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Kingdom business practitioner: Had a campfire talk lately?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Last Thursday I attended a FoundersLive.com event on Capitol Hill in Seattle.  I am not used to hobnobbing with 200 entrepreneurs in one room, but I was there to learn and to see how some of them presented their pitch to the audience.

Founders Live is an global community and social platform for entrepreneurs to inspire, educate and entertain one another.  They connect mostly on line, but also in monthly get-togethers to help each other solve problems they are facing.

Here is how the evening worked.  Five startups had been coached and selected to present their business idea to the group.  They had 99 seconds to do their pitch and then four minutes to answer questions from the floor.  After all five had completed their pitch and Q&A, the audience did a digital vote to decide on the best presentation.  Three businesses got very few votes but one had 33% and the winner gained 42%, which was an app to improve the scheduling for those with therapy needs.

So what did I learn?
  • Entrepreneurs crave feedback on their startup, and they want you to be brutal.
  • Entrepreneurs don’t usually think accounting, but they were reminded of Warren Buffet’s wisdom, “…accounting is the language of business.”
  • “Gather around the campfire” is a core-value.  It highlights the importance of swapping stories, experiences and ideas (not necessarily advice) - just being a storyteller!
  • Open the door and do nice things for others, and do it without expecting something in return.
  • One presenter was asked, “where did your idea come from?”  The answer – “from frustration.”
  • Not all entrepreneurs are young people – I met an old dude like me – in fact two years older!
  • Entrepreneurs are a positive lot; they don’t give up but keep seeking a solution to their problem.
Just a few ideas, some of which reminded me of one of the top BAM practitioners and coaches in the world.  He coordinates “huddles” which bring like-minded Kingdom entrepreneurs together to tell their stories, experiences and ideas, and learn from one another.  We in IBEC suggest that Kingdom business practitioners seek out such huddles or other venues for campfire talks.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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And God created the peanut

Saturday, March 17, 2018

IBEC Board member, Dave Kier writes a regular devotional for his employees. He has proven God to be faithful and a constant guide in building his feed company in western Iowa.  In this memo from a couple of months ago, he shares how he learned from another man of God, George Washington Carver.

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.”  Daniel 2:22 NASB®

George Washington Carver had a passion. All great men and women become great because they have a passion and they fight to pursue it. His passion was to restore the land ravaged by the Civil War and from many years of producing cotton. One day he prayed that God would open to him the secrets of the universe but instead God seemed to have told him he was “...too small to grasp the universe. But I will show you the secret of the peanut.” Carver left Missouri to attend Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa and then transferred to Iowa State Agricultural College (now called Iowa State University) where he studied botany and the peanut and sweet potato. Carver discovered 100 uses for the sweet potato and 300 uses for the peanut.

Carver never patented his discoveries of medicines, paints, dyes, food products, etc. One reason he gave was he didn’t want to benefit specific people.  A great person is a humble servant.  When asked how he learned that so many things could come from a sweet potato and a peanut, he replied “From an old book.” “What book?” the interviewer asked. Carver replied, “The Bible”. The puzzled interviewer then asked, “Does the Bible tell about the peanut?” Carver replied, “No sir, but it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and He did.”

Carver overcame many difficulties coming from a slave family to be the first black student at Iowa State and then the first black faculty member there. His passion was powered by his faith that God had a plan and the obstacles were only there to strengthen him and his determination to live out his passion to study the lowly peanut. Along with his many discoveries, he also helped pave the way for modern agriculture. He was a great man in many ways. It’s amazing what God can do with one who avails him or herself to His leading.

Bill Job also refers to Mr. Carver in a short video entitled, “Wisdom, Listen, Execute.”  Bill cites an instance when he needed wisdom, asked God for it and experienced an amazing answer.  Check it out:

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Make your meetings strategic

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Matthew Todd is a new IBEC consultant, who has owned his own company and now provides consulting help to other companies.  He used the following in one of his communications last August.

Strategic communication begins and ends at the very top of the organization. The leadership teams of the companies I work with, when asked about the quality of their meetings on a scale of 1 to 10; average just under a 4 (10 being best). Most all of these companies have been in business well past the small business death trap of 3 years, and many are 2nd + generation cycles and are considered to be top tier in their respective fields of endeavor. So why are their meetings so bad?

We are all familiar with the phrase, “Death by PowerPoint”, and I believe few of us believe the PowerPoint software and most likely the presentation itself are not the culprit. The real culprit is the nature and context of the meeting that presentation is built into. What I experienced in my own firm, and see in these low scoring meetings, is that most are called so that something can be “communicated out to the masses” whatever “mass” is in play that day. So let’s regard the statistics of how effective this style of meeting is as researched by the National Training Laboratories and presented in their Learning Pyramid.

Passive Teaching Method Retention Rates:
Lecture 5%
Reading 10%
Audio/Visual 20%
Demonstration 30%

So in spite of the gaff and chuckle we get poking fun at PowerPoint presentations, they are 4 times more effective at getting the point across than simply reading something to our team, or lecturing them on it. If they read it themselves, it is at least twice as effective. So then, why would we call a meeting like this?

At my former firm, once we realized that lack of purpose for this type of meeting, we simply cancelled them all until we could come up with a more effective way to do our business. And not very surprisingly, no one missed them! So we backed up the bus, and looked into ways we could get our meetings from well below a score of 4 (which was the case for us) and power them up to a level 10.

