Thursday 7 February 2013 @ 1:00 pm
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are useful tools, but building a business network requires the personal touch.
Social networking may be all the rage, but online acquaintances are probably not going to put their own reputations on the line in order to help you build your business. That takes a more personal touch.
A business "network" isn't about how many people know your name; it's about how many will send you customers or help you advance your career, according to Joanne Black, author of the bestseller No More Cold Calling.
According to Joanne, there are four types of people who will trust you enough to give you a referral. Here they are listed in descending order of their "networking" value:1. Your satisfied clients (present and past).
These are customers who have done enough business with you in the past so that they know, beyond a doubt, that you're a valuable and trusted resource.2. Your close friends and family.
Your intimates (hopefully) know that you're trustworthy and are therefore willing to use their own connections to help you out. These people are less valuable because they're probably a bit biased.3. Individuals that your clients, friends, and family have contacted on your behalf.
In this case, you have a "residue of trust" because the original referrer has endorsed you. Since this is "one step removed," it's a weaker link.4. Individuals who you've met through talking with the individuals in category three.
If you build a relationship at this point, these people begin to function as if they were in category 3, thereby creating more networking opportunities.
The trick to building out your business network is first to get categories one and two to put you in touch with category three, and then use a telephone call or personal meeting to build a relationship with the people in categories three and four.
As you build out your business network, you must remain constantly aware that you are NOT selling something. The process involves creating and strengthening a social connection. Sales pitches are completely counterproductive here.
When you contact individuals to create your network, the tone should be that of a meeting between friends (or potential friends) rather than the classic interaction between a seller and buyer.
To make this happen, somebody in your network must make the initial contact.
For example, if you want your brother-in-law to contact his former business partner (whom you want to add to your network), you get your brother-in-law to email the partner and suggest that the two of you get together to talk.
Important: Ask your brother-in-law (or anyone who's providing you with a networking referral) to get back to you to confirm that the action (like an email or call) has actually been taken.
To get the maximum benefit from the referral, follow-up three times:Within one day of the referral meeting, contact your original contact with your thanks for the referral.After you've reached the new contact, send another thank-you to the person who referred you. (E.g. "You were right; Natalie is terrific!").If the referral results in a some business taking place or even a further referral, send another thank-you to the original contact.
If you set aside a certain time every day to build up your personal business contacts, you'll eventually find that you know (and are trusted at least to some degree) by hundreds of people who can help you find new business and create new opportunities.
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Wednesday 6 February 2013 @ 4:39 pm
Contrary to popular belief, the multi-billionaire founder of Microsoft is not a visionary, but an executor. Here's how.
The popular myth is that Bill Gates is a visionary. He foresaw his MS-DOS operating system as a goldmine, and he tricked IBM, the biggest computer company on earth, into letting him retain the copyright. Microsoft software still dominates the desktop more than 30 years after Gates helped launch the personal computer revolution.
This story fits with the widely-held notion that coming up with a "big idea" is what it takes to accomplish a lot, and become very wealthy.
Though most people I surveyed for my forthcoming book, Business Brilliant also hold this belief, an important subset do not. The most successful, the ones who have become enormously wealthy, know better. They say that success requires extraordinary execution on an ordinary idea.
Indeed, if you look more closely at the details of Bill Gates' entrepreneurial life, you'll find it supports the latter point, too.
Gates took Microsoft to the top by executing brilliantly, and always in service of other people's visions, never his own. By parlaying his way through a series of ever-bigger business deals--all with fairly ordinary products--he went from zero to billions in less than a decade.
Here are the three critical ways Bill Gates aced execution:
Rather than merely innovating or dreaming, Gates took a disciplined approach toward software as a potential source of business opportunities.
He and his partner Paul Allen wrote the first version of Microsoft BASIC just to get in on the ground floor with a pioneer maker of home-built computer kits. Gates quit Harvard and moved to New Mexico to work with the company, named MITS, hoping to make Microsoft BASIC an industry standard. A few years later, Gates and Allen made similar moves to get close to Digital Research, then the leading maker of the most popular PC operating system. They even marketed a translator that allowed Digital Research software to work on Apple computers, as a strategic move to ride on Digital Research's coattails.
Microsoft's ties to Digital Research led directly to its big opportunity, with IBM. When IBM couldn't get Digital Research to provide an operating system for IBM's new PC project, Gates was there to volunteer for the job. It didn't matter that Microsoft had no expertise in operating systems.
