Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Management Team Section of the Business Plan

Even the best new concept or existing plan will fail if executed poorly. The Management Team section of the business plan must prove to the investor why the key company personnel are "eminently qualified" to execute on the business model.
The Management Team section should include biographies of key team members and detail their responsibilities. It is important that these biographies are not merely resumes that include the educational backgrounds and previous job titles and responsibilities of the team members. Rather, biographies should highlight the most relevant past positions that the individuals have held and specific successes in each. These successes could include launching and growing new businesses or managing divisions of established companies.
Team member biographies should be tailored to the company's growth stage. For instance, a start-up company should emphasize its management's success launching and growing companies. A more mature company should emphasize how team members have successfully operated within the framework of larger enterprises.
Depending upon the stage of the company, key functional areas may be missing from the team. This is acceptable provided that the plan clearly defines the roles that these individuals will play and identifies the key characteristics of the individuals that will be hired. However, it is generally not favorable if personnel are missing for ultra-critical roles. For example, a plan that is fundamentally a marketing play should not seek financing without a stellar marketing team.
The Management Team section should also include biographies of the company's Advisory Board and/or Board of Directors. While having well-known advisors/board members adds credibility to the business plan, it is highly effective to explain how these advisors will directly impact the company through strategic advice and/or providing conduits to key clients, partners, suppliers, etc.
In summary, the Management Team section of the business plan is an opportunity to prove to investors that your company has the necessary talent to succeed. Rather than waste this opportunity by merely showing employee resumes, which could be included in the Appendix, the section should be used to explain precisely how the team is uniquely qualified to execute the venture in its present state.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

8 Guidelines for Executives

It seems that coaches are everywhere these days.
Senior Executives are hiring coaches in increasing numbers, and for a wider variety of reasons.
In the past, coaching was viewed primarily as a remedial tool for executives whose careers were skidding. Today more and more leaders use coaches on a consultative basis, for everything from accelerating leadership transitions to facilitating board, shareholder and employee relations.
Today's leaders proactively seek coaching to build on strengths, accelerate initiatives and identify potential derailing obstacles before they cause serious damage
While locating a coach may be as simple as asking a colleague or entering a few words in a search engine, finding the right one for your specific needs can be a bit more difficult.
So how do you locate a coach with the right skills and expertise that match your needs? And once you get started how can you work with your coach to benefit the most from the experience?
Over many years of working with senior executives, we have formulated 9 practical suggestions. To gain the most from your coaching experience, follow these guidelines:
1. Define your goals
What are your most immediate goals? What long-term results are you seeking? By considering your objectives in advance, you'll more rapidly identify the best person to work with.
Some common reasons why Executives seek coaching:
  • accelerate career advancement
  • increase leadership effectiveness
  • improve presentation and communication skills
  • improve negotiation skills
  • reduce stress
  • enhance career transitions
  • provide insight for more objective decisions
  • improve interpersonal and team relationships
  • assist with crisis or change leadership
  • help lead culture change
  • enhance executive hiring decisions
  • improve delegation and reduce time constraints
  • plan retirement or the next career

2. Establish Rapport You want a coach who listens. The best coaches are objective and unbiased. They save insights and recommendations until they have listened, assessed and fully understood your situation.
There's no formula for assessing rapport in advance. And no credentials or testimonials will allow you to figure this out. You'll get a "gut feeling" in your initial conversation or two whether this is the right collaborative relationship. If the feeling isn't there, don't make the assumption that things will get better over time -- keep looking.
3. Be Yourself
The right coach will help bring out your best, not try to change you into someone else. One sure way to recognize a poorly trained coach is if he or she recommends a categorical change based on a textbook standard. Experienced coaches can pinpoint specific areas where a small change can lead to a significant result.
There's no point in trying to become someone you're not. You'll squander precious energy and become less effective. The right coach won't try to change you just for the sake of change. Find a coach who'll help you be your best self.
