Recent Posts by Learning Entrepreneurship

Marketing is Storytelling

Do you have a good story?

Seth Godin and I agree on a lot. Not everything, but a lot. Seth wrote the book on Permission Marketing and All Marketers are Liars. You'll notice he decided that title was unnecessarily provocative and also incorrect. He revised it to more correctly state that all marketers are storytellers and I agree.

I was recently reminded of the importance of good storytelling by a visit to the Montreal Auto Show – a showcase of marketing by big spenders at the automakers. They were focused on new car design concepts and electric vehicles, not so much on the company story which for many of the legacy carmakers is not very appealing.

I liked the story of a new player in the EV market – VinFast. VinFast is the automobile manufacturer in Vietnam that is part of Vingroup, currently Vietnam's largest conglomerate, founded in 1993 by Pham Nhat Vuong, a local billionaire who made his initial fortune in Ukraine when he sold his instant noodle business to Nestle. Vingroup currently operates in thirteen business sectors in Vietnam. VinFast is dedicated to building electric vehicles, "better than Tesla, at lower prices, with longer warranties and higher performance." And with a much better story of the entrepreneur-owner than the one Elon Musk has been writing for himself lately.

How good is your story? You’ve spent a lot of time and money on branding and product development to convince your customers to stick with you, but do they also love your story? That may be the deciding factor in holding their long-term loyalty.

(FYI: VinFast is accepting orders now for delivery in Canada by April. If not their car, then maybe their stock is a good buy. They’re planning for an IPO listing on NASDAQ this month. Note: NOT a stock tip! I’m not qualified. Just sharing the information.)

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

 

Keep it simple

Focus on the fundamentals.

Canadian tennis hero, Felix Auger-Aliassime, at the Australian Open this week came back from losing the first two sets in a five-set match to suddenly overpower his opponent for the next three sets and win the match. What happened?

“I decided to keep it simple,” he said. “The first two sets I was trying too hard to analyze his game and find a strategy to beat him, making it complicated. It’s tennis, just hit the ball inside the lines.”

Good strategic advice for entrepreneurs too. Keep it simple. Focus on the fundamentals.

I’ve written thousands of articles and two books of advice for entrepreneurs (which I recommend you read, of course), but it can all be summarized in six simple words: Have a plan. Avoid the mistakes.

Go back to the fundamental principles that still apply and are consistent with your vision, mission and values. The challenges will be complicated enough without your help.

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

So far, so good?

Or too soon to tell.

We’re only into the second week of 2023, so it’s too soon to tell if we’re making progress on our plans yet, but let’s check that we’re off to a good start.

Presumably, we have defined our reasonably ambitious goals and objectives for the year and we have a plan to accomplish them. Now comes the hard part – implementing the plan.

We need more than an Action Plan with names, dates and budgets assigned to it. We need to clearly communicate the guiding mission, vision, and values that were applied to the plan. We need to ensure that everyone who is required to participate in the implementation has also participated in the development of the plan; understands the rationale for the decisions and choices that were made; and is committed to supporting the implementation of the plan.

If you can check-off those items, then you're off to a good start. There’s still time to correct any deficiencies and a good start does not guarantee a good finish, but it does improve the odds. Have a good Year!

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

 

Brave New Plans for 2023

Find a new comfort zone

After two years of living with pandemic restrictions and one year of navigating through an apocalyptic world of continuing health risks, social disruption and discontent, geopolitical conflict, climate disasters, and humanitarian crises, it’s time to make brave new plans for 2023 to find our place among our fellow passengers on planet earth.

Let’s find a new comfort zone for our own peace, security and prosperity while developing new approaches to making it a better world for everyone.

Let's widen our point of view, look large at people and the planet; seek to understand, listen and learn; consider alternate beliefs and value systems. Share our own values and beliefs. Speak up against lies and bigotry, racism and hate, ignorance and misinformation and false faith in simple solutions.

Be aware of the needs of family and friends, associates and colleagues, the neighbours and communities around us. The world is waiting; it needs more of us to do better; and it needs more of the best of us.

Small steps can make a big difference. One friendly gesture; one generous act; one thoughtful contribution of time, talent, knowledge or experience; applied to one person, one family, one community at a time.

It will be another challenging year. Let’s not deny the truth or hide from the ugly facts of life. Let’s change our attitudes and our actions to make life better for ourselves and for others.

Have a great start to the New Year.

 Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Creativity

The secret sauce

As I regularly change hats from business advisor to writer of crime fiction, I’m constantly reminded of the power of creativity to achieve better results. A creative mind is one of the many traits that entrepreneurs and artists have in common, but it’s probably the most significant distinguishing factor for those whose performance excels against other equally talented and hard-working competitors.

Creativity is their superpower. Finding new ways to accomplish their goals while playing by the rules, but going beyond the conventional wisdom and standard operating procedures. Building on their knowledge and experience and daring to try something completely different. Maybe applying a strategy or technique from another domain that has never been applied to their work in the same way.

Are you adequately exercising your creative muscles? The aptitude is there, give it a push. Step out of the rut you may be in and try something completely different.

Start with testing your artistic creativity. Grab the old guitar and pick out your own tune, try sketching a favourite hometown scene from memory, re-write your last flaming e-mail into a poem. OK, if that’s too much to get you started, at least work on taking better selfies and writing more imaginative social media posts. Even on Linkedin.

Then you’ll look at your business challenges differently and see where more creative solutions might apply. Don’t go crazy, just get creative.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Choose & Use Wisely

Professionals can help

Twenty years ago, I wrote an article titled, Consultants: How to Chose, Use, and Not Abuse Them, based on my own experience as a management consultant and as a client of other consultants, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals. The article offers tips for effective professional relationships and has retained its relevance for a Blog Post at LearningEntrepreneurship.com and inclusion in Uncle Ralph’s Random Ramblings in my book of advice for entrepreneurs, DON’T DO IT THE HARD WAY.

After a recent headline in The Economist, “Do McKinsey and other consultants do anything useful?” it seems necessary to add the additional advice, “Don’t be used and abused by your consultant.”

The abuses of power and influence and the profiteering by both McKinsey and Bain in South Africa recently led to judicial investigations and criminal charges against both consulting firms. Their scandals and outrageous conflicts of interest in the past have apparently not resulted in more ethical and enlightened behaviour in the management of global consulting firms.

So be aware of what style of management is guiding the professionals that you engage to help you and your business. See Rule #3 – Compatibility: Be sure that your objectives are aligned and that they are helping you more than they’re helping themselves.

With all do respect to my fellow consultants and other ethical, enlightened professionals, use your consultants well.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Consultants: How to Choose, Use, and Not Abuse Them

Help them, help you

Since my first consulting project over thirty years ago, I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage consulting projects and the client/consultant relationship. Here is my advice, which I am sharing again to help you with your consultants (and your lawyers, accountants and other professionals):

  1. Before you introduce consultants to the process, be sure you need what you want and want what you need. Beware of consultants that agree to do whatever you want, whether you need it or not.
  2. Look internally to confirm the three "C's" of consulting project readiness: Capacity in budget, time and resources; Commitment of management and staff affected by the process; and Capability to support the project and implement the conclusions.
  3. One more "C" – Compatibility. Select your consultants from an organisation that is compatible with yours - are you a corporate multinational or a local entrepreneurial business?
  4. Recognize whether your consulting needs are strategic: requiring outside expertise to inspire and facilitate your business planning process, or operational: bringing knowledge, skills and experience that are not available internally.
  5. Meet the operating consultant. It may not be the same charming, talented person that sold you the work.  And at those fee rates you don't want to train a recent MBA, who started last week and studied your industry yesterday.
  6. Test Drive: Check whether the consultant arrives with questions, not answers; will operate as neither boss nor employee; and will win the hearts and minds of your staff. Successful consultants will listen, understand, empathize, analyze, strategize and persuade better than normal people.
  7. Remember you are hiring a consultant to challenge and push you. You are not renting a friend to tell you how smart you are.
  8. Can you confidently expect a solution that will be yours not theirs?
  9. Ask for references.  Call them.
  10. Ask who is not on the reference list and why not.  Learn what they think causes a project to be unsuccessful.  And ask which list they expect you to be on when this is over.
  11. Ask for fee rates and a work plan with estimated hours. Then agree on a fixed fee for agreed deliverables with dates, documents and milestones.
  12. Don't let their progress reports interfere with your progress.  Get what you need, not what they need for internal "CYA" requirements.
  13. Check who else is billing time to your project.  Sometimes there is a very expensive partner back at the office who needs to keep his billing rate up. Your budget can be quickly consumed while he "supervises" from a distance.
  14. Avoid surprises.  Ask about additional expenses: travel, telephone and printing. Terms of payment?
  15. Do they have a satisfaction guarantee?
  16. Get the agreement in writing, read it before signing it.
  17. Watch for signs of trouble: such as, selling more work before the work is done; long delays between on-site visits; too much time spent "back at the office" and billed to you.
  18. And finally, remember consultants are people too. They want to boast about good work and satisfied clients.  You can help them help you.  Don't be difficult.

With all due respect and best regards to my favourite clients and consulting associates.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Trust nobody  

Or trust everybody?

Rule #1:

You may know the story of the shopkeeper who decided it was time to teach his young son about the business. He told him to climb up the ladder to the top shelf, then jump down into his arms. “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you. Trust me.” The boy jumped, his father stepped back and watched him crash to the floor. He looked at his distressed son and said, “That’s Rule #1. Trust nobody.”

But he was wrong. That’s no way to run a business.

You have to trust everybody. Until they prove otherwise. Even in a retail business where the two groups of people most important to you – your employees and your customers – may be stealing from you. After a few bad experiences, it’s easy to become cynical and distrustful. Causing them to feel the same way.

Don’t let it happen. You want to be liked, respected, and trusted. So do they. We all want to do business with people who have the same values, beliefs, and attitudes.

Keep positive and trust that employees will show up on time and do their jobs responsibly; that customers will treat your staff with respect, appreciate your products and services, and pay their bills when due; and your suppliers and business partners will meet their obligations and deliver as promised.

It’s more fun and more profitable for everyone if we play by the rules and trust each other.

That’s Rule #1.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

 

Fragmented

Or focused?

In discussing politics and social issues these days, there is a lot of debate around fragmented media – both traditional and online – and the negative consequences of people remaining in their “bubble” of commentators and audiences, who all seem to agree on shared ideologies and opinions. These bubbles are too often abused and manipulated to reinforce false narratives and to provoke anger and ignorance into aggressive action against presumed foes.

Fragmented media are not effective at resolving differences or promoting intelligent analysis and developing solutions to political and societal problems.

But lets talk business.

From a business perspective it’s a brilliant strategy – focus on shared values and beliefs to build long-term loyal relationships with customers, employees, and business partners.

It’s an essential element of branding and corporate culture to enunciate guiding principles, values and beliefs to attract “believers” to the organisation. Not just loyal, dedicated customers, employees, and business partners, but enthusiastic evangelists!

That’s the way to build a sustainable business. Whether it’s a local restaurant or a global multinational brand. “Just do it!”

Targeted marketing communications adapted to small market segments can be very effective. Every customer gets positive reinforcement that they belong in the group and that they are respected both for what they have in common and for how they are different.

Fragmented marketing is good if you’re focused.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

Aim lower

Focus on small targets

Globalization is dead. Think small.

The global tendencies protecting national interests, the multinational impact of America First policies turning toward isolationism, Covid-19 supply chain disruptions and the economic sanctions resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine are all restricting international trade and reducing the benefits of global economic co-operation to local economies and restricting the prospects of corporate growth for individual businesses.

Local markets and new opportunities created by the disruption of international supply chains are now better target markets than looking for growth through international expansion.

Forget global for a while. Focus on local markets and customers who need you now more than ever.

Be resilient and adapt to new economic realities in order to thrive and prosper.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

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