“Lean decision-making” lessons learned

Take one look at tech blogs, start-up news or content shared on LinkedIn and you’ll find plenty of the business equivalent of “self-help”. This is not surprising. Tech leaders work in conditions of constant change, and rarely have the luxury of wearing just one functional “hat”.  We need digestible content to help us manage the complexity of our daily lives.

Fortunately, we have easy access to the largest pool of information in history.  Thanks to tablets, e-readers and smartphones, this content is accessible anywhere, anytime. However, there’s risk hidden in this mountain of content – it often contains BAD advice. In fact, some of it’s downright dangerous to your business.

Chances are you’ve seen bad business decisions made based on hope or fear, what others are doing, the latest business trend or what senior industry leaders did or said in the past. In other words, on everything but hard facts. It happens all too often. It unfortunately also happened to me.

Remember the matrix management fad? In a nutshell, matrix management pooled people with similar skills under a functional manager (e.g. head of engineering). They were then assigned work on projects under other managers. In my case, engineers had to report to several managers to get their work done. The matrix was supposed to leverage the skills of our team across multiple projects, making the company nimbler and more effective. In reality, this was a recipe for needless complexity, endless turf wars, competition for talent and many many meetings.

After a couple of wasted months, I untangled this mess by putting one person in charge again. This was a real boneheaded move, but at least I wasn’t alone. Many organizations have tried and failed to implement matrix organizations, often with the help of expensive management consultants. Had I done my homework, I’d have found precious little factual support for this management fad.

The only way to separate success-driving practices from their ineffective (or even harmful) brethren is through evidence-based management.  Eric Reis’s Lean Startup Method^ is an excellent example of evidenced-based management for start-ups. He’s a proponent of making decisions based only on hard facts generated through experimentation and data collection. These quotes from his book say it all:

Test assumptions you’ve made about your business, its customers and how you’re serving them.”

“… productivity is not just making more stuff, but systematically figuring out the right things to build.

“The three A’s of metrics: actionable, accessible and auditable.”

Looking at the facts is not easy, not even for leaders of Fortune 500 companies. Just look at their love affair with M&A. Think AOL-Time Warner or HP-Compaq. Study after study shows that most mergers benefit only investment bankers and lawyers – some estimates are that 70% or more fail to deliver shareholder value (Of course, don’t forget the Pixar-Disney successes either)*.

Of 200,000 mergers reviewed in 93 peer-reviewed studies, analysis shows that the negative effects of a merger generally become clear in less than one month and continue thereafter! So what separates the 70% from the 30%? Facts and strong processes. This is consistent with my personal experience as a lawyer turned-corporate development wonk. The majority of deals I’ve seen ultimately value destroying for a variety of reasons, including culture clashes and lack of investment in integration.*

Companies like Cisco prospered through M&A by identifying success factors, such as merger size (small is better), integration practices and culture compatibility. In fact, Cisco averaged about one merger per quarter last decade, most of which were successful. They experimented to find what works and beat the odds, following a very similar philosophy to the lean start-up method.*

Good decisions, effective business practices and successful businesses are built on metrics, measurements, testing and validation. They are also built on avoiding poor decision-making practice and recognizing biases.

To increase your odds of business success, avoid these 4 big mistakes:

1.  Doing what (seems to have) worked in the past.  Suppose a doctor wanted to do an appendectomy on you. When you asked why, he answered, “because I did one on my last patient and he got better.” You’re going to run from his office, right? Don’t confuse success in spite of from success because of. In addition, your business environment, model or market just might be different enough that the past solution won’t work for you.*

2.  Casual benchmarking.  It’s ok to learn from others – it’s an important source of ideas and practices – but make sure you benchmark based on facts and data. Do your homework, ask the basic question of WHY something works and understand if the practices of others really make sense for your business model using both logic and real data.

3.  Following deeply held yet unexamined ideologies. Many people treat first-mover advantage like dogma. What may surprise some is that this pervasive belief is not supported by the facts. At best, the empirical evidence is unclear. Beliefs that are rooted in ideology are “sticky” and contrary evidence is often ignored. Watch out for this bias, because the biggest risk comes from a failure to question one’s personal beliefs.*

4. Listening to experts too much. Management experts and consultants can leverage their experience across organizations to help their clients learn from the successes and failures of others. Just be careful. Experts are paid to have all the answers, and it is tempting to lean too hard are their advice. It is the job of the leader to logically assess, challenge and adapt expert advice to the needs of their unique business and market.

If you’re interested in learning more about evidenced-based management, I highly recommend the Lean Startup by Eric Reis and Hard facts, Dangerous Half-truths  & Total Nonsense by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton.

* J. Pfeffer & R. Sutton, Hard facts, Dangerous Half-truths  & Total Nonsense, Boston: Harvard Business School Press (2006).
^ Eric Ries, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Crown Business (2011)
 

Corporate tablet adoption growing, naysayers ignore tablets at their peril

2011 was the year of the tablet. Surprisingly, it was also the year of the business tablet.

At the outset of the year, the tablet hype was still focused almost entirely on the consumer. The iPad’s smartphone-like fun and form factors made it pretty easy to ignore potential business applications for the device. Like many, I initially purchased an iPad to satisfy a gadget addiction, only to find it incredibly useful for applications other than Angry Birds and Netflix.

In hindsight, the rise of the corporate tablet wasn’t surprising. Just watch a 1-on-1 customer presentation become a customer conversation and you’ll understand its power. Many of us didn’t realize we had laptop problems that needed solving.

What’s interesting, however, is that many execs still aren’t taking notice. They continue to ask why tablets matter for the enterprise?

Over 40% of tablets were already being used for business applications in mid-2011, according to a survey conducted by FunnelBoard.  That’s a large slice of a rapidly expanding pie.

Gartner forecasted worldwide tablet sales of 63.6 million units for the past year – a 261.4% increase from 17.6 million units in 2010.  Tablet sales are expected to reach 326.3 million units by the end of 2015.  Furthermore, the combined sales of smartphones and tablets will exceed PC sales by 44% in 2011, with the installed base of mobile computing devices surpassing total installed base of all PC systems in 2014.

Here are the 5 biggest reasons why tablets matter:

  1. Productivity. Tablets drive productivity, as demonstrated by the 28% efficiency increase in field service efficacy (see Venture Beat).
  2. Accessibility. Tablets make intelligence, reports, knowledge sharing and collaboration tools universally accessible.  Applications that suffered by being chained to laptops, became truly useful when the lug-around-open-boot-load-wait-use paradigm shattered.
  3. Mobility. 75% of workers have some mobility associated with their jobs. They need information that travels with them (see Venture Beat).
  4. Adoption trends. Over 70% percent of corporate sales forces will be using tablets by the end of 2012, according to a FunnelBoard survey. There is a reason for this – they help close deals.
  5. Consumerization of enterprise technology. Tablet adoption is already at 11% of consumers in the United States and growing quickly. Following the general trend towards the consumerization of enterprise technology, expect your employees to demand them in the near future. If your employees are knowledge workers or in technology-related businesses, they’re probably making noise already (see Online Marketing).

At the office, tablets are being used to access data, collaborate and automate processes. But this technology is not just for office workers (remember when Blackberrys were just for executives?). Tablets are showing up in front-line applications like retail sales, equipment maintenance, meter reading, proof of service, inventory management and telematics. Just this week, I met with a company developing a promising solution that would put tablets in the hands of automotive mechanics on a massive scale.

In a recent report, the Gartner group identified the following as the top 10 business applications for tablets for 2011:

  1. Sales automation system, sales presentations, and ordering systems
  2. Business intelligence: analytical and performance applications
  3. Collaboration applications for meetings
  4. File utilities for sharing
  5. Document distribution
  6. General corporate/government enterprise applications
  7. Medical support system
  8. Hosted virtual desktop agents
  9. Social networking applications with intelligent business insight
  10. Board books

How do you see tablets being used in 2012? Are you considering a tablet roll-out for your business? While tablets won’t make sense for everyone, understanding the impact of tablet  is a must for every executive.

Let me know what you think.

 

Sources and further reading:
http://www.androidauthority.com/tablets-potential-corporate-use-sales-326-million-2016-33928/
http://blog.onlinemarketingconnect.com/hubspot/2011/10/30-new-tablet-usage-stats-marketers-should-know-infographic/
http://venturebeat.com/2011/10/21/how-the-enterprise-is-adopting-tablets-infographic/

9 steps to increased productivity (#1 is stop reading about productivity)

Enough with productivity already. We often spend more time reading, thinking and talking about productivity than executing on basic concepts that really work. Juggling careers, hobbies, exercise, friends and family has a tendency to stand in the way of implementing process improvements…you don’t want to drop the balls, right? After reading this blog post, however, it’s time to quit cold turkey. In fact, you should probably stop reading right now and start executing!

There is a productivity industry because looking for the solution is a natural human inclination. Who wants to take tiny steps towards achieving a goal when a BIG change will deliver a BIG impact and BIG success? Unfortunately, big changes rarely work.  What’s more, investing significant time, energy and willpower in a big solution that doesn’t work, can make the original problem even worse.

This is true for any kind of big change. The vast majority of corporate change management efforts fail. 99% of diets don’t work; in fact, they make people fatter (think Atkins). 75% of New Year’s resolutions don’t survive a single week! Efforts to improve your productivity are no different. Big solutions generally result in big failures.

If you are looking to become productive in 2012, take an evolutionary approach.  Try this continuous improvement recipe to experiment your way to productivity:

  1. Stop reading about productivity!
  2. Think effectiveness instead of productivity.  Doing more of the same old thing won’t make a difference. You need to do better at fewer things.
  3. Make a list of small improvements. Implementation time should be less than a ½ day.
  4. Put the improvement steps in order of priority and post the list on your wall.
  5. Implement only one of the small improvements.
  6. Reality check. Did you deliver on your half of the bargain, REALLY implementing the change?  If not, move back one step.
  7. Evaluate the change after using it for 2 weeks.
  8. If it worked, great! Time to move onto step 1 with another change from your list.
  9. Not effective? No problem. Discard the change, pick another change from your list and try again.

You will be shedding the productivity equivalent of 60 pounds in 6 months, but much like lifestyle changes vs. diets, the changes will actually work.

Over the last 12 months, I significantly improved my effectiveness using this recipe. Collectively, small changes made a huge positive impact on my life, my family and my work. Most of the gains came from doing less. Here are just four small examples of changes that worked for me:

  1. Reduce information gathering channels: Applications like FlipBoard and Zite for the iPad gather information that is relevant to you and present it in an intuitive tablet magazine format. No iPad, no problem. Aggregating websites like Mashable.com may be the solution for you. The goal here is simple: find information aggregators that help you professionally and let them do the work of finding useful content. Don’t go to more than 5 places for your news and when you add a new source, drop another from the list.
  2. Maintain social presence on LinkedIn, with zero additional effort. Maintaining a social presence on LinkedIn will soon be table stakes for business professionals. It already is for most salespeople. The challenge is to maintain that presence when your to-do list is already endless. However, posting updates that add value doesn’t have to be more work. When you use online information channels, it is very easy to share information that added value to you. Just click and post. Chances are that information that is useful to you will also be useful to many of your connections.
  3. Be more strategic…say “no” a lot. If you ask the best corporate strategy minds to boil down the essence of strategy, this is what they will tell you: deciding what not to do is more important than deciding what to do. In other words, say “no” a lot. Walking away from opportunities is VERY hard for both individuals and businesses (this is something I hate to do). Who wants to close doors, right? Having clear priorities, discipline about what to do and not to do, and focus will free up your time and significantly increase your productivity. It will also increase your credibility, because when you put to many balls in the air, some will get dropped.
  4. Take a break. Go out for lunch. My typical day at the office used to start with a 7 am meeting with my boss and continued for 12 task juggling, meeting hopping and deck jockeying hours. Often, I am ashamed to admit, I confused activity with productivity. Now I take breaks and regularly eat lunch with business partners and friends.  The result is this: increased focus, increased alertness, fewer mistakes and more energy for my two biggest passions, my family and new ventures. Apparently, research supports my anecdotal experience. Check out the Harvard Business Review blog on the subject at http://goo.gl/RfYts.

Once you have taken this advice and experimented/executed your way to increased productivity, you may be ready to violate step 1 by reading about productivity again. One excellent book on the subject is Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Ineptitude in the age of information overload

Why is it that we so often fail to achieve what we set out to accomplish in this world? Many bloggers and authors have written on the subject of failure. To err is human, mistakes are natural, failing is an important part of learning, etc., etc., etc. I agree that designing, creating and learning are not clean processes. Physicist Niels Bohr, the father of atomic theory, put it well:

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.

But clearly some failures are “bad” or unnecessary. The worst of this lot are failures of ineptitude. Ineptitude arises when knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it. Example: surgeons operating on the wrong side of a patient’s brain…for the 3rd time (sadly a true story from Rhode Island Hospital – http://goo.gl/64lzl).

What does this mean when we have access to more information than ever before? In many cases, what used to be excusable ignorance is now sheer incompetence. It also means that those who aren’t using this resource are at risk of becoming inept.

For example, checklists and processes exist that can effectively eliminate medical mistakes like operating on the wrong brain lobe. Given that the supporting research, resources and processes can be found on Google with little effort, there is no excuse for the ignorance of the Rhode Islanders. They are the poster-children of ineptitude.

While consequences of failure in business are incomparable to those in medicine, we are often equally guilty of ineptitude. Many businesses simply aren’t taking advantage of the massive store of knowledge available through the web today. The results are missed opportunities and unnecessary failures.

For example, a 2009 study by Hoovers found that 75% of businesses weren’t using social media for competitive intelligence. My experience suggests improvement has been marginal outside of Silicon Valley since this study was conducted (RIM is just one company that comes to mind here). In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, up-to-date competitive intelligence makes the difference between leading and chasing the competition.

Glenn Gow did a good job of summarizing just one of the benefits of social media intelligence (http://goo.gl/f2iLz):

By obtaining a real-time window into issues and problems facing your competitors, you have the opportunity to proactively respond with timely messaging or programs targeting the customers or products affected and capitalizing on the specific problem. If a competitor is having supply or quality problems, offer a targeted upgrade program. To quote Ray Kroc, “If I saw a competitor drowning I’d put a live fire hose in his mouth.” While launch messaging often takes weeks or months to tune and perfect, the social media grapevine enables you to leverage a changing environment, especially competitive missteps, to your competitive advantage.

If businesses don’t react to opportunities in real-time, you can be sure that their nimbler competitors will. The ability to rapidly detect and react to the unexpected offers a significant opportunity leapfrog the competition.

Qworky is one software company that realized that opportunity. By monitoring their primary competitor’s online moves (blog posts, e-mail blasts, Twitter messages and LinkedIn profile changes) they suspected that a product launch was imminent. This gave them the opportunity to quickly launch a limited version of their product, getting the Qworky name out in the market before the competition (http://goo.gl/5nu2K).

In the 5 minutes it took to read this blog, the store of knowledge and information available through the web grew significantly. In this time:

  • 1,273 Wikipedia pages were edited
  • 175 hours of new videos were uploaded
  • 170 new web pages were created
  • 5,000 professionals joined LinkedIn
  • 191 new blogs were created

What’s more, the number of new content channels increases every day. So how do we keep up with this vast store of knowledge? In many cases, it is impossible to remain current and still have time to get things done. Few of us can afford to spend the entire day on the web. According to a recent SAS survey, more than 50% of executives at mid-sized companies feel they’re drowning in data. At the same time, executives viewed data as the most underused resource in their companies.

Over the coming weeks, I will be exploring ways to reduce information overload and effectively use the information available via social media and the web. Hopefully, I can avoid joining the ranks of the inept.

Please let me know if you have any solutions or ideas that can help!

96% missing out on valuable sales intelligence

Arnold* is the consummate sales professional. In his line of business, he’s a recognized leader and has been aptly nicknamed…you guessed it…the “Terminator”. I recently interviewed him for a project on sales best practices, and was surprised to find that he wasn’t using Facebook to gather intelligence.

LinkedIn was on his radar screen, but he only used Facebook in his personal life. Arnold is not alone. Based on a recent survey**, 96% of salespeople don’t use this valuable source of intelligence!

Below are 3 ways Facebook can increase business development effectiveness:

1.   Find shared connections

Facebook identifies shared connections for both friends and non-friends, just like LinkedIn. Knowing this information before meetings has obvious benefits, after all, it’s not what-you-know but who-you-know when it comes to building rapport.

2.   Leverage common interests

Facebook shows “Interests” for both friends and non-friends (most of the time). Knowledge of this information significantly increases your chances of establishing genuine connections, but now we can avoid the hit-and-miss practice of fishing for information in the middle of the meeting!

For example, Arnold coaches squash out of a love for the game. The very first time Arnold used Facebook to gather sales intelligence, he discovered that a potential customer shared his passion. As a result, their first conversation revolved around squash, not business, putting him on the path to an authentic relationship. Arnold feels strongly that this foreknowledge accelerated the sales process and, ultimately, helped close the deal.

3.   Establish brand

Facebook is a low-cost way to share information and content that establishes your brand. Don’t forget, people use Facebook to do diligence on YOU too! Your personal and company pages are powerful tools to communicate value-added information that establishes your credibility. They are also a channel for customers to voice their needs and requirements, which when addressed, will convert them into champions for you and your business.

Arnold now uses Facebook for every deal, because it works. If you are one of the 96%, it’s time you became a Terminator.

* name changed to protect the innocent

** Survey conducted by FunnelBoard of 43 front-line and senior management level BD professionals from different industries

Watch out for the “yes, damn!” effect. It’s a credibility killer.

Have you ever made a promise to do something in the future, and then immediately regretted it?  Or even worse, failed to live up to a commitment because you said “yes” once too often?  Of course you have. We all do this from time-to-time, saddling ourselves with more work than time (Note to self: apologize to my wife for not cleaning the garage).  Psychologists call this the “yes, damn” effect.

The problem is particularly acute in the world of sales.  So why are salespeople more susceptible to the “yes, damn!” effect? How can they be helped?

The “why” is simple.  Salespeople like to say “yes”.  Sales is an attractive career for people-people, where high EQ is a big asset.  Unfortunately, many people-people (myself included) don’t like saying “no”.  The  major reasons include:

  • Optimism
  • Fear of losing the deal
  • Duty
  • Respect for authority
  • Need for power (“they will owe me big time”)
  • Need to be liked

People are also bad at predicting the future.  According to Gal Zauberman from the Wharton School of Business, we are psychologically biased to believe we’ll have more time in the future than we do today.  The farther in the future the commitment, the easier it is to say “yes”.  The problem is this: we really don’t have more time in the future!  Monday next month will be as busy as Monday this week.

Combining a penchance for “yes” with a weakness at future planning is a bad recipe for execution.  Here are four tricks that make it easier to say “no” and plan more effectively:

  1. Double all time estimates.  This trick is a classic consultant trick.  If you think the commitment is going to require two hours, then assume four hours before you say “yes”.
  2. Ask yourself: could I do it tomorrow?  Since you likely won’t have more time next month than tomorrow, consider whether you would say “yes” if the commitment came due tomorrow.  Would it be worth re-arranging your schedule tomorrow?  If the answer is “no” for tomorrow, it should probably be “no” in the future too.
  3. Delay.  We’re more likely to say “yes” if we are surprised.  The best strategy is to delay responding.  “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you” buys time to make the right decision without pressure.
  4. Make no mean no. Don’t waffle!  Once you start down the path of “well, maybe I could if…” your ship is sunk.

Be a better advisor, salesperson or coach. Avoid these 6 things.

If you are a business leader, salesperson or advisor, I bet you’ve walked away from some conversations with clients or employees completely “knackered”, as the Brits say.  If so, you may have been attached to something or attempting to control the conversation.

Here are six attachments guaranteed to drain your energy and limit your effectiveness as an advisor:

  • The need to be right or look good
  • The need to produce a desired result or achieve a certain objective
  • The need to be understood or prove your point
  • The need to have people agree with you
  • The need to avoid being wrong or looking bad
  • The need to avoid hearing “no”

Attachments lead to a struggle for power and control.  Not surprisingly, struggles are not particularly effective in communication.  Barriers to listening go up, creativity evaporates, people feel unheard and you appear inflexible.  Effective coaching, selling and consultative advising requires the ability to listen openly, authentically and with 100% focus on the speaker.  Even if you win a struggle based on an attachment, you lose.

It’s all too easy to become fixated on a future outcome (we are all guilty of this from time-to-time), such the need to be right or desire to achieve a specific result.  Meanwhile, the client or employee is speaking in the present moment.  When one abandons future outcomes and joins the other person in the present, it’s possible to achieve amazing results.  To create possibilities instead of negativity.

There are books and training that can help you improve your coaching skills.  Coaching Sales People Into Sales Champions by Keith Rosen is just one  book that I found helpful.

I believe that the coaching philosophy is equality powerful for consultants and managers.  If you are a consultant, would you agree ?  I welcome your feedback.

6 steps to building better relationships. Step one is SHUT UP.

I am a business book junkie (Step #1 is admit that you have a problem, right?).  Fortunately this habit has upsides.  For example, common themes are very obvious when one has several books on the go.

One such theme is the power of listening.  Whether you are reading about winning friends & influencing people, leadership, effective habits, coaching or cold calling, 99% of authors advise us to “listen more than we talk”.  We’ve all heard this before, so why are they re-stating the obvious?  Well, as the old saying goes, “common sense is not always common practice”.

