August 15, 2014
During his Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit presentation Friday morning, author and business strategy expert Joseph Grenny outlined one of the most important myths most people believe when it comes to their friendships: ”You have to chose between telling the truth and keeping friends.”
Most people believe if they have those important conversations with others, hurt feelings will lead to estrangement. Just like in business circumstances, this myth creates tensions in relationships that ultimately lead to their deterioration. He identifies what he calls “moments of disproportionate influence” where the opportunity to have the crucial conversations that can resolve conflict arise.
Grenny’s talk was just one of several I was able to watch at Baylor’s Waco Hall this past Thursday and Friday through my internship at the LAUNCH Innovative Business Accelerator. The building served as one of hundreds of host sites that presented a live video feed of the Global Leadership Summit, which took place at Willow Creek in Chicago.
Avoiding these crucial conversations in order to avoid conflict, Grenny said, “is at the heart of most of our dysfunction and barriers to achieving our potential.” He went on to describe an effective leader as someone who identifies the two or three crucial conversations that most affect his or her team or organization.
In the first session of the summit, Willow Creek’ pastor, Bill Hybels, also touched on the importance of these conversations. I’m paraphrasing here, because I wasn’t able to write fast enough to get it word-for-word, but it went a little something like this: “Conflict should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen a relationship and establish deeper levels of trust after you have resolved the issue.”
Grenny described a situation he encountered while working with an authoritarian CEO at a client company. The CEO wanted to dismiss certain parts of the plan that he and Grenny had worked on and Grenny had to decide whether to voice his objections or not. His advice for approaching these situations is to 1. Help them know you care about their problem in an effort to create “mutual purpose” and get them to relax in order to make them more likely to listen to what you have to say; and 2. Create mutual respect so they know you care about them and respect them.
August 2, 2014
This is the first of a two-part series where I check in with classmates to see how they are doing. In this first installment, I spoke with some healthcare MBA friends who are at the beginning of their administrative residencies, which is just a glorified name for an extended internship. I spoke with Hannah Reigel, who is in Oklahoma City, Stephen Chandler, in Detroit, and Michael Faulkenberry, who is in Dallas. All three will return to Baylor for their final semester in the Spring of 2015 before graduating next May.
Stephen has really enjoyed the breadth of information he has to tackle on a daily basis. “I get a combination of strategy, marketing, finance, and operations at the same time with some of the projects I’m working on,” he said. “I work on hospital-level projects as well as system-level stuff, too. So it’s been great…For me, [the residency] has been exactly what I wanted it to be.”
Hannah picked her residency because of all the access she was promised. It has not disappointed. “I can for the most part walk into any department or meeting and I am welcome,” she said. “I’ve been the most impressed by the fact that they know that I am there short-term as I have to return to Baylor, but I still have been involved in top-secret meetings.”
Michael has enjoyed being a part of getting to plan the opening of a new trauma tower of the hospital where he is based. “There was a tremendous amount of attention paid to the slightest of details, from design and equipment to accounting practices involved,” he said. “So far, I have been exposed to a myriad of issues facing the health care industry, and I have seen just how complex it truly is. I have been challenged by leaders who want my input on issues, and that has kept me focused and proactive each day.”
All three said their coworkers look just like this…
August 1, 2014
Accounting is one of those subjects I have a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, I really enjoy reading about the basic concepts of accounting, since it’s so important and it is the language of business, as they say. On the other hand, I’d rather shoot myself in the thigh than have to deal with the nitty gritty of debits and credits for every stupid little transaction there is in the world.
That being said, I want to make sure that when I graduate with an MBA this December I at least have the basics of all the subjects we take down cold. In our accounting core classes we take every semester, for example, we tend to move on to the bigger stuff and it’s just assumed you have all the basics down.
But it can be hard to remember all fine details of the accounting equation if you’re not practicing frequently. So I’ve been working through The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand for the last couple of weeks just to freshen up a bit. (I have to thank my friend, John Sabala, who recommended the book and recently finished his e-MBA at a certain school down I-35) I wish to God I had had this book in the time leading up to IMS last year when I was trying to get a little bit of a head start before the accounting class we took then. It is heads and shoulders above Accounting for Dummies.
The book teaches you accounting step by step, using a little kid’s lemonade stand and how it develops as a business as an example. The way the book is written and the way the information is presented, it actually makes accounting fun. I really enjoy learning about financial statements and stuff with that basic example. It doesn’t dumb things down, it just really breaks everything into small steps, which makes it easy to understand. I’m taking detailed notes in a Word document so in the future I can just refer to that instead of having to go through the whole book again.
