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Author Archives: Robert Jordan

Stories From the Book: Lesson #1: Loyalty

Thanks to Professor Verinder Syal, I was recently guest lecturer for a portion of the Principles of Entrepreneurship class at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Sophomore Lisa Guo emailed afterwards to ask which interview from the book impacted me most.

I had to  think about it, because I learned something with each interview. But thinking more about her question, the first person who came to mind was Raj Soin. Raj was CEO and founder of MTC in Ohio, a consulting company that he and his wife took from a startup with $1700 in funding, to an eventual sale to BAE for $425 million. The money is not what was most impressive.  I asked Raj if he had ever faced a crisis, and he chuckled and said, yes, of course. One day his wife, who was the company bookkeeper, walked into his office, and it was payday, and she was crying. She told Raj there was not enough money to meet payroll. He tried to wave her off, telling her to just use their credit cards to get cash, to which she cried even harder, telling him there wasn’t any credit left on their cards. His response was to tell her to go home. I didn’t see how that solved the problem, but the interview moved on. A couple minutes later we were talking about loyalty, and Raj said it’s a two way street. He said one day he walked into a manager’s office, and while they were chatting he looked into an open desk drawer, and in the drawer were uncashed paychecks. Raj asked the manager, Mike, why he hadn’t cashed them? Mike said “I saw your wife crying that day. I knew it was payday. And my wife has a job, so I figured the company would make good later.” Mike had not told Raj, and Raj hadn’t known, and Raj had not yet figured out why his previous payroll hadn’t bounced.

That’s a definition of loyalty that hit home.

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Are Smart Phones Making Phone Calls Obsolete?

Smart phones are becoming increasingly well equipped to handle the onslaught of social media activity we face daily. Facebook. Twitter. Foursquare. Here are a few quick stats from the WSJ article: Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls

  • 2/3 of adults sleep with their phones next to their bed
  • 84% of text-messaging adults say they send any receive texts “just to say hello”
  • 17% of cell-phone owning adults say they have physically bumped into a person or object while talking or texting
  • 23% of Americas have only a cellphone — and NO land line for making calls
  • The length of the average cellphone call FELL to 3.8 minutes, from just over 4 minutes a year ago.
  • Teens send and receive a total of 3,339 texts on average, per month
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Malcolm Gladwell: “The Revolution will not be tweeted.”

Malcolm Gladwell has a superb ability to reflect and distill trends and find relevance from bygone generations. He has done it again in his New Yorker piece on October 4, 2010. If you have any interest in understanding social networks, “Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be tweeted” is a must read and I mean right now.

The key point is that social networks are built around weak ties, not strong ones. There’s nothing wrong with this, its just different, and the example of the sit-ins that began in the early sixties and engulfed the south in a civil rights war had little to do with technology and much to do with mission, strategy, heirarchy and leadership.

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Congratulations to Capella, InnerWorkings, Allscripts, & Morningstar for Making Forbes’ list of America’s 100 Best Small Companies

Forbes’ just released its list of America’s 100 Best Small Companies. Four companies stemming from founders interviewed in How They Did It made the list. The criteria for candidates include being publicly traded for at least a year, have between $5 million and $1 billion of annual revenue, and have a stock price of no lower than $5 a share. The rankings are based on sales growth, return on equity, and earnings growth in the past 12 months and over 5 years. See how the How They Did It portfolio companies measured up:

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Sales Coaching – the Advanced Lesson: Podcast

Philippe Lavie, President of KeyRoad Enterprises, is not only an outstanding sales team coach – he’s also the sales coach’s coach. Much thanks to Philippe for sharing advice and insights earned from years of growing sales teams, sales professionals and sales management. Listen to the coach here for three great insights:

  • The game changes through company stages, from startup to young growing company to large company. Very different sales challenges.
  • Beware: if you don’t understand the processes that you need to automate sales tasks, the only thing you do is automate non-existing processes and get to chaos much faster
  • There are seven specific elements that go into evaluating whether someone is a leader

Listen here.

