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Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Path to Success: Biography and Timeline

Billionaire Li Ka-shing's Path to Success

At 88, Li Ka-shing (b. 29-July-1928) is the richest man in Asia, with a networth of almost $35 billion, and one of the most powerful people in the world, but he began life as a impoverished war refugee.

Here is a chronicle of Li’s systematic rise from poverty and life as a plastic flower salesman to one of the world’s richest individuals with investments in banks, container ports, digital and traditional media, energy, property, and various other businesses.

  • 'Li Ka-shing Hong Kong's Elusive Billionaire' by Anthony B. Chan (ISBN 0195900766) 1928: Born in Chaozhou in China’s Guangdong Province to a school-principal father.
  • 1940: With the Japanese invading, his father packs up the family and flees to Hong Kong. Dad dies from tuberculosis two years afterward; at 12 Li joined an uncle’s plastic-watch-strap company watch company to help with his household’s rent. “The great tug of war and the taste of povert—-they are hardly memories one can forget,” Li says.
  • 1950: He quits and starts his own small business making plastic toys, shortly switching to plastic flowers. More than a decade later, riots in Hong Kong push down property values, giving him the chance to buy up commercial real estate on the cheap. As time wore on and the war ended, young Li weighed where his future lay. The Chinese nationalists were finished, he calculated, so he laid business stakes in Hong Kong. With money tight, he skipped movies and shaved his head to extend the time between haircuts, he says. What he didn’t forgo was reading–used books, manuals, leftover journals. He credits superior preparation–he was often self-taught–for his gains. When he famously gained a manufacturing foothold with the plastic flowers in the 1950s, he says, he was able to engineer critical molding machinery with an injection process made using a Coca-Cola bottle and a plastic straw, using something he saw in Modern Plastics as a guide.
  • 'Li Ka-shing No Accidental Success' by Li Yongning (ISBN 751134352X) 1972: Li lists his holding company Cheung Kong Ltd., in Hong Kong. Investors can’t get enough. The IPO is oversubscribed more than 65-fold.
  • 1978: Li visited China, after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms had begun. He later recalled, “I went to see some friends in the guesthouse. They would write notes to me because they were afraid of being eavesdropped on. They had been scared by the Cultural Revolution. Today they can openly criticize the government.”
  • 1979: Li becomes the earliest ethnic Chinese to buy a controlling stake in one of the old British trading houses, the then-struggling Hutchinson Whampoa.
  • 1979: Li begins his foray into the port business began, when he bought control of Hutchison Whampoa, a British trading house that had long dominated Hong Kong’s economy but had been struggling. One of the assets was a successful container-terminal operation in Hong Kong.
  • 'Asian Godfathers Money and Power' by Joe Studwell (ISBN 0802143911) 1986: Acquires a controlling stake in Canada’s Husky Energy. That investment plus his other assets earn him a spot on Forbes’ first ranking of the world’s billionaires a year later. “My life has been filled with challenges. But I must say, fortune has indeed bestowed many opportunities.”
  • 1990: Less than a year after the bloody Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing, Shanghai’s mayor asked Li to invest in its port operations, a congested environment where ships had to wait up to seven days at sea before gaining dock access.
  • 1999: Jackpot! Hutchinson does its biggest deal ever: selling its stake in telecom Orange Plc. to German Mannesmann for nearly $15 billion.

Li Ka-shing Biography

  • 2006: Pledges to bequeath one-third of his wealth to the Li Ka Shing Foundation to support education and health care around the world. “We all know the importance of identifying the right capital investment. Social capital is the key”
  • 'The New Elite' by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison (ISBN 0814400485) 2007: Goes with his gut and invests in Facebook within five minutes of hearing the pitch for the fledging business. The social network scores a big valuation ($15 billion) despite scant revenue. “A person investing in technology will feel younger.”
  • 2010 to 2014: Li trims some Chinese and Hong Kong investments and looks to Europe instead. In all, his companies spend more than $28 billion buying assets on that continent, including a water company, utility firms, and two mobile phone operators. “Businesspeople in general shouldn’t have an overly narrow view of their industry.”
  • 2015: Perceiving that more of his attention is directed overseas, the government-controlled media questions his loyalty to greater China. Li issues a three-page response denying the allegations.

Through his publicly listed Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong holdings, Li ka-shing controls more than $60 billion worth of assets in telecommunications, real estate, infrastructure, ports, retailing and manufacturing, energy, and technology.