4. Look for a positive focus
A coach is there to help you improve your game, not to ferret out and fix every flaw. The best results are achieved by focusing on strengths, not weaknesses.
Of course the right coach will help you identify and correct major stumbling blocks to progress. However, the primary focus should be maximizing your strengths, so that your weaknesses become irrelevant.
5. Confidentiality Is Key
A sense of trust and safety is critical to a productive coaching experience. Coaching isn't therapy, but you should feel comfortable revealing any relevant information to your coach.
It's not uncommon for personal issues to arise that are not entirely business-related, but affect outcomes for better or worse. Make sure your coach has a confidentiality policy with which you're comfortable.
6. Look for Psychological Savvy
While advanced degrees aren't any guarantee of effectiveness, a psychologically informed coach can help you use interpersonal dynamics to finesse conflicts and reduce any negative impact on company performance.
A good coach will be multifaceted - able to combine one-on-one coaching with effective team intervention as needed. Knowledge of both interpersonal and group dynamics is important to successful outcomes.
7. Value Honesty
The best coach isn't afraid to tell you the things you need to hear
Remember, the higher up you are in the company, the harder it is to get honest information. People around you have a vested interest in keeping you happy. Many of them may also fear a "kill the messenger" response.
It's easy for coaches with minimal training to fall into a trap of giving feel-good answers. After all they risk being fired if they give advice the client doesn't like.
Dr. Steven Berglas, former Harvard psychiatrist and instructor at UCLA's Anderson school, explained in an interview with Chief Executive Magazine, "A lot of times consultants and coaches are deemed great because they're adding syrup to a sundae. They just go along; they're 'gaysayers' and proponents." The CEO may feel good, but little progress is made. In fact, according to Berglas, an "alarming number" of coaches who lack psychological training hurt their clients more than they help them.
Instead of looking for consensus, weigh your coach's input before you make your own decision. After all, that's what you're paying for.
8. Give your coach access.
Make it easy for your consultant to do his or her job. Allow ample rein to inquire, research, survey, whatever it takes to thoroughly understand the issues and, most importantly, get you the information you need.
Locating the right coach for your needs can be tricky but these guidelines can increase your chances for success. They will help you launch an ongoing, beneficial partnership with your coach and keep it that way. With the right collaboration, you'll find that you can significantly compress the time you need to achieve your most important goals.
© 2007 Dr. Robert Karlsberg & Dr. Jane Adler
Dr. Jane Adler and Dr. Robert Karlsberg are leading experts in leadership development and the psychology of business. They are founders of, and authors of The Road to CEO: Psychological Strategies for Getting to the Top.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Defining the Qualities of a Professional

In today's business climate we are experiencing more interest in professionalism. The past five years provided many successes; however, most have been overshadowed by the non-ethical behavior of a few. Some people lost most of their retirement savings, and the US population is demanding a stronger US economy and a peaceful world.
We've seen quality job opportunities decreasing and the need for profits has many projects being partially or wholly completed overseas. Many employees are traveling to other offices in the US because of the lack of projects locally. If they choose not to travel, they are being asked to take vacation or risk being laid off.
In tough times, I look to fundamentals to help right the path. One fundamental factor more prevalent in daily dialogue and business consists of defining the qualities of a professional. Some define a professional as a person who is being paid for a service. True, we require money to trade. However, some get paid by doing illegal activities.
To simplify, you can be or recognize a professional when three qualities are present. The first quality is trustworthiness. When you meet a person for the first time you immediately associate a level of trust with the person and their service. If the person happens to come via a recommendation, then usually the trust is greater. Regardless, just as relationships develop so does the level of trust. People that associate with each other on a high trust level know how to talk to one another and provide reasons the service they are representing can be beneficial. Knowing how to talk to one another is more than mannerisms. It is the ability to motivate one another to create positive results. Additionally, your involvement and input in your company, associations, volunteerism, charity work, and political ideas and opinions help develop trust. Not necessarily because two people agree on an issue but because somewhere on this path a common trust level evolves and continues to evolve as you share experiences. When trust is present, people will buy from you or recommend your service.
