Archive for the 'Entrepreneur' Category

Create Your Narrative

“What’s the best way to excite my team to charge forward?”

The young entrepreneur asking the question started a new project. He wanted to help students prepare for the ISEE Test. You can check it out at www.iseepracticetest.com. He felt he needed to focus his team’s attention and create enthusiasm about the opportunity ahead. The business started to pull in cash, and he recognized he was presented with a growth opportunity. To seize the opportunity he needed the team to double the effort. His dilemma was how to build focused commitment and excite rapid action. And so he asked: How can I best mobilize the team to accelerate the development of our service?

I was born to guide these kinds of conversations. This is what I do. I help executives and entrepreneurs imagine new futures and accelerate the journey to realize these futures. We engage in a series of conversations. I ask questions that build awareness, generate options and mobilize action.

“If you are wildly successful, where will you be in 12 months? What will students say about learning with the help of ISEE Practice Test? How many students will be using your service next year? What’s the total addressable market and what growth trajectory is available for you? Now that you are expanding into SSAT Practice Test, how will you apply your learning to accelerate the launch?” were some of the questions I asked.

He quickly showed me his excel calculus. The numbers were compelling. My next question was, “What must be true for you to seize this opportunity?  And, what must you accomplish in the next three months to deliver on these goals? How must your offerings evolve in order to create the momentum of traffic and revenue growth?”

As he talked through these topics, the picture came into focus. I was getting excited with him. “You are in ‘the forest’ of all that you are doing. All that your team is able to see is the individual ‘trees,’ not the forest. The ‘trees’ are the tasks and activities you lined up for them, but they don’t see the bigger picture that you see. They don’t see the forest and they don’t perceive the journey map you are leading them through. To excite them you need to tell them a story. You need to create a narrative. You need to describe a compelling picture.”

“Give me an example,” he said.

“We are at a crossroad,” is how you begin. It will get people’s attention immediately. Then proceed to describe how you got to this crossroad and what lies ahead. “First we had an idea. We discovered an unmet need. Students who wanted to prepare for the ISEE Test had very limited options. We gathered data and researched the market to validate the idea. That was phase one: an idea with potential.

We then embarked on phase two. In phase two we developed our solution and launched the service. With a minimal budget, we bootstrapped ourselves and launched our service. We hoped to test our hypotheses. We wanted to see if the market will respond and validate our idea by purchasing our offering. And guess what, the numbers surprised us. Shortly after launch purchases started to come in. I’d wake up in the morning and discover another two students and then another three found us, and so on, which is why I believe we are now at a crossroad.

Not only has the market given us a proof of concept. The purchase patterns reflect a significant interest. This means we have an opportunity. A truly great opportunity. But we must change gears. We must realize that we’ve reached a crossroad that requires us to shift from ‘testing the product’ to ‘building a complete solution.’ That’s what the next phase is about. Phase three is about delivering a complete solution with evaluation and additional improvements. If we can climb this hill in the next 60 days, we will be ready ahead of the school year and will be setting ourselves for dramatic growth. What do you say team? Do you believe we can accelerate our work to meet this date-with-destiny? Can we conquer this next hill in 60 days?”

By framing a narrative that shows the journey plot, you convey to your team your appreciation of what they’ve made possible and what you envision going forward. When your team shares the picture of the future and the journey story everything is possible.

Creating the narrative, telling the story of the future is leadership.

© Aviv Shahar

Update Your Value Proposition

“You don’t have to be a Lance Armstrong to get on a bike. You don’t have to be a Michael Phelps to jump in the pool.” I said to Ed earlier today. Ed is 72 years old. He came into the swimming pool as I was finishing my 40 laps. “I have not seen anyone swim like that since the summer tournament…” he said, to which I replied laughing “That’s a huge exaggeration, I would not make any beginners swim team.” Having shared my guiding philosophy above I added, “You don’t have to be a Mozart to compose music.”And so we started talking.