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Calls It a Day

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson is the right replacement for CEO Howard Schultz

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has called it a day, and that’s causing some investors a bit of worry, primarily because the coffee giant struggled the last time Schultz left in 2000.

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson Replaces CEO Howard Schultz

Kevin Johnson, the current president and chief operating officer of Starbucks, will take over as CEO. Johnson is a 30-year veteran of the tech industry held senior leadership roles for 16 years at Microsoft and a five-year stint CEO of Juniper Networks.

Johnson’s consumer technology background is impressive and is a key asset for Starbucks in expanding the company’s already-leading digital platform across channels and geographies in the years to come.

Former Starbucks COO Troy Alstead Quit in January 2015

When Starbucks’ longtime COO Troy Alstead quit, Schultz wrote, “Looking back on the 23 years we spent together side-by-side as Starbucks colleagues, I can recall so many memorable moments and accomplishments in which Troy can take pride in a job well done. Troy is a beloved Starbucks partner and has played an invaluable role in our growth as an enterprise and in the development of our culture as a performance-driven company balanced with humanity, which is unique for our industry. Troy’s humanity and humility will be missed and we wish him the best.”

Starbucks' Premium Roastery and Reserve Stores

Schultz Focused on Sustaining Revenue

For the last several years, Schultz focused on sustaining revenue growth by moving beyond his coffee house roots. In 2012, he purchased Teavana as another brick in the road, which has encompassed instant coffee, energy drinks, juice, a single-serve brewer and food to sell in its shops and in grocery stores. In 2013, Starbucks and yogurt-maker Danone, declared a plan to cooperatively create an assortment of specialty yogurt products in contributing Starbucks stores in 2014 and in grocery channels in 2015 as part of the coffee chain’s growing Evolution Fresh brand. With cafe-like atmospheres and a brand that evokes a high-quality customer experience, Starbucks appreciates pricing power benefits over nearly all specialty coffee peers. This will be expanded by the development of the Starbucks Reserve sub-brand to deliver exclusive, higher-end coffee blends.

While Schultz’s forethought and attention to customer experience have been significant motives that Starbucks has established one of the widest-moat and most consistent growth stories in the global consumer coverage universe, Starbucks has one of the deepest benches in the consumer sector. While most of the focus is technically on new CEO Johnson and his wide-ranging consumer technology background, Schultz will still be immersed with the development of Starbucks’ Premium Roastery and Reserve stores.

'Onward How Starbucks Fought for Its Life' by Howard Schultz (ISBN 1609613821) Don’t liken Schultz’s switch to that of 2000, when he undertook the chairman role and assigned Jim Donald as CEO. Schultz ultimately returned as CEO in 2008 in the wake of disappointing sales figures and a “watering down of the Starbucks experience”. In his turnaround memoir Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, Schultz wrote “The merchant’s success depends on his or her ability to tell a story. What people see or hear or smell or do when they enter a space guides their feelings, enticing them to celebrate whatever the seller has to offer. Intuitively I have always understood this. So when, in 2006 and 2007, I walked into more and more Starbucks stores and sensed that we were no longer celebrating coffee, my heart sank. Our customers deserved better.”

How Starbucks Became Successful

How Starbucks Became Successful

Brand, channel, and technology advantages have positioned Starbucks for a long runway for growth:

  • Starbucks coffee is robust, and people get used to the taste, making it difficult for them to be content somewhere else, either to coffee chains such as Dunkin’ Brands, Tim Hortons, or McDonald’s. Joh. A. Benckiser’s amalgamation of Mondelez’s coffee properties (D.E Master Blenders, Peet’s, Caribou, Einstein Noah, and Keurig) are emerging as Starbucks’s noteworthy competitors. Despite the tenacity of the legend, Starbucks doesn’t really burn its beans. Nonetheless it uses two tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water, which is beyond a lot of other places.
  • Decades ago, in many markets, the only place a customer could get a cappuccino was a restaurant, and there indeed weren’t any flavored or distinguished coffees anywhere. Starbucks was the pioneer in bringing those to the masses. There’s countless brand loyalty they’ve built up over the years. As good the coffee beans are a good amount of training goes in the way they make specialized drinks. Wet, dry cappucino, lattes in perfect ratios of coffee, milk and foam.
  • Starbucks has been known for being pretty generous to its employees, together with presenting full benefits to those working as a minimum 20 hours per week. That made customers feel good about buying coffee there.
  • Customers appreciate the consistency of Starbucks products. A customer can go to a Starbucks pretty much anyplace in the world, and know what they’re getting. A grande vanilla latte will be on the menu and taste the same whether in Seattle, New York, London, Istanbul, or Moscow.

The Recipe to Starbucks Success

The Recipe to Starbucks’ Success

Yet same-store sales have been decelerating, however from very high levels, and the company ran into difficulty the last time Schultz stepped back from the CEO role. Regardless of impressive growth plans, and commodity cost and foreign currency volatility, Starbucks can endure a 40%-45% dividend payout ratio over the next decade.

Some analysts and investors aren’t worried about the management change. Wells Fargo’s Bonnie Herzog acknowledged that while Schultz’s departure is “a loss, in our view the show must (and will) go on” and added, “While we acknowledge that Schultz is without question one of the strongest and most visionary leaders in the consumer/retail world, we believe the succession planning put in place several years ago assures the recent exceptional performance will likely continue.”

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Speaking of how Starbucks’ invigorated food and beverage menu and store reformats have uplifted the Starbucks customer experience, pierced new markets and times, and enhanced unit-level productivity metrics, Herzog also wrote,

The leadership change announced today has been a long-time in the making, starting nearly 3 years ago with the shuffling of the senior leadership team, and subsequent promotion of Johnson in early 2015 to the role of President/COO. We believe that Johnson is a very capable leader, with strong experience working side-by-side Schultz for the past two years. Importantly Johnson has an exceptionally good relationship with Schultz, which should keep Schultz sufficiently removed to allow Johnson to lead effectively given his trust in Johnson, while also remaining sufficiently nearby to ensure the ship remains on course… We believe Johnson’s technology background positions him well to ensure SBUX’s mobile and digital initiatives—key to SBUX’s long-term success, in our view—will remain a primary focus of the company. Importantly, Schultz will remain focused on his ongoing efforts to premiumize the SBUX brand and experience through Roastery and Reserve stores, which should support accelerated innovation and allow the broader store network led by Johnson to continue to thrive.

Investors are also cheerful about Starbucks’ mobile, digital, and loyalty program collaborations across the various business lines, affiliations with Spotify, New York Times, and Lyft, and new payment technologies. Starbucks’ worldwide opportunities are undisputable–particularly in China, India, Japan, Brazil, and Eastern Europe–and Starbucks will apply its best practices from the U.S. to accelerate its growth aspirations.

Starbucks has organized an investor meeting next week, during which its leaders are expected to release news on current and future initiatives.

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Remembering Silicon Valley ‘Coach’ Bill Campbell

Remembering Silicon Valley 'Coach' Bill Campbell Bill Campbell, better known merely as “Coach,” was a renowned mentor of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists. He advised and coached some of tech’s biggest names, comprising Google’s Eric Schmidt, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The cluster is a geographically proximate group of interrelated companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by cohesions and complementarities. The cluster model converges upon the circumstances that support firm competitiveness at the national scale. It is an economic development model that stimulates collaboration among institutions to accelerate the exchange of information and technology. A venture capital firm in structuring a fund aims to limit the obligation of investors to the amount of their investment and circumvent a double charge of taxation (once when returns on investments are realized by the fund and a second time when the investors receive the proceeds of their investment from the fund). The most important customers for these new technologies may be beyond US borders, however, where breaks for a solid education are hard to come by and a Western credential carries a lot of weight. Changes and adaptations have become customs and are embedded in the social norms of the Valley. But it so far cannot escape from its contract manufacturing past. It does not have the profundity of competences and capabilities, nor does it have the scale to take advantage of a more networked-oriented internet-driven economy. Entrepreneurial financing is an important mechanism to engender economic advantages. In particular, the science and technology incubators play a vital role in supporting entrepreneurship and economic growth. To date, few studies have looked meticulously at the strategies and policies that are crucial for creating an empowering environment for high-tech start-ups.

Bill Campbell did not describe himself as a workaholic, although as president of Claris he did acknowledge to working 16-hour days, having nightly business dinners, touring frequently and working weekends. After four years as head of Apple Computer’s sales and marketing effort, Campbell was connected more with hardware than software. Apple and Google shared personal ties, with Apple board members Bill Campbell and Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, serving as advisers to Google in its formative days.

