Monthly Archives: March 2013

Savvy Saturday March 30, 2013

Among the things that distinguish our species from others is our combination of idealism and artistry—our desire both to improve the world and to provide that world with something it didn’t know it was missing. Moving others doesn’t require that we neglect these nobler aspects of our nature. Today it demands that we embrace them. It begins and ends by remembering that to sell is human.

Daniel H Pink To Sell is Human

Click here for an excellent summary of the book.

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Community is Key to Creating Value-Driven Interactions

Building a loyal following – a community, a tribe, engaged stakeholders – is vital to organizations world-wide. It means that you have a group of people that support your business, your products, your employees, your brand. They promote your products and services to their friends, they can tell you what your next product should be and they can notify you if you have made (or are about to make) a mistake. Building a community is organic but, I would argue, should be part of an organization’s strategy. Corporate strategy should ensure that it has the mechanisms in place to listen to customers, business partners, employees, communities and the people empowered to make the right decisions for your community and business.

With all the complexities of doing business in developing markets and, in my particular experience, Latin America, it seems that focusing on building a community is a “nice to have” and not a “must have”.

I would argue the opposite and here’s why…

Building a community reminds us why we are in business to begin with. It creates a sense of purpose that helps us (our employees, our management, our board of directors) strive to be our best. It drives us to succeed and to take good care of those around us and those who support us. It is what interaction is all about. And business is about interactions and about creating meaningful and value-driven interactions. If we don’t do this, why are we in business to begin with?

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Savvy Saturday March 23, 2013

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Vivian Greene

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Doing Business in Latin America

Every year the World Bank publishes a report Doing Business on how easy (or difficult!) it is to start and run a business in 183 economies across the globe. The report also makes conclusions regarding ease of business across major trading regions such as Latin America. In the report’s own words:

It measures and tracks changes in regulations affecting 10 areas in the life cycle of a business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

I always study this report (and have been doing so since I worked in the Trade Section of the Canadian Embassy in Quito) since it tells me what are the new and reoccurring risks of doing business in Latin America and what my clients might or should be concerned about. It helps me think about mitigating these risk factors and what should be considered in a regional or country strategy. That’s why I’m writing about it here; it prepares entrepreneurs, shareholders, legal counsels and your executive management for success in the region.

Nevertheless, here’s the essence of my post today, if a business has the right people (team, country manager, board of directors etc.), the right “can do” attitude and the right market (profitable, growing and strategic – even if it’s within a region that may be deemed unfavorable for “doing business”) these risks can translate into issues and these same issues into a risk management plan. In effect, the presence of potential risks that chase away a weaker competitor makes doing business for those with the right people, action plan and market for their products or services extremely fulfilling. And that’s the beauty of working in developing markets.

One caveat before signing off; there is a correlation between ease of doing business and corruption. In other words, if doing business is perceived as being difficult due to a plethora of regulations and paperwork, there is always the temptation to take the easy road. I am not advocating this here. I am encouraging businesses to persevere with the highest ethical standards and to grow a profitable and good business; a business that others will want to emulate for its integrity, people, sense of purpose, perseverance and, of course, long-term profit numbers!

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Outliers and Success

My sister Christina gave me Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I been “savoring” Outliers because it’s a fabulous read, it talks about cross cultural success (yeah!) and it shows how, as individuals and as a society, we have active roles to play in promoting more success stories.

I was away at a retreat this past weekend where I questioned my definition of success (more at a later post). Nevertheless, here are three key takeaways from Gladwell’s excellent book:

1) Success is a group project – Gladwell shows how outliers become outliers and people become successful as a result of being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of various fortuitous circumstances. He talks about how we are “caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from earth.” Success is a group project because it’s not just up to the individual to triumph but an individual taking advantage of the various opportunities that present themselves. More opportunities = more success stories.

