Posts Tagged: Steve Jobs

The Top 10 Signs that You Work in an Entrepreneurial-Minded Organization

November 14th, 2012

Ever thought about how entrepreneurial-minded your company was? Being entrepreneurial has nothing to do with the size of the organization or the industry you work in.  There are easy ways to know if your company is supportive of an entrepreneurial way of operating.  Does having an entrepreneurial mindset even matter? Oh, it does. We all like to work differently and have a comfort zone. Think about it. What is your entrepreneurial comfort zone? The following ten descriptions identify the components of an entrepreneurial-minded organization, do any of them sound familiar to you?

10.  You do not have a job description for your role.  Your job allows you the freedom to explore and and help others with business challenges.  Many entrepreneurial companies like Google allow one day a week to work on big or new ideas!  At my company, employees have the freedom to think and join projects of interest – no matter what their job “title” is.

9.  Your company allows you to give back in the community through volunteerism of your choice.  Entrepreneurial companies live, work, play, even worship in the markets they serve and they find a way to give back! Whether its participating in 5Ks, attending charity benefits, or holding donation drives, entrepreneurial-minded companies make sure that they play a part in community service.

8.  Your company has a supportive organizational structure and tries to cut the “red tape”.  Heavy structure and elaborate policies are designed to create order, however, they can really stifle entrepreneurial activity!

7. You have access to resources.  Sounds like an odd one for an entrepreneurial culture where boot-strapping reigns supreme, right?  But the right companies know that the proper access to the right tools, resources, and materials can inspire the spark of The Next Big Thing.  Or many, many little wins that make the company stronger!

6.  You are encouraged to take risks.  You feel like you won’t lose your job or be screamed at if you fail.  I like to say, Make all of the $9 dollar mistakes you can, limit the $999 ones.  But maybe I am wrong in the end.  Great entrepreneurial companies have leadership that tolerates failure and learns to thrive on change.

5.  Your ideas matter. Your company knows that you might be a little closer to the customer.  And that the issues and challenges you face might be hassles in your job, but, if solved might be the key to retaining customers or growing new ones! When it comes to new ideas, your opinion matters.

4.  Your company avoids the creation of individual department silos.  When business people work together across department, at all levels, and skills sets great things can happen.  “No Silos” means one general company goal.  Think Steve Jobs and Apple.  One measure, one report, one P and L for the whole business!

3.  Your company balances risk-taking and innovation with established routines,  specialization, and structure and systems that create perceived stability.  This is not easy.  Too much routine and structure stifles the entrepreneur.  Too much entrepreneurial influence ?  Well, in my opinion never a bad thing.  But, at some point all products and services start to peak in their relevance.  New ideas and companies that listen to their customers generate new revenue streams. (Shameless plug, frankly, as they need to be Outside-In®.)

2.  You are asked for your opinion.  An entrepreneurial company stays this way if it monitors itself.  The best way to monitor oneself is to ask employees how they are doing on creating an environment that encourages risk-taking and team work on to improve the business.

1.  Senior management is committed to innovation and change.  New ideas are encouraged.  Risk-taking is often rewarded, even if it bombs.  Most importantly, delegation and appropriate authority to pursue entrepreneurial ideas that better the business are handed out liberally!

Sound like your company? If so, leave a comment about your experiences. Is there anything – as an intrapreneur – that you would like to see happen at your company? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

Strength in Numbers

February 15th, 2012

I have been thinking a lot about how any business creates a sustainable competitive advantage. Some folks call this a choke point. Verne Harnish fans might recall how Rockefeller “choked” his competitors in the oil industry by owning the distribution of his oil, because he bought the barrel company that oil used to be shipped in, which controlled his costs. But sometimes advantage comes from within.

Inside advantage comes from leadership and the way leaders have organized your business. Steve Jobs and Apple were able to clobber Sony with iTunes. Most people don’t realize that Sony had a two year head start. Sony had all of the artists and a history and track record of making cool, hip electronic products. After all, they did create the Walkman!

But Sony was built like most companies. The music business had one set of leadership who had their own P&L, their own agenda and their own ego. And of course the electronics division had all these things “going for them” as well. This “silo-ing” of interests meant they could not compromise and find common ground for the greater good of the entity.