Secondly, one should be helpful. By being helpful, you are essentially putting the other person in a better position. Negotiating is a great tool to show your willingness to help. An individual likes being dealt with as an individual. We as people and our services are too robust and diverse for "one size fits all". However, be sure you negotiate fairly. Don't provide an offer and service to someone unless they can provide valid reasons to do so. Putting together value metric points (goals) for your client is a great way to validate the value of your service. Be patient, ask questions to understand, have service options, and close win-win deals. Knowing how to make deals is essential to the success of a professional.
And lastly, a professional must care. Caring shows a desire to gain a better understanding of an individual's current scenario and doing something that benefits them. It is the quality that says we may be individuals competing or not but when a certain scenario or circumstance exists we are united. When all three qualities of a professional are present, expect to see not only a professional but one that gets paid well and has a well balanced life.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Understanding the Power of Your Power Network

It is said that "it's not what you know, but who you know that counts". I believe that "it is what you know that will give your head start, who you know that will get you going, who knows you (and your products or services) that will help you succeed, but what you do with your knowledge and relationships that will make you succeed."
So, stop thinking that you can do it all. You can't. There are not enough hours in the day for you to do everything. Stop thinking that you are irreplaceable or that no one can do nearly as good a job as you. After all, we are all mortal. As an over-achieving, overly energetic, obsessive-compulsive, competitive, I gotta-do-it-all, supermom-sister-wife-daughter-cousin-friend-colleague...I learned the hard way that it's time to stop the madness.
Just like women do, I used to think that I have to do everything that has my name on it because it's a reflection of me. Even in the process of being everyone's "go-to-woman" I knew I was abusing my body, mind, heart, soul and family, but I still did not slow down. I set such high goals for myself, that while others admired my above-average status, I still fought for the outstanding, superb, nearly perfect grade. The odd thing is that I was never disappointed if I was in 2nd place or got a "B" because I always knew it was my best. Yet, I never took the opportunity to relish in my good work, fortune, or success, because I'd be on the next 1, 2, 3 or even 4 other projects that already started.
Finally, I got a very harsh lesson in life. I got into a car accident; I was forced to stay home away from work. I couldn't use the computer, watch TV, listen to a radio, or even lift my babies. Basically, I was helpless. I was forced to slow down and see my life flash in front of me. I immediately became humbled by the many blessings God gave me, particularly my roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I quickly learned that life outside of God and family kept moving along without me, and nothing stopped for me, or because of me.
Praise to God, I had this life-changing lesson. As women, we need to slow down and appreciate our blessings. At I continuously praise and empower women to put themselves first and accept the here and now.
I also learned that good things come to those who work smart, and wisely, but most of all are cordial and kind. My selfless gift of giving was paying off. Power people (in my personal, professional, and social life) allowed me the break I needed. These power people allowed me to appreciate all the hard work and efforts I put into everything I do...or did. Since I always treated my relationships with the utmost trust, honor, and respect; this was given back to me 10 times over. I gained true loyalty from clients, and my family and friends helped me and my family through my helplessness and much, much more.
These power people make up my power network, and they allowed me to see myself in a beautiful light. By fostering good will in others, I was rewarded more than what I thought I gave. Yet, in reality, I gave so much of myself through the power of networking (strictly being myself) that they gave me back exactly what I needed: patience, understanding, loyalty and love. In turn, they all told me that "I deserve it". The pains of my body are almost minuscule to the fortune I gained--which is my life, and the true power of a power network.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fire Your Inner Brat

Who runs your business -- you or your inner brat? Everyone has an inner brat. It's the part of us that's still a 2-year-old. It gets furious at the slightest inconvenience. It feels entitled to get what it wants when it wants, and it whines and complains when things don't go its way.