Here are a few reasons we forget to listen based on my observations  (I won’t tell you which one I was guilty of this week):

  • Passion and excitement can overpower patience
  • Everyone likes to be heard, it makes us feel important
  • Being “right” is like a drug, it feels good even though it is bad for you
  • We forget we’re more interesting when we are more interested
  • Crackberry or iPhone addiction

No one is perfect, nor will we ever be.  That’s just life, but reviewing and recommitting to the goal of effective listening will help your relationships in a big way.

People do business with people that authentically care about them.  Listening is the primary way to demonstrate that you care.  Here is a list of 6 points that I keep tacked on my wall.  Hopefully, they will be a useful reminder for you too.

1.   Shut up!  The less you talk the more you’re liked.

Example: Many people feel that unless they are talking about their product, a sales meeting will not succeed.  Mistake!  Buying is about trusting and liking.  Again, people buy from those they like, know and trust. Show people you care by shutting up.  The more you listen, the more you will sell.

2.   Listen with your body

 Body language is as important as verbal communication:

    •  Maintain eye contact
    • Lean slightly forward most of the time
    • “Mirror” the speakers body to a degree, this happens naturally for most people when they connect authentically, but watch your body language just in case
    • Nod to let them know you are hearing them
    • Speak only occasionally, to communicate “I’m hearing you”.
    • Smile or frown in accordance with what is being said

 3.   Concentrate on the speaker exclusively

You know how it feels when someone stops mid-conversation, or half concentrates, while using their mobile phone or tablet.  If you MUST take a call or send an email, at least apologize and excuse yourself at an appropriate point in the conversation.  Show respect by owning your bad manners.  If you are on the phone, don’t forget that the listener can hear your keyboard when you email.  This is a great way to make someone think you’re a jerk.

 4.    Know about the speaker, do your homework

Whenever a person remembers a detail about me, I feel they CARE.  When they show an authentic interest in things I care about, I feel they CARE.  If you want to do deals or make friends, you’d better keep notes or do your homework on people in your network.  Fortunately, this has never been easier.  Social media and the thousands of resources on the web make this dead easy.

 5.  Listen, listen and then listen again.  Build relationships not connections

Build over time.  Build on credibility.  Build on REPEATED demonstrations that you care.  Listening and rapport building is not just a step in the process, it is a process.  Focus on what the other person cares about, even if it is not work related, and do it frequently.  I know how hard this is for some of us.  We just want to get to work, but remind yourself that investing in relationships saves time in the end…it may even save a deal.

6.   Add YOUR personal step here and then review from time-to-time

We all have our own particular listening challenges, so I encourage you to make your own list, then put a note in your calendar to remind you to listen from time-to-time.

I would love to get your thoughts on effective communication.  Do you agree with my points?  Do you have advice that you can share that is missing from my post?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Fact: 50% of professional networkers don’t use LinkedIn

Chances are you are already using LinkedIn to gather intelligence on your network and customers. That is probably how you found my blog. Almost everyone who uses social media understands the benefit of professional network visibility. It is no surprise that “Linking In” after a meeting is SOP in many industries.

But are sales people getting the full benefit of using LinkedIn? No, according to 43 business leaders that I surveyed. Amazingly, LinkedIn is used for sales call preparation by barely 50% of business development professionals across industries.

In light of this surprising finding, I will dedicate a number of posts over the coming weeks to network intelligence gathering.  Please feel free to contribute. I am by no means the authority on social media and welcome your input!

Whether you are a salesperson, consultant, business founder, lawyer or developer, you cannot afford to ignore this source of customer and competitive intelligence.  Using LinkedIn effectively is critical to staying ahead of your competitors.

I hope these posts will be helpful to anyone who has recently jumped into social business development or is considering doing so.

Ideas are common. Execution is rare.

The success rate for new ventures is between 10% and 15%, depending on who you ask.  Whether the venture is a sale, a deal, a new product or a new business, chances are it’s going to crash and burn.  So, what separates the successes from the failures?  How do deal-makers, innovators and entrepreneurs get out of bed in the morning knowing these odds?  They know that they can double their chances of success with strong execution.  They also know that if they feed enough opportunities into the funnel, success is guaranteed.

After siting on the blogging sidelines for a heck of a long time, I figure it’s time I added my $0.02.  The Funnel will focus on deal-making, M&A, finance and start-up organization…corporate development in other words.  This has been my work and passion for the last 12 years.  Hopefully, my experience will be useful to some of you and we can start a dialogue, so I will have the chance to learn from you.

I look forward to your comments and advice.

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