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Archive for the ‘NEW IDEAS’ Category

Your Startup Is Bigger Than You

After interviewing high level business pioneers and making headway on their book, here’s a big take-away: Most people have heard the phrase, “Know your *WHY* ” But what does it really mean and how do you apply it for sustainable success?

strategy

A little history lesson in product/service development and sales: Most young entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that their innovative product is king. Wrong. Others think it’s about the content–make sure your marketing and branding strategies are on-point, and you can fill the box with just about anything. Wrong. Oh, you might find a limited amount of profit and success that way, but you’ll also find it fizzling out, and you’ll need to scramble to find the next big thing to saty in the game, virtually starting over from scratch. That’s not sustainability. That’s grit (which is a great quality, but it’s not sustainability).

Instead, “Know your *WHY*” dictates that you understand what you want your product or service to do, and you get committed to that outcome. For instance, your *WHY* may be that you want to help people come together and connect at a table together, share stories and build relationships, because people are feeling alone and disconnected. That’s your *WHY* To answer that, you might productize bottles of wine for people to share together, but what your selling is a social tool meant to provide a shared experience more than a mere product or service.

Also, to really be sustainable, your *WHY* can’t just be about something that’s meaningful to you in a vacuum. It needs to be responsive to or reflective of a cultural need. In this case, data show that people want to put money in experiences and they crave connection. So, your *WHY* of wanting to help people come together and connect at a table, share stories and build relationships answers the cultural need for interpersonal connection and shared experiences.

Now, here’s the thing, because your focus is on your *WHY* and not the singular product (e.g. wine), when you expand or scale and decide to add new products/services to your offerings, they needn’t be more wine. They merely have to be reflective of your *WHY* So, a social club, exotic tours and retreats, books designed for book clubs and other groups, film festivals and other events, etc. all can be positioned to answer your *WHY* keeping you relevant even if drinking wine goes out of style (Although, I dare not think of such a travesty!).

#startup #whystatement #scale #strategicplanning #thinkbig #business #entrepreneur #legacycompany

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THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

(aka: the selfish monologue in business = short term)

Philosophically, our only true ability in life is to generalize from oneself. The only true perception we will ever have is our own, even when we empathize or “see through another lens” it’s still our interpretation of it. So, self is always in play no matter how hard we may try to remove ourselves. That’s not a bad thing, but it can get complicated when you’re establishing a company.

Portrait of smiling businesswomanYou need to know your *WHY* but whether you consider that to be personal or universal will greatly affect the scale and ultimate sustainability of your business.

At first a company is but a seed, a beautiful idea. Then, we nurture it into existence. We feed it, water it, love it, even struggle with it, then it blooms! Still, we think of it as our own, but is that the best view for the long-term health of pure creation?

Maybe you grew an orchid — a boutique hybrid that is gorgeous and exclusive and very personal. That’s wonderful! But it’s not very SUSTAINABLE. It has a targeted quick lifespan that will be enjoyed by a very limited number of people who will get to experience it. Which is great if that’s the goal.

Perhaps, on the other hand, you’re growing a magestic cherry tree. Ahhh, that’s very different. Many entities have contributed to this successful incarnation and will soon come to rely on its existence. Sure, you planted the seed, maybe even started it in a small pot to keep it safe in its formative time, but soon it will be a critical part of a living ecosystem on the planet. Earthworms, bugs, microorganisms, squirrels, birds, owls, bats, raccoons, snakes, etc. will one day rely on its shelter, stature, fruit and other forms of its biology. Decay, sunlight, rain and dew will all contribute to it’s growth, though you may still contribute, keep it printed and healthy, it’s grown much larger than you. Frankly, it can even live without you, and that’s good. That was the point!

