Wednesday, 01 April 2015 16:23

Brand Building

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In our consumer culture of shiny-new-object syndrome, it is increasingly unlikely that a brand will survive—much less thrive—for more than a few seasons. But for 162 years, Levi Strauss & Co. has done just that. The staying power of the Levi’s brand stands out boldly in this era of pop-up stores, Snapchat-style startups and fleeting loyalty.

For perspective, consider that when Levi Strauss emigrated in 1853 from Buttenheim, Bavaria, to the U.S. and founded his company, there were only 31 American states. Another 32 years would pass before the automobile was developed. Among iconic U.S. brands, only Anheuser-Busch (founded in 1852) has been around longer than Levi’s. (Coca-Cola came about in 1892; Ford in 1903.) 

And yet Levi’s remains a formidable brand today. Fiscal 2014 revenue increased 2 percent over the previous year to $4.68 billion, and the company commands the highest share of the global jeans market. Retailers credit Levi’s for having unique brand assets they can’t get from other lines. As Gary Oneil, former creative director for J.C. Penney, explains, “Levi’s has become a brand titan that scales across lifestyle, gender … this allows retailers to cast a broad net that captures a diverse customer base.” 

Moreover, Levi’s continues to be considered hip. Complex, a website devoted to twentysomething males, listed Levi’s among its “15 Brands Hipsters Love,” alongside Band of Outsiders and other indie designers. Sightings of Levi’s-clad celebrities fill the pages of style and pop-culture media. 

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015 18:34

How to make the right decision

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Any time I have a tough decision to make, I wonder what James Burke would do.

Burke isn’t a household name, certainly not in the modern pantheon of entrepreneurial leaders like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. But that’s not surprising. Burke spent nearly 40 years with the same company—Johnson & Johnson (13 of them as chairman and CEO)—then went into public service as chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Neither role is “hip” to the modern entrepreneur.

But you should know Burke—like, have-a-picture-of-him-on-your-office-wall know him. If you’re serious about leadership, serious about being a leader that your employees, customers and stakeholders can be proud of, you should understand, as he did, that it all comes down to how you approach decisions. Leadership is about bringing order to chaos, fighting ambiguity and staying true to your company’s—and your own—principles.

In Burke’s case, that meant making what remains one of the riskiest corporate decisions ever: spending $100 million to recall a product that wasn’t actually faulty.

Burke led J&J through its darkest period. In 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after taking capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide. Folks were scared. No one knew how the drugs were being tampered with. It was random. And it wasn’t really J&J’s fault. The company wasn’t poisoning its customers—a crackpot was.

But there was uncertainty among executives and shareholders about what the company should do. The costliest option was also the most unprecedented, and it was the path Burke chose: pulling 32 million bottles of Tylenol off store shelves across the country.

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015 18:08

The winning attitude

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by Jason Ankeny SOURCE:

Steve Ballmer is a maniac. Just days into the new year, the rookie owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers took the internet by storm when he leaped from his courtside seat at Staples Center and began wildly gyrating to the music of halftime performer Fergie—a dance described by media outlets as “whacked out,” “hilariously insane” and “enraged and ecstatic all at the same time.” 

The spectacle was nothing new to anyone who recalls Ballmer’s 14-year tenure as Microsoft CEO: Bill Gates’ handpicked successor was a notoriously towering presence at software developer conferences and industry events, stalking keynote stages like a caged animal—a shouting, sweaty Chris Farley character come to life. 

Ballmer, we can surmise, is an extrovert. Or is he? You don’t take command of one of the world’s most influential companies or rack up a personal net worth of $22.5 billion without deep concentration and focus, keen observational skills and at least some capacity for self-reflection—attributes commonly associated with introverted personalities. 

“There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert,” argued Carl Jung, the pioneering psychologist credited with popularizing the concepts of extroversion and introversion almost a century ago. “Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.”

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015 12:45

Women in The work place

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New research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) suggests the biggest roadblock may be the perception that the burdens of leadership far outweigh the benefits--a perception shared by 60 percent of U.S. women and 65 percent of U.K. women between the ages of 35 and 50. Although societal norms have shifted as more women assume positions of power, few stories extol their sense of fulfillment, intellectual excitement and sheer joy inherent in having the top job. Instead, the prevalent narrative is still one of sacrifice: the toll career ambitions take on one's personal life.