We did this by changing the format of those meetings to focus on solving the issues, barriers and bottle necks that were hurting our team and their progress forward. So we started having meetings richly embedded in accountability and purpose. We did this by focusing on these principles to stay on track and make the meetings more meaningful and effective. 
  1. Same day.
  2. Same time.
  3. Same agenda.
  4. Start on time.
  5. End on time.
Moving from passive download format to participatory teaching formats; in the context of the Learning Pyramid, produces a 50% retention rate for group discussion. It follows then, that discussion has to lead somewhere, and that is to a solution, with a single name holding the accountability to seeing it through. The vitality is held in the meeting format [below in Same Agenda], and pulse, but naming the singular responsible name, and following through with the team at each subsequent meeting for follow through.

Same Day | Same Time
None of these principles seem that profound, but their simplicity is what makes them most potent. The first two of same day/same time are critical because it lives on your calendar and everyone on your leadership team as well as those who they interact with continually inside and outside of the company, can learn and depend on this reality once they know it is steadfast. This alone, versus having roving meetings, will increase attendance, interest, and accountability since people won’t continually be trying to remember when that meeting was supposed to be, they will simply know because it will be fixed on that calendar. 

Same Agenda
The third item of having the same agenda is similar to the first two, in that it takes the mystery out of what is going to happen at the meeting and adds a reliability factor into that meeting pulse that you need to establish. Wandering agendas, lack of agenda entirely, and many other similar woes are meeting and energy killers. Knowing with certainty each time, what will happen in that meeting, and how it flows will have everyone prepared, thus building accountability into the process, because those items from the prior week can easily be tracked at that same point in the meeting, checked in terms of whose name went beside the action step. Most teams, have individuals that say they will do a given task in a given time frame, but in most meeting structures, there is no way to simply check on whether that happens or not. 

In fact, most of us know how that usually works, in that we don’t even remember the task or who took it on, until it doesn’t get done, and aggravates us enough that we decide to talk about it again; at the next meeting we hold, if indeed someone remembers to add it back into the agenda. You have to ask yourself how much time and energy you consume trying to keep track of those initiatives when you do not have a regular mechanism to track and report on progress. We recommend weekly 90 minute meetings, and while that sounds tedious on the front end, if you only had one meeting each week that was productive, can you imagine how much more time you would get back in your day versus rambling from meeting to meeting with that exasperated feeling of no accomplishment that most of us cycle through now?

Start on Time | End on Time
The next item is Start on time. Simply enough, it’s purely respectful. If a meeting is scheduled, and even one person is five minutes late, you have stolen time from everyone else that we there and ready. Multiply that 5 minutes by your head count in your leadership team, and then do the math, and it won’t take you long to figure fiscal cost, which pales in comparison to the aggravation and irritation had by those kept waiting. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi, a famed disciplinarian; was known for “Five minutes early is on time, on time is late!”  and he famously fined his players for not adhering to that code. Be on time when you agree to meet, don’t steal from your team.

Finally, End on time. As important as the previous four items are, this one may be the most important. Even with good meetings in place, and more of your time gained back by doing so, most of us have commitments in our business that are waiting for us any time and every time we are meeting on our business. We need to respect this as well, and reliably end that meeting on time so that our entire team can plan their day and schedule accordingly. Honor these timing aspects and accountability, attendance and attention will improve, because whatever still needs to be handled near the end of your meeting, will be there the next week, when you reliably gather with the same agenda to tackle that issue.

Cancel all meetings until...
So, my recommendation is cancel all your meetings until you can start getting them right, and respect yourself and your leadership team enough to get your business lives back on course by being more effective, efficient and engaged in the right style of meetings to take you to the next level. To learn more about having this kind of world class meeting see how they can save your time and make you and your leadership team more effective at Effective Meetings: Level 10 Meeting for Entrepreneurial Leadership Teams.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Perseverance in business– it may mean all the difference!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

I am a winter sports guy, having grown up playing hockey on the cold prairies of western Canada and skiing the Canadian Rockies before they were famously on the world circuit.  It gives me great joy to watch the winter sports in the Olympics and I tend to look for the small things which make all the difference – sometimes creating the tipping point toward success, other times toward failure.

Of course, I was overjoyed to see the success of Canadian and American athletes, some coming on the world stage for the first time and for others it was decidedly their final appearance.  But one of the most interesting characters was a little-known gal from the Czech Republic named Ester Ledecka, the first woman to win gold in two unrelated events in the same Olympics, the super-G on skis and the giant snowboarding on a snowboard.  In modern times that just does not happen.  Athletes don’t dream about it and coaches don’t tolerate thinking about it.  Except for Ester.

How does that happen?  I discovered the answer in Ledecka’s perspective and in Mikaela Shiffrin’s words, “…there’s a million different personalities, a million different ways to go about that kind of success. The one thing that does not change is perseverance and hard work. Ester was maybe the best example of that in this Games.”  Ledecka herself called it “being in my own skin.”

What a novel idea – it’s all about perseverance and hard work!  Ledecka didn’t want to hear about what was impossible. She just needed to know how difficult it would be, and then she could figure out the training and discipline the task required.

Most of us never have and never will compete at the level of the winter Olympics we just witnessed, but we can learn from the metaphors.  We can learn from what we observed about perseverance and hard work; it can make all the difference.  It reminds me of the John D. Rockefeller statement, “I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance.  It overcomes almost everything.”

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16).  And from Peter “…and to self-control, perseverance…”  (II Peter 1:6); and Paul in Romans 5:4 “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope.”  Three pretty powerful testimonials – Solomon, Peter and Paul.

Starting and operating a business in today’s world is tough going.  It is usually even more tough going in countries where IBEC coaches – central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and east Asia.  Let’s continue to work hard, dream big and persevere. It may make all the difference.  That difference creates a job for a hurting family and provides hope in knowing who Jesus is.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission