Eric Jacobson

Archive for the ‘Strategic Planning’ Category

Questions You Must Ask Before Starting A Business

In Eric Jacobson On Leadership, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Making Decisions, Management, Starting A Business, Strategic Planning on March 2, 2013 at 7:53 am

Eric Jacobson LeadershipAre you a leader contemplating starting a new business?  Or, has a budding entrepreneur turned to you because of your leadership skills to ask for your help?

Here are 11 questions you or that entrepreneur should ask before starting a business.

  1. Is there a true need for my product/service?
  2. What is the competitive environment and how will my product/service be unique, different or better?
  3. Will my location (or accessibility online) be convenient and easy to get to for my customers?
  4. Do I have adequate funding to support my business, particularly during the ramp-up period that could be a year or more?
  5. Do I have the stamina to start a new business and work hard even if it means months of extended work hours and perhaps even seven days a week?
  6. Will my family and social life withstand my commitment to my new business?
  7. Will the name of my business be easy to spell, suitable for print on online, and memorable?
  8. Am I a risk taker?
  9. Am I humble enough to ask for help, especially if I am not an expert in marketing or accounting?
  10. Do I hire well? Do I have the skills, ability and resources to hire people who will share my same vision, work ethic and commitment to the business?
  11. Do I have an exit plan? Do I know how to handle exiting from the business should it fail or, ideally, should it become so successful I’ll be able to sell it?

And, before you start your business, write a business plan even if you don’t have to present one to a bank, funders or lenders.  And, ask a handful of your peers to review your plan.  Be sure to select a few people who are your best critics.

Writing the plan, which could take two to six weeks of working on it nearly every day, will force you to think of all aspects of your business and will require you to address tough questions you will likely not ask without the discipline of writing a plan.

Perhaps most critical in your plan will be the sections on:

  • Competition
  • Marketing
  • Financial Projections

Top 20 Leadership Books: What To Give First To A New Manager

In Effective Communications, Employee Engagement, General Leadership Skills, Hiring Great People, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Quotes, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Leading By Example, Listening Skills, Management, Mentoring, Motivating Employees, Sales Management, Setting Goals, Strategic Planning, Team Building on December 10, 2011 at 6:53 am

Eighteen months ago, I posted the question “What’s The First Leadership Book You Would Give To a New Manager?” within the discussion forum for the LinkedIn group Linked 2 Leadership.

That question generated 603 comments and 690 recommendations.  Some people suggested more than one book.  Some during the course of the 18 months made the same book recommendations a couple times.  And, the group discussion continues to be one of the most active still today.

In early November 2011, group member Len White graciously culled through the comments using his company’s Symphony Content Analysis Software that assists with the organization, analysis, and reporting of themes contained in text data.

And here are the results:

·    412 different/unique books were recommended

·    The Top 20 recommended books, collectively, received 250 of the total recommendations

·    Two authors – Stephen R. Covey and John C. Maxwell each have two books in the Top 20

·    Group members recommended other things instead of giving a book about leadership to a new manager, such as:

o   Interviewing everyone in the company with whom they will directly work 

o   Giving a book about management first

o   Mentoring the person for a period of time before recommending a leadership book

And, unlike a question about “What is Your Favorite Leadership Book,” the question this time asked what is the first book you would give to a new manager.

The Top 20 Books are:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
  2. Leadership and Self-Deception– Arbinger Institute
  3. The One Minute Manager– Kenneth H. Blanchard
  4. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership– John C. Maxwell
  5. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team– Patrick Lencioni
  6. First Break All the Rules– Marcus Buckingham
  7. The Leadership Challenge– Jim Kouzes
  8. The First 90 Days– Michael Watkins
  9. How to Win Friends and Influence People– Dale Carnegie
  10. Good to Great– Jim Collins
  11. It’s Your Ship– Michael Abrashoff
  12. The Speed of Trust– Stephen R. Covey
  13. Developing the Leader Within You– John C. Maxwell
  14. Who Moved My Cheese– Spencer Johnson
  15. Don’t Bring it to Work– Sylvia Lafair
  16. Leaders Without Borders– Doug Dickerson
  17. Leadership and the One Minute Manager– Kenneth H. Blanchard
  18. On Becoming a Leader– Warren Bennis
  19. The Anatomy of Peace– Arbinger Institute
  20. The Art of Possibility– Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander

Within the Top 35 list of the book recommendations, you’ll find four more John C. Maxwell books, including:

·        The 360 Degree Leader

·        Developing the Leaders Around  You

·        Failing Forward

·        Leadership 101

The authors and leadership book publishers most discussed within the group forum have been:

·        Dale Carnegie

·        Jim Collins

·        Jim Kouzes

·        John C. Maxwell

·        Kenneth H. Blanchard

·        Marcus Buckingham

·        Michael Watkins

·        Patrick Lencioni

·        Stephen R. Covey

·        Arbinger Institute

Group discussion participants are clearly inspired by a wide variety of books – biographies, autobiographies, books backed by research and academia, books made famous by the popular press, books by motivation speakers, and books by professionals eager to share their personal and professional leadership success stories, tips and suggestions.

Finally, the book I recommended, The Leadership Test, by Timothy R. Clark made it within the Top 35.

Thanks to all the group members who made recommendations and to Tom Schulte, Executive Director of Linked 2 Leadership, and the owner and moderator for the LinkedIn group, Linked 2 Leadership, which has 19,678 members.

Note:  Symphony Content Analysis Software is designed and published by Active Java.

How To Have Your Customers Help You Write Your Strategic Plan

In General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Management, Strategic Planning on September 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Mike Brown, the founder of the Kansas City, MO company called, The Brainzooming Group, encourages business leaders to solicit feedback from their customers when creating a strategic plan.

Brown once wrote in Smart Companies Thinking Bigger magazine, that you should “ask a group of current, former and potential customers the following questions:”

  • If you’re a current or former customer, why did you start using us?
  • What have we done in the past to make your biggest challenges more difficult?
  • If you still use us, why do you continue to do so?
  • If you don’t use us currently, what are some of the reasons why you don’t?

“These questions are designed to allow your customers to share their perspectives and opinions openly, not rate performance on a numerical scale,” explained Brown.

He explained that the answers to the questions will provide you valuable insight into:

  • Your current strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities to more successfully help your customers
  • Potential challenges from not fully meeting customer expectations

Mike Brown is the author of the ebook, Taking the NO Out of InNOvation, a guide to breaking through personal challenges to living a more creative and innovation-oriented life.

Will You Be The Next Blockbuster, Borders, CDs And Mail?

In General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Management, Soliciting Feedback, Strategic Planning on July 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Perhaps you saw the July 4th issue Fortune magazine article about how digital companies are so big and growing so fast, that they are obliterating old brick-and-mortar businesses.  Fortune reported that:

  • The U.S Postal Service is on track to lose $6 billion this year.  Cellphone text messages sent are up 1,200,243% from 2000.
  • Netflix sales are up 43,101% from 1999 versus Blockbuster’s drop of 29% in sales during the same period.
  • Amazon has almost single-handedly bankrupted Borders.
  • iTunes debuted in 2003 and Tower Records closed in 2004 and Musicland folded in 2006.  FYE is shriveling.

And the Wall Street Journal recently reported that sales of greeting cards have fallen 9% since 2005 amid the rise of social media and email.

What is the digital company or the new technology that will force you to change your business model?  Or expand, or morph?  Or, worse…that will cause you to close your doors?

As the leader in your business, are you listening to your sales force who hears everyday about the competition and what your customers want and your prospects need?

Are you spending ample time with your lower and mid-level employees who are interacting with your vendors, customers and co-workers and likely have ideas for you that typically don’t gain your ear?

Are you engaging with your tech-savvy Generation Y employees who life and breath the digital landscape?

Do you diligently set aside time each day or week to read your industry’s trade journals and Blogs, and do you attend industry trade shows?

