Friday, November 22, 2013

Maria Sharapova on Business and Branding

Tennis star Maria Sharapova talks to the Wall Street Journal's Lee Hawkins about her future as a tennis player and a businesswoman, her brand, her Sugarpova candy line and other products and endorsements and the rivalry with Serena Williams.
Lee Hawkins does a bit of an awkward, at times stilted interview, but he draws quite a lot from Maria Sharapova.  Business is very much underway for her, even as she still plays at the upper echelons of tennis.  Perhaps unlike hordes of other athletes, then, she is well positioned to sustain her stardom beyond the sport. 

The following are my notes: 

Time will tell, the body will tell, that is, when she retires from tennis. She wants to be in business, because she loves creating things that inspire her: You see it, you sketch it, you make it happen. Getting endorsements depends on how one uses tennis. This, in reference to Serena Williams not getting as many, even though she has won more titles than Sharapova: `I want to be greater. Forbes lists her as the highest paid woman in sports. She looks for, and partners with, companies that have similar values and understand her career: for example, Sugarpova at Henri Bendel, luxury accessories; and design venture with Cole Haan. The core of the brand is important to her, and the sustainability of brands. During recovery from shoulder injury, she focused more on her brand and worked at strengthening and extending it. Many entrepreneurs do have mentors, but for Sharapova, it's more about her coterie of trusted people, including her parents and manager. She has learned to be, and is, tough: You have to be tough in business and on the court.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chris Christie Speaks Out on Washington DC People

The government shutdown last month and the snafu with the Obamacare website have made me scratch my head. How could something like these happen to one of the most sophisticated, advanced country in the world? There seems to be such fighting between parties that it hardly makes sense to go forward with an initiative vehemently lacking in agreement.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks out, pretty bluntly, about the state of affairs in Washington DC. He confirms what I suspected. My notes: People in government don’t talk to each, and when they do, they don’t do it civilly. They don’t develop relationships. They don’t build a sense of trust. So when problems arise, they become big difficult, contentious problems. Obamacare is wrong, it’s a failure. It’s the most extraordinary overreach by government. It’s being run by people who’ve never run anything. Just a year after winning elections, Obama is being shoved out the door, and people are asking, Who’s next?

It's a doubled-edged sword, I'd say: The Governor is right, in that dismissing the President makes it difficult for him to be an effective leader. Yet, I watched a press conference, soon after the shutdown, and the President took a decidedly partisan stance. It was astounding that the topmost leader in the country reinforced an Us vs Them divide, instead of stepping above it all and taking a more reconciling approach.

There are all sorts of ways to resolve this conflict among people, but it requires first and foremost a bipartisan, or neutral but involved, leader. Conversation off the bat between parties isn't something I'd recommend. Instead, the leader must address issues, concerns and ideas with key individuals, on one side, then the other side, first. The leader works not just at understanding people as deeply as possible, but also at laying the foundation for conflict management and ultimately problem resolution.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Entrepreneurs Sound Off on Trends They Dislike

Fresh off my article Steve Blank Rethinks Entrepreneurship, I stumble on this delightful, thoughtful set of clips: Entrepreneurs themselves sound off on 2013 trends they'd like to see disappear:
  • There is something to Vine, and maybe Twitter, too, that worsens our attention deficit disorder and perhaps diminishes our critical thinking as well.
  • I am all for more meaningful fare from popular media, but as despicable as Miley Cyrus' twerking may be to many people, I am coming to see her act as a wellspring for philosophical and cultural musings.
  • Halting education cuts seems to be de rigueur.  Not only must education be held sacred in our society, but it also needs to ramped up, redone, and rebooted.

Individual entrepreneurs may have little going to them, as far as moving the needle on trends and issues is concerned.  But as a collective, they may, and some do, move mountains.

Friday, November 15, 2013

US Energy Industry Rocks the Numbers!

American track and field star Carl Lewis

ConocoPhillips posted 7 Incredible Numbers From America's Energy Revolution on their LinkedIn page, and I commented:  The energy industry alone can help us get beyond this nagging economic "funk" and radically shift geopolitics in favor of the West.

To wit, last month the US surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil and gas producer, currently at 12.1 million barrels of oil equivalent a day.  Analysts suggest that the US may be energy-independent by 2030.  

Moreover, a 2.1 million job creation impact is one thing.  But add $1200 to an average household, and Americans can appreciate the boost in very real, pragmatic ways.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Innovation Culture is Silicon Valley Secret Sauce

Booz & Company and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute set out to identify the "secret sauce" that makes the San Francisco Bay Area a global innovation leader. Our research found that the region's success stems not just from its institutions or the research budgets of its companies. It comes from a deeply ingrained innovation culture that permeates the business and research community and distinguishes the Bay Area from its competitors.
Matthew Le Merle notes the following critical success factors:
  1. Organizational alignment
  2. Culture of customer first
  3. Deep end-user understanding
Morever, Booz & Co. recommend:
  • Have a clear innovation strategy, aligned with customer needs
  • Have your technical leads report directly to the CEO
  • Develop and communicate your innovation strategy from the top
  • Constantly refresh your product development staff and welcome their ideas

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Momentary Meditations on Millennials

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, November 8, 2013

INSEAD Herminia Ibarra on Leadership Impact

Herminia Ibarra is Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD.  She was recognized in 2011 as among the Thinkers 50 - "the Oscars of management thinking" - and is again on the shortlist for the 2013 awards.  In this short video, she offers very practical insights on the following questions (screen shots):

Shift from solving problems, to figuring out which problems to solve.

Seek positions or assignments that push you to use a different style.

Don't promote staff into leadership positions, before they're ready.

Engage coaches who can personalize learning and facilitate achievement.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Success Factors for Veeva CEO Peter Gassner

Veeva Systems CEO Peter Gassner talks to Forbes about why his company is the darling of the stock market: So how did he engineer this, and how did he come to leave and push off on this own?
  • Stellar financials.  Veeva is the largest cloud company to go public in revenue, is the most profitable, and has high potential for growth.
  • Industry applications.  He saw the potential for cloud computing early on, especially for business enterprises.  For industry-specific applications, the cloud is even more valuable, because companies can "combine" them with industry-wide data.  Life sciences, where pharmaceuticals is housed, is a large industry with a lot of needs, and that is what Gassner wanted.  
  • Complementary partners. Matt Wallach is verse in industry technology, while Gassner brings in cloud computing.  Together they have both US west and east coasts covered, plus international markets.  Not just Wallach, Gassner also partners with  
  • Mobile devices.  Loading up Veeva's applications on an iPad makes the work of sales staff more effective and efficient, because it can access the cloud and draw on industry data.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Human Capital Report

Saadia Zahidi, with the World Economic Forum, speaks succinctly about the importance of people to an economy.  It's stating an obvious fact, of course.  But time and time again people seem to be the most neglected aspect of economic theory, modeling and effort.  Why?  Perhaps it's like the nose on our face, that we hardly ever notice, unless we look in the mirror.  Perhaps it's because people populate our world so much that we're enured to them.

A thriving economy needs healthy, educated, and engaged, working people
Saadia Zahidi looks at the full human endowment of an economy, across a lifetime
The four pillars of the Human Capital Index are:
  1. Education
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Workforce and Employment
  4. Enabling Environment
The Index can guide business, government and civil society on how best to deal with such pressing problems as talent scarcity and aging populations.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Power of Broke, by Daymond John

A promise, a hope, a vision.  All well and good, I suppose.  But for Daymond John, Founder and CEO of FUBU, none of these matter as much as a deed.  

He argues persuasively that entrepreneurs who succeed at securing funding may be setting themselves up to fail.  A startup bakery, he says, may boast fancy cash registers.  But their funding may be depleted, well before they've even sold a single cupcake.  

It's the sale that matters.  That's the deed.  

So mistakes that John has learned from, in his business dealings, he now abides by the intriguing notion of the power of broke.  Lack of funding forces entrepreneurs to scrape by and make a sale, which ultimately may be the seeds of future success.