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Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

My Favorite Vision & Mission Statements


Below is a list of examples of effective Mission Statements and Vision Statements that I believe are clear.

As a reminder, an effective mission statement (or vision statement) should be:

  • Concise
  • Specific
  • Answer the question: “Are we working on the right thing?”

See How To Write A Vision/Mission Statement, an article I wrote, for more on how to write one.



The largest high-quality content producer for digital media – locally, regionally, nationally,
and globally (as of 2011).

“To be the world’s most customer-centric company.”

Apple (back in the early days when they were Apple Computer)

“A computer in the hands of everyday people.” (this was from their early days)

Ben and jerry logo.svg

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Friday, November 19th, 2010

How To Build A Successful Business From The Ground Up (Tips From Gerber!)


If you love business and are, or are considering, starting a business, the book E-Myth by Michael Gerber (sketched below) is a must-read.

Gerber is a master of teaching business who has taught thousands of business leaders.

Here are some key takeaways from The E-Myth Revisited:

The Three Personalities Of Every Business-Person

1) The Entrepreneur

  • The visionary
  • The dreamer
  • The catalyst for change
  • Turns a trivial condition into an exceptional opportunity

Blind Spot: Most people are problems that get in the way of the entrepreneur.

2) The Manager

  • The planner
  • Thinks in the past
  • The catalyst for status-quo
  • Looks at opportunities as potential problems

The Manager chases after the Entrepreneur to clean up their mess…for without the Entrepreneur, there would be no mess!

3) The Technician

  • The doer
  • The tinkerer
  • Lives in the present
  • If the Technician doesn’t do it, it won’t get done

The Three Stages of Business

1) Infancy Stage

In Infancy, you (the founder) ARE the business. You’re often working 10+ hours a day and absolutely nailing your business. You’re likely mostly being the Technician described above.

How do you know if you’re in Infancy?

Answer: If you were removed from the business, the business would disappear.

So, you don’t want to be an Infant very long.

Infancy ends when you decide that your business can not continue to be run where it’s nearly 100% dependent on you (many owners quit in their Infancy stage).

2) Adolescence

If you don’t quit your biz at this point, you move on to the Adolescence stage.

Adolescence begins when you decide to get some help.

This is often precipitated by a crisis in the Infancy stage. 😉

Gerber cautions that a major mistake many entrepreneurs make during Adolescence is that when they make their first hire they  Manage by Abdication (handing off an assignment and running away) rather than Manage by Delegation.

And Gerber points out that when you Manage by Abdication, the person/people you hired will begin dropping some balls…you may start to notice that:

  • the product might not be quite the same quality as when you built it
  • the marketing might not convert quite as well
  • customer service might become a little loosey-goosey

The reason: because you didn’t teach your new hire well enough!

You weren’t being a good “Manager.”

And then the Technician in you jumps back into action…micro-managing every part of the business process to fix the product, the marketing, the customer service.

Before you know it, you are back doing all the work again…being the “Technician.”

At this point, a business usually faces 3 scenarios…they:

  1. Get Small Again — They go back to the Infancy stage; the owner may get rid of their new hire(s)) and revert back to a sole-proprietorship.
  2. Go For Broke — They just keep going and try to scale up…these usually end up in a melt-down.
  3. Remain An Adolescent — They stay put as a grumpy owner of a small poorly-managed business, usually to the detriment of their friends, family and, especially, their business.

But there is hope, Gerber points out, and that’s the highest level of a business performance.

3) Maturity

So how do you become a “Mature” business? Simple…you start out that way!

Gerber points out that IBM’s Tom Watson attributed the following to IBM’s success:

“I had a clear picture of what the company would look like when it was finally done”

“I then asked myself how a company which looked like that would have to act.”

“…we began to act that way from the beginning.”

“In other words, I realized that for IBM to become a great company it would have to act like a great company long before it ever became one.”

These moves by an “Entrepreneur” at the beginning of a business are thus quite key.

