Monthly Archives: January 2013

Last Names

People here find my name (especially my last name) a little hard to pronounce. I have been living in Quito for 8 years and I usually have to repeat it a few times and with a strong Spanish accent in order for it to come across correctly. Don’t misread me, I don’t mind, it’s one of the challenges of doing business and living overseas.

What I have found is that last names are extremely important in Ecuador. They tie you to a region, a group of families, a company, a legacy. I know it sounds obvious but I find my friends and colleagues here can tell a lot from a last name: “Oh, he comes from Ambato” or “she’s from such a such a family involved in ___ industry”.

So what does my last name say about me? I’m foreign, I’m Anglo Saxon, and funny enough, I am associated with Superman. That’s right, one of the most common responses after hearing my name is: “Oh, like Clark Kent of Superman”.

Yes, Clark Kent – Superman.

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Asking Questions

I have worked in various roles with organizations operating in very different industries. My greatest lesson from this experience is the power of questions and the importance of listening to the answers. I usually ask the same question to different people within the same organization and it is eye opening to hear the array of answers to the exact same question.

What does this mean for doing business in Latin America? Just ask the questions (even if they seem obvious), get clarity on buzz words (what do you mean by adding value?) and don’t be afraid to be bold. Most people love to talk and all you need to do is listen.

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Savvy Saturdays

Here’s the idea: I will publish every Saturday a savvy quote for you to enjoy …on the weekend or during the week.

“As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.”

John Greenleaf Whittier

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Is Bigger Better?

When we are talking about corporate boards, maybe. In a recent study called “Corporate Board Attributes and Bankruptcy” by Harlan Platt and Marjorie Platt of Northeastern University, the authors suggest that boards that have members of different ages, members that are CEOs of other companies, members that start and end their board membership at different times, and an average of 9.96 members (rather than 8.89) are less likely to file for bankruptcy. So is bigger better, I would give a reserved yes.

Yes because I believe that each board member must contribute something to the strategic direction, financial health and ethical practices of the board and, by extension, the organization. Having 10 board members with 10 different perspectives is obviously better than having 9. My reservation is over having “dead weight” (excuse the frankness) on the board to fill quotas or to fill seats. There is also the much discussed issue of the ideal size of a group (answers vary from 5 to 12).

I would argue then that the answer to “Is Bigger Better?” in boardrooms and in other aspects of life, has more to do with quality than quantity.

I have been exploring the quota issue especially as it relates to diversity on boards. I have seen some excellent interviews by Lucy Marcus on this subject (see below). More on diversity in a later article.

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Branding – 7 Takeaways

In the last year I have read a dozen books related, directly or indirectly, to branding. I love the number 7: I come from a family of 7; I have sailed the 7 Seas; I enjoy every day of the 7 day week because I love what I do. So, I have put together a list of 7 takeaways from these books and from my life experiences working with amazing brands:

1)      Brand is reputation. It is what you do and how you do it. There will be stumbling blocks and triumphs but how you deal with them is how you and your business will be defined.

2)      Testimonials are key. Include them (front and center) on your website, on your profiles and on everything. It’s the best marketing you can do and your future clients are likely to listen more intently to what their friends and colleagues have to say than to your paid advertising.

3)      Brands are personal and corporate. Sometimes they are both (e.g. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group). Sometimes one influences the other which brings me to…

4)      Brands are fluid. They are not just logos, slogans, numbers or products. They are intangible constructs in the minds of your clients, colleagues, competitors etc.

5)      You can influence how your brand is perceived as much by what you do as by what you don’t do. Think about it…

6)      Branding should be a strategic and practical exercise. Your organizational brand should be assessed, critiqued and re-visited in a concerted and disciplined way.

7)      You are your brand. I have not felt this more than when I worked for BMW Group Canada. We are all brand ambassadors. We received BMWs to use, drive and experience in order that we know (and develop a passion for!) what we are selling and promoting through the various BMW products and services.

In sum, as Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do”.

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Let the Experience Begin

 

I have three reasons for starting this blog and at this particular time:

1) I love to write. I am a proud introvert and love expressing myself (and telling other people’s stories) through carefully crafted messages.

2) I want to publish a book. This is the first step towards completing this life goal.

3) I recently pitched a project and was told – indirectly – that I cannot prove that I have the required writing/editing skills. Here lies the proof.

The above may sound egocentric – all the reasons relate back to me and what I want – but I think a blog of this kind is anything but focused on ego; it is the opportunity for me to share with you tid bits of information that you can use to enrich your life and business. Saint Augustine, the inspiration behind Hipona Consulting (more about this in a later post) said: “The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.” Let the experience begin!

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