Chances are this describes at least one of your clients or employees. It's always easier to spot someone else's inner brat than your own. But take a moment now to reflect on yourself and answer the following questions:
* Do you frequently complain that something isn't fair?
* Do you get angry at least once a day?
* Do you hate at least one client or employee?
* Are you convinced that the government, the economy or the competition is responsible for the lack of growth in your business?
* Have you made bad decisions because you were upset?
* Are you a spreader of gossip?
* Do you frequently forget to follow through on things or return phone calls?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your inner brat is your close business partner, like it or not. Your inner brat not only makes you miserable, it can also undermine the success of your business.
Research has shown that while some jobs are more stressful than others, your level of satisfaction and success have more to do with your attitude than with the work itself.
For example, consider two business owners, Arthur and Betsy. They both recently left their employers and are each struggling to build their own consulting businesses. Arthur complains, "I made 20 phone calls last week, and still haven't landed an appointment to talk to anyone about how I can serve their needs. Going to work every day is like banging my head against the wall. The economy sucks. Nobody's buying."
On the other hand, Betsy, who is in a similar position with her business looks at it this way: OK, I made 20 phone calls last week, which was my goal. That's the good news. Unfortunately it hasn't materialized into any solid business yet, but Don in the purchasing department at Widgets, Inc. invited me to call him back in a month. That gives me a few weeks to do my homework on Widgets and make a more convincing presentation.
You can see from this example that how much you enjoy your work is a function of how you view things. It makes no difference whether you work inside or outside, at a desk or behind a counter; or whether you wear jeans or suits. If you focus on the negative you will never enjoy your business, no matter how much money you make.
Arthur in the above example has a strong inner brat. He complains and finds fault. He perceives himself as a victim. Not only will his inner brat make him irritable and gloomy; it will adversely affect his interpersonal style, making it even more difficult to negotiate contracts. This in turn will make him feel even more like a failure.
Betsy is more positive about her business, but at the same time she is also realistic. She's aware of the difficulty in getting contracts, but instead of dwelling on what's wrong with the economy or anything else, she looks for opportunities to improve her skills. This keeps her focused on solutions and helps her project a positive manner with potential clients.
No one is cheerful one hundred percent of the time. But people who don't let their inner brats whine and complain suffer less stress, have fewer physical ailments and are more optimistic about the future.
There are many things you cannot control in business. For example, you have no control over interest rates or your clients' personalities. If clients or potential clients are argumentative or resistant, maybe they have a problem with their inner brats. But you don't have to let their inner brats push your buttons and unleash your own inner brat.
Some aspects of running your business may be unpredictable or unpleasant. But even then, you can view them in a different way.
* Think of difficulties as a challenge rather than as a threat. Maybe you need to adopt the old sports aphorism as your personal motto: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
* Take advantage of slow times to write thank-you notes to potential prospects with whom you've communicated on the phone or in email.
* When things are hectic or overwhelming, look for opportunities to praise employees for pulling together as a team.
* When you have to work with difficult people pretend you're watching a movie of them, and you're the director trying to decide what to do next. This will help you stay emotionally detached from their quirks, and you'll be calmer and in control.
* Be aware of your inner brat's whining and complaining, which can undermine your success. Fire your inner brat. It has no place in your business!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Generating Publicity For Your Business

When starting a successful business venture or launching a new product, most entrepreneurs or business owners conduct some type of marketing research to determine the extent of their prospective customer base. And when getting the word out to that customer base, many entrepreneurs may turn to the media to help generate a buzz for them. However, as detailed as their marketing research might have been, very few business owners are as meticulous at determining their proper "media market" - that is, all those media outlets whose editorial profiles are a match to a product/business profile and would be appropriate for generating media exposure and publicity.
