The most important factor for start-ups

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The most important factor in the success of a startup is TIMING, more important than the other 4 factors; idea, team, business model or funding.  Too early means too much educational marketing, but too late means there is too much competition.  On balance innovative companies are early rather than late.  Which is why our recent book IMPACT gives you critical insights into the purchasing approach of early stage customers and what to do about it.

Free download of abridged copy of IMPACT.

Below is Bill Gross’ assessment of 200 companies.

Motivation requires good role models #leadership #olympics

This image, posted on FB struck a chord with me. When a recent survey of school children in the UK revealed the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up” was “FAMOUS”, we know we have a serious problem.

There are so many good role models out there – successful business people, sportsmen, adventurers. But what sells newspapers and magazines like Hello is ‘celebrity watching”.  What is cheap and easy TV to make are “reality TV shows” making the sad, desperate lives of ordinary people into soap operas. In in the process, making those people somehow “famous”.

So the past week, and the coming week is a chance to get to know the GB Olympic Team – ordinary people who have made extraordinary sacrifices and worked extraordinarily hard to be successful. These are the real stars who should be the celebrities and that the media and our children should see as role models.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up #culture #funny #dresscode

Relaxed, yet professional

We at Nimbus are ‘relaxed, yet professional’ and that hasn’t really changed since being acquired by TIBCO. That’s what our staff tell us. That’s what our clients tell us. That’s the exact wording in our company values statement . In the office, from the CEO down we wear jeans, polo shirts and sneakers. Or whatever people want to wear.  But when we go to clients we wear what the client wears – suit and tie at Nestlé, smart shirt and chinos at Microsoft.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up

But it is tricky when an invite to an event for a company that you don’t really understand their culture says Smart Casual. How smart? How casual? Maybe this video has a clue so you aren’t “frocking up” unnecessarily.

Does dress code drive culture, or culture drive dress code?

So our culture has driven our dress code. In fact our dress code has relaxed over the last 10 years. But we have a strong company culture. In a recent staff survey it was identified as one of the reasons people enjoy working for Nimbus.  It is one of the things that people will fight to protect. So it is one our 3 key priorities as we grow around the world – “Maintain our company culture”.

In our case at Nimbus, our culture has driven our dress code. But is the reverse true? Does a suit and tie dress code breed a stuffy, over-important culture or a very professional attitude.  By contrast is a t-shirt and jeans dress code, or even no dress code, symptomatic of a chaotic and slovenly business? I remember when I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department we had very large teams who were under-performing and came to work looking a mess.  But those same people would put on a smart shirt and tailored trousers as it was the entry requirement for the local nightclub.  So we imposed that as the minimum dress code.  Did it change the culture?  Slightly, but only slightly.

My view: Culture sets the dress code. Senior role models demonstrate both the culture and dress code. Dress code reinforces the culture, particularly for those new to the organisation.

What’s your experience?

Let’s toast the new world of work. Make mine a Martini.

In the 1970s and 80s the drinks company made famous the phrase

“Any time, any place, any where – it’s a wonderful drink you can share, Martini”

For the last 40 years the Martini stripes have been on motor racing winners, from Formula 1 to World Rallying.

They have now moved on and their marketing dollars are spent on George Clooney. He is very good as you can see from this ad, but it is not the same as a Lancia Stratos snorting through the Welsh woods on the RAC Rally. Yep, I’m a petrol head.

But that is not the point of this post.  Have you noticed that the term I am at work does not mean anything for a huge swathe of the workforce.  The self employed, the road warriers (sales and consultants) and senior executives with responsibilities  that span the globe.  At work used to mean a place, not an activity.  Any time, any place, any where.

Technology is making work more portable for lots of people. It is blurring the distinction between work and non-work.  Before work life balance was about leaving the office earlier. Now there is no office to leave. So work-life balance is even more important to get a grip on which is why this TED video is so insightful.

The new world of work is also blurring corporate boundaries. Outsourcing, shared services and sub-contracting arrangements are now possible –  work mash-ups – enabled by technology. Suppliers become a critical part of the supply chain. A point that UPS  makes clearly in their recent ad campaign We love logistics. But we need to make sure that these artificial boundaries are not visible to the customers, who themselves are becoming part of the supply chain. Just this week I was a grocery store check-out operator, a book retailer order entry clerk and an airline check in and baggage handler. All unpaid and untrained self-service.

Business leaders need to recognise these changes and think about how to redesign businesses to make the most of our most valuable resource; people.  But equally they need to consider how they measure them. They cannot be lazy and use the old metrics of ‘hours in the  office’. They need to really understand what they want people to do so that they can choose measures that motivate and reinforce the behaviours they need. And that again starts with a true end to end understanding of the process.