Strategic positioning, as well as a little luck--not some "big idea"--gave Gates the opportunity to make billions with MS-DOS for IBM.
Gates was never too proud to be the second banana. Like a true entrepreneur, Gates saw the "structural holes" in the personal computing marketplace and moved in to occupy them, always in a subordinate spot to the big players.
First Gates positioned Microsoft as the junior partner to the pioneering MITS, and then served in a similar junior-partner role with industry leader Digital Research. The little-known version of Microsoft's marriage to IBM is that Gates started out as an ardent matchmaker between Digital Research and IBM. Gates eagerly tried to bring the two giants together, content to be the second-class software in a marriage between big players. But when Digital Research and IBM couldn't tie the knot, Gates stepped into the void, fearing that IBM might quit the PC project altogether. No matter what, Gates respected IBM's potential power in the PC market and wanted to be a part of it.
The irony is that by the time Gates had gone on to become the richest man on earth, the first two of his "senior" partners were long gone and forgotten. The third, IBM, stopped making PCs in 2004.
And, by the way, Gates never duped his partner IBM into letting him keep the licensing rights to MS-DOS. IBM's policy was to not hold the rights for any product developed outside its doors, for fear of legal liability. Gates got the same deal on licensing that IBM would have given to Digital Research or anyone else.
Gates always helped his partners succeed on their terms, not his own. With MS-DOS, timing was IBM's paramount concern. Missed deadlines might cause IBM higher-ups to pull the plug on the PC project, but Microsoft had only a few months to produce the software. So Microsoft took a quick-and-dirty shortcut. It bought the rights to a PC operating system made by another Seattle software company, and built MS-DOS on top of it. Gates later admitted it would have taken a year for Microsoft to create MS-DOS from scratch.
IBM was notoriously hard on its vendors. During the development phase of MS-DOS, buttoned-down IBM executives hounded Microsoft employees on security breaches and little procedural details. It drove Gates' team members nuts and they compared working with IBM to "riding the bear." But Gates persisted and told his team to suck it up. MS-DOS was delivered on time.
At first, the software was so buggy that IBM engineers had to rewrite the entire thing. But the point is that Gates did what the partner needed. It didn't matter if MS-DOS was a shoddy operating system based on someone else's design. It came in on time and preserved the project. Rather than vision, and certainly not pride of workmanship, Gates was all about execution.
That's the Gates method: Act strategically, partner powerfully, and "ride the bear."
You too can look for the structural holes in your industry, work with the strongest partners that will have you, and do everything you can to help those stronger partners succeed.
Tuesday 5 February 2013 @ 5:20 pm
Small businesses react to the prospect of fewer visits from the USPS.
By this summer, the days of eagerly waiting by the door for post on Saturdays may be over.
Oh wait, I was thinking of a summer day in 1972. Or maybe a Norman Rockwell painting. Does anyone care about Saturday mail delivery anymore?
We'll soon find out. Although Congress could nix the decision, the U.S. Postal Service has announced plans to cease Saturday mail delivery starting August 1. The move is a landmark one but not particularly surprising for anyone who has followed the USPS's struggles: $15.9 billion in losses its last fiscal year and a massively underfunded retiree health care fund.
The president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Fredric Rolando, came out swinging. In a statement, he slammed the postmaster general as arrogant, called the decision "counterproductive," and called for him to step down. Ending Saturday delivery, Rolando said, "would be particularly harmful to small businesses.'"
Is that true? Let's face it, a good deal of public reaction to change pits nostalgia against necessity. And some entrepreneurial-minded folks have for years been calling for the USPS to be privatized and do whatever it takes to get profitable.
I asked the Inc. audience via Facebook and Twitter if five-day delivery would affect their businesses. Without equivocation, most respondents said that it would not:
"Being in a rural area, we only get mail 3 days a week now," said Regina Bauer. "I guess the only thing it would really affect is the time-sensitive mail that has to be filled out and returned in only a few days."
No. RT @inc: The U.S. Postal Service announced plans to cut Saturday mail delivery on August 1st. Will your business be impacted?— Jon Oringer (@jonoringer) February 6, 2013
Others pointed out potential upsides. Beth Avery Fine, who owns shipping center Palencia Business Center, reminded Facebook commenters that, "other options are available for Saturday delivery but the consumer will need to pay the upcharge fees. Maybe the two largest carriers [FedEx and UPS] will see an uptick and decrease their Saturday fees to increase volume?"
@inc the impact on the environment with the gasoline savings is Huge ...— Gordon P Campbell (@soupman1951) February 6, 2013
And for anyone who's concerned about the impact of Saturday package cessation, like the reader below?
@inc The business of my closet will be impacted. #ASOS— Henrietta Farley (@HenFarley) February 6, 2013
Have no fear: package delivery will not be interrupted. If your main concern is your new shoes, you can rest easier.
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 3:16 pm
The online retailer announced Amazon Pages today, which lets retailers create web stores and market through the Amazon network.
Happy holidays: Amazon announced today that it is offering a comprehensive web retail service, called Amazon Pages.
With Pages, retailers can make customized e-stores that remain autonomous from Amazon's main site. Businesses registered with Pages will also have access to Amazon Post, a social media dashboard connected to Pages and Facebook, and Amazon Analytics, a web metrics tool that monitors Amazon Post sales and social media trends.
Amazon broke the services down like this: When a retailer registers their company through Pages, they gain access to a simple site-building tool that lets them create a custom webpage.
As TechCrunch reported, the sites come with a domain name linked to Amazon (like www.amazon.com/CompanyX).
From there, retailers can design their website with three different templates. The web building tool also lets retailers install a “Merchandising Widget” that allows customers to make purchases directly from the site. Retailers can also install buttons to their social media accounts, according to Amazon. It's as simple as that.
From there, a business can manage parts of its social media presence with Amazon Post. With the Post dashboard, users can simultaneously post messages and updates to their company's Facebook profile and Amazon retail page. They can also write a batch of posts in one sitting, and then schedule them to go live throughout the day.
Finally, Amazon Analytics will let registered retailers easily monitor web traffic and customer habits through digestible charts and graphs. Users can see how many customers are brought to their site through Amazon Posts, which Amazon Posts spark the most consumer reaction, which items sell the best, and more.
As TechCrunch reported, all of these features are currently free for retailers to use. However, interested users must submit an application to Amazon and receive its approval before using the service.
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 3:04 pm
Your PowerPoint is awesome (and memorized). Your pitch is crystal clear. You're adequately caffeinated and totally pumped up. Here's why that's just not enough.
There's probably no higher concentration of former debate-team captains and Wharton MBAs than at a San Francisco start-up competition. These events are full charming serial entrepreneurs who can make even the clunkiest PowerPoint tolerable. They're great networkers who tend to wear a perma-grin.
Ben Choi doesn't fit this mold. He speaks quietly, at a measured clip. He's never started a company before, and he's never pitched at a start-up competition. But he knocked it out of the park last week at San Francisco's Under the Radar conference, at which 27 companies pitched their business ideas to panels of industry executives and investors.
Although Choi didn't have the slickest presentation and wasn't the best speaker, he did have precisely what actually it takes to win: a why-didn't-I-think-of-that kind of business idea backed by a solid business model. The product is called CoffeeTable, and it's a beautifully-designed and simple-to-navigate app for viewing retail catalogs on an iPad. (As of this week, the app is also available for the iPad Mini and iPhone.)
Here's what it looks like:
CoffeeTable has quickly become the No. 1 catalog app in the iTunes store. And the one-year-old company has only raised one round of funding: $2.5 million from RR Donnelly, which is not a VC firm but a 150-year-old $10 billion company that prints catalogs. (RR Donnelly is banking that CoffeeTable will take it into the future.)
The CoffeeTable app is free to download. The company makes money by charging retailers based on how often a catalog is opened, ostensibly to drive purchases through the app. (Clicking on a product in the CoffeeTable catalog takes you to the corresponding product page on the retailer's e-commerce site.)
"Retailers spend $15 billion a year printing and mailing catalogs, and most of those catalogs go in the trash," Choi says. "In contrast, they pay CoffeeTable only when a shopper chooses to open their catalog."
CoffeeTable is also working on analytics that will help retailers make more effective catalogs--digital or otherwise--by tracking users' interactions with the electronic catalog pages.
Roughly $270 billion in retail sales is generated by catalogs, according to the American Catalog Mailers Association. CoffeeTable has more than 170 retail partners, including Crate and Barrel, Neiman Marcus, and West Elm. And with iPads expected to be in 40% of homes by 2016, CoffeeTable targets a growth market.
When Choi stepped up to pitch his start-up to the Under the Radar conference, he noted these sorts of statistics. He also showed a massive image of Angelina Jolie, along with a quote recently attributed to her: "Brad and I were on Amazon.com for the first time a week ago. But we got lost…I'll stick to catalogs."
Jolie, one of the highest-paid actresses in the world, isn't exactly a natural stand-in for an everyday consumer, but the slide was a super-simple nod to a diversity of theories (paradox of choice; digital divide; retail-as-therapy) that may explain why retail catalogs continue to be browsed, hoarded, and even prominently displayed in homes. In other words, why print catalogs still exist despite Amazon. And why it's not a far leap that they merge with the iDevice that already sits next to the stack of them on your, well, coffee table.
Choi had tough competition. In his category, he went up against ShopAdvisor, a save-it-for-later service that alerts consumers when an item they want to buy is available, or when it drops to a certain price. It's already used by digital magazines, brand advertising, and media sites to build in deferred shopping. The other two competing companies were Swarm, an in-store smart-phone-based customer platform, and Best Decision, a social-recommendation engine for retail items.
In the end, Choi's pitch won not only his category--shopping--but also took home the Judge's Choice overall award for best company. His reaction was characteristically humble. "I'm not an experienced public speaker, but I enjoyed it," says Choi. "It was a lot of fun to tell the story."
The Angelina bit went over particularly well, he says: "People laughed."
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 2:15 pm
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 12:24 pm
Small businesses plan to spend more this season on employee bonuses and office parties than last year, according to a recent survey.
It looks like small businesses are getting into the holiday spirit--and spreading some much-needed cheer to employees.
More small business owners are reportedly going to give holiday bonuses and perks this year compared to last, according to a recent survey by American Express,
The survey found that 35% of 501 small business owners will give their employees end-of-the-year bonuses, boosting paychecks by 9% on average. Last year, only 29% awarded bonuses.
Just two in 10 said they won’t do anything special for the holidays at work, while four in 10 will throw office holiday parties and spend an average $959 on party costs.
The owners will also extend that holiday cheer to clients, the Los Angeles Times noted. About 51% will give gifts to their clients, up from 43% last year, spending $958 on average.
Perhaps the reason for the cheerful outlook? In a recent survey, a large percentage of small businesses predicted robust sales this holiday season.
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 12:02 pm
To ensure your Facebook posts reach the most people, timing is everything. Here are some tips for getting it right.
It happens all the time. You post on Facebook, and the post does really well: You get hundreds of shares and comments and thousands of clicks and likes. Awesome! So you jump on the engagement bandwagon and fire off another post.
And very little happens, because you posted too soon. You didn't wait until the first post was no longer active.
And you wasted an opportunity to further engage your customers.
Ninety-five percent of impressions and activity on social platforms happen within the feed, according to PageLever, a Facebook analytics platform that provides real-time data, post scheduling, and page-management tools. That means for any business engaged in social media--which means any business using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. for marketing and advertising--the feed is the most important place to focus.
Because competition in the feed is fierce and only the most relevant content rises to the top, I asked Brendan Irvine-Broque, director of growth at PageLever, for tips on how to perfectly time Facebook posts:
Engagement affects organic reach.
Relative engagement makes post timing hugely important. When you publish a post, Facebook first displays that post to a small subset of users.
If few people engage with the post, Facebook will show it to fewer people. If a lot of people engage with the post, Facebook will show it to many people.
Success breeds success.
Posts get the majority of their organic reach inside the first hour of being published.
This means that post timing is critical--if something posts at a time when the audience is distracted or otherwise engaged, it will reach far fewer people.
You must know when your audience is most likely to engage with your content. (Here's a general overview for optimizing a post's timing; a better approach is to use a tool that allows you to determine and understand the habits of your unique audience.)
Post timing is often counterintuitive.
Facebook is a busy place during weekdays: Most people are at work or at school, reading and sharing news, and tons of Facebook pages are publishing content because that's when the people who manage their pages tend to be working.
But think about how you use Facebook. If you're like most people, you probably use Facebook at night. Maybe you sit on the couch and sift through your News Feed.
For many companies, the best time to post is not during the middle of the day. Try weekday nights and weekends, when people have more free time.
Don't post again until your last post stops reaching people.
If you publish a post before your previous post has stopped appearing in user News Feeds, your post may reach dramatically fewer people.
Unfortunately, Facebook does not show page managers when their posts are no longer reaching people. But tools exist to help you find out. For example, PageLever Now provides analytics and insights for those first 48 hours.
Think like a user, not like a marketer.
Think about the type of content that you're posting. Is it short and to the point? If so, it's something you want people to see during the day, when they are busy but still willing to take a few seconds to like, comment, or share.