Ed has a nursery business up in New Jersey. It’s a family farm and they have been in business since 1920. His grandfather started the business, then his father ran the business and then Ed took it over. Now Ed’s son and son in law run the business. At this point I am all ears because I am interested in what makes things work. How does a nursery family farm survive and thrive 80 years through four generation. “What’s the secret?” I ask, “It sounds like a true American tale; there must be Hollywood material here, anyone own the rights for your story yet?” Ed laughs and says, “Not yet…”

“In the mid 80’s we started seeing Home Depots popping up all around us. We gathered around the table and looked at the facts. Every Home Depot has a plant nursery. If we didn’t differentiate, we would be out of business in no time. We had to offer our customers something they could not get at Home Depot. We wrote a big TLC on the wall – THINK LIKE CUSTOMERS and decided that would guide us. Our customers continue to come through the door for much more than just plants. Visits to our nursery have become an experience. Customers love coming to us because of the guidance they get and the experience they have when they visit. We designed special rides for the kids around Halloween and made our business a family adventure destination.”

What Ed and his son realized was that they had to change the value proposition. They were no longer in the business of selling plants as a commodity. They provide an outdoor farm experience for city dwellers where the plants are the props and the icing on the cake. The Home Depot chains can’t provide that and Ed’s family business is thriving.

How about what you do? Here is an exercise you can explore. List your key stakeholders, the people you bring value to.
1.    What is the value you provide right now?
2.    What other unmet needs can you identify?
3.    Where can you add more or new value to your offerings?
4.    What opportunities are available for you to reframe your engagement with stakeholders to provide new, differentiated value?
© Aviv Shahar

Economy 5.0 – The Age of Transformation


Everywhere you look you see crosscurrents, volatility and rapid change. But what is the big picture? Listen to our Transform2Lead insight to find out. To join our Transform2Lead circle and receive special insights and strategies not available elsewhere email me with subject line – Transform2Lead.

© Aviv Shahar

Small Business Trends Radio Interview With Aviv Shahar

Anita Campbell and Small Business Trends Radio interviewed Aviv about The Peak Productivity Zone – The Most Important 120 Minutes of Your Day.  Aviv shares critical strategies to help you create your Peak Productivity Zone and realize your business and entrepreneurial potential.

Click here to listen to Aviv’s full interview on Small Business Trends Radio (Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the red and yellow player.)

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A Wise Message To All Leaders

What can you learn from Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s former and first Prime Minister, about leading your organization?

Lee Kuan Yew is the person who inspired Deng Xiansheng to lead china to open its market and create large scale economical changes. His reflections about Singapore in his conversation with Charlie Rose carry a wise message to all leaders:

Lee Kuan Yew says about Singapore:
“It has to be a place that is useful for the world, otherwise it wouldn’t exist. We have made ourselves relevant to the world.”
Asked: “How do you maintain relevance?”
“You keep on changing. You cannot maintain relevance by just staying put. The world changes; watch it and ride the surf.”

When asked: “what’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the last 20 years?”
Lee Kuan Yew replies: “The impossible can happen.”

The message for leaders:
1. How is your world changing?
2. How must you and your organization change to stay relevant and be useful for the world?
3. What “impossibles” will you make happen?

© Aviv Shahar

We Are 20 Percent Up

“We are 20 percent up on last year at this time” said Michael the manager at the gym where I exercise when I asked how his business was doing.

“What’s the secret” I asked. I always look for anecdotal evidence. It often brings new insights.

Here is what Michael said:
First, because people are not spending on a new car or vacations, they invest in themselves more in order to feel good.
Second, we improved our customer service and personalized our offerings to a greater extent.
Third, it’s all about word of mouth and referrals.

There you have it, key trends and elements for success in this economic environment.

1. People invest in themselves, in fitness, well being and growth to help them counter challenges.
2. Personalized customer service is king.
3. Referrals are the gold mine.

How can you apply these three elements to your business in new ways?

© Aviv Shahar

ASTD Published The Consultant 3.0 Manifesto

The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) published in its Consulting Newsletter the Consultant 3.0 Manifesto by Aviv Shahar.

Listen to The Consultant 3.0: How to Thrive in Consulting in a Scary, Brave New World podcast:

“Who cares about having too many toys in your sandbox? Develop your core services and continue to expand to new fields. Let the market teach you what it wants and needs from you. Use every opportunity to create your material.”

From the Press Release:
“In Consultant 3.0: How to Thrive in Consulting in a Scary, Brave New World, Aviv, who created and delivered leadership and talent programs to Fortune 500 companies and coach CEOs, demonstrates how he turned a casual conversation with an astronaut at 32,000 feet into workshop firepower and leadership development IP. In this podcast Aviv explores the five dimensions of whole practice growth, or in NASA speak, the five engines of a thriving practice”

“The strategic imperative shifted,” explains Aviv. “When the unthinkable is the norm and the unpredictable is happening daily, the strategy imperative is not in discovering ’how to respond‘ and ’what to do‘. It is in articulating what capabilities are to be developed to meet the requirements of these alternative and uncertain futures.”