Using the analogy of growing these “plants” from seeds into maturity are similar in business. If you intend to stay small, as a rare flowing plant, enjoyed by an elite few, you’re allowed to be selfish with its mission — you’ll do no harm to it, and long-term sustainability that benefits many isn’t it’s goal. You’ll likely achieve success, then you’ll move on to your *next*

But, if you intend to build an empire or at least a mid-sized corporation that will be able to thrive, maybe as your legacy, long after you’re gone, you need a mission that isn’t about you but is all about the culture and ecosystem your establishing and sustaining. This is your *WHY* and it’s far bigger than *you*

You also need to ensure that this large sustainable *WHY* is something embraced by everyone and everything in your culture, from your workforce and investors to your customers and fans. The moment you think your *WHY* in this larger game is anything about you, you know you’re playing too small and threatening sustainability. Because if you think this majestic cherry tree is here to give you joy and shade, you’re not addressing the more important needs of the many contributing to it and relying on it. You’ll strangle it’s growth and prevent it from fulfilling its fullest potential for the greater good.

A small business can afford a selfish monologue for its *WHY* because its goal isn’t long-term sustainability for the masses. A larger company, intended for long-term sustainability, needs a more universal, cultural, ecosystem-oriented *WHY* to thrive and grow at the scale that is most suited to it.

#branding #scale #sustainability #corporation #mission #yourwhystatement #brandstory #startup

Proposal winning strategies – 7 tips

DaphnesGrant

[Pictured at left is an actual grant application Daphne wrote and submitted, directing a small team of clinicians and support staff. Daunting, no?]

 

Background: Daphne Street is a multi-million dollar award-winning grant and proposal writer, with more than a decade of experience in winning proposals spanning myriad fields within the nonprofit and for profit industries. From the fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services and from technology developers  to transportation services, Daphne has helped transform businesses through establishing new revenue streams and fostering profitable partnerships. Far too often, Daphne says, companies are content on submitting proposals without doing the work needed to truly be competitive and win the game. Here are 7 winning tips from Daphne:

7 Tips for Winning Proposals

  1. Do what you’re told. Read, follow directions and gather appropriate content. Never skim an application. Completing award applications and proposals are not the time to get creative, decide certain questions are superfluous or bluff your way through. You must be exacting in every minute detail: from composition and submission instructions, to addressing every detail in the scope of services and search every section to discover additional areas you need to address.
  2. Points matter. If an RFP assigns points to certain sections or questions, calculate those compared to the word count. The more points assigned to a question or section should get a higher percentage of your word count dedicated to it. It is formulaic and expected.
  3. Information gathering. Do not attempt to do this on your own unless you solely have ownership of the vault that holds all of your company’s data and are its universal content expert. More likely, you have accountants, program/department heads, specialists and industry experts on your team that can provide invaluable content to strengthen your proposal. Take the time to engage them and be specific about the type of information you need from them.
  4. Money. Your financials and budget are often the strongest and most highly weighted sections of your application. Your financials tell a complete story of your company’s financial health and whether your company is a good investment for funding. This includes tax returns, independent audits, etc. Your budget is usually what really sets you apart from the competition, and there is no shortcut for developing a winning budget: analyze ALL of your costs associated with a project and pitch a budget that is as tight as you can get it while still making a profit. In terms of for profit government proposals, you tend to make your money on volume over ticket price, so consider that when you calculate your estimated profits.
  5. Interpretation. Reading between the lines is critical in winning applications. This requires skill and experience to know exactly what questions mean and the data, details, interpretations and focus points to include within proposal responses along with the best ways to present that information, using graphics, logic models, flow charts and time tables, etc. to drive key messages.
  6. Value-added. This is where proposals are won. What additional, extraordinary benefits and features are you bringing to the table? What is unique about your offering that sets you above the competition? Skilled proposal writers know how to sniff out these details and highlight them in writing in compelling ways. From your narrative to your budget, value-added wins every time.
  7. Hire an expert. Especially when you are dealing with high stakes, it’s worth the investment to use the expertise of a pro. They often don’t come cheap, and it’s important to vet them properly, but they know the tricks of the trade that can augment your chances of winning exponentially. While there is never a guarantee that your application will win, the outstanding news is that your investment in an expert proposal writer never goes to waist unless you fully scrap your project. The application they pull together often can be repurposed to submit for various funding opportunities. It’s never a “one size fits all” job—there will be significant time spent rewriting sections and addressing varied specifications and scopes of services, but you will often find subsequent applications written to support the same project far less cumbersome.