But not Apple. Apple has one P&L and a leader that made collaboration happen across sales, marketing, design and engineering. There were and continue to be less silos than other businesses. And not only did they get iTunes and the iPod to market when others could not, but the departments had common interests, high quality interaction and discussions, speed in making decisions and shared learnings. There was no BS. They limited the building and protecting of fiefdoms. Instead, they all contribute to the success of any organization. Those grey areas waste so much time, energy, resources and money.

Sounds easy to be more like Apple than Sony, right? Yes. Until you go back to your organization and see all of the silos, fiefdoms, and leadership egos that are in the way.

Who would have thought that teaming and collaboration was actually so contrarian and rebellious?

What does it mean to be an entrepreneurial family?

October 26th, 2011

Entrepreneurs are quite popular today (especially good ones). Politicians want to know how to make more of them. Government and other associations want to encourage more small business. Students of all ages are being exposed to entrepreneurial curriculum at all levels. Famous entrepreneurs, Trump, Jobs, Gates, and Branson to name a few, appear larger than life to most and are constantly featured in the media.
This is an interesting phenomenon considering that most of us grow up in family units where we are told to get good grades, pick a good school, study hard, choose a profession and work hard to get the best job in the best company in our chosen field. This is the way it has been for the last 50 years. Unless you grow up in entrepreneurial family like I did. Sure, I was tempted by the “ideal” path expected of my generation but being a part of an entrepreneurial family means so much more to me.
I am a 4th generation entrepreneur. My great grandmother owned a corner grocery store in Wilmington, DE in an era when few women worked, let alone owned a business. My grandfather was very handy and was always repairing things like radios and appliances. His handy work soon grew to become Burkhard Hardware. My father, as a young boy, used to sweep the floors and stock the store shelves. He went on to work traditional jobs in banking and finance before starting a staffing firm, Placers. If you follow my story I have brought that brand back and Placers exists again! Today, my father is truly a serial entrepreneur with success and of course failure in many industries. (Hear Alan speak on Executive Leaders Radio, fast-forward to 13:26)
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I was taught at a very young age that being an entrepreneur is one of the only ways to be in complete control of your own destiny. As young adults, so many of us study and work hard as students. We get good grades, are active in our community, we choose the right school and then we decide what we want to be and we do our best to pick a good company. But then we stop doing things for ourselves. We put the responsibility for our futures in the hands of the company. The company is well-intended but as an employee, you are at the whim of the business. Business plans change; businesses are bought and sold, headquarters relocate and leadership changes. All of it happens to you. You are not in control.
As an entrepreneur, however, you can manage your own career and have the ultimate control — to be your own boss. When you are in charge, through the good and bad, at least you’re working for yourself. It does not make the act of running a company easier but you control your own destiny.
For now, take control of your own destiny. Trust a fourth generation entrepreneur, my family has controlled our destiny for more than 100 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is your personal culture?

October 12th, 2011

Last week, I heard my father speak to several hundred high school students about the realities of today’s workforce and workplace. Several days later when Steve Jobs passed, I made an interesting connection. Jobs was the world’s ultimate contrarian. In a famous speech at Stanford, he challenged the college graduating class to be careful about spending too many days doing things they don’t like. Spend every day like it is your last, he encouraged them. “Do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle,” said Jobs. There was such a parallel between Job’s speech and my father’s address that I had to share.

My dad’s first key point was that when you are young, you do not know yourself. You’re made up of other peoples’ ideas, thoughts, values and opinions. It is your family values and your friends that make up what you believe in and what you stand for. You begin to figure yourself out in your high school and college years – you don’t learn your personal culture or “culture of one” from the educational system.

Even once we’ve figured out our culture of one, my father believes that few of us know how to truly maximize ourselves. There is always a gap between who we are and what we are capable of. Having awareness of that gap is the first step of maximizing your potential. My father believes it is a leaders job to challenge folks to work on and close their gap.

At CBI Group, closing the gap is a big part of my goal as an employer. I have created an environment where people can both figure out and live their culture of one. I challenge them to define their gap — the gap between what they are capable of and what they are currently producing. This is what culture can be — how leaders can unleash the best in people.

This “Burkhard Theory” is something I have heard my father talk about hundreds of times, for most days of my life, in fact. I have worked on my “culture on one” and I live each day to maximize what I am capable of. I am not smarter, more gifted, blessed or special than anyone else. I just work harder at improving myself and that gives me confidence. This is our contribution. This is what we stand for. And those are my dad’s words. I simply chose to live them.

We can all take a page from Steve Jobs and his life. Hope you enjoyed the talk.

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