How To Create A “Mature” Business From The Ground Up

Gerber then recommends a series of tips/approaches to how an Entrepreneur can design a business from the ground up as one that will become mature and successful. They include:

  • Turn-Key Systems — Provide the rest of the business with the system to execute. This will likely require documentation of the business’ systems in Operations Manuals that serve as a checklist for each component of your business.
  • Work On Your Business, Not In It — “Your business is not your life,” Gerber emphasizes. It is an “organism…that will live or die according to how well it performs its sole function: to find and keep customers.”
  • Your Primary Aim — You the business owner need to articulate (for yourself) your “primary aim” (as Gerber calls it). I call this a Life Purpose and you can try my How to Write A Purpose Statement article which includes an exercise that you could use to figure out your “Primary Aim” in life.
  • Strategic Objective — Develop a clear statement of what your business has to do to help you achieve your Primary Aim.
  • What’s Your Product — “What feeling will your customer walk away with? Peace of mind? Order? Power? Love? What is he really buying when he buys from you?”
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Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Jack Ma: Alibaba Will Be Bigger Than Microsoft & Walmart


There was a great interview of Jack Ma on Charlie Rose — Ma is the Founder and Chairman of the leading Chinese Internet company Alibaba.

Ma is clearly an evolved thinker. Here are some highlights:

An Internet CEO Does Not Need To Be Technical

  • Jack Ma doesn’t know how to code
  • He says he uses the Web primarily to send and receive email and browse the Web

The Core Competency of Alibaba is Culture

  • Grew from 18 to 20,000 people. We believe the customer is #1, employee #2 and shareholders #3
  • Average age of employees is 26
  • “It’s the customer that pays us the money.”
  • “It’s the employee who drives the innovation.”
  • Shareholders come and go (I’m paraphrasing).

What Types of Customers Does Alibaba Target?

  • Focus is small and medium-sized businesses.

“I’ve seen people make a fortune catching shrimps (small customers) but never make a fortune catching sharks and whales (big customers).”

  • Has 2 Million Small & Medium Sized Businesses In The U.S. Already

What Ideas Excite Jack Ma

“To be a great company, think about what social problem you can solve.”
“Anything happening in the USA will happen in China (cloud computing, mobile).”

Should US Businesses Be Excited About China Market?

  • USA should be optimistic about China market…1.3 billion people…huge demand.
  • This should continue for another 20 oe 30 years at least

How Big Can Alibaba Get?

“We should surpass Microsoft and Walmart (in size)”

“I would regret if we can’t be bigger than Walmart”…because Taobao and Alibaba goes after both businesses and consumers (while Walmart sold only to consumers).

On What Do Do With Wealth Creation

“I’ve never thought the money I have belongs to me…it belongs to society.”

“You have a couple of million you’re a rich guy” (I think he’s saying that you don’t need any more than that for yourself)

“You have $20 to 30 million  it’s capital” (presumably for a business)

“You have $100 million, it’s a social responsibility.” (i.e. you should give it back)

He certainly speaks like a true leader.

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Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

4 Easy Leadership Tips From Coach Bill Walsh

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I love to read books on leadership.

The latest one I finished (which I borrowed from the awesome San Francisco Library) was The Score Takes Care of Itself by Steve Jamison & Craig Walsh…about the leadership style of football coach Bill Walsh.

Why should you listen to Coach Walsh: well, among other things, he invented a new offense now widely used in football and turned the worst team in the league (the San Francisco 49ers) into Super Bowl champs (in just two years).

There were four leadership techniques that Walsh shared that I found most useful:

Four Leadership Tips From Bill Walsh

1) Making The Best Of What You Have

“What assets do we have right now that we’re not taking advantage of?”

E.g: Walsh took inventory of his Bengals’ struggling offense which was undersized (meaning running the ball was a big challenge) and not capable of passing for long yardage (quarterback Virgil Carter could not throw very far) (though he could throw decently for short yardage).

Walsh then took stock of what he had to work with in terms of field real estate and had an uh-huh realization that  they had 53.5 yards of width on the field (about half the distance of the length of the field) and the availability of 5 potential receivers.

Thus the West Coast Offense was born: the idea of throwing more often, to more receivers, for short yardage.

2) Good Leaders Give a Healthy Mix of Positive Criticism (not just negative/constructive criticism).

“If you’re growing a garden, you need to pull out the weeds, but flowers will die if all you do is pick weeds. They need sunshine and water. People are the same.

They need criticism, but they also require positive substantive language and information and true support to truly blossom.”

3) Good Leaders Look For These Five Qualities In Their Hires

  1. A fundamental knowledge of the area they’ve been hired to manage
  2. A relatively high — but not manic — level of energy and enthusiasm and a personality that is upbeat, motivated and animated.
  3. The ability to discern talent in potential employees.
  4. An ability to communicate in a relaxed yet authoritative — but not authoritarian — manner.
  5. Unconditional loyalty to both you and other staff members.