One of my favorite things to do is educate my clients about their "media market." Consider this, in North America there are more than 75,000 media outlets and almost one million reporters, editors & producers in the entire media market. However, only a small percentage of those may be appropriate and applicable to your business/product. But which ones? Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned entrepreneurs are either uninformed or misinformed regarding what it takes to attract media attention for their business. I recently surveyed 100 business owners and entrepreneurs who contacted my business about a publicity/media exposure campaign. Here's what I found:
  • 11% - "Are Admittedly Media Market Clueless"
  • 19% - "Have Unrealistic Media Market Perceptions"
  • 29% - "Think Local & Large Media Are The ONLY Media"
  • 41% - "Have A Good Grasp On Their Potential Media Market And Its Benefits"
Here are the descriptions of these categories and the lessons I try to teach those who fall into each category:
11% - "Are Admittedly Media Market Clueless"
These are the business owners who know their product and market inside and out, BUT they have never thought about launching a publicity/media exposure campaign before now. They know very little about their potential media market or how to generate publicity therein.
The Lesson: For these types of business owners I recommend asking for help from a smaller PR agency or publicity specialist who is willing to "hand hold" to get the client educated. Research to find one who doesn't mind spending the time to educate you about what should be included in your specific media market and the pitch. Make sure the agency or publicist understands the product/business as well as you do and can in turn educate you about your media market - one that will be able to benefit your business for years to come.
19% - "Have Unrealistic Media Perceptions"
These are the business owners who are CONVINCED that EVERY newspaper, consumer interest magazine and TV show will run a feature on their new products when they launch a publicity campaign.
The Lesson: No product or business, no matter how big or great can be assured media coverage in every outlet in a media market. But you can get coverage in a good number of them given the right media tending. Every media pitch will be weighed against the media outlet's editorial lead-time, its available editorial space, and availability of an editorial staff member to cover your pitch. It is totally up to the discretion of each media outlet as to whether your pitch makes it to the pages or on air. It can be an uphill battle if you target the wrong media with the wrong message. But you can greatly increase the chances generating those media placements with a little expertise and media market know-how.
29% - "Think Local & Large Media Are The ONLY Media"
These are the ones who think of their media market in two simple terms: LOCAL & LARGE
LOCAL, as you might imagine, means the media outlets in their city or surrounding geographic region -- the local newspaper, a regional business magazine or two, a few shows at local radio/TV stations. LARGE, on the other hand, are media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Good Morning America, Oprah or your other favorite large circulation, trade specific media outlet.
The Lesson: The reality is local and large are indeed part of your media market, but not the only ones. The best media market opportunities may well be the dozens of other smaller scale papers, magazines, newsletters or TV/radio/cable shows that may generate more customer interest and sales than a placement in the big media might. Because of a lack of media market knowledge, many business owners don't even know these smaller, more targeted media outlets exist. This is where a PR agency or publicity specialist can be integral in your publicity campaign. They know the media market very well and will be able to find those media members who will be the best for generating editorial features on your business or product. They also have great media contacts that can turn one feature into a syndicated story that runs in multiple media outlets nationwide.
41% - "Have A Good Grasp On Their Potential Media Market And Its Benefits"
These are media-savvy entrepreneurs and business owners who are realistic and knowledgeable about how the media can benefit their business. They know that they have to narrowcast their media pitch to a select segment of the media in order to get coverage that will increase exposure for the business.
The Lesson: Don't let a PR agency or publicity specialist tell you they will send your pitch to 20,000, 30,000 or 50,000 media outlets. The reality is, of the 8,000 daily & weekly newspapers, 11,000 magazines & newsletters, 15,000 radio/TV/cable stations and 7,000 Internet news sites in North America, only about 25% of those accept press releases from outside their geographic area. They cover only LOCAL issues, businesses and products, and it is a waste of time to target them. The key is researching to discover which media outlets will be receptive to your pitch and knowing how to parlay those media contacts into positive consumer interest features that will educate and entice customers about your product or business.
