December 26, 2012

What Makes Apple Work

Guest post by Josh Allan Dykstra
A couple months ago, the lead designer of Apple, Jony Ive, did a rare interview where he talked about why Apple does things the way they do.

Apple doesn’t behave the way they do to increase market share, raise the stock price, make the company bigger, or boost profits.

No, the reason Apple does things they way they do is for one simple reason:

To make a better product.

Jony says that if Apple can’t make something that’s better, they won’t do it.

This remarkable simplicity is a big reason why Apple is so successful. They have this “noble cause”* which allows them to say “NO” to the millions of pathways that don’t end up at a “better product.”

The truth is, unless we can say “NO” to the majority of good things, we’ll never find the great things.

Your noble cause doesn’t have to be “making a better product,” but you do need one. Try these questions on to figure it out:

* What’s the big problem your group is trying to solve?
* How will you somehow make the world better?
* If your organization were to disappear tomorrow, what hole would be left?

More than ever before, leaders and leadership teams must focus on prioritizing and making decisions — saying “NO” to the good in order to say “YES” to the great. If you want this for your group, a relentless focus on WHY you do what you do is unavoidable.

December 19, 2012

3 Stages of Stuck

Guest Post by Ben Arment

My guess is that when it comes to pursuing a dream, most people get stuck in one of these holding patterns:
 1. Don't know where to start.
The learning curve is too steep.
Never done anything like this before.
Are intimdated.
2. Can do the work, but don't know how to launch it.
It takes money they don't have...
Connections they can't make...
Just waiting for a breakthrough.
3. Launched but hasn't taken off.
It's bringing in little to no revenue.
Seems to be ignored.
The equivalent of a box of unsold books in the basement
The good news is - there's a way. There's always a way.
And finding it is your necessary rite of passage.

December 12, 2012

Franchise It!

The Franchise model is one of the strongest business models out there, but why? 

How does a single location become multiple ones and reach a larger geographic area?

The short answer: a repeatable system.
All successful businesses are run by an organized system. A single business location multiples when processes are documented and recorded. Basically every activity is written down in a handbook so it can be taught to someone else in the future.

Once this training manual is completed, the systems can be taught to new employees. Remember the "...for dummies" book series? They teach the basics so you can do it on your own. The more simple, repeatable steps there are, the easier it is to replicate. Clear instruction leads to easy implementation.

To open another location, follow the steps above and repeat!

In one of my favorite business books "Built to Sell" the author illustrates how to make your company sell-able. Your goal might not be to sell your business, but you'll never know how much it's worth until you build it to sell. When you streamline your processes by documenting them, it gives your company the opportunity to scale and function without your direct involvement. To all you control freaks out there, this concept may be scary to consider, but if your idea is dependent on your participation it will never grow to reach its potential without the help from others. 

As a new father, think of your business like a child. It's your responsibility to train and guide him/her to be independent enough to launch and leave the nest. 

There are plenty of successful franchises around to learn from. You don't have to copy what they do, but study their model to build your own franchise!

December 5, 2012

Accelerator University

Unemployment rates are still high and graduating with a college degree guarantees you nothing...but what's the alternative?
The current 20 something workforce has abandoned their hope in corporate America and turned to entrepreneurship. The learning curve is steep and the risk factors are high, but you do have more control than if you worked for someone else. 

When starting a business, experience is what you need. If it's your first company, you need mentors to help you avoid mistakes and advice to help you succeed. Where can you find that?

First, turn to your network. If you don't have a strong network, you better start building one. Success in your career depends on who you know, not what you know. 

If your idea has the potential to scale, now you can turn to investors. If accepted, one of the greatest learning environments in business is to be a part of an accelerator. 

An accelerator is usually a 3 - 4 month business incubator where you receive a free shared workspace and initial financial investment in exchange for a small percentage of equity in your company. Where the real value lies is with the accelerator's owners/sponsors who become your mentors. Their experience and guidance is invaluable. 

The concept of mentoring is what is lacking from the traditional education system. Listening to a professor lecture isn't how we learn. Visual or hands-on training is the best way to retain information and learn new skills. 

How much more effective would education be if mentors were assigned to each student?

It's something to seriously think about...