Monthly Archives: November 2013

Savvy Saturday November 30th, 2013

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

– Confucius

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What I learnt about leadership on a 111-foot topsail schooner

clarks in mystic seaport

I grew up on sailing ships; every summer I would sail around Vancouver Island (B.C.) and Desolation Sound and at the age of 10 I undertook my first offshore voyage from Victoria, B.C. (Canada) to Brisbane, Australia and back. Later trips included the intercoastal waterways of US and Canada and sailing around Latin America and the Caribbean.

clarks in brisbane
Photo: Onboard the Pacific Swift in Brisbane, Australia.

Here is a summary of what my sailing experience taught me about being a leader:

1) It’s about trust.
There is an excellent video by Simon Sinek where he talks about how leaders eat last. Leadership is about creating a circle of people that trust you to lead them and to “provide” (in the broadest sense of the word) for them. Establishing trust as a leader – whether you are the captain or a member of the crew – is paramount to others contributing their talent, “risky” ideas and energy towards completion of a goal.

2) It’s about vision.
I’m talking about a tangible vision – not “we will to be the most respected company in the ….industry” but rather, “we will sail this 111 foot schooner to Australia and back”. I am a firm believer in establishing project vision at the start; every project (and project collaborator) needs to share a vision in order for people to be able to come together to create something valuable, meaningful and “real”; a project vision also helps people feel the rewards of achieving that vision once the project or journey wraps up.

3) It’s about communication.
Listening, talking, checking-in…leaders invest their time in people. They interact personally with their team and are often not the loudest person in the room because they listen and observe in order to lead more effectively and not fall into the traps of “trade-offs”. Of course they command when necessary (as a captain commands the person at the helm when entering a port or a military leader orchestrates a mission) but their “commands” are in line with the established goals that the project or organization is trying to achieve.

“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” Aristotle

4) It’s about forming other leaders.
I have “taken the helm” of a sailboat many times. I don’t remember having to ask for permission. Leadership means forming other leaders and inspiring others to take risks, take action and help to further the shared vision. It’s not about control or power but rather about giving those things to others so that the whole can be larger than the sum of its parts.

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” Peter Drucker

5) It’s about love.
We don’t use the “L” word very much in business but we are social creatures and helping others makes us feel good. When we communicate in person, shake hands or do something for someone else we feel good about it. Scientifically speaking, we are wired to release the “bonding” hormone oxytocin when we are generous towards others. Leadership is about fostering more connections and bonds with people. Sailing means living in very close quarters. Interactions are inevitable. The challenge is business is making transactions more like interactions and fostering dialogue and engagement with people in and outside the organization in order to make people feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves. Leadership means making people feel like they are on a voyage of discovery.

Sailing onboard a ship – especially when you are out at sea and two weeks travel from the nearest landfall – teaches you about community, about sharing, and about leadership. It teaches you that people from all walks of life can come together to create something amazing – a society with a shared goal or purpose; a little floating ecosystem; a community of pioneers or explorers.

And you, what do you think leadership means?

EMC

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Savvy Saturday November 23, 2013

Applies to people and organizations…

“Don’t fall in love with someone who says the right things. Fall in love with someone who does the right things.”

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Visual Business Inspiration

polka

Obliteration Room by Yakoi Kusama, Japan

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Business, Negotiation and Fishing – ¿Qué tienen en común la pesca y los negocios?

Today I am posting my article published in AmericaEconomia.com earlier this year. It talks about the vital importance of humility and patience in business – two characteristics discussed during the Global Drucker Forum last week in Vienna, Austria. Here is the link to the article ¿Qué tienen en común la pesca y los negocios? and below is the article in full.

EMC

¿Qué tienen en común la pesca y los negocios?