This sounds like change and change is hard. But the benefits of this new world of work are huge;

  • greener; Why travel to work when you don’t need to?
  • gives control back to people; Can work make your life work as parent, carer, part-time student?
  • happier  staff are more productive; Fact

We need to embrace the new world of work.  I’ll drink to that.

Social marketing = engagement Doh! #vw #stellaartois #fun #social

I remember when TV was worth watching.  But it was expensive to make “good-telly”.  Then came game shows which were cheap but lacked audience pull.  Then reality TV arrived which was the perfect answer;  cheap and more addictive than game shows. Some simply naff, some fun, some highbrow – Big Brother, So you think you can dance, Opera Star

The advertisers have latched onto social marketing. Some of the more switched on are realising that it is about engaging with the audience rather than just a cheaper form of direct email.  And it is FUN.

3 trends are changing the complexion of marketing; cloud, social and mobile.  Some brands are starting to embrace this and understand what it means.

One thing I am now seeing is reality advertising. Big brands are getting creative and engaging by running ‘competitions’.  Here are 2 examples:

TheFunTheory from VW in Sweden, which is both clever and put sometning back into society.  WELL worth a look at their ideas.  The Infinitely deep dustbin.  The Piano Stairs.  ….. And the winner  : Speed Cameras that pay you

Stella Artois who are looking to get people to send film clips and audition to be in a film, called Casting Call.  So get your phone out and start rehearsing.

Makes me think what clever, fun stuff we can do with Nimbus around the theme  “Making work esier, faster and more valuable for millions of people”.

SocialBPM software will not change behaviour #bpm #social #noss

At last some solid, researched advice Social Media: It’s About New Behaviors Not New Technologies [link for Gartner clients] from  Anthony J. Bradley at Gartner which is not social media / bubble hype.  For those of you who are not Gartner clients and cannot see the full report the summary is:

After examining over 200 cases of social media collaboration success, Gartner have identified a set of collective behaviors that underlie almost all successful efforts. They are collective intelligence, expertise location, emergent structures, interest cultivation, mass coordination, and relationship leverage. See a recent Gartner press release for descriptions of each.

However, it will probably take more that this to stop VC’s pouring money into social  media companies as the blog  Bubblicious shows.  Staggering amounts.

However there is a fascinating graph (oppostite) which shows how fast companies reached $1 bn of revenue. BTW Groupon started as a WordPress blog in 2008!!

On a more positive note, it is raising the importance of the collaborative capabilities of existing products which is something I blogged about in Social BPM – New and Improved and it is making all of us think about how the user interface should change to engage users.

So off to drive Nimbus to $1bn of revenue…..

technology has eliminated all my vacation #happy

When I worked for Andersen Consulting I used to get 6 weeks vacation, and take 4 weeks unpaid.  I needed 10 weeks to be able to go skiiing a couple of times and race sailboats in National and International competitions.  That was in the 1990’s  BC (before children)

Now in 2011 AC (After Children) I have zero vacation.  Technology did this.

So is this progress? I think so. Sounds mad, but hear me out.

With a global role at Nimbus it means that I need to be everywhere and nowhere.  But Nimbus is growing fast and never sleeps. And as we all know as an executive you never really get to take vacation.  What happens is you have a mad rush to get things done before you go, leaving you stressed as you start your vacation.  When you get back to a mountain of messages and emails and you work like a nutter to catch up.  Or you take calls and answer emails whilst on vacation.

Technology – wifi, cellphone (smartphone), laptop, webcams, skype, webex  means that I can be connected 100% of the time. Yes I need face to face meetings, but many meetings can be achieved more effectively via video conferencing. So selective use of a 747 means I travel less and do more.

I do not feel I can, or want to, step away from the business for 2 weeks and be completely out of contact.  And surrounded by this technology I don’t need to be.  However, I can be out of touch for 2-4 hours in any day. Which means I get far more flexibility about what I do with my time.

I still get calls where people say “Oh I didn’t realise you were in US. Sorry for calling you so early”.   My approach is “if my phone is on, then call me”.  I might be working late, up early due to jet lag,  or stupidly left the phone on whilst asleep.

All this means that I am never out of contact, so the concept of  “x days vacation allocation” is alien in 2011.  I will work to get the work done and work to get my work life balance right.   It is not for everyone. Some need to get away from work completely, or their role does not allow flexible working.

So what is your work life balance?  Does it mean no vacation and work flexibility, or 9-5 and 4 weeks  of vacation?

Watch this 10 min video on work-life balance and decide for yourself.