© Aviv Shahar

Are You A Meg Ryan Or A Meryl Streep?

Before I make my point, let me say, I like both of them. I like Meryl Streep and I like Meg Ryan. Each is beautiful and great in her own unique way. The point is that each represents an archetype. Meg Ryan is the same person regardless of the character she plays. Meryl Streep is distinctly unique and different in each character she plays. Meg Ryan’s authenticity is expressed in being herself in each role she assumes. Meryl Streep stays authentic by becoming the character she plays. It is not about good and bad, we love both. The question is, what works for you.

Before you say I hate Meg Ryan or I don’t like Meryl Streep, think again. Are you a different person as you move through the roles and situations of your life? Or do you stay the same regardless of the situation? This is not about your likes and dislikes on the movie screen. If you are the same person wherever you are, then you are in the “Meg Ryan” tribe. If you change, adapt and shape shift like a chameleon you are part of the “Meryl Streep” tribe.

Okay, here is my bias. We know that Meryl Streep is the queen of the screen. She is really in a league of her own. But if you try to be a “Meryl Streep” in your life you run two risks. First, the risk of mixing roles — acting one role when you interact with a group wherein you normally operate under another role. The second risk is that you may be “found out” and be perceived by some to be inauthentic when they see you take on a different role, act in a different capacity to the one they have seen you in previously.

As a consultant I work at being adaptive. When I facilitate a strategy summit I ask the unasked questions. I need to turn on a dime when I teach. In the teaching mode I may speak with enthusiasm for two or three hours straight. As a teacher the focus is on transferring experience, knowledge and the energetic vitamins that will help people connect up with new possibility and meaning, and take action. As a strategy consultant the focus is on helping the executive access new ideas and insight, and frame options. Coaching one CEO may be very different to coaching another. Each extracts a different voice out of me. One situation calls for validation, another for challenge. At times, silence opens the way forward and other times, shouting with passion shocks us into a new direction. It is more than style of presentation. It’s about stepping into a different role, where what’s needed is different. A different mode. A different speed. Different insights. A different conversation. Even different brain chemistry. Each situation creates and needs a different response. It is almost being a different person in a different space. That is doing a “Meryl Streep”. It is a mastery of a special kind.

On this blog I speak in few voices. They all come out of the same person, but they address different issues and are directed at different groups I associate and work with. What is the unifying thread? I seek to help you improve your situation. To open a new perspective. To encourage new thinking, growth and development. Is it smart to use multiple voices? I don’t know. It is easier to have just one voice. To be one thing in all situations. Branding 101 says: be consistent. Stay on message. Focus on a niche. One inch wide and go a mile deep. Become known for one thing. Be the strategy guru. The sales expert. The CEO coach. The leadership specialist or the talent expert. The Chutzpa guy. The wise sage. The creative thinker. This is the smart branding and marketing strategy.

The question is what works for you? What are you here to do and be? Are you here to do a “Meg Ryan” or a “Meryl Streep”? The freedom of Ryan is you can just be you. The freedom of Streep is that you can be anything you need to be. You can be many people and many things.

I love both but I’ve chosen Streep over Ryan in my journey. It affords me the range and freedom to live on purpose in a versatile way. To serve many situations and people. To learn and engage with a great diversity and to discover the different “voices” and “lives” that are called out of me.

© Aviv Shahar

You Can’t Be Afraid To Fail

When I read a book or watch a movie or an interview, I always look to find the “Radium” inside the pitchblende, to capture the coded line of wisdom and power. In this 60 minutes interview, LeBron James frames his philosophy about the game and about life in one simple sentence: You can’t be afraid to fail—this is the way you succeed.


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The Entrepreneur DNA – Reid Hoffman Of Linkedin

What is the DNA of entrepreneurial success?

Here are the five points, the DNA of entrepreneurial success I distilled from Reid Hoffman of Linkedin.com in a conversation with Charlie Rose.

1. Work on a great idea
2. Develop effective execution
3. Commit to change the world
4. Exercise intelligent risk taking
5. Manage your network

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