The Disney Approach To Human Capital An Interview Article From Line Zine

I have always been an admirer of Disney's customer service and their systems to ensure "customer delight", as opposed to just customer service. This means going far beyond the customer's expectations to deliver something extra, or above and beyond the call of duty every time. It means training, understanding by employees, and empowerment that goes straight through the organization to back all this up with consistent management rewards and signals. This means praise and reward for employees who actually execute these principles and values, setting examples, and sending a consistent message to employees and customers about your brand and values. Some companies talk about "quality" customer service but then punish people when their "minutes per customer" allocation or other measures are exceeded, or when asked for something that is not standard just say "no" with no effort to handle exceptions. This is not a consistent message to employees and negates the training they received,...

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How do I effectively connect to VC or angel investors?

Cold email is basically useless, LinkedIn is better. What are some better ways?

There are many good techniques, but it depends on your situation and status. Most try to do this far too early, before building real value (that skyrockets potential valuation).

Here are a few techniques:

  1. Networking at events
  2. Researching CEOs that have been funded for referrals
  3. “Warm emails” which have an into embedded saying “Joe CEO said you may be appropriate to talks to about our company which is: XXX” - short status report showing product, market and size., etc. A 1-minute video link can help here, but needs to be obvious not phishing by being hosted at a well-known site like YouTube or Vimeo (private link).
  4. Leverage AngelList and other sites where angels gather
  5. Connect with angel syndicates. Some are paid and some are free.
  6. Leverage your friends, family and advisers for contact. Some angels are first time investors who know and trust you. Ideally “Accredited...
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What would be the minimum I can invest in startups and how can I find the quality ones?

There is no minimum unless set by the company. Traditionally in angel deals it is about $25K, but some are as low as $10K. Frankly, it is not worth dealing with a huge number of people under that amount for the CEO. The less they invest, the more trouble they are to deal with, usually. Likely not “Accredited investors” and a pain in the butt because they are investing more than they should as a percentage of their portfolio.

Of course, at crowdfunding sites, which are growing at 100%+ per year now, the minimums are often $100 to $1,000. This would allow people with a small amount to invest to diversify better and own a small piece of 5–10 companies. So, a better route if you have only $20K or less to invest. Diversification is very important because many startups will fail, typically through no fault of their own.

Finding quality ones is the tougher question and more art than science. You need to look at the team as maybe 50% to 75% of the success, as they can...

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How Do You Run A Start-Up Differently Than Other Companies?

A Perfect Metaphor For A Startup

I use many airplane and military metaphors, not because I was ever in the military, though I am a pilot, but because there are so many special-purpose planes that can be used to show an exact point or purpose just like a market niche. One of the best models I have seen on how to run a start-up was the development of the SR-71 spy plane by Lockheed’s skunkworks. The SR-71 spy plane was so far ahead of its time, that 30 years after its initial design and development, it was still the fastest plane on the planet. The development of the plane is a great metaphor for a startup company, and the management methods used should be examined by every startup executive as an example of product design and development on minimum resources that yield maximum results. The plane itself is also a great metaphor for a startup company, as you will see below.

The Skunkworks group’s methods and results are a classic example of what can be done...

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The 16 Best and Most Revealing Interview Questions Ever

These questions are in no particular order, as they should be customized to the particular position and person.  You want to mix up the tougher ones with more social, calming questions, so people do not feel they are getting the first degree. 

Always do your questions first and theirs second, by saying upfront you have some questions first and then will answer any questions they have later. This way they cannot sell specifically to your needs. You are in charge and should control the first interview completely. Only after they have proven that they are a viable candidate should you start revealing potentially sensitive company information.  If this person is not a good candidate, you can terminate the interview early and save everyone time.  Real candidates will need and deserve this sensitive information, but you would not want this to be generally available.  Good candidates will often try to control the flow of the interview and learn more early. You...

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The Risk Assessment Landscape Map

A Method For Evaluating And Managing the Risks of A Business

Too often, managers focus solely on the probability of risk or problem happening and ignore far more important factors such as the cost of failure and the ability to actively manage each risk as more is learned. To properly manage, business risks must be evaluated and monitored constantly. Steps can usually be taken to adjust the three main risk factors before and during any project.

The three main factors that should be evaluated and tracked are

1) The cost of a failure,

2) The probability of a failure, and most importantly

3) The controllability, or ability to manage, the risk.

Each of these factors must be taken into account to properly manage any risk at the beginning of any project and each time major new pieces of information become available that impact those risks. Because human beings tend to be able to think in only three physical dimensions in addition to time, it is significant to clearly communicate to people...

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The Most Common Executive Hiring Mistake Made Today

With unemployment levels high today, many people are focusing on specific industry and domain experience with the idea that a large pool of candidates means they can write a very detailed list of experience and still get good candidates. This tends to create a process that ignores the overall quality and ability of the candidates in favor of a simple checklist of very specific experience. A person's broad experience, attitude, abilities, intelligence, work ethic, and other factors are much more important by a factor of ten for most managers and senior executives. The truth is that a high-quality executive can learn a new industry very quickly from the existing management team, but a lower quality executive with specific domain experience may NEVER become a high-quality executive! Which do you prefer, a high-quality executive or a short learning curve? Sure there are positions where 10 years of industry or domain experience will help, because of experience, contacts, and...

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Leadership Lessons for Emerging Growth Companies

Adjusting Your Management Style To Your Company's Stage A mini-series on practical leadership focus for start-ups and emerging growth company senior executives.

This series will explore how leadership focus and skills must evolve as a company grows from a raw startup to an expansion stage successful enterprise.  Most seminars, texts, and articles talk about leadership generically as if it had the same requirements in all situations. It does not, and in fact, the key elements of success at each stage of a company's development are always very different.

Leadership is a skill that is hard to develop, but usually easy to recognize.  It is an ability some are born with, but it also is one that anyone can develop with some guidance and practice. Usually, you need the outside perspective of someone without any agenda or bias to improve. We all are unaware of things about ourselves that everyone else is aware of. These things must be identified and improved to be a successful...

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Is Your Annual Strategic Planning Process Done?

Strategic Planning - Not Just For Fortune 2000 Companies

Generally, if you have more than about a dozen people in your company, you need to have an annual strategic planning process.  With a small management team of three or four people, it is not very difficult, and will likely go quickly because you discuss these things daily.  The trick is to look at the longer-term (at least a year out, preferably three years) in the context of a 3 to 5 year vision for the company.  As the company gets bigger the time invested will get bigger too, but either way, it will pay big dividends and needs to be done. 

I recently attended a leadership seminar doing research to add a Leadership segment to our CEO & Entrepreneurship Boot Camp. This instructor said that at a recent corporate training with about thirty people from the same company, including the CEO. The instructor simply asked who understood the goals of the corporation for the coming year.  Only...

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Six Ways To Grow Your Business

Jay Abrams, an excellent marketing guru, and the speaker says there are only three ways to grow your business: 1) More customers, 2) Higher average sales/revenue per customer and 3) A higher purchase frequency from your customers. Although this is a great model to divide and attack the problem, it is more classified into categories of ways than actual ways to grow your company.  Luckily, we can come up with hundreds of ways to grow a business, and the tough part is deciding where to put your efforts.  One theory is that with ever-growing sales and marketing costs, it is usually easier to get more revenue from existing customers than to find new customers. Yet, most businesses put more time and effort into customer acquisition than retention and upselling (#2 and #3).  This varies greatly from business to business and is a function of the actual acquisition costs of a customer, what else they might need when they need your product, and many other factors. 

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