org learn

Does your Organization Learn?: A Guest Post From Patrick G. Mackaronis

The following is a post from Brabble director of business development Patrick G. Mackaronis. Patrick is a thought leader and subject matter expert in the fields of entrepreneurship and startups, and has been a self-starting businessman for years.

Organizations that are good learners continually adapt successfully to a changing environment. An organization cannot read a book or attend a course, so how does it learn? One thing an organization can do is regularly assess what’s working and what’s not, then make changes accordingly. This is learning from experience and it depends on rigorously facing reality. Studies have shown that the main reason high fliers in business fail to learn is that they never admit to making any mistakes. Someone or something else is always to blame. Being defensive is a sure way to avoid learning.

Sometimes we are not very good at being honest with ourselves. Defensiveness is like an immune system. It serves to protect us from a serious crisis of confidence but it can block us from really learning how we need to change. The old saying ‘’nothing succeeds like success’’ has been turned on its head of late so we now say ‘’nothing FAILS like success.’’ The moral of this story is that success can set us in concrete and prevent us from learning new ways of behaving until it is too late. Many successful organizations have failed because they stuck to the knitting long after it was still useful to do so.

There are two kinds of learning an organization can foster: constant individual renewal and a culture of organizational learning. The former is not enough. There is little point in developing talent if the organization is so risk averse that it waits too long to try new things. The need to get things ‘’right first time’’ can induce a reluctance to experiment. Fundamentally, the best learning organizations are entrepreneurial. They launch new products quickly, not worrying if they are 100% perfect.

They are religious about getting feedback from customers and other stakeholders so they can modify products or services quickly. Such trial and error learning is becoming a necessity in a world that is too complex and fast changing to plan ahead with any degree of certainty. In the past you could lay out your strategy as confidently as you could plan your vacation. Now, it is like planning a holiday in a world where prospective destinations are continually disappearing or changing beyond all recognition.

For this reason, you have to be prepared to combine your strategy with an entrepreneurial adaptability so you can change directions quickly. This means creating a culture where such organizational learning is encouraged and rewarded. This is especially important if your business competes on the basis of innovation, less so if cost, efficiency and service are paramount. But no organization can rest on its laurels for long.

Child

Encourage the Entrepreneur in Your Child

We live in a time where the entrepreneur can really shine. More and more people are going into business for themselves, freelancing, inventing, investing and otherwise becoming their own boss. You can encourage the entrepreneur spirit in your child and help him get a head start on a productive life.

Here are some tips to encourage your young entrepreneur:

  • Encourage your child to think outside the box. Don’t stifle his creativity when he talks about a new way to do things that have never been done before. Encourage him to believe in the impossible.
  • Allow your child to join in serious conversations. This will help build communication and shared values but also allows your child to connect with and understand the real world.
  • Listen and don’t lecture. Lectures get you nowhere and will stifle the creativity of your child. Allow him to talk and make suggestions. Discuss why these suggestions may or may not work.
  • Explain income, expenses and profit. Help your child understand how businesses make money and how they must spend money.
  • Allow your child to earn the value of a dollar. Through allowance, “family bucks” and other methods you can help your child learn about saving and spending in a healthy way.
  • Plan for the unexpected. Life is unpredictable and the natural entrepreneur knows how to go with the flow and pick up the pieces when things don’t go his way. You can teach your child to have a back-up plan and to plan for the unexpected.
  • Allow mistakes. Children learn through growth and making mistakes. When you don’t allow him the independence to make his own mistakes, he can never learn from them. It’s difficult to sit back and watch when you know he’s doing the wrong thing but sometimes you need to let it happen.
  • Share the knowledge of living expenses with your child. Talk about how much things cost in the home and discuss purchases that are made and the reasoning for those purchases.
  • Encourage giving to others. Allow your child to help with donations or volunteer of service to organizations or people in need.
  • Help your child set goals. Always start with small and attainable goals to avoid discouraging your child.

With these tips, you can encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in your child. No matter what he grows up to be, he will do it with the best of his ability. He will always seek new things and ask “what if?” This is one of the greatest starts you can give a child on life.

Custom made

Use Your Wholesale Suppliers: Get Your Wholesale Suppliers To Make Marketing Materials For You

Yesterday my roommate came home, excited to show me his company’s new marketing materials. “Look!” he exclaimed, waving slick, full-color brochures and thick catalogs in my face. “They even have my name imprinted on them!”

My roommate, a wholesale supplier salesman, had tapped into a little-known free marketing tool for entrepreneurs who sell products manufactured elsewhere: coop advertising.

Of course, different companies offer different marketing collateral: the wholesale suppliers my roommate represents number in the hundreds, with some offering completely free, targeted, high-end pieces custom-made for his business, while others provide little or nothing to place in the end customers’ hands. How did he find out which wholesale supplier offered free coop advertising?

He asked.

Spend a day calling all of your wholesale suppliers. Talk to their marketing or advertising departments and ask whether or not they offer coop advertising materials or free marketing collateral to their retailers, salespeople or clients. Many wholesale suppliers do, and will even print your own company name on their catalogs to assist you with your money making goals.

Research

Entrepreneurial Scientists Invent “Instant Drunk” Misting Device

Two American Scientists, have according to the British newspaper Mail Online, invented a device that allows the user to spray a mist into their mouth that makes them instantly drunk; but only for a minute or so. Style magazine UFUNK, describes the device as chic, yet mature and able to deliver a stimulating punch for just a moment or so, allowing the user to quickly regain their senses. The AFP Newswire says the new device, which has already gone on sale in Europe, could be either a stroke of brilliance or an unmitigated disaster.

The device looks a lot like an oversized lipstick case, UFUNK explains, and holds a small dose of flavored alcohol. When fired into the mouth, the user gets just 0.075 ml of alcohol, which because it is inhaled, rather than swallowed, gets into the bloodstream right away. But, because the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is so small, it’s rapidly dispersed throughout the body, causing the buzz to dissipate as quickly as it came on.

The AFP is worried that such a device might be used by people while driving, which could interfere with the driving abilities just long enough for them to cause an accident. They are also worried about the impact of abuse, particularly with young people who might fire shot after shot into their mouths until the little tank inside is depleted.

The two scientists who created the device, French designer Philippe Starck and American, David Edwards say such fears are ungrounded because the device, which they are calling “Wahh Quantum Sensations” only contains 2 ml of alcohol (enough for 21 sprays) which is mixed with a small amount of water and flavoring and isn’t enough to cause anyone harm.

The AFP isn’t buying it, adding that the device could become a popular party game favor, and noting that users could purchase many cartridges and refill the device when depleted, allowing them to consume more alcohol more quickly than any other method, possibly leading to alcohol poisoning.

UFUNK on the other hand doesn’t have any worries at all. They see the new device as interesting, innovative and likely to cause a stir within the party crowd. Because not only does it offer an instant buzz, it also looks good. Because of that they say, the device could become a must-have accessory for the in-crowd.

Wahh Quantum Sensations can be purchased for 20 Euros and is only available in Europe.

Man

Using Experts to Tackle Challenging Issues: Finding the Right Consultant Can Make or Break an Entrepreneur

Every entrepreneur has situations when business challenges are beyond her areas of expertise or that of employees. One option is to dive into an issue and work through it which can be a learning experience but can also take considerable time and energy. An alternative is to hire a consultant to provide guidance and expertise which can create quicker solutions but also be expensive.

Six Steps to Finding the Right Consultant

Business owners must make their own decisions whether using consultants is a reasonable approach for them. Here are six steps an entrepreneur can take to hire a suitable consultant when that seems to be the best option.

Define the Issue or Problem

The first step that must be taken is to analyze and define the challenge being faced. Having a poor or incomplete understanding of what needs to be changed is a common mistake and can lead to wasted money and time. It is essential to take this step seriously because the way a challenge is defined fuels the remainder of the decision-making process including the type of consultant obtained.

Perform a Cost-Benefit Analysis

The next step is to compare the cost and benefits of obtaining a consultant to that of going it alone. Costs would include the resources needed to hire the consultant and related expenses including addressing any recommendations made or the cost of devoting time and energy to do it without help.

Benefits would involve the positive impact that the challenge’s resolution has on the business or possible money saved by not hiring the consultant and just working it out internally. The cost-benefit analysis does not have to be a formal, statistical process. Just sitting down and listing the costs and benefits of each decision option can suffice if resources are not available to perform a more formal process.

Determine a Time Frame for Completion

If a decision is made to hire a consultant, it is very useful to develop a reasonable time frame for process completion. The nature of a particular business challenge may be immediate or more long-term. An entrepreneur needs to decide how quickly a resolution needs to be obtained and then plan the process around that decision.

Establish a Reasonable Budget

Deciding on a budget for the process is very important to keep control of expenses. It is helpful to let the consultant know up-front how much money is available for her work and then create an action plan that stays within the budget. Open-ended agreements with consultants are never a good idea.

Take the Selection Process Very Seriously

Finding a consultant is similar to hiring a good employee. It is essential to spend the time to ensure that the person is qualified and is a good fit for the organization. Ask colleagues and local professional associations for referrals and then meet with candidates to discuss the business challenge and how each would address it. In-person meetings are essential to gain the best impression about the qualities of a consultant and if she is the right person for the job.

Choosing a Consultant

After speaking with candidates and creating a short-list of potential choices, ask each one to submit a proposal including a list of references. The proposal should summarize the discussion points from previous conversations and identify the problem or issue, scope of work, budget and payment arrangements, and timeframe for completion.

Review each proposal carefully to determine consistency with previous conversations and expectations and identification of the most reasonable approach that fits within the defined budget. Also, establish a payment plan that allows for regular progress reviews for achievement of specific milestones. Lump sum payments up-front are never a good idea.

Careful Consideration of a Consultant Will Lead to Success

It isn’t hard to find entrepreneurs who can relate horror stories about consultation arrangements having gone bad. While receiving poor outcomes from hiring a consultant is always a possibility, good planning by following these six steps will increase greatly the chances of success.

When Will Housing Prices Rise? Is There Still Time to Buy Before Home Values Begin to Increase?

The following is a guest post from Nigerian real estate developer Michael Chudi Ejekam.

There are many reasons why this is a good time to buy a home.

Housing prices have been falling for more than a year in most parts of the country. Sellers, many of them desperate to sell their residences, are willing to compromise on everything from price to closing dates to repairs. Buyers also can choose from a large inventory of unsold homes.

A new report, though, by the National Association of Realtors may signal the start of the much-awaited recovery of the housing market.

And with that recovery may come an increase in the sales prices of homes on the market.

Home Values Rise

The latest sales survey by the Realtors association says that the median value of existing homes — which includes condos, single-family homes and condominiums — rose by 4.2 percent from February to March. Home values do typically rise in March. However, housing values historically have risen only an average of 1.8 percent from February to March.

The 4.2-percent increase this year means that the median sales price of an existing home in March stood at $175,200.

This is still a good value, especially considering that it is 7.1 percent lower than the median home sales price from one year ago.

Still, the Realtors report is causing some analysts to wonder whether the housing market has finally reached its bottom and is, at long last, poised for a recovery.

Will Housing Prices Continue to go Up?

A housing recovery would be good for the economy. It wouldn’t be as good for anyone hoping to buy a house.

Predicting when this recovery will come, though, is tricky business.

For instance, an economist at First American Real Estate Information, Sam Khater, in a story in the Orange County Register, predicts that a housing recovery won’t occur until late 2018 at the earliest.

But Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, is predicting that housing sales will increase significantly in the middle of summer this year. Yun points to the $8,000 first-time homebuyers tax credit, historically low mortgage interest rates and a large inventory of unsold homes as the reasons for his prediction.

Buyers Should Make a Move When They’re Ready

No one knows yet who’s right, Yun or Khater. It’s safest, then, for buyers to purchase a home when it makes sense to them, regardless of whether the housing market has hit bottom or not.

Combined with low interest rates, the declining sales prices of homes across the country mean that housing is more affordable than it’s been in a decade. Buyers who need to purchase, and who find that ideal home, would be wise to make an offer.

Market

Researching the Market Value of Inventions: Determining the Worth of a New Product Idea

While an invention can appear to have potential when considered on face-value, it is in an inventor’s best interest to research the market potential of a new product idea, the best possible, before investing further time and expense into its development. There are several basic areas that should be considered in this process of evaluating an invention, as addressed in the subheadings that follow.

Does the Invention Solve a Problem?

This is always a major question when evaluating an invention because solving a problem is the basic purpose behind all inventions. It needs to eliminate a step that adds difficulty in accomplishing something or in making that step easier for those using the invention.

Some of the ways a product-invention helps to solve a problem include the following.

  • makes a common task easier
  • eliminates a step in accomplishing a task
  • adds enjoyment to a task
  • provides a convenience when performing a task

If for example an invention is in the area of household cleaning products the invention should solve a problem or add a convenience in that area. A product that makes it easier to empty a full vacuum cleaner bag, a dishwasher additive that improves the cleaning action on dishes and an attachment for a bathtub-shower cleaning brush that allows reaching better from a standing position, would all be examples of household cleaning products that solve a problem for consumers.