I totally recommend this for someone who is interested in accounting, someone who might be having a little trouble in an accounting course he or she is taking, or if you’d just like to dust off some of the rust.
July 21, 2014
I spent the weekend in Austin and it was nice to get away from Waco for a little bit. I got to see a lot of friends and eat a lot of good food, so it was a lot of fun. It has gotten me really thinking about how to focus my job search geographically, since graduation in December is just 5 months away.
I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to go where ever the best job I can find is. The kicker is, I’m realizing how important family is to me and I don’t want to be far away from them. It’s bad enough I’m away from a lot of my relatives, most of whom live in the Northeast. If I get a job outside of Texas, say in California or the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be far away from everybody. My parents are in the middle of trying to sell my childhood home in upstate New York so they can settle full time in their house in McDade, just 30 miles east of Austin.
Meanwhile, over the last seven years I’ve grown super close to my cousin and his family, who live in Southlake, which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
So unless the coolest job in the coolest city presents itself somewhere else, I’m aiming to settle down in DFW or Austin. I’ve ruled out anything that’s not in a warm weather state, since I’ve spent a good chunk of my life shoveling snow, thank you very much.
I feel like I’m a senior in college all over again, feeling a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities that are just around the corner at graduation.
July 15, 2014
One of the tasks the other interns and I have had to work on over the past two weeks was to develop a scorecard to be used to evaluate the businesses we’ve been working with this summer. Part of the purpose of the scorecard is to be able to assess which of the current clients would be appropriate for continuing on into the incubator LAUNCH is looking to begin this fall.
One of the criteria we established for measurement is “Business model is scaled to opportunity.” So this is a measure of how the business plan has been structured to either take advantage of the full market available to the company and it’s product or service, or whether it’s structured to just be grown slowly over time to allow for the business owner to conveniently grow it while maintaining his or her other responsibilities in life. So if you’re making a new kind of widget, are you setting yourself up to be able to sell to all the companies that could benefit from your widget? Or are you structuring the plan so you can make enough widgets in your spare time, after work and on weekends, and gradually, over time, maybe, move up and service the whole market?
Our discussion of this criteria has really opened my eyes. Part of what an accelerator like LAUNCH is there to do is to help entrepreneurs and inventors see the big picture and to lay out the opportunities for growth. One of the questions we asked one of our current clients was: “What would it take to address the scale of the need, not just the scale of the need of the business to survive as a company?”
So in that particular case, the answer was to possibly hire a salesperson or two, and possibly seek outside investment. The difference, in terms of potential customers, was between a few hundred versus 7,000. The particular product in question would benefit pediatric, neuromuscular, and geriatric physical therapy patients. A large motivation for the inventor is to be able to help as many people as he can with his device. With that in mind, scaling the business model to its greatest potential is aimed more at actual patient benefits rather than an explicit profit motive.
July 7, 2014
When I first heard about Kodak filing for bankruptcy, I skimmed over the headline without clicking the link to read the full story. I just assumed the company had missed out on the digital photography opportunity, and that was the end of the story.
But I found out the other day that the company actually invented digital photography, but management ordered the projects scrapped in order to continue the focus on film.
“This tells you, it’s all about management,” Casey Leaman, one of the LAUNCH accelerator coaches told us interns.
I’ve since done some digging and found out the following, which is pretty darned interesting:
Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975 and patented numerous digital technologies. Afraid that digital would cannibalize their film photography business, they never pushed those products after bringing their first digital camera to market in 1995. Those patents are estimated to be worth $2 billion today.
In 2005, Kodak created the first WiFi camera that allowed you to share photos without having to first connect to a computer. Unfortunately, people weren’t ready for that technology, yet, and the camera didn’t sell. Kodak killed the line.
As anyone who has read Theodore Levitt’s “Marketing Myopia” will tell you, Kodak failed to realize that it wasn’t in the film photography business, it was in the photography business. It didn’t adapt to the changing innovation in its industry, which it had actually invented.
July 2, 2014
So I’ve got six months to get a job. This realization hit me a couple of weeks ago, and was quickly repressed. But that time will fly by and if the internship search taught me anything, it’s that waiting until the last minute to begin a serious search is not the way to do it. I need to start hitting up my network like now.
In the spring career and professional development class, we read a book called “The Power of WHO,” by Bob Beaudine. The gist of the book is that you already know everyone you need to know to progress with your career. The biggest challenge is the “what” of the equation. Your friends and family are there to help you, just like you are there to help them. Asking for help is not insincere. That single bit of knowledge was a major world view shift for me, since I always shied away from asking for help because I felt like I would be using people by doing so.