If what you're publishing requires more attention, like a three-minute video, save it for later in the day or evening, or maybe a Friday afternoon or weekend, when people have more leisure time.
Build, measure, and learn from your specific results.
Every brand, every page, and every audience is different. Real optimization comes from looking at your numbers and determining what does or does not work for your business.
If you don't have numbers, you're just guessing; never waste time and resources on a guess.
Note: PageLever offers a seven-day free trial. You may be surprised by what you learn--and you have nothing to lose but (possibly) some poorly timed posts.
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 11:52 am
The president asked corporate CEOs to weigh in. But what would small business owners say? We asked, and you answered.
The clock continues to tick down to January 1, the date on which the country is scheduled to go hurtling off the so-called fiscal cliff as severe tax increases and spending cuts kick in.
But by many accounts, there's reason for optimism. A Friday meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders left both sides confident of reaching a solution in time. And last week, the CEOs of some of the country's biggest corporations Mas Farmhouse and Mas La Grillade
"I'll put it simply: If the income I'm generating from my businesses isn't meeting my expenses, I have two options, neither of which are mutually exclusive. I will seek to increase my income and decrease my expenses. I will not do only one. Any solution put on the table has to both generate revenue and cut expenses. Economic growth has to continue, and anyone who presumes that irrational drastic inaction is going to shock us into more sensible policy is a complete and utter fool."
Paul Metselaar, CEO of Ovation Travel
"I believe CEOs, as well as other high-income folks, need to pay more and do their fair share to come up with this grand bargain. The government needs revenue to survive, and we have the lowest taxes since the Truman administration. It's not sustainable. I don't want my taxes to go up, but realistically, I don't think there are enough deductions we can eliminate to get the kind of revenues we need to significantly impact the deficit. I think rates will have to go up, and Republicans will just have to cave on that."
John Kunkel, CEO of 50 Eggs
"Nothing will slow the growth of small business like Obamacare being rolled out while taxes are raised. Most small businesses are S Corporations, meaning everything passes through to me in my personal tax return. While I show that revenue as income, all of it has really been rolled back into my business. There's plenty of money in the system already. It's just being misspent. I was encouraged to hear Mitt Romney wanted to go through each program and see if it was functioning properly. I think that's a great place to start. Before we raise taxes and put further burden on the economy, are we using the money we have correctly? It looks like Obama's digging his heels in to raise taxes, and I think that's dangerous."
Amy Baxter, CEO of MMJ Labs
"One of the people who works for me has a husband in construction. The day after Obama was elected, her husband's boss cut everyone's salary 30%, 'because it's going to get rough.' This apocalyptic reaction could bring down the economy in an ignorant form of self-fulfilling prophecy. A quick, balanced resolution to the fiscal cliff issue, including taxing the wealthy at rates already demonstrated to be tolerated by our economy, may help stop some of this behavior. Last time Obama was elected, it seemed some politicians wanted to intentionally stall the economy to get back in the White House and prove that their policies were better. If that same partisan agenda dominates now, I will begin to share some of the apocalyptic fear. We should be better than that."
Dana Marlowe, principal partner of Accessibility Partners
"As a government contractor, my company relies on these projects that the fiscal cliff would be cutting. I believe the parties can compromise by implementing serious tax reform and an overhaul of the Social Security and Medicare systems. I agree with Obama's general plan to have $2.50 in spending cuts for every dollar of increased revenue, but I believe increasing tax rates on people making more than $250,000 is too low a threshold. That $250,000 isn't all income to the family. It's much less than that, considering small businesses also require working capital, inventory, and, these days, rainy day money. I think it should be agreeable to all to increase that threshold to $500,000 per family, which wouldn't harm businesses, but would still ask the top percent of wealthy to contribute more."
Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services
"I don't envy the president on this one. He's going to be severely criticized no matter what is negotiated regarding the Bush-era tax cuts. I favor a gradual reduction of the tax cuts over the next three years. Eliminating them entirely is too serious a blow to the economy, just when the housing market appears to be getting stronger. The tax code also needs to be simplified and loopholes closed, because at the end of the day wealthy people do pay less, percentage-wise, than the middle class."
Cameron Keng, founder of Autotax.me
"We must take the leap off the fiscal cliff! Everyone forgets that our current tax rates are some of the lowest in American history. I can't say I love paying more taxes, but we need to make a decision: either accept less help and fend for ourselves or collectively tighten our purse-strings by accepting higher taxes. Social security is always in a state of ruin. We can't afford to continue the 2% reduction in payroll taxes without jeopardizing the entire program as a whole. "
Nick Balletta, CEO of TalkPoint
"The fiscal cliff is a self-inflicted wound that is the direct by-product of a lack of leadership in Washington. Here is what needs to happen: Tax rates need to be cut, flattened, or at a minimum extended permanently. Capital gains tax should be cut to 10% to drive investment for the next four years. Create a two-year moratorium on taxes on repatriated funds that U.S. corporations have sitting abroad. We need that capital working in the U.S."
Julie Haley, CEO of Edge Solutions
"The $671 billion in automatic cuts must be averted, because that would bring too much austerity, too fast. The president and Congress must make a grand bargain. First, provide continued tax relief for those making up to $250,000 a year, which will help 98% of small businesses (and it also provides relief to the upper 2% on their taxes up to $250,000). As part of the deal, flatten and cut top corporate tax rates, and at the same time, close some loopholes for top wage earners. Definitely close the loophole that allows American companies to set up shell companies abroad. This is a total scam. If my little company can pay its taxes, so can theirs. If we lower the corporate tax rate to at least 25%, it would make it more palatable."
Theresa Kern, president of MA Steel Erectors
"I'm most concerned about [the president and Congress] not reinstating the Bush tax cuts. In construction, I have a bank that I have to satisfy, and I also have a bonding company that I have to satisfy. Because we've had four or five very tough years, the bank and the bonding company have said if I make money at the end of the year, it has to remain in the business. I don't have a problem with that, except now, if the Bush tax cuts expire, I'm going to have to pay taxes on money I can't even take out of the business. I also think there should be across-the-board spending cuts, but not to programs that create jobs, like transportation and energy projects. Those programs actually increase the tax base, because they put more people to work."
What do you think should be done by January 1?
Tuesday 20 November 2012 @ 11:16 am
Obsession strikes many entrepreneurs--not just the captains of whaling ships. How to walk the fine line between determined and nutty.
Captain Ahab, from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, wasn’t the only one with a singular obsession that hounded his thoughts and kept him up at night. Entrepreneurs often have their own white whales, causing them to pace their offices thinking of only that one thing.
Your concern may lack the drama of whale hunting, but whether you’re worried about keeping up with the competition, building your business, implementing a new idea, or making sure your vision is realized, you must avoid falling into the Ahab syndrome. There is a thin line between dedication and unhealthy obsession.
Whatever your goal, don’t let it turn you into an Ahab. His obsession lost him his ship, most of his crew, and ultimately his life. And the whale got away.
Here’s how you can avoid the Ahab syndrome:
1. Don’t be obsessed by vision. I’ve always argued that visions don’t make great leaders. Great historical leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, FDR, and Mandela all had strong visions, but what set them apart was their ability to make adjustments, fine-tune their tactics, and adjust their direction. They weren’t fixated on their vision to the point of inaction. They were negotiating, creating coalitions, and moving forward.
2. Avoid the cult of personality. Personality isn’t your most reliable leadership tool. Ahab was able to establish a strong psychological bond between himself and his crew. They believed in him. The problem was that they so believed in him, and were so energized by him, that they never really questioned his ideas and became yes-men. Enamored with his personality, they were incapable of seeing his weakness.
3. Beware of groupthink. Organizations want to have a culture that embodies their values and mirrors their norms. They want likeminded people working together to produce efficiently. But if you have too many people on the same page, you’ll have too many with the same ideas. Outliers and people who see things differently can help you get a better perspective on your goals and ideas.
4. Listen to your team. Captain Ahab was deaf to his crew. He didn’t hear what they wanted. He only promised them gold if they found his white whale. It was incentive enough, but as the journey grew perilous, Captain Ahab wasn’t able to heed the warnings from his crew. He stayed focused on his goal and met his maker.
5. Take note of the failures of others. Ahab was fully aware of the harm that Moby Dick could cause. Two sister whaling ships had fatal encounters with the whale, but this did not stop Ahab from carrying on with his dangerous quest. Ahab could not view his goal and weigh the risks with clarity. He wanted to harpoon Moby Dick, but never considered that the whale would drag him down. Not learning from the experience of others is a common trap of the Ahab syndrome.
6. Remember there’s always another white whale. There will always be another opportunity, another goal or target to shoot for, and always something to work toward. In the final analysis there is always another whale, so don’t waste all your resources and deplete your political and pyschological capital on an obsessive dream or goal.