Perhaps it won’t be digital technology that will change or crush your business model.   Instead, it might be the fact that more than 10,000 Baby Boomers, since January 1st of this year, will reach the age of 65. And, that pace is going to keep happening every single day for the next 19 years.

Will that aging population change your business in terms of how you deliver customer service online and in-person, or the way you deliver your product, or the way you create or manufacture your product.

Are you holding focus groups with Baby Boomers to learn how best to serve them in the future, particularly when you consider they may be more technically inclined than you think?  For example, according to Pew Research Center:

  • 69% of people ages 54 to 64 now buy products online.
  • 93% of that age group send/read email.
  • 54 to 64 year-olds spend more time online than do people between the ages of 12 to 34.

Bottom line?  Are you spending enough time with your management team, your employees and your customers and at industry events so you don’t become the next Blockbuster, Borders, CDs or Mail?

The Leader’s Checklist

In Company Culture, Effective Communications, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Making Decisions, Management, Setting Goals, Strategic Planning on June 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Wharton Digital Press’ first eBook, The Leader’s Checklist by Michael Useem, goes on sale on June 21, but you can download a free copy between June 21 and 28 wherever eBooks are sold.   The book will ultimately sell for $6.99.  I recommend getting your free copy.

Because, within the 56-page book, Useem provides 15 core principles that will help you to develop the ability to make good and timely decisions in unpredictable and stressful environments. “When leadership really matters,” explains Useem.
The book helps readers to test, retest, refine and update their preparedness for almost any situation, and among the 15 core principles for building a customized clear roadmap are:
  • Articulate a vision
  • Think and act strategically
  • Act decisively
  • Embrace the front lines
  • Dampen over-optimism
  • Build a diverse top team
  • Place common interest first

Useem also suggests that leaders:

  • Communicate in ways that people will not forget; simplicity and clarity.
  • Build enduring personal ties with those who look to you.
  • Through gesture, commentary and accounts, make sure that others appreciate that you are a person of integrity.

To demonstrate the power and value of having a leader’s checklist, Useem examines accounts of extraordinary leadership, including the triumphant rescue of 33 miners in Chile last year.

Useem is the Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management and Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  He previously wrote, The Leadership Moment.

Thompson’s And Tracy’s Latest Book Provides Blueprint For Business Success

In Company Culture, General Leadership Skills, Hiring Great People, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Making Decisions, Management, Mission Statement, Motivating Employees, Strategic Planning, Team Building on February 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm

When you start reading Mark Thompson’s and Brian Tracy’s latest book called, Now…Build a Great Business!, you may feel like you are reading 200 pages of Blog posts, but the bite-sized approach to providing tools, practical steps and ideas, rather than theory, is precisely the authors’ intended approach.

The book thoroughly explains the seven keys for how to achieve business success:

  1. Become a great leader
  2. Develop a great business plan
  3. Surround yourself with great people
  4. Offer a great product or service
  5. Design a great marketing plan
  6. Perfect a great sales process
  7. Create a great customer experience

You’ll find a checklist at the end of each step (each chapter) where you can write down your action plan for applying what you’ve learned.

Particularly interesting is the chapter on strategic planning, where the authors recommend you should ask yourself these important questions before you act to create or reinvent the direction of your organization:

  • Where are you now? What is your current situation?
  • How did you get to where you are today?
  • Where do you want to go from here?
  • How do you get from where you are today to where you want to be in the future?
  • What obstacles will you have to overcome?  What problems will you have to solve?
  • What additional knowledge, skills, or resources will you require to achieve your strategic objectives?

When it comes time to surround yourself with great people, Thompson and Tracy remind us that great people are:

  • Good team players.
  • More concerned with what’s right rather than who’s right.
  • Intensely results oriented.

And, great people accept high levels of responsibility for the outcomes required of them, and consider their company a great place to work.

Mark Thompson is an entrepreneur who sold his last company for $100 million and today coaches executives on how to lead growth companies.  Brian Tracy speaks throughout the country about the development of human potential and personal effectiveness. I thank them for sending me a copy of their book.  It’s a worthwhile read.

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