The result: Too many women step off the fast track because they see an executive role delivering a hefty salary but little else that they value.

The fact is, CTI's study shows that rather than a limitation, power is actually a plus for women. It can enhance both their professional and personal lives. A closer look at what mid-career women (ages 35 to 50) want from their careers exposes their misunderstanding of power and illuminates the benefits it can bring. They want the following:

Women want to flourish. However,the majority of women without power--82 percent of women in the U.S. and 78 percent in the U.K.--believe that an executive position would not allow them to flourish. This assumption is incorrect as 58 percent of women with power in the U.S. and 36 percent in the U.K. report having the ability to flourish.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015 12:42

Overcome Mental Challenges

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by Neil Patel @

Would I encourage everyone to start a business? No.

Starting a business hurts. It requires hard work. Everyone has skills and abilities, but not everyone should invest those skills and abilities in starting a business. Those who possess entrepreneurial aspirations need to know how tough it is to create a company.

The biggest challenges are not the external ones like funding, coding, technology or talent acquisition. Those challenges can be fun, as long as you view them the right way. The biggest challenges are the internal ones, like stress, fear and self-doubt. Entrepreneur and financial expert Ramit Sethi estimates that 95 percent of the barriers to success come from crippling thought processes.

You have to power through some serious mental hurdles in order to start a business and make it a success. What kind of hurdles? Here are the ones that you need to get rid of.

Related: 6 Personality Traits That Can Make You a More Trusted Entrepreneur

1. I’m not really an entrepreneur.

Let me toss out one of the most over-asked and under-answered questions on the planet: What is an entrepreneur?

Nobody knows for sure. People try to define the word -- fromgovernment organizations to columnists. We have little more than mere definitions, cobbled together by people trying to make sense of the vast entrepreneurial arena.

One of the most popular types of entrepreneur articles are the lists. You’ve read them, with titles like ”25 Characteristics of a True Entrepreneur.” These can be seriously misleading. When we crowd out would-be entrepreneurs by tightening our definition of an entrepreneur, we do a disservice to the world at large and to those entrepreneurs as individuals.

In a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, researchers admitted “There is no well-defined population of entrepreneurs (due to lack of consensus on definition), so comparisons and generalizations are dangerous.” Another research project from the University of Baltimore cited multiple studies that pointed to the same truth: “A common definition of the entrepreneur remains elusive.”

If you think you’re not an entrepreneur, then you’re approaching the issue from the wrong angle. The right angle is I want to start a business...sell something, do something, invent, create, dream and grow. If you start from the “am I an entrepreneur?” question then you may accidentally disqualify yourself before you even begin.

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At first glance lazy employees seem to be the worst ones to look to if you want to get a job done, but that may not be the truth.

After all, it's the lazy employees who know the shortcuts, the efficiencies, how to eliminate problems, keep things running smoothly, and save time.

Here's how to get the most from them.

When they seem to be idle, they may have found a much easier way of doing things, or they may just have more highly developed skills than others. Learn from them and enlist them to help teach others.

When they seem to be bored, they may be deep in thought. Find challenges that speak to them and give them higher-order assignments.

When they seem to be distracted, they may not have enough going on to keep them interested. Entrust them with projects that require multitasking and fast-paced work.

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What skills do you really need to succeed? In school, they taught us history and algebra and if we got good SAT scores they said we'd succeed. But are those the skills we really need? Developmental psychologist Susan Engel researched the skills that actually predicted success. I'll give you a hint--differential calculus isn't on the list. Here are the 7 skills that are critical for success.

1. Reading.

Of course, you can read. If you couldn't you wouldn't be reading this. Engel defines reading as follows: "It means having the ability to read an essay or book and understand it well enough to use the information in some practical way or to talk about it with another person."

I'd like to ask a different question: Do you read? Do you apply what you've learned? Share it with others? People who read fiction, for instance, are more empathetic. That empathy can certainly help you be a better boss.

2. Inquiry.

If you're running a startup, you probably already have this skill down. After all, the purpose of every startup is to either solve a problem that exists or convince people that they have a problem so you can sell them the solution. But, the question is, do you allow your employees the same level of inquiry?

Are ideas encouraged? If they are, are they encouraged at all levels of your work force, or are they welcomed just from your senior team? The process of inquiry is the process that will lead your company to success. Keep asking those questions.

