It is through this agile phase that new hypothesizes or amazing discoveries become apparent.

The same is true for business.  The art of preparing a business plan requires extensive learning about the sector and business.  The plan will contain a course of action requiring the entrepreneur to focus.  However, since the business landscape changes on a regular basis and things rarely go as planned, the entrepreneur must remain alert and use the agile thinking skills to make corrections and chart new courses.  Thinking agile also is important for the entrepreneur because they learn to monitor the surroundings and possibly evade road blocks.

It is important to keep ones “eye on the ball” so to speak!  But, observation and adjustments are sometimes needed depending on the situation.  Focus on the end goals ensures you know where you are going.  Being alert and using agile thinking may help you plan more than one path to achieve your objective.  Alternatively, the agile thinking may allow you to see superior opportunities and identify a means of capitalizing on them.

Focus and Thinking Agile are two skills that if used properly can work to your benefit.  Learning to use these two skills takes practice or you may become too diffuse in our efforts and fail to make real progress!  The ability to analyze any situation and identify the smartest path to success can help you go further and achieve the success you desire. 

Taffy Williams can be found on Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC ,  photo  website, Google+ Facebook, and Startup  Group on Linkedin.  He writes the Startup Blog and articles for the Examiner: Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book:  Think Agile


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Agile thinking helps entrepreneurs achieve success

Choose your path wisely!

It is easy to stay locked in to a rigid way of thinking and in performance of activities. When traveling, you see a road and proceed down the path until you find an impediment or blockage.  Then what do you do?  This is where many entrepreneurs get stuck and have problems overcoming problems.  They create a plan and fail to consider alternatives or potential hazards.  Once faced with an impediment, they lose time while deciding how to react.  Alternatively, they may continue with the same old daily activities when a change may create a more dramatic shift in results.  Thinking Agile is critical to enhanced performance and eliminating impediments.

The word Agile suggests an ability to move quickly, easily, smarter and in a clever manner.  An entrepreneur recently asked me how Agile was different from The Pivot.  A Pivot is a subset of Agile in that one makes a quick change.  Agile thinking is involved in determining whether to pivot or not.  Agile thinking leads to use of all available information and advanced planning.  Agile thinking is important to recognizing a situation where a Pivot makes sense and may work.

Take a look at the photo.  The far off region appears to be in the same plane as the high nearby rocks.  If you were to completely survey the site, it would immediately become clear that the near rocks are on the edge of a cliff.  Moving in a straight line would be a severe hazard.  You can make a quick turn right or left and you will find the same problem of facing the edge of a cliff.  It is only after a complete examination of the total surroundings that backtracking to the rear provides the safest path home. Agile includes survey of surroundings and consideration of alternatives.

The art of Agile Thinking is a skill that can be learned.  The ability to consider and evaluate and make plans rapidly is part of the process.  It also includes some of the following characteristics:

·        Trusting the people working with you

·        Relying on other peoples skills and knowledge in the areas where you may be lacking

·        Short working cycles to deliver a minimally viable product

·        Inspect and Adapt your plans constantly

·        Fail Fast and Fail Often so you can learn what doesn't work and then move towards what will.

The article “4 Actions toward becoming an agile entrepreneur” provides other actions that are helpful to becoming more agile.  Learning to become more agile in your thinking will help in identifying novel alternatives and strategies that may increase your chances of success.  Agile thinking is important to new and experienced entrepreneurs especially in a startup!

Taffy Williams can be found on Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC ,  photo  website, Google+ Facebook, and Startup  Group on Linkedin.  He writes the Startup Blog and articles for the Examiner: Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book:  Think Agile

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Some markets are impossible to control

Where did my bankers go after the IPO?
The JOBS Act of 2012 (JOBS = Jumpstart Our Business Startups), allows the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") to treat documents required ahead of an IPO as confidential.  The process allows companies to shop for investors with no prior public awareness.  The law helps smaller companies work through issues prior to any IPO date. The process can be short for some companies and the ability to raise capital is important to advancement of the company. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, there were confidential IPO filings of more than 209 U.S. companies submitted to the SEC since Oct. 15, 2012. The companies averaged 74 days after the first confidential filing before issuing a public registration statement for their IPO. Companies with less than $1 billion in revenue in the prior fiscal year are considered emerging-growth companies under the JOBS Act and qualify for confidential treatment.

Investment banks manage the book for the IPOs and take the companies on road shows to attract interest.  Investors range from sophisticated investors in funds to retail investors that know little or nothing about the field the company works in.  The bankers try for a mix of retail and intuitional investors.  The split can be important, but more important is the follow up to create a market for the equity.

Some companies select a lesser known (and possibly lower quality) bank to pursue the capital raise.  Remember the movie “Boiler Room?” The amounts of the offerings can be in the $10s of millions and depending on the split of institutional investors to retail, the holders of equity post financing can range from few funds as investors to many independent individuals on a retail level. 

Investors may elect to hold on to the shares for long periods or seek exits quickly.  The issue is who makes a market in the stock and how much interest exists post IPO.  A hot equity can have great trading activity while a company with limited following may have only a few shares trading per day or even per week.  The latter creates significant problems.

Limited trading activity results in small orders and in frequent trades.  The lack of interest and limited trading may cause problems with your next capital raise.  Funds finding the company interesting may have volume and/or price restrictions.  The reasoning for the restrictions are seen in the following examples.  Suppose you own 1,000,000 shares in a company after an investment of $10,000,000.  Your holding period is usually a few years.  Now suppose the stock trades only 5,000 to 40,000 shares per week with extremes in price fluctuations.  If the stock moves up or down, the investor cannot get out without significant amounts of work.

A second issue arises as well.  Unsophisticated investors sometimes decide to get rid of a holding.  They may tell the broker to sell the stock.  With no counseling, the investor will sell at market rather than place a limit order.  A buyer may exist at a significant discount to market and the trade goes through with the investor taking a tremendous hair cut on the price.  The same is true in reverse.  Place an order at market and if the company trades in a limited manner, the price of the purchase may be at a very high premium.

The awareness and trading activity in the equity is an important issue for consideration by entrepreneurs.  When exploring the route to a financing, try to understand whether there will be any real support from the banking group(s) managing the offering after the offering is completed.  Secondly, create a program to generate and maintain awareness about the company and continue to follow up post financing.  Otherwise, you may find your company in a position that can create problems for your investors and possibly for your company.

Taffy Williams can be found on Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC ,  photo  website, Google+ Facebook, and Startup  Group on Linkedin.  He writes the Startup Blog and articles for the Examiner: Charlotte, NC- small business. More on the agile concepts may be found in soon to be released book:  Think Agile