Just like marketing to find the right customers, one should be equally diligent about finding and pitching the right media market. Bottom line - whether you have a general interest product that has widespread consumer appeal or a trade specific business with a very narrow customer base, knowing your appropriate media market can mean the difference between product/business publicity or product/business obscurity.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Work Just As Well As Who You Know

We all know the saying in business, "It's not what you know but who you know", right? This saying is definitely true when it comes to small business and on occasion, the same can be said in media relations. However, what you know can sometimes get you just as far - especially if you're trying to tell your story to the local press.
Some time ago, a small-business client approached me about handling public relations for her firm. She had been writing her own press releases and submitting them to the press but all of her efforts had generated no press. She asked me to critique her work to discover what she might be doing wrong. Upon reviewing her press releases, I found that her writing skills were outstanding but the problem came when I began to investigate the methods by which she was submitting her releases. The five rules below illustrate the lessons that she learned about distributing press releases to the media.
Rule #1: Do your homework on reporters. You can start with the Bacons' Media Directory, which serves as the public relations practitioner's Bible. If you don't know what it is, basically it lists the name, address, phone number, fax number, e-mail, beat (issue or specific type of story to cover), deadlines, and story preferences and angles for most every reporter and news producer anywhere in the world. There are five volumes of books: Newspapers, Magazines, TV/Cable, Radio and International. You can purchase the books or get the same information from Bacons' in CD-Rom format or through an online subscription. These books are invaluable but unfortunately are also very expensive. Here's a tip: You can access them for free usually at your local public library or a college library. Use these books to help you narrow down the reporters that you think would be helpful for launching your story. If Bacon's is completely out of your budget, just follow your favorite local newspaper to determine which reporters cover which stories.
Rule #2: Verify your sources. Just because you found information on reporters in Bacons' doesn't mean that your work is done. Most reporters are assigned a beat but those beats change from time to time and as a result, reporters tend to move around a lot. Because the Bacons' books and their competitors are only published once per year with occasional updates, it's very important that you call media outlets and verify that you can still reach the reporter you would like to talk to. More importantly, find out if the reporter still covers the beat that is important to your story. If for some reason there is a new reporter covering that beat, make note of those changes in a database or spreadsheet, and always call before sending out a new release.
Rules #3: Know where to call for information. Most people are afraid to just call up a reporter (they can be scary people) to find out this information, however if you want to avoid that aspect of the job, then simply call the News Assignment Desk - the nerve center of news operation. It is here that you can verify the reporter information and also get a sense for the types of stories that an editor might find interesting enough to assign to an individual reporter.
Rules #4: Know how a reporter likes to receive information. When it comes to distributing press releases or letters, all reporters are different. It's your job to find out how a reporter wants to receive his or her information on a potential story. For example, some reporters only read faxes while others only look at releases sent by mail. Still others will only read e-mail, and yet others will only accept a story idea over the phone. This is important because if you violate the reporter's rule for receiving information, then your release likely will never be read. It will get a one-way trip to the trashcan.
Rules #5: Adhere to a reporter's deadline. Just as you can find out the name and e-mail address of a specific reporter, you can also find out their writing deadline. This is very important because the last thing anyone wants to experience is being on the line with a reporter when he or she is on deadline. Here's another tip: Most daily newspapers are put to bed at 5pm. Call the reporter between 8am and 9am because you might catch them before they go their morning editorial meeting. When calling up a reporter directly, always asks the reporter if he or she is currently on deadline as a courtesy. They will respect you for it and this will give you an indication as to how long you have to speak with that particular reporter on the phone. If you're nervous about speaking with the reporter, then create a short script that you can state comfortably in 60 seconds.
While it's always great to know a reporter personally, few small-business owners will ever have that luxury. However, if you know what to do and whom to contact when the time comes to tell your story, your chances of coverage are just as good as anyone else's. After all when it comes to media relations, it's not just who you know but what you know - plus a little luck never hurts either.