3. Flexible thinking and the use of evidence.

Sometimes we get focused on the solution we think is right, and we forget that there are many different angles for looking at each problem. When I taught political science courses, I'd have students write a persuasive essay on a controversial subject. Then, I'd have them write a second essay arguing the opposing viewpoint. There's a good chance you had a professor that required the same, but do you do this now?

Have you really looked at your decisions from all sides? Are you looking at evidence or are you rejecting anything that doesn't back up your predetermined conclusion? And when you find new evidence, you need to change your course of action.

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Wednesday, 04 March 2015 18:02

Ready Set Grow

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The CEO is confronted with a dilemma:

The revenue and profits of his company’s existing businesses are rising slowly, and the businesses have already slashed their costs as much as they dare. Because their markets are mature, he knows that the company must grow if the share price is to increase, but acquisitions are expensive and risky. So he launches a slew of initiatives in areas with high growth potential and appoints some promising young managers to lead them. To ensure that the new ventures aren’t stifled, he has their managers report to a special growth committee headed by a trusted staff executive and locates them a safe distance from the established businesses.

Sound familiar? It should, because that story has played out at hundreds if not thousands of large and midsize companies over the past 20 to 30 years. But after working for, advising, and studying scores of companies, we have learned that this conventional wisdom about how best to pursue growth is a recipe for failure—which explains why most new businesses launched by established companies die, and why only a tiny fraction of companies around today, including major corporations, will be here in 25 years.

All too often CEOs and their senior teams see managing today’s earnings as their main job and don’t spend enough time on the pursuit of growth and building the kind of learning organization and culture that growth requires. They fail to identify specific policies and actions that only they can take to create the conditions for success and signal to the organization the seriousness of their commitment to growth. In this article we explore six common mistakes that executives make in this arena and offer guidelines for leading growth initiatives. (See the exhibit “How to Lead Growth Initiatives: Guidelines for CEOs.”) The approach we describe has created billions of dollars in new revenue and value for companies such as Alere, Cognizant, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever.

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One of the most baffling and recalcitrant of the problems which business executives face is employee resistance to change. Such resistance may take a number of forms—persistent reduction in output, increase in the number of “quits” and requests for transfer, chronic quarrels, sullen hostility, wildcat or slowdown strikes, and, of course, the expression of a lot of pseudological reasons why the change will not work. Even the more petty forms of this resistance can be troublesome.

All too often when executives encounter resistance to change, they “explain” it by quoting the cliche that “people resist change” and never look further. Yet changes must continually occur in industry. This applies with particular force to the all-important “little” changes that constantly take place—changes in work methods, in routine office procedures, in the location of a machine or a desk, in personnel assignments and job titles.

No one of these changes makes the headlines, but in total they account for much of our increase in productivity. They are not the spectacular once-in-a-lifetime technological revolutions that involve mass layoffs or the obsolescence of traditional skills, but they are vital to business progress.

Does it follow, therefore, that business management is forever saddled with the onerous job of “forcing” change down the throats of resistant people? My answer is no. It is the thesis of this article that people do not resist technical change as such and that most of the resistance which does occur is unnecessary. I shall discuss these points, among others:

1. A solution which has become increasingly popular for dealing with resistance to change is to get the people involved to “participate” in making the change. But as a practical matter “participation” as a device is not a good way for management to think about the problem. In fact, it may lead to trouble.

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If it has to happen, then it has to happen first, writes Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author of "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast."

Those among us who have managed to find professional success and eke out a life actively embrace this philosophy. They must set aside their first hours of the day to invest in their top-priority activities before other people’s priorities come rushing in.

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Work Hard, Not Long

Our society was built on the puritan values of hard work and discipline. To this day, we are a nation of long workdays and very few vacations. According to an article in CNN from last month, even the vacations we do take have us tied to our smart phones and laptops instead of beach hammocks.[1]


Strategic Partnering: Stay Ahead of the Curve

June 11, 2012

No single company can do it all. We each have our ‘niche’ and areas where we can use some help, or need to source out. If you’re looking to increase your exposure, broaden your scope and open yourself to new markets: consider strategic partnering. If done right, partnering up can be the tool you were looking for to get fresh and stay ahead of the curve.


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