If the invention only solves a minor problem that most people are not concerned about, an inventor may feel it is not worth pursuing further. If it solves a problem that is concerning to consumers who are obviously looking for a solution, this may indicate that is has real market value. This is the basic appeal that would create sales and by determining how important it is in solving a problem or adding a convenience, this can also help to determine its potential market value.

Does the Invention have a Wide Appeal?

Even when a product has a definite problem solving ability, this does not necessarily determine how well it will sell on the market. If for example, an invention is a chew-toy for dogs with sensitive teeth that would be very desirable for owners of dogs suffering with this problem. It does however need to be determined if there are only a small number of dogs who have this problem or if there are potentially large numbers of them.

A company, who already manufactures dog chew-toys, could add this type product to their line and it would possibly be worthwhile for them to do so. An inventor however would likely only benefit to a small degree should he license the invention (to receive royalty-percentage payments) to a dog chew-toy company due to limited sales compared to products that would benefit all dogs in general.

In these cases an inventor needs to determine the cost to develop an invention into a presentable product for pet toy companies, versus the amount that might be paid in royalties under a License Agreement or for an outright sale of the invention. If the cost to develop it is not higher than the expected profit that would be made, the invention might be worth pursuing further.

Can the Invention be Manufactured at a Reasonable Cost?

Determining the cost to manufacture an invention consists of materials needed to make a finished product and in the manufacturing process. Some inventions have parts that are already available through other manufacturers and can be incorporated into the finished product, to reduce some of the cost. If there are however, parts that require special tooling or molds, this must be factored into the manufacturing cost.

If an inventor plans to license his invention and not self-manufacture it, the “Licensee” (company that will manufacture it) can conduct research for using the most affordable materials needed that still retain quality for the finished product. If an inventor plans to self-market the product-invention, he would still need to have manufacturers helping him, to conduct studies on costs to affordably but effectively manufacture a finished product on a timely basis.

Can the Invention be Packaged Affordably?

Packaging is a major factor in both protecting a product from damage and in attracting consumers with sales appeal. Most product-inventions can be packaged for sale feasibly, so that the cost of the packaging doesn’t raise the final retail price too high for consumers to afford it. There are however cases in which a product has multiple parts that must be wrapped in protective materials inside of its main container.

Products can also be heavier than average and require stronger, more expensive materials to protect and package them. An inventor needs to determine if he or a manufacturer he may license or sell his invention to, can package his product-invention efficiently and affordably, so that it can still be offered at a desirable retail price. This may require researching the cost of packaging materials and the cost to a manufacturer to complete this packaging, using similar products they already package as a guideline.

Once the cost of packaging is reasonably determined, an inventor must then combine this cost with that required for manufacturing the invention itself, to determine if an appealing final retail for consumers can still be achieved. If one type of packaging cannot achieve this, an inventor may need to look into alternative ways to package his invention.

These questions and considerations are useful in evaluating the worth in pursuing marketing of a product-invention. It is, however, also important to protect the invention as the inventor goes through this evaluation process by making sure they do not disclose details of it to anyone before they have obtained proper patent protection.

motivation

Improving Employee Performance: How well are you motivating your employees?

How do you get employees to improve their performance? Telling them what to do won’t get you very far if they already know what you want. Certainly people need to know what you expect of them, but repeating it with a stern voice could have the opposite effect from the one you want.

First, try to understand why the work is not getting done as you want. Is your employee in the wrong job? What is her work style? Some employees are creative thinkers with a short attention span. They won’t be very good at lengthy, routine or highly detailed tasks. They may have some good skills, but the cost of continually correcting their mistakes might be more than it’s worth. People perform best in roles that play to their strengths. How well do you know your employee’s strengths and work preferences?

Suppose your employee is in the right role. Then what’s wrong? Are personal problems blocking his ability to focus? How can you help him alleviate this stress? Is she not very organized? Some people perform best at the last minute. They hate planning ahead. They aren’t motivated to finish their work with time to spare. They need the sense of urgency that only last minute pressure can offer. One solution is to ask for work to be done well ahead of when you need it. You’ll only create mutual frustration if you try to change this employee’s basic work style.