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Entrepreneur Mentoring

Talking with Kristine Kerr at Inc. magazine reminded me of attending the Inc. 500 conference in 2008 and hearing a great presentation on mentoring featuring Jay Goltz of Artist Frame Service, who acted as mentor to Rich Dennis and his company Nubian Heritage.

Inc. magazine and the Clinton Foundation’s Economic Opportunity Initiative (CEO) have joined forces in support of the Entrepreneur Mentoring Program (EMP). EMP facilitates “structured, high-impact mentoring relationships between some of the nation’s most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs running emerging growth companies in America’s inner cities.”

Over a nine month period, mentors work with entrepreneurs to help them develop a better understanding of their business and industry, become better leaders and make better decisions about the critical issues that face their company.

If there were 10,000 Jay Goltzes fueling the next generation of 10,000 entrepreneurs – I wonder what the results would be?

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Entrepreneurship and the Higgins Boat

The process of identifying and interviewing the founders for How They Did It really got me thinking about all of the contributions, both big and small, made by entrepreneurs. Contributions that have not only advanced science or technology, but have helped to shape the world. A perfect example – Andrew Jackson Higgins. A single individual, credited with winning World War II by General Dwight Eisenhower. Owner of a lumber-importing firm in New Orleans, Higgins’ production of LCVP’s – Higgins boats – allowed for open-beach landings, and were integral to the winning war strategy.

Who are the entrepreneurs that have inspired you? What contributions have they made? Better yet…what contributions are you making right now?

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7 Minute Voyage You Will Not Forget

Proof positive my friends of endless ingenuity:

http://www.brooklynspaceprogram.org/BSP/Space_Balloon.html

Take 7 minutes and give yourself a thrilling ride inside a takeout container that Luke Geissbuhler rigged to a weather balloon. The video camera and iPhone hit 19 miles up, about 100,000 feet and at bursting point for the weather balloon, at which point the container parachuted back to earth, remarkably just 30 miles away from launch point in Newburgh New York.

There’s a great story at NYT but really just watch this video.

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Learning from Andy Whitman and Gary Sebek of the 2x Fund: How a CPG Fund Will Evaluate Your Company: Podcast

A fascinating conversation with Andy Whitman and Gary Sebek, managing partners at 2x Consumer Products Growth Partners fund. I first got to know Andy when he invested in gDiapers, a Portland, OR based company that had invented a truly green disposable diaper. gDiapers biodegradable inserts break down in months – not eons – read for yourself here.

Andy, Gary and partners also invested in Orabrush tongue cleaners, Tasty Bite ethnic foods, Eagle brand snacks and Wellness all-natural pet foods. If you want to see an outstanding example of Internet promotion and marketing, check out Orabrush here. And then go to one of their incredibly well done YouTube videos – as I write this feisty Orabrush has crossed 25,608,144 YouTube views.

If you have a consumer products company, listen here for some fast advice on what motivates a CPG investor.

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Roy Halladay on Setting Goals

For a pitcher in the major leagues to throw a no hitter is an amazing accomplishment. That’s what Roy Halladay did on May 29, 2010 against the Florida Marlins. What beats that? Throwing a no hitter in the playoffs. In his playoff debut on October 6, 2010 Roy threw his second no hitter in the Phillies win over the Cincinnati Reds. That’s only the second time a no hitter has ever occurred in post-season play. Just a nice little reminder that we can set more ambitious goals, no matter what yesterday’s success looked like.

You Think You Got Game?

Roy reminds me of another great athlete who plays all out. This past May Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith’s sacrifice of 7 teeth in the final game leading to the Stanley Cup finals on May 24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfJx1L71DUU

Think you play tough in the corporate arena? Keith took a puck to the mouth, shattering 7 teeth. He left the ice, came back a couple minutes later to finish the game and assist in the game-tying goal. It sounds amazing, but when you think about hockey, and you think about what makes a champion, maybe its not so bizarre. It got me thinking what a comparable calamity would be in the corporate world, and how we react to adversity, under pressure, under bright lights, everyone watching. How do you recover from a shattering event?

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