John Doerr, chair of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, called him “our SuperCoach — colorful confidante and mentor for leaders and whole teams.” Doerr brought Campbell to Google to serve as an informal adviser to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Campbell was influential in the hiring of Eric Schmidt to be Google’s chief executive in August 2001. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt recalled in Forbes magazine that Campbell’s supreme gift was knowing how to goad and inspire people.

It’s hard to know what Google would have been like without him. He was present at every decision of consequence. He understood the people. He would normally say very little during my staff meetings and just observe. And then I and other executives would individually make a trek to his Intuit office in Palo Alto for his feedback. He wasn’t a technical wizard, but he understood how to solve human problems and motivate people. He would have been a good coach in any industry.

Bill Campbell viewed himself as Silicon Valley’s confidant. He was very careful to say, “I’m here to help you. I don’t want anything in return. I don’t want any attention.” If he had had a public persona, it would’ve made him less effective. This was very genuine. Some people want power or fame. He wanted love. He wanted to be appreciated. And he was.

The Silicon Valley culture efficaciously captures the prevailing ideological elements of Silicon Valley, mingling celebration of technology with a attraction with what the museum’s brochures refers to as the gizmos and gadgets produced by Valley companies. An obsession with speed: work late, work long, work fast, work smart, borrow and assimilate technical knowledge at the vanguard that is not already possessed, and enter the market place with an sophisticated solution needed by many with astounding features at a low cost point. A sale is incongruous to harvest a high price if the firm is seen as running out of funds and despairing for a savior. For a firm that cannot draw outside financing, an inside round can afford convenient “backstop financing.”

A Silicon Valley Confidant

Campbell was intensely involved in Silicon Valley’s start-up culture as well. Fortune’s Jennifer Reingold wrote that Campbell was careful not to take credit for his work, even while industry leaders spoke of Campbell “as if he’s some kind of profane cosmic mash-up of Oprah, Yoda and Joe Paterno.” Teams thrive to create synergy to respond to pressures of condensed product-planning life cycles, product competitiveness, and Silicon Valley’s parent companies’ influences. Global competition in the high technology industry is also at work here, where-as Campbell mentioned above–speed, quality, cost, and innovation propel strategy and structure.

Campbell coached the Columbia University football team in the 1970s (albeit with a losing record.) He then served as CEO of Intuit in the mid-1990s, then chairman from 1998 until January-2016, when he became chairman emeritus. Campbell was also chairman of the board of trustees at Columbia University from 2005 until 2014. Previously in his career, he had worked at Kodak and Apple, where he worked as a marketing executive. He was an Apple director from 1997 until 2014. His association with Apple dates back to 1983, when he enrolled the company as vice president of marketing. In 1983, Campbell took a chance by taking a job at Apple under John Sculley and Steve Jobs. Campbell left a position at Kodak, which was a $14 billion company at the time, for Apple, which was around $90 million then. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said, “when Bill joined Apple’s board, the company was on the brink of collapse. He not only helped Apple survive, but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable back in 1997.”

The anonymities of the trade become no secrecies; but are as it were in the air, and children learn many of them instinctively. In Silicon Valley, good work is rightly cherished; inventions and improvements in machinery, in processes and the general organization of the business have their qualities promptly discussed: if one man starts a new idea, it is taken up by others and combined with suggestions of their own; and thus it becomes the source of further new ideas. According to Campbell, the Silicon Valley’s determination for reliability was the catalyst behind the development of the planar process, and then of the integrated circuit. He confounded things by noting that the high tech industry’s drive to clutch its producers’ profits served to direct both Silicon Valley semiconductor and tube companies to look for saleable markets.

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The Rise and Fall of Theranos

The Rise and Fall of Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Two years ago, the blood-testing startup Theranos was one of the hottest assets in Silicon Valley. Valued at $9 billion, it guaranteed nothing short of a paradigm shift in medicine with its groundbreaking, needle-free test process. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, a 32-year-old Stanford dropout, was effusively profiled in the business press as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. But now, the company is fighting for its survival, in the midst of claims that its tests are “at best, fundamentally flawed and, at worst, unsafe.” The disturbance began six months ago, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s breakthrough technology, which could reasonably run hundreds of tests with blood from a finger prick, couldn’t really deliver. Not long after, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates lab testing, said that Theranos put patients’ lives at risk with faulty tests at its California lab. The latest blow: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lately began independent criminal investigations into whether Theranos deceived investors about its technology.