4) The Four Most Powerful Words In Leadership

“I believe in you” (or equivalent words of your own).

Walsh writes that even Joe Montana (who already had a bunch of confidence) benefited from his coach telling him he believed in him.

As a student of leadership myself, I strongly agree: providing confidence to your team (or friend or spouse) is perhaps the most powerful lever you can pull to help them optimize their performance.

And Walsh adds: And nobody will ever come back to you later and say “thank you” for expecting too little of them.

Note: If you want to read more about developing leadership, check out my other leadership articles.

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Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Visionary Ray Kurzweil's Data Points & Insights


I read a great interview with Ray Kurzweil in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kurzweil is a visionary (reading machines for the blind, text to speech technology, music synthesizers, a bunch of artificial intelligence stuff) and he had a few nuggets of valuable insights/data points in the interview.

Kurzweil keynotes at Stanford Singularity Summit Stanford Singularity Summit May 13, 2006

I encourage you to read the entire article, but here were my favorites:

…”technologies will be another billion times more powerful per dollar in 25 years and 100,000 times smaller in size.”

“We’ll reach a tipping point in about 15 years where we will be adding more than a year each year to your remaining life expectancy.”

“There has been 18 percent annual growth in every form of information technology for the past half century as measured in constant dollars, despite the fact that you can get twice as much of it each year for the same cost.”

“…there are 5 billion cell phones for 6 billion people…”

“Information-based technologies are affordable only by the rich at a point in time where they don’t work very well. By the time they are perfected, they are almost free.”

“The number of bits we are transmitting on the Internet is doubling every year.”

Clearly, this man thinks big.
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Saturday, June 5th, 2010

The Top 10 “John Wooden” Searches On My Blog


My John Wooden Series is receiving a bunch of traffic these days after his recent death.

I always look at what keywords people search on to make sure I’m doing my best to provide good resources on them.

Towards that end, here are the top 10 John Wooden searche phrases (in quotes below) that I’m receiving, along with relevant links/answers:

  1. “john wooden quotes” — Here’s a good list of Wooden quotes (along with how many people like each one)
  2. “john wooden 7 principles” — This refers to the “7 Things To Do” that Wooden’s father taught him
  3. “john wooden steps to success” — Here’s my post on Wooden’s 8 Steps To Success
  4. “pyramid of success john wooden” — Here’s a cool image of Wooden’s Pyramid with
  5. “bill gates and john wooden” — my old colleague Bob Evans of Information Week wrote  here that “Bill had a basketball autographed by John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach and a master strategist himself. I asked about the ball and Bill’s feelings toward Coach Wooden, but Bill just smiled and said we’d have to get to that another time.”)
  6. “john wooden records” (the best listing I can find of John Wooden’s records appears on this “John Wooden: A Coaching Legend Page at
  7. “drink deeply in books’-wooden” (this is from Wooden’s father’s list of “Seven Things To Do” — the exact wording is “Drink deeply from good books, especially the bible.”)
  8. “best john wooden book for teenagers” — I believe that “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off The Court” is the best Wooden book for teenagers
  9. “charlie rose interviews john wooden” — Here’s a link to Charlie interviewing Wooden!
  10. “john wooden personality type” — I researched this and found out that he is likely an ENFJ and Enneagram Type 1

As you know, John Wooden is a hero of mine — if there’s anything else you’d like to know about him, please comment below.

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Friday, June 4th, 2010

John Wooden Quotes From “Pyramid of Success”


[This is part of a John Wooden Leadership Series I’m doing celebrating his 100th year of life]

The following is excerpted from John Wooden’s amazing book The Pyramid of Success.

He begins with this overall quote:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

And here are Wooden’s 15 “Building Blocks” of the Pyramid of Success along with quotes on each:

1) Industriousness — “There is no substitute for hard work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.”

2) Enthusiasm — “Enthusiasm brushes off upon those with whom you come in contact. You must truly enjoy what you are doing.”

3) Friendship — “Friendship comes from mutual esteem, respect and devotion. Like marriage, it must not be taken for granted but requires a joint effort.”

4) Cooperation — “Cooperate with all levels of your co-workers. Listen if you want to be heard. Be interested in finding the best way, not in having your way.”

5) Loyalty — “Loyalty to yourself and to all those depending upon you. Keep your self-respect.”

6) Self-Control — “Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgment and common sense are essential.”

7) Alertness — “Be observing constantly. Stay open-minded. Be eager to learn and improve.”

8) Initiative — “Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it.”

9) Intentness — “Set a realistic goal. Concentrate on its achievement by resisting all temptations and being determined and persistent.”

10) Condition — “Mental-Moral-Physical. Rest, exercise and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Dissipation must be eliminated.”

11) Skill — “A knowledge of and the ability to properly and quickly execute the fundamentals. Be prepared and cover every little detail.”

12) Team Spirit — “A genuine consideration for others. An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all.”

13) Poise — “Just being yourself. Being at ease in any situation. Never fighting yourself.”

14) Confidence — “Respect without fear. May come from being prepared and keeping all things in proper perspective.”

15) Competitive Greatness — “Be at your best when your best is needed. Enjoyment of a difficult challenge. “

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Monday, May 24th, 2010

5 Tips On Managing Virtual Teams (From A Virtual CEO)


Virtual team management is not easy.

It sounds great for everyone to wake up in their pajamas and crank out work all day…but the fact is that managing virtual teams has a whole other host of challenges.

But I’ve been through it…so enjoy these first-hand tips to maximize your effective virtual teamwork.

Tips For Managing Virtual Teams

1) Hold Daily Huddles

I recommend that meet with your virtual team daily (every other day at the least).

See my article entitled How The Ritz Carlton & I Run Our Meetings: The Daily Huddle for my approach to such huddles.

These huddles can be via conference call or video-conferencing if you can afford that.

The main reasons for frequent huddles (which can be 15 minutes or less) are:

  • Speed — You will iterate faster
  • Alignment — You and your team will better stay aligned on objectives
  • Accountability — These meetings will hold you and your team accountable (it’s tough to hide poor performance when you meet daily or every other day)

2) Hold Periodic In-Person Meetings

For starters, for effective virtual team management, you’re still going to have to meet in person once in awhile.

If you are all in one country, I recommend you meet in person every other month — if that is not doable, I recommend you meet quarterly.

These in-person meetings are vital for such things as:

  • Setting longer-term goals — E.g. 3 year, 1 year and 3 month goals.
  • Virtual team building — Last I heard you can’t give hugs or high-fives over the Web!
  • Tackling discussion items that require 2 to 8 hours — Doing these virtually (i.e. over the phone) will be very stressful (especially since you and your team are already spending a lot of time on the phone)
  • Zoom-Out brainstorming — When you work virtually you tend to to be “zoomed-in” much of the time — you’ll need to leave your virtual workplace to zoom out on bigger picture/strategy items.

3) Use Document/Screen Sharing Programs — “Get on the same page!”

One of the biggest risks in virtual teamwork is that you and your team fall off the same page.

To help prevent that, I recommend you use such tools as:

  • Google Docs — This allows you to collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents together
  • ScreenShare Programs — These programs are are easy for showing your colleague what’s on your screen (screen-sharing programs I’ve used that I recommend include Mikogo, , the screen-sharing feature within Skype or Microsoft’s Live Meeting (all but Microsoft’s are free).

4) Hold A Regular Company-Wide Telephone Call

If you have multiple virtual teams (or your company is 100% virtual like ours), then I recommend that you hold a “Team Call” once or twice a month.

Topics for the team call can include:

  • An update on financials
  • An update on meeting objectives
  • Training the team on a skillset (perhaps how to use Google Docs, Mikogo or Live Meeting)
  • Praising team members for good work
  • Celebration of birthdays or anniversaries

5) Communicate Through The Appropriate Medium

Virtual team communication can be quite challenging…afterall, you can’t typically see another person’s expression or body language when you’re in a virtual office environment.

My general rule of thumb is that the more sensitive the topic to discuss, the higher the bandwidth communication you should use.

Here are examples of discussion topics and the communication method I recommend you consider:

  • Updates on product sales — Email is ok
  • Updates on a change in a company policy — Telephone preferable/email ok
  • If an employee is under-performing — Telephone is preferable (backed up by email)
  • Bad financial news — Telephone is preferable
  • If an employee needs to be let go or fired — In person is preferable/telephone is next best option (don’t do it via email!)

Leading virtual teams can be fun and rewarding…you just have to realize that it’s going to require some different approaches than working with your team in-person.

You’ll be mastering virtual teams before you know it!

If you liked this article, you may want to check out my article on Virtual Team’s Pros & Cons.

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