Eat What You Kill

I’ve been working for others about as long as I have been self-employed, and I’ve learned only one thing throughout all this time: value = delivery. I began the bulk of my professional career as a grant writer, and as a grant writer you are charged with paying for yourself, plus. Usually you are required to bring in three times your salary to justify your job. Seeing as how I was never a highly-Screen-Shot-2012-06-13-at-10.40.13-AM1paid grant writer, but I did win many 6-7 figure awards, this wasn’t difficult to accomplish. My jobs have always been secure…

Now that I am a freelancer, however, I’ve noticed that my personal expectations of what I deliver to clients changed a bit. I expected pay for work–competitive pay–pay commensurate with my skills and experience. What’s wrong with that? Work is a deliverable, right? You need writing services: a blog, a book, web copy, a press release, business proposal, a grant, flier, etc. I should get paid for the work I do based on my experience, talent and quality and the value of what I deliver. Right? Not so fast.

“Eat what you kill.” I have been in the land of commissioned sales, of percentages on projects with little cash laid up front but with lots to gain on the back end, based on the overall success of my deliverables. Some people cower at the thought while others thrive with the sense of empowerment to create their own revenue. I am the latter. I like knowing that the cash in my hand is a direct result of the work I have done. In other words, “eat what you kill.” If I bring money in the door, I get more money. In this strategy, my value is directly correlated with the money I generate.

As a writer, that may sound like a strange principal, and arguably it’s not the right strategy for everyone. It’s not the right strategy for every project, either, or for every client. But, over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that this is exactly how I work best. Pay me most not just when I produce, but when what I produce turns a profit or is deemed measurably valuable to you in some meaningful way.

I’ve watched so many employees walk into businesses with a sense of entitlement that made my eyes water from the stench. They had no sense of hustle, no desire to bring efficiencies or ingenuity to the game, and felt no responsibility to add to the immediate bottom line of their workplace. Yet, they felt completely entitled to continue receiving a salary for breathing, whining and taking up space.

I’m not saying that all staff or contract positions need to conform to this philosophy, but I am saying that if you want to be deemed truly valuable, take on an “eat what you kill” mentality. Take risks that force you to deliver in big ways for you to see real pay-offs. Justify your salary by developing systems that save your company money, eliminate waste and redundancies, produce innovative products and services, commit to constantly increasing your performance and the quality of your work, or better yet bring hard cash through the door in the form of contracts, or developing a new customer base. Eat what you kill.

Organic Pumpkin Hummus

Someone asked me for a recipe using items from a supermarket–no cooking involved. Here’s a great organic (mostly) pumpkin hummus:Pumpkins and Mums

  1. purchase one container of prepared hummus (plain or just about any flavor you like)
  2. purchase one small can of organic unsweetend pumpkin
  3. purchase a container of jerk seasoning (dry not the wet stuff made of corn syrup)
  4. purchase one lemon (or lime)
  5. Purchase veggies for dipping (sweet peppers, endive, celery… whatever)

Mix the first two ingredients together. Add the juice from 1/4 – 1/2 of the lemon and season to taste with jerk seasoning blend.

Eat with veggies, and you will have leftovers for other meals (great on veggie, turkey, chicken, beef or shrimp lettuce wraps, too!)

 

New Media vs. Traditional Media — new take on “the medium is the message”

While sitting on the sidelines of today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting, listening to local panelists discuss “Traditional Media vs. New Media,” it became crystal clear that Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic phrase, “The medium is the message” first published in 1964 had become a reality far beyond anything McLuhan could have possibly imagined.

The panelists for today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting included Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times, Jeff Houck of the TBO.com, Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing, Noah Pransky of WTSP 10 News, John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times and Peter Schorsch of Saint PetersBlog.

Our experienced panelists discussed issue such as predicting whether newspapers will still be politically relevant in ten years, with most of the panel agreeing that yes, though it might look different. Schorsch was a striking voice of dissent on this issues, stating flatly, “absolutely not.” Schorsch pointed out that newspapers are not economically sound and that the on-line publications The Huffington Post and Politico were Pulitzer Prize winners this year.

Largo Mayor Pat Gerard asked the panel a pertinent question in the wake of local newspaper layoffs and marked circulation decline, “Will the decline of local newspapers lead to the decline of keeping an eye on local politicians? […] How do we know who to trust?”