2) Culture is important – I’ve lived in Ecuador for more than 8 years and worked with many organizations across Latin America, US, Canada and Europe. Every so often I have the opportunity to tell people about the theories around High Power/Low Power Distance. It helps explain why where you are “from” sometimes impacts our communications, habits and decisions-making.

3) 10 000 hour rule – Experts become experts through practice. Roughly speaking, it takes 10 000 hours to become an expert. No magic here, just good old fashioned hard work!

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Savvy Saturday March 16, 2013

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs

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5 Ways to Improve Living (in Quito)

It’s a beautiful evening in Quito, Ecuador. The sun is slowly sinking behind the Andes mountain range and the sky is a fabulous blue color – a color which has inspired so many artists, poets and writers from this part of the world.

As I reflect back on 8+ years of living in Ecuador and the challenges, adversities and triumphs of doing business (and living) in the “middle of the world” I came up with this short list of ways to help you enjoy living in Quito. I think there are parts of each item on this list which are applicable to other places where you may be living. Enjoy!

1) Breathe – at 2800 m above sea level you want to take an extra breath now and then; pausing to catch ones breath (literally and metaphorically speaking) is a sign of intelligence whether in business meetings or when taking a walk in Quito’s historic old town.

2) Plant a garden – whether you live in an apartment or have a large garden in the valleys surrounding Quito, plant some flowers and herbs – you will be amazed at what the powerful Quito sun does to your little garden in less than two weeks! In the office, why not buy a dozen Ecuadorian roses that cost $3 at your local supermarket (cheaper if you negotiate with the corner flower seller!)?

3) Talk to your taxi driver – ask them questions and get their point of view on things. Obviously, I stay away from giving them too much personal info but I enjoy hearing what they think about politics, business, traffic, the weather; plus I usually make a friend by the time it comes to pay the fare.

4) Lose your fear – fear stops us from doing things and I firmly believe that fear attracts those things we fear the most; to put it more clearly, and for those who know me well, a dog smells fear. Be cautious but be strong in life and business (more on this in a later post).

5) Say Thank You – it is amazing how many people take for granted the people doing the “little” jobs. Thanking people for the big and small things they help you with makes them happy … and will make you happy. Who doesn’t like to be thanked or recognized? More and more research shows that non-monetary recognition is what is truly valued by most employees.

I would love to hear your tips – wherever you may be living!

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Savvy Saturday February 9, 2013

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain

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International Women’s Day – Reflection

Today is International Women’s Day. I know many great women; some of them are in business, some in academia, some in politics, some are stay at home mums and most are a beautiful combination of all these things.

My post today is not to lament the fact that there are few women in management positions in the world (according to Deloitte only 4% of CEOs are women) or fewer serving on corporate boards of companies (in Italy, only 6 percent of board members are women; in Spain and Belgium, 11 percent; in Germany, 16 percent; in France, 22 percent) but rather a celebration of women and all that we can accomplish as professionals and leaders in our countries and communities and as wives, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters and friends.

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Entrepreneurs Create Options

What’s the definition of an entrepreneur? Is it simply someone who starts their own business or is there more to it? Why in the last 10 years do businesses say they want to be more entrepreneurial?

I think you will agree that there are different types of entrepreneurs just as there are different types of leaders. I also think there are different levels of entrepreneurship; there are those serial entrepreneurs who develop business after business regardless of success or failure; and then there are those who are more cautious about their start up and patiently wait for market forces to improve or to win the “big client” before going out on their own.

My favorite description of an entrepreneur comes from Jon Burgstone in Breakthrough Entrepreneurship:

Every time you want to make any important decision, there are two possible courses of action. You can look at the array of choices that present themselves, pick the best available option and try to make it fit. Or, you can do what the true entrepreneur does: Figure out the best conceivable option and then make it available.

And this reveals why large organizations say they want to be more entrepreneurial; they want to break away from a resource-defined mindset and foster a culture of innovation thereby creating synergies, new products and ideas that will make them stand out.

That’s why we need entrepreneurs; not to make money but to create options.

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