Maybe your employee was doing a good job but is now demotivated because the job has become routine or because she feels ready for a promotion. An important step in motivating people is to sit down with them regularly and ask them questions about what aspects of their work they enjoy and don’t enjoy. Find out what they would like to do more of and less of, what new things they would like to be exposed to or new skills they would like to learn. If your employee wants a promotion, discuss what you see as his development needs and give him developmental tasks. Whenever you delegate a project to this employee, select the task based on how it will appeal to his self-interest. Keep in mind that we are all motivated to do what is in our own interest. Finally, do more question-asking than telling, such as: “What do you feel really motivates you?” What other kinds of jobs appeal to you?” “What kinds of work really hold your attention?” “What sorts of things do you tend to put off doing?” “What does it take to really give you a lift?” Maybe they just need a little more recognition from you.

performance chart

Managing Performance: Handling poor performance without demotivating people

Anyone can track performance. It’s a simple numbers game. The hard part is giving negative feedback. How do you get the balance right between correcting poor performance and still motivate people to perform better? How do you avoid provoking a defensive reaction, upsetting people, demoralizing them and damaging your relationship with them?

Not easy. But there are a few simple techniques that can help you make this challenge a bit easier to tackle. The first thing to do is to hold performance discussions with your team members frequently, at least once a quarter, but better still, once a month. Frequent discussions are less threatening than infrequent ones. People get more used to it; they adjust emotionally. A second step is to accentuate the positive. Discussions at work are too focused on problems, issues and things that have gone wrong. As a result, employees approach such meetings with their boss prepared to defend themselves.

The easiest way to accentuate the positive is to start every meeting with a simple discipline: ask your subordinate to list the things that went well since you last met. Ask what things he or she is most pleased about. This gives subordinates a chance to talk about achievements first, hence creating an atmosphere where they will look more forward to such meetings. As a result they will relax and feel less defensive about admitting mistakes. Put the onus on them here too. After you have asked them what has gone well, ask the flipside question: what has not gone so well? Then ask what they feel they need to do differently in future. The key point here is that it is easier for someone to admit their own errors than to have to listen to someone else tell them where they goofed up. Moreover, you are more likely to motivate better performance if your subordinates tell you their improvement plan than if you tell them what to do. If they don’t own up to something through your questions that you feel needs to be discussed, ask more specific questions: How do you feel the meeting went yesterday? How could you have helped it go smoother? Again, the key is to avoid operating in ‘’telling’’ mode.

So, the key steps here are frequency, start with positives and get subordinates to do most of the talking. Try this in group meetings as well. Ask people to state what they are pleased about since the last meeting and then what they feel they could do better.

home business

Gift Baskets As a Home Business: Exhibit Your Creative Abilities With a New Career

This type of business is not for everyone, but if you are the type of person that has arranged a bouquet of flowers from your garden for a sick friend, or saw a cute basket at a sale and then filled it with lotions or a special tea mix and gave it as a gift, this business could be for you. If you are concerned about beginning your own business, inquire at your local gift shop or florist to see if they could use your services.

Who is Suited to Creating Gift Baskets

It takes an eclectic yet organized personality to be successful at assembling and selling gift baskets. To be successful, you must have a knack for choosing gifts based on certain personality types, and a second factor is making good gift choices with the occasion in mind. This ability does not come naturally to many people, so if you have been rewarded often with comments like “You always know what I like” and “This is exactly what I was looking for”, then you are a good candidate for this business. You probably already have the innate ability to ask the customer the right questions to assemble the perfect basket for them.

Gift Baskets for a Small Budget Business

A gift basket business can be operated on a small budget since the baskets do not have to be brand new. In fact, one angle to use could be that your baskets have been rescued from the landfill because they have been repurposed. Thrift stores and garage sales are overflowing with baskets, many of which were lovingly handmade by a weaving artist, which means that they are high quality.

Think Outside the Basket

While many folks think of lotions and bath salts when a gift basket is mentioned, those items don’t have to be a part of your business at all. A tea lover might like a basket of unusual teas and a vintage teacup and saucer while a button lover might enjoy a bouquet of button flowers with a jar of collectable antique buttons, and perhaps a price guide. If you like to frequent yard sales and thrift shops, this is one type of business that can take full advantage of that hobby. Be on the lookout for birthday gifts as well as sympathy and thinking of you gifts.

Good for Limited Spaces

Gift basket assembly is a business that can be started at home even if that home is a small one. Clear out a closet, install a few shelves and store your supplies there. Your personalized gifts will sell so quickly that you won’t be able to keep your shelves stocked anyway.