Nothing is proven yet. It’s very unusual for the SEC to investigate a privately held company like Theranos, but it could begin to happen more often. SEC Chair Mary Jo White wants to give more enquiry to the growing number of so-called unicorn startups, which are valued at more than $1 billion, “because they pose a high risk to investors.” The company’s fate is now in the hands of its charismatic founder—as the company’s leader, chairwoman, and majority stakeholder, Holmes can command what she wants done at her company. It’s a common procedure in Silicon Valley’s startup philosophy, where boards have “little real power.” Many venture capitalists are willing to take the risk, hoping to get in with the next Mark Zuckerberg, but “if trouble brews,” the cult encircling a founder can become a obligation. That’s largely because there is no such thing as investigative journalism in Silicon Valley. Journalism here is largely confused with, and deliberately conflated with, public relations, but they’re not the same thing.

So far, Theranos has never been able to establish its testing technology really works. Rather than publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, or letting its blood-testing machines to be assessed by external experts, the company has continually kept its methods cloaked in secrecy. Theranos has reasoned that it was guarding trade secrets, but testing openness is customary routine in the medical industry. Even drug companies, which function in a exceedingly aggressive segment, issue adequate results of their drug trials to establish that a medicine actually works, whilst even keeping sufficient details secret to make their product proprietary. Blood testing is a $73-billion-a-year commerce set for disruption—as any person who’s had blood drawn can confirm, it’s laborious, uncomfortable, and pricey.

Theranos is under investigation for fraud, which is weird for a private company. Theranos is performing tests on patients without having published peer reviewed research—a cardinal sin in science—and with minimal federal oversight. Theranos should have attracted scrutiny long before it did.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators

How to Grow Your Company to Greatness

Grow Your Company to Greatness

Cost cutting is the tool of choice for managers who seek instant gratification. It’s the low-hanging fruit that puts profitability on steroids and makes a leader look good overnight. It’s like taking a hit of morphine; the pain deadens for a while, but unless you address the cause of the pain, you become addicted and never get better.

While cutting and controlling costs is vital, it is not a strategy; it’s a tactic. It’s easy to imitate, and offers no competitive advantage. Cost cutting also leads to diminishing returns. While you’ re wringing out the last 5 percent of efficiency counting beans, a competitor with a breakthrough strategy will leapfrog over you. To grow business, you must shift to strategic thinking.

Keep two things in mind when it comes to strategy:

  • If it’s not different, it’s dead
  • If you can’t articulate it, you can’t execute it.

For leaders, it’s time to get back to work, because while “optimizing” is important, no business can shrink to greatness. Companies must perform their way to greatness. It takes more work to build top-line growth and gain market share by out-strategizing, out-hustling, and developing better talent. Most managers are addicted to quick fixes. But the ultimate the test of leadership is not how effectively you wield a knife, but how well you grow your business.

Dangers of a Shrinking Business

There are clear lessons associated with shrinking your business. Cost cutting backfires when you ax your capacity to produce. This includes training and tools to boost performance. The point is not whether the budget was under-spent, but well spent.

Diets result in weight loss, but the excess fat won’t stay off unless habits are changed and muscle is built. It’s shortsighted to cut a training budget designed to make people more competent, while advertising lavishly for more customers. Untrained people will only abuse them. It’s a cycle of senselessness.

Don’t just optimize—innovate! Optimizing (cost cutting) is a tactic; innovation (finding better ways to do things) is a strategy. Leaders need to do four things:

  1. develop and promote a pool of upcoming talent
  2. create an owner loyalty program that makes it insane for a customer to buy elsewhere
  3. implement a unique marketing message that sets your business apart from your competitors
  4. have a proactive, year-round recruiting program that builds a pipeline of talent.

Innovation requires change, and regardless of how change makes you cringe, without it, there is no progress. Consider the strategy of creating a new and unique marketing message. While advertising is important, before you spend unseemly sums to spread your message, have something worth saying—like a value proposition that differentiates you from every ‘lowest prices, biggest selection, no hassle’ loudmouth. Create a message that changes the rules and raises your business. Leaders must create an “unfair” advantage to put their businesses on the path to greatness.

If your marketing message grew stale during the boom times, you may have stagnated: Quick, in three sentences, what makes your business noticeably different than your competition? What would customers say makes you different and better?

If you don’t have convincing answers, you have some serious work to do. Today’s consumers are easily bored and quickly switch loyalties.

Shift to Strategic Thinking for Growth

Don’t confuse the scoreboard for the game. I often witness leaders comparing financial statements and benchmarking best practices. Conventions provide a forum for support, accountability, and improvement. However, the financial numbers they examine are lagging indicators. More time and effort should be put into strategic reviews. That’s because strategies (the game) determine what gets put on the scoreboard (the numbers). It’s better to spend time on different practices and less time on best practices. Rather than just optimizing and getting better (often at the wrong things), it’s smarter to become strategically different.

The best leaders don’t believe in a level playing field, or peaceful co-existence. They want their competitor’s best people and best customers. What a waste to see owners and managers treat their time like a dress rehearsal. They cut and tweak, when they should build, innovate, and compete to win.

Decide if you want to follow the herd, or get up front and leave footprints. Are you content to co-exist, or will you step up with breakthrough strategies and solid execution? Whether you sell Suzukis or sandals, what you do is less important than how you do it.

Dakota tribal wisdom declares that when a horse dies, the rider must dismount. Often, the dead horse is an impotent strategy, an ineffective leader, or poor process. For some, it’s time to dismount. Of course, there are other options. You can change riders. Go ahead and put a new rider on a dead horse and see how far he gets. Or, you can appoint a focus group to study dead horses. Or, you can benchmark how other companies ride dead horses. You might even declare it cheaper to feed a dead horse and keep on riding. Or, you can harness several dead horses together and see how far you go.

But in the end, you’ll still have to get off the horse. You’ll have to innovate, not just optimize; think strategically, not just tactically. It’s time to do more than shrink to profitability; it’s time to grow your company to greatness.

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Lessons from Jeff Bezos and Amazon

Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos

Amazon has played a key role in the structural shift away from brick-and-mortar retail, and it may lay waste to many other retailers in the years to come.

'The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon' by Brad Stone (ISBN 0316219266) Brad Stone’s The Everything Store—Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon quotes Bezos for a foundation of understanding what makes Amazon different: “We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long term-oriented, and we genuinely like to invent… Very few companies have all those 3 elements.”

  • Customer Focus: Amazon’s mission statement is to “raise the bar across industries, and around the world, for what it means to be customer-focused.” The first of the company’s Core Values is “customer obsession.” Bezos has been known to keep an empty chair at the conference table at meetings to ensure that the decision makers know that the customer needs to be represented at the table.

  • Long-Term Orientation: Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owes much of his success to his ability to look beyond the short-term view of things. In the 1997 IPO documents, Jeff Bezos declared, “It’s all about the long term, … we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies” and urged them to make sure that a long-term approach “is consistent with your investment policy.” Amazon’s management and employees “are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can tell our grandchildren about,” he added.

  • Innovation: Amazon continues to be the most innovative retailer in the world. Amazon has not only continued to revolutionize retail through numerous innovations that improve the customer experience and drive consumers to buy more goods from the company. Not only has Amazon emerged as the undisputed e-commerce champ, but the CEO has embarked on the most ambitious new growth initiatives in the company’s history. The plan to sell access to Amazon’s vaunted computing infrastructure has taken off with startups and recently with some corporations. Amazon is one of the true innovators in Web-based computing, offering pay-as-you-go access to virtual servers and data storage space.

Recommended Book: “Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone is an excellent introduction to the founding of Amazon and the vision and strategy employed by Jeff Bezos to transform Amazon.com into a retailing powerhouse.

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Before You Start a Business

Before You Start a Business

  • Come up with a great business idea: Great businesses are built on great ideas. Discover your own great idea by drawing on some basic principles plus inspiration from famous entrepreneurs. But first, you must know who your customers are, which is not as straightforward as it sounds.
  • Understand your market: Starting a business is risky. Give your business the best chance to survive and thrive by taking three important steps: conduct primary and secondary research, understand the five key success factors, and create a competitive landscape table that rates the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
  • Prototype your idea to make your idea a reality: Add two important skills to your entrepreneurial toolkit: writing a theory of business and building a prototype. By following these two actions, you’ll be able to refine your business idea, demonstrate that it’s possible to achieve, and show that your idea delivers what your customers want.
  • Perform market analysis and develop a marketing strategy: Continue your examination of the business plan by focusing on the marketing portion, which should include your research and analysis of the market as well as a comprehensive marketing strategy. Stress the importance of telling a persuasive story.
  • Conduct risk analysis: Potential investors reading your business plan will want to know that you have a plan to deal with possible obstacles and catastrophic surprises. Discover tools such as the Porter Five Forces Model and the SWOT analysis, which provide insight into critical risks and how to address them.
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Your One Chance to Break Free from the Cubicle

Break Free from the Cubicle

Almost everyone stuck in a cubicle dreams of starting his own business. Of course, starting a company while employed by another one can be tricky. Amongst thousands of books on pursuing your dreams and entrepreneurism, Ben Arment’s ‘Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love’ stands out above the crowd. Here’s some of Ben’s unique blend of insight, practical advice and inspiration.

  1. 'Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love' by Ben Arment (ISBN 159184729X) It will be scary, but you should leave your office career to launch your own company, “We are motivated by two conflicting fears in life: the fear of failure and the fear of insignificance.”
  2. Lack of time isn’t a valid excuse. “The truth is, you don’t have extra time to pursue your dream. No one does. We have to remove time from some other endeavor … sacrifice is painful but necessary.”
  3. You’ll need monetary help. “Don’t let rainmaking deter you …. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become more comfortable [with it], you might even enjoy it.”
  4. Be ready to lose sleep. “Work in the margins of your life—the late nights and early mornings—to make it a full-time reality …this is your one chance to break free from the cubicle.”
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Creating Authentic and Sustainable Value the Toyota Way

Creating Authentic and Sustainable Value

Creating authentic value goes beyond getting financial results. Getting financial results is not what the magic of leadership is all about. Even poor leaders get results—often at unacceptable costs. We can achieve our goals but harm our health; get results but damage morale; make earnings but jeopardize customer relationships; push for cost savings but diminish quality; advance our career but destroy our family.

Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, defined waste as “any activity that absorbs resources but creates no value” and “Consider the waste of overproduction, for example. It is not an exaggeration to say that in a low-growth period such waste is a crime against society more than a business loss. Eliminating waste must be a business’s first objective.” Good leaders get results; great leaders create sustainable value by serving multiple constituencies.

Dee Hock, the visionary founder of Visa, said, “As leaders, our job is to serve everyone else.” This is a powerful reframe of leadership. It is so easy, as we advance into leadership roles, to think that others are there to serve our needs. The shift means moving from leadership that is self-serving and short-term, to leadership that is constituency serving and sustainable. In Winston Churchill’s words, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” We are measured as a manager by what we produce. We are judged as a leader by what we give. As Einstein said, “It is high time the ideal of success is replaced with the ideal of service.”

Once I coached a highly-driven, results-oriented executive whose belief system was: I achieve therefore I am. All needed to serve his ego mission.

'The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer' by Jeffrey Liker (ISBN 0071392319) As his career advanced, his relationships suffered. However, because he was producing results, his bosses loved him. They were unaware of the heavy costs. One day a 360-degree assessment revealed how others viewed his leadership. At first, he resisted the input. “I’m so results-driven that I sometimes drive people too hard.”

During coaching, he began to see how his approach was getting results but not creating sustainable value: “I’ve been controlling everyone to serve my need to succeed, not serving my people.”

The watershed moment for leaders is to move from tyranny to stewardship, from being burdensome to being purposeful, from control and domination to inspiration and service. If we don’t make this leap, what behaviors will we justify in the name of financial results?

Financial results fuel organizations. Nevertheless, if we seek financial results only for the shareholders, without serving employee, customer, and environmental needs, the results will not be sustainable. New leaders will need to create more balanced measures to achieve financial results.

Finding creative, life-enriching ways to serve multiple constituencies is the leadership challenge today. One powerful way is to foster a compelling vision of our unique Value Creation proposition: What life-enriching vision do we serve? When I visit organizations, I ask people, “What do you do?” It is a type of Value-Creation Audit. Most people describe their job. Others see their role and contribution on a deeper level.

Awaken Value Creation

Here are some principles for awakening value creation:

  • Good leaders get results; great leaders get sustainable results.
  • Great leaders serve the interests of multiple constituencies.
  • Financial results are only one measure of Value Creation.
  • True Value Creation requires that we also enrich the lives of people.
  • Great leaders realize that their role is to serve, not to be served.

To build a compelling value-creating culture, ensure that people understand the life-enriching vision.

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Insightful Life Lessons from Successful Business Executives

Insightful Life Lessons from Successful Business Executives

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