En una escena de la película “La pesca del salmón en Yemen”, basada en la novela del mismo nombre escrita por Paul Torday, el doctor Alfred Jones, un científico especializado en piscicultura, conversa con un jeque yemenita sobre la pesca. El jeque explica por qué ama la pesca: “admiro a los pescadores. Sólo se preocupan de los peces, el río y el juego”. Más allá, dice, la pesca fomenta virtudes como la paciencia y la humildad.

fly fishing
Courtesy: fishingintheyemen.com

En la pesca se encuentran muchas similitudes con negocios internacionales. Para hacer este tipo de negocios, una organización tiene que salir a otros “aguas” y adaptarse a diferentes idiomas, culturas y prácticas de negocios. Los resultados publicados por las empresas internacionales en sus informes anuales muestran que las alianzas y fusiones corporativas en el extranjero tienen una tasa de fracaso del 40 al 80%, porque no logran los resultados esperados en términos de ingresos, creación de valor o reducción de costos. Una forma de mitigar el riesgo implícito al hacer negocios internacionales -como en la pesca-, es conocer el ámbito donde se quiere estar en la adquisición de información, conocimientos y experiencias a través de expertos locales.

Otra característica clave de los negocios internacionales de alto riesgo es que la empresa tiene que tener fe en que un premio importante le está esperando después de atravesar el proceso de identificación, negociación y cierre del negocio. Un pescador sueña con pescar el pez gordo después de invertir innumerables horas esperando que un pez se acerque y muerda el anzuelo. Lo mismo sucede con los atletas y equipos deportivos exitosos. Tienen que saborear la victoria y estar preparados para ella, puliendo sus hábitos de tal manera que sepan por instinto cómo actuar antes de que se acerquen sus competidores.

Wayne Gretsky, el atleta de mejor puntaje en la historia de la Liga Nacional de Hockey canadiense, decía: “un buen jugador de hockey va donde está el disco, un gran jugador de hockey va donde estará el disco”. Un proyecto internacional de éxito requiere de visión, práctica y acción oportuna.

Hay una similitud importante con la pesca durante la fase de negociación de un proyecto, que tiene que ver con aguas quietas y aguas turbulentas. Cuando el agua está quieta, los peces se toman más tiempo en estudiar la situación y probar el anzuelo. En cambio, cuando los peces se encuentran en aguas corrientes de ríos, riachuelos o torrentes, existe mayor probabilidad de que pierdan la oportunidad de comer si vacilan mucho tiempo. Los peces actúan rápidamente y sin reflexión en aguas turbulentas. Los negociadores internacionales usan como ventaja el sentido de urgencia en la identificación de factores en el ambiente y la manipulación de los mismos. Los negociadores exitosos pueden cambiar la percepción del ambiente para lograr los objetivos de la negociación o simplemente si sienten que el ambiente es demasiado cómodo. Para ellos, la negociación es un juego donde los cambios sutiles pueden afectar el resultado logrado.

¿Y vale la pena la pesca en otros “aguas”? Los mercados emergentes están creciendo el doble que los mercados desarrollados, por lo tanto, el mercado emergente es atractivo. Sin embargo, esto no significa que las empresas en los mercados emergentes no exploren oportunidades de expansión hacia mercados tradicionales.

De hecho, el Boston Consulting Group (BCG) publica cada año un estudio de “global challengers” (contendientes globales) de los mercados emergentes que están entrando con éxito a los mercados desarrollados, con creciente presencia de mercado o, a veces también, con la compra de empresas de dichos mercados. Un ejemplo estrella es el Grupo Bimbo que compró las operaciones norteamericanas de Sarah Lee’s y luego las de Weston Foods en los EE.UU., para convertirse en la mayor empresa de pan en Norteamérica, desde el año 2009.

Los proyectos internacionales, al igual que la pesca, requieren de fe, perseverancia y humildad. A veces se busca el premio en los mercados emergentes y a veces son las firmas latinoamericanas las que incursionan con firmeza en los mercados tradicionalmente establecidos y lo hacen con mucho éxito.

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Savvy Saturday November 16th, 2013

Today’s quote comes from Charles Handy, Social Philosopher and Writer, who presented at the Peter Drucker global forum this week in Vienna. He said:

“Money is the means and not the goal in life and organizations.”

This coincides with Drucker’s thoughts on the purpose of organizations; that is, to create customers.

Excellent forum this year and hearty discussions around the topic of managing complexity.

EMC (from Vienna)

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Savvy Saturday November 9, 2013

“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.”

Nelson Mandela

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Why Latin America? 5 ways that opportunity knocks

fabric

Opportunity: we look for it every day. It’s what our organizations are built upon, it inspires us to create new products and it helps us set our sights and company vision on creating something of value; today’s best new ventures are those that act on an opportunity of changing (even just slightly) the status quo. But if there is opportunity at home, why consider expansion to a region like Latin America?

And that’s exactly the question posed to me this year by a group of executives in a stuffy office in downtown Quito, Ecuador. It’s an all too familiar question according to my colleagues in trade and investment promotion. Partners, clients and sponsors all want to know: “What’s the big deal about Latin America?”

Based on ten years of working in Latin America and conversations with hundreds of investors, entrepreneurs, employees and corporate executives, there are 5 reasons that seem to resurface when we talk about the “why” behind business expansion and opportunities in the region:

1) Heterogeneous
The fact that Latin America is a heterogeneous region gives companies a wide range of possibilities for market entry, collaboration and how they manage their operations. Countries in the region vary in their acceptance of foreign investment and ease of setting up a business representing opportunities for innovation, partnerships, and use of local resources. I have collaborated with international brands that have been wildly successful in this dynamic region – mainly because they didn’t try a monolithic approach to market entry and expansion in the region. BMW Group and their country specific local partnership strategy (usually allowing one well established business group to manage the brand in each country) is one example of a successful approach tailored to specific markets in the Latin American region.

2) Economic Powerhouse
Latin America represents a $4.8 trillion economy with about 600 million citizens. Brazil is seen as an economic powerhouse but there is no denying that rapidly growing Mexico and resource-rich countries like Chile, Colombia and Peru (the Andean Region) also have tremendous buying power. Buying power and growing number of consumers represents an opportunity for new ventures as well as entrenched players.

3) Burgeoning Middle Class
In the last 10 years, 50 Million Latin Americans have joined the middle class and present an opportunity for foreign companies not just as consumers but also as sources of talent from an increasingly well-educated and globally savvy middle class.

Apple is aiming to launch its first retail store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by March 2014 in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup; the rising middle class is driving demand for consumer products and electronics and, in the future, may be a factor in the establishment of more manufacturing plants if public and private sector are able to convince the manufacturing side of business that the talent and opportunity exist in the region.

4) Connected
Mobile penetration in the region is above 100% and Latin America will have nearly 300 million Internet users by the end of 2013 and nearly 400 million by 2017. Public and private sector organizations in Latin American countries are bringing most of their service and product offerings on line making the dynamic region more connected and transparent for doing business. This also brings ample opportunity for brands – from startups to large corporations- to engage with their customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

5) People
Latin American countries have high context cultures meaning there is a real focus on relationship- building and the “context” associated with doing business. While international companies studying their market entry strategy may find these nuances daunting – such as how connected you are – it is an opportunity for foreign firms to start with a clean slate and connect with the right people – and make the right impression – from the very start.

The risk-reward argument in favor of doing business in Latin America doesn’t quite cut it anymore; Latin America used to be touted as an opportunity for brave companies to make large amounts of money: “high risk brings high reward” people would say. But after helping organizations understand, engage and grow their market in Latin America in the last ten years, I have learnt that risk-reward is not the answer to why companies should “bother” with Latin America. Ventures that want to take advantage of opportunities in the region will likely enjoy monetary rewards as well as foster innovation and learning in their organization by diversifying their market, accessing new talent and resources, building a loyal following and creating a strategic contact network.

EMC

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Visual Business Inspiration

sail

It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.
George William Curtis

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Savvy Saturday November 2, 2013

coins

I think one of the most misunderstood things about business in America is that people are either doing things for altruistic reasons or they are greedy and selfish, just after profit. That type of dichotomy portrays a false image of business.

— John Mackey

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