Deggans responds, “Trust yourself.” He continues saying that while “there is downsizing in newsrooms, you have the tools to determine how valid, how real and how important a story is.” Deggans explains that this isn’t determined entirely by the source.

St. Petersburg City Councilmember Karl Nurse posed the question as to whether media is making people more educated or more opinionated. Schorsch stated firmly, “More educated” He said, “There has been a 400 percent increase in talking about politics since 9/11,” where Schorsch credits social media as a significant reason why. Schorsch also contends that through the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the volume of national dialogue about all issues has increased. Yet, Pransky was less enthusiastic stating that he believes overall people are more opinionated based on blog postings yet more educated from traditional media.

Willi Rudowski of the Poynter Institute asked, “What is the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy?” Deggans first spouted off saying, “None.” Then, he follows-up with a more complete answer, “Imapct.” When you are first, he explains, it gets you noticed, and being noticed affects your bottom line, and that’s important if you want to stay in the game.

Yet, I suspect that Deggans meant what he said the first time, “None.”

Romano expanded on this saying that while this is true, he believes that “speed is often destroying good journalism. Good journalism is comprehensive, nuanced and thorough.”

Schrosch had more to add to this, however, and this point was my biggest take-away from this panel discussion where “The medium is the message” became the true topic of conversation. And I’m not saying that because Schorsch pays me, which he does, but because I believe it to be true. I’ve seen it in action.

Schorsch replied to the question of the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy citing Twitter feeds to help organize protesters in Tunisia and other similar stories to help gather, organize and inform the public via social media tools. “It’s about getting people organized versus the ‘right people’ organized.”

At this point someone interjected, “The news is different from social media.”

But is it?

Schorsch said that the power of new media isn’t just to inform. “You can use it to overthrow a totalitarianism regime. I want to be able to help overthrow a totalitarianism regime.”

And here, the medium surely is the message.

What does that mean? “The medium is the message” refers to the reality that not only does the content the medium carries affect society, but the medium itself plays a significant role in the story and in shaping society.

Media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are as much a part of the story as the stories they tell just as much as the newspaper, television show or cable news station is. Moreover, whether we are discussing traditional media or new media, the storyteller his- or herself also is the message.

Via Daphne Taylor Street. You may reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

Published first on Saint PetersBlog: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/05/at-tiger-bay-panel-traditional-journalists-and-new-media-debate-if-the-medium-is-in-fact-the-message/

SAVE BILL!

Can a community gather together and help counteract the effects of a dismal healthcare system? Friday, May 11 from 8 – 10 p.m. at Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, St. Petersburg and the Grand Central District is going to give it a shot, hosting a fundraiser for Bill Georgiou, owner of The Burg Bar & Grill.

Why does Bill need a fundraiser? Bill needs a $25,000 operation for a condition called Achalasia that his insurance won’t pay for claiming it’s a pre-existing condition. This story sounds too familiar all across the country these days. But, maybe, just maybe with a caring community gathering together to help out a guy like Bill, a little bit of hope can go a long way.

“Bill and The Burg have been a great giving part of our community; now it’s time the community gives back,” said Kurt Donley, past president of the Grand Central District Association.

How can you take part? Here is Ferg’s official announcement:

Friday May 11th is the SAVE BILL! Fundraiser at Ferg’s. Come join us to help save Bill. He needs an operation and we can help him by drinking and eating…WAIT…we do that anyway… I’m in! $10 gets you access to the party area and a free drink and food!…AND MUSIC. Where are you going to find a deal like that and help someone in need at the same time?…So be there or be square!

Several St. Petersburg artists and businesses have donated items to be raffled and you can enjoy live music from the Hideaway Café’s John Kelly Band.

You also can make donations at the following locations:

  • The Craftsman House
  • Queenshead
  • Nitally’s
  • Beaks Old Florida
  • Neo Soul
  • The Cigar Loft
  • Central Art Supply
  • Steel City Brewhouse
  • Botega Art Gallery
  • Art Pool Gallery
  • Haslam’s Book Store
  • The Hideaway Café
  • The Burg Bar & Grill
  • Semeraros
  • Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill
  • Zen Glass
  • Christian Zvonik Glass

 

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