I learned how awesome my network is as the people in my life are doing some pretty awesome things and have some pretty awesome connections, not to mention great advice. And I also learned people you care about will bend over backwards to help you. It sounds simple, but that lesson will probably be one of the greatest things I’ll take away from my time at Baylor.
That being said, I need to start bothering my friends, because I’ve got a busy Fall semester ahead of me and need to start setting the job search ground work early.
June 24, 2014
The weirdest thing about this summer, so far, has been thinking about how one year ago, a whole bunch of us were in the IMS program, which is designed for non-business undergrads to get up to speed before the Fall semester and the real MBA program starts.
It seems like 33,000 years ago that about 20 of us first went into 410 Cashion for accounting. A combination of regular MBA and healthcare MBA students, everything seemed so far off. We’d been told that we would be with the health care students for a year, then they’d go off on their residency for 7 months, we’d finish in the fall semester without them, and they’d come back in January after we’d graduated. It felt like that year would never happen. Well it did and it’s hard to believe that I’m not going to be having classes with those guys anymore. Sure, we’ll probably stay in touch, since we’ve all become pretty close, but it won’t be the same.
There are so many times during the school year that you want to wish time to speed by, since the stress of classes and presentations and group meetings can get tough sometimes, but my advice to those in IMS is to savor every moment. Because a year and a half flies by. Your classmates quickly become friends and then quickly into something close to family. Make sure you say yes rather than no when friends ask you to do stuff out of class. And don’t take that time together for granted.
One of the major things I’ve learned during the internship so far is the importance of persuasion. One of our coaches recommended we read “To Sell is Human,” by Daniel H. Pink. The book talks about how everyone is in some capacity a salesperson because he or she has to constantly convince others to part with resources, whether it be time, money, or energy, in order to get something they are trying to sell.
During a recent pricing discussion with one of our clients, we had to convince them to consider alternative pricing strategies since we thought they were pricing their product way too low. I never really thought about how important the persuasion skill is, but it was gratifying that by the end of the meeting, we had convinced them to be open to revising their pricing model.
In arriving at their desired price, for example, they compared their application with other applications that I didn’t think were comparable services. I was able to convince them to look at direct competitors, as people have different elasticity to pricing depending on the product or service.
I made sure to frame my recommendations as a discussion and as an informational service rather than trying to be pushy, which I think was the best tactic to take.
June 13, 2014
We gathered around the conference table, peppering Casey Leaman with questions. We’d all been working on our respective projects for a little over two weeks. Our clients would be coming in at noon and we wanted to throw a few things at Casey, one of our coaches, before the weekly face-to-face meetings began.
During that hour long conversation, he shared with us some of the basic rules of business that he likes to follow. My fellow interns and I, all tasked with helping clients who range from Baylor professors to sophomore business majors, listened intently:
Rule #1: Do something! Don’t waste time waiting. Take what you have and follow your instincts.
On May 21, I started my internship at the LAUNCH Innovative Business Accelerator, housed in the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative. The other interns and I are basically startup consultants working with inventors and early stage businesses to help them get their ideas off the ground. Each of our clients are in completely different stages along the business life cycle. Some have working products and just need to figure out how to get them in the right hands and at the right price. Others have been planning their ventures for almost a year but need some help getting them to the next level.
And so we aren’t always able to get in touch with our clients to get answers to questions we might have. So Casey’s advice is always, “Do something!” We’re all smart people, he likes to tell us, we just need to stop thinking like students and start thinking like consultants. Go ahead and follow our best judgment, he likes to tell us. Chances are, the competitor analysis, website wireframe, or strategic partnerships research will be exactly what is needed. This brings us to Casey’s next rule:
Rule #2: Present things for people to react to.
It’s always better to be proactive and just go ahead and do something so you have something to show the client. It probably won’t be exactly what they want, he warns us, but it will help the process move forward and will lead to things that the client wants and needs to progress with the business. Even if it’s in an area where they will eventually need to speak to a professional, like a patent attorney, it’s good to give the client some frame of reference to start from.
There are more of Casey’s rules that I’ll share as the summer progresses. They are just the tip of the iceberg of what I’m learning at my internship. Everyday feels like a crash course in entrepreneurship. I’ve used things I’ve learned in many of the MBA classes I’ve taken and it’s fun having that base of knowledge to draw on to help real live businesses. It’s one thing to take a position on a case study in class, it’s another when you’re staring at someone who is pouring their heart and soul into a dream and looking to you for recommendations that will hopefully help that dream come true.
The lobby of the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative building.
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