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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are You Drinking Your Own Cool Aid

One of the activities of any entrepreneur is to make investor and partnering pitches.  Quite often these are learning events as well as sales activities.  Your listeners will often provide feedback and criticism which in turn is used to modify and improve the presentation for the next group.  The process is iterative and likely takes place numerous times.  In fact, it gets to be so routine that after many such presentations you have added key questions and answers to the future presentations.

What is sometimes missed is the continual reinforcement of how great your product and business has become, or at least that is what you are selling.  The sharper and more focused presentation with reinforcement of concepts cause the presenter to become even more sold on the business or products.  The pitch, questions, and answers become so good that it is easy to sell yourself on your own pitch, i.e. “Drinking Your Own Cool Aid.”

Remember being a kid and having a lemonade stand?  You may have tasted your lemonade and finished it all before selling it to anyone else.  It was great because you made it.  Your family may have bought from you because you were cute.  You felt like a real business person. But that was artificial and you did not have the ability to critically review the activities.

When you become so sold on your own business or products, you likely never to step back and critically review where you are.  Problem is it becomes more likely you will miss the key issues that prevent your listeners from buying.  You believe the story, but your listeners don’t.  They fail to buy or invest.  

The failure to constantly review your position and try to see the issues in a detached way can prevent you from learning why you are not making the sale.  Take a step back from time to time and ask whether you are your only customer.  Try to listen more and question your position.  Maybe you will find the answer that will take an investor or partner to a YES.

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Supervising Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs

Can you name all of the characters in Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs?  They are Snow White, Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Bashful, Doc and let’s not forget the Witch.  We will forget the handsome prince because that is you the entrepreneur for now.

This may sound odd, but they all worked for me in one capacity or another over the years; or, at least individuals with personalities that match!  Having a business, means you will encounter many different personalities in your staff or even in those above you.  Your ability to cope is critical to your survival and growth as a manager.  Learning to lead a diverse team is critical.

Once in a large organization, a friend of mine was assigned an employee by a supervisor.  This employee was known well by everyone.  The supervisor transferred the employee with the comments to my friend, “ I Want to Give You the Chance to Hone Your Managerial Skills to a Fine Edge.  You can guess what that meant.  The employee could do good work when guided well, but certainly had an attitude to say the least.

In a startup, you do have the option of removing staff, but do not think this so simple.  When an employee is above the age of 40, it requires certain special legal sign off to prevent age discrimination claims.  If the person has an ethnic background, you can have issues of discrimination.  There is always the fact that a removal it is not easy even if it is only that you feel guilty; you always do.

The simplest thing to do is to hire well, but remember developing your management skill is critical.  You can have the best and brightest but if you lead improperly, your team is not going to perform well.  Having one poor performing person can cause others to harbor resentment.  So hire well and keep a look out for some of the following personalities.

Witch:  Very smart and wants to be the top dog.  The person has an ego that the most difficult to deal with.  Take special care because this person will do anything to anyone to get on top or stay on top.  They are often over whelmed with their own importance in life.  You will only know you got stabbed in the back when you are pulling the knife out the front.

Snow White:  At first glance, this person seems the fairest in the land.  Later, they end up sleeping on the job. If you can ever get their attention, they really can be the best.  Just keep them awake.

Dopey:  The name says it all.  They really do screw up and most of the time it is something that a normal person would not do.  For example, once an employee planning to wash glassware plugged the sink and left the water running as he went to the bathroom.  About 30 min later, the people from several floors below came running to my office to find what caused the flood.  They can perform simple tasks but require constant monitoring.

Sneezy:  People have allergies or get sick and this is rather common.  Most can handle the day to day problem and are great workers.  Some seem to be out on sick leave all the time, allergy or not.  Once I had an employee that managed to have more than 240 hrs. of sick leave in 4 months.  The employee was not actually sick, just took the leave. Due the potential for a wide range of possible legal issues that could arise if fired we retained the employee.  It required day to day monitoring of use of leave and it was a year before this person found another job and left. 

Sleepy:  This person is kind of like Snow White but without the promise of being a terrific employee.  They are good, but not outstanding and may be lacking in potential.  They will not pay attention and will likely get things wrong due to not listening to instructions.

Happy:  It is great to be happy, but some are defined as “inappropriately happy”.  They don’t get that their performance is lacking and nothing you can say will change that.  They never seem to measure up but they think they are fantastic.  They always believe the “sun will come up tomorrow”.

Grumpy: Some people have a disposition that is curmudgeonly in nature.  Nothing is ever right and they always complain.  They never want to do what is needed as it is not in their position description.  They have the ability to bring your team down even if their performance on the job is good.

Bashful: This type may be ok in the right position, but do not count on sending them to do your sales or networking.  They could use your help coming out of their shell and sometimes can be great workers.  Performance is dependent on whether they have other issues or not.

Doc: There is always one “smart ass” in every group.  Doc knows everything about everything.  It does not matter if what he thinks he knows is just wrong, because he is an expert. He never will question what he knows nor will he seek alternative verifications to ensure he is right.   You will always need to check up on what info you get from this person. 

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon