Contemplating exports to Europe?

April 13th, 2014

Today’s market is irrevocably global. So, if you are not already exporting, maybe you should? Could Europe be a good market for you? It’s surprisingly easy to test if what you have to offer would be suitable for the European Union. Watch this short video outlining the information you can access on the EU Export Helpdesk: 

The video speaks for itself. You can swiftly find all the information you need and even have a look at EU trade flows inside and outside Europe.

Would exporting to Europe be a good idea for you?

Would exporting to Europe be a good idea for you?

Another important aspect is that it let’s you know what trade preferential agreements are in place and what impact they will have on you and your company.

Exporting to the EU enables you to reach 28 countries with a combined population of over 500 million. Or you can target member states individually. You may for instance have a product that’s suitable for Germany with a population of 82 million or Denmark with 5.5 million citizens. You will also find information on the marketing standards that apply to the European Union. Do your products comply with the rules that apply for,say, organic farming? The Export Helpdesk will enable you to find an abundance of information by simply clicking on issues of relevance to what you would like to export.

Needless to say, this fact-finding mission is just the first step in exporting to the European Union. You need to do much more, not least finding companies that want to do business with you or setting up a company in a member state.

Do you export your products and/or services? Would you like to? If so, what countries would you target? Any interest in Europe? The United States? China? Saudi Arabia? Or where in the world would you like your exports to go? Did you find the EU Export Helpdesk useful? Should such tools be more widely used all over the world to facilitate global trade?

Video: European Commission – You Tube

Do you drive leadership through ambidexterity?

April 6th, 2014

Get the flexibility to take initiatives, innovate at all levels and at the same time thrive at what you are already good at. Sounds too good to be true? Bruce Harreld, Faculty Chair at Harvard is all for that way of operating. He will tell you why in this really short video:

Simply put it’s not enough to look at what you are already good at and ignore potential new areas. Ambidextrous individuals hence drive leadership and take initiatives beyond the confines of their job.

When companies are ambidextrous they are able to adapt to new opportunities and at the same time have alignment around their existing activities. And, this is crucial, they allow leadership to emerge from all levels in the organisation.

Common sense – but frequently ignored

The economic crisis has had a positive impact on ambidexterity. More companies, and people, understand that they have to think outside the box. Just throwing resources at problems is being replaced by a leaner more staged way of problem solving. Lack of resources actually increase creativity and people become more innovative. Provided they are allow to.

Ambidextrous people drive new initiatives

Some scholars as well as practitioners argue that many established companies simply lack the flexibility to explore new territories. And that’s where having ambidexterity come in.

Have never understood why, but companies, and people for that matter, get so stuck in their ways they don’t see the wood for the trees. Thinking outside the box is essential and it’s interesting to note that a top university like Harvard feel there is a need to give courses in how to do so. If you are an innovative person that will not be necessary, but there is obviously a demand from people who need to broaden their horizons. Harvard’s target group for the course may actually be leaders that cannot delegate? Having spent too long in a hierarchical system such leaders probably find it hard to accept leadership driven from all levels in the organisation?

Are you ambidextrous? Do you agree with Bruce Herrald, and me, that it’s propitious to have ambidextrous strategies? Is ambidexterity the way you and your organisation develop? Have you found that lack of resources makes you more creative? Does it give you flexibility and make you look into new areas you would otherwise have overlooked? Are ambidextrous people and organisations smarter? If you haven’t already, are you building an ambidextrous organisation that allows for initiatives, stimulate individuals to stretch themselves and drive leadership? Or maybe you are turning yourself into an ambidextrous person by driving new initiatives as well as your existing activities? Do you agree that in an increasingly global market ambidexterity is the way forward?

Video: HBSExecEd – YouTube

Would you like a Golden Ticket at Goldman Sachs?

March 30th, 2014

Interested in making a fortune in investment banking? Preferably at Goldman? Here’s a tutorial created by 5 bankers advising you how to get hired:

Are you after the watching the video up to the challenge of convincing Goldman Sachs to hire you? Would they consider you part of the inner circle?

Is becoming a partner still equivalent to wealth beyond imagination?

It is said that Goldman Sach’s partners are its highest executives and its biggest stars. The rumours are many but what’s really going on behind the scenes? An examination by The New York Times looks at the power and wealth of this secretive group:

Or maybe the world is changing and the allure of the financial markets is a thing of the past?

So is a career in Goldman Sachs still the lucrative ticket it was? Would a Golden Ticket make you happy? What have you got to offer them? Would they be interested in you? Or maybe you are not interested in joining Goldman? Maybe you think investment banking is a bad choice of career?  Is trust in brokerages declining? Will that result in a trend of more and more people opting for careers in other sectors?

Videos: BreakIntoBanking & The New York Times – You Tube

Has the world failed Syria?

March 23rd, 2014

Syria by far tops the world list of people forcibly displaced by conflict. How can we let the regime and Al Queda linked rebels get away with the unprecedented carnage? Join Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, visiting and talking to Syrian refugees in Jordan:

The video speaks for itself. More than 40 percent of Syria’s pre-conflict population is displaced externally or internally. Half of them are children.

But that’s not all, unfortunately. The atrocities mentioned in the video are only part of what Syrians have to endure. Human trafficking is a huge problem. Syrian girls and children are being exploited for prostitution and sold at auctions. 

syria, civil war, atrocities

Children should not grow up in an environment where violent death is a daily feature.

Syria is a rapidly growing humanitarian catastrophe. Approximately 5.5 million children still live in the war-torn country and daily experience extreme violence and  have to manage without health-care and education.  The severe psychological distress they endure will, needless to say, damage them for life. 

At the moment the regime is in control of about a quarter of the country while the remaining three-quarters is held by different rebel groups fighting each other.

How could it get that bad? By collaborating with Al-Queda linked rebel groups the Syrian regime has effectively managed to get rid of most moderate rebels. And the jihadists are definitely not a palatable option to  the regime. Mass executions of detainees is their name of the game. Understandably, Syrians opposing Assad are even less keen on living in an area occupied by Al-Queda linked groups. They are in other words between a rock and a hard place, which is just what the regime wanted. Makes Assad look like the lesser evil.  

Do you agree that the cycle of death in Syria has to end? Should heads of states that follow in Stalin’s footsteps and starve and slaughter their people be sent to the ICC in The Hague? Is it really OK that the UN Security Council allows Russia to take such a tyrant under their wings and prolong the suffering of the Syrian people? If so, do we really have a world order that works? Politics is politics, but the kind of atrocities being committed in Syria on a daily basis should be rejected by the whole international community. But maybe the most crucial question is if, after three years of slaughter, it’s possible to find a solution that will save Syria from more death and destruction? Has the world failed Syria?

Video: UNHCR – YouTube – Photo:  FreedomHouse

How do you respond to risks?

March 16th, 2014

The majority of people either panic or ignore the possibility that a crisis is developing. But that needs to change, unless we want doomsday scenarios to manifest in the future. Watch this really interesting short video with David J. Ellwood, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, talking to The World Economic Forum about redesigning risk response:

Why do we see a crisis coming, sometimes even have the solution, but as human beings, or nations, seem unable to do anything about it? Why don’t we act but opt for worrying or ignoring the issues? By doing so, these crises could develop into catastrophes.

One reason is that we are short-sighted and blame others. Another is how businesses react if they know that they will be asked to make a sacrifice to sort out the problem. They then  swiftly come up with statements such as “science isn’t very clear..” Recognize it?

But sometimes we act in time and solve problems. The hole in the ozone layer is an example.  The picture of the hole made the problem visible and US multinational DuPont came up with an incentive to work with governments and NGOs to find solutions.

How do you create leaders that respond to risks by finding solutions?

Leaders have to react in time and be able to ignore their aversion to acknowledging danger.

A lot of young people all over the world are keen to step up to the plate. But it’s expensive to learn and they don’t earn very much once they have graduated. So we need to find ways to make it worth their while.

They need to know about incentives, markets, risks and politics. And not to forget, public management. So, apart from studying, they also need to get out and deal with real problems. An understanding of the economics and politics of different issues facing us is crucial. Ellwood put it the following way, “The frontiers of education gives us the opportunity to get to the frontier of the acting in time problem”, and added, “if we can train both existing leaders and people who aspire to become leaders to take on the really hard future challenges with the tools to do so, we can meet and avoid the future crises we see coming but are not acting upon today”.

Is Ellwood right that we need to develop a new kind of leader that knows how to respond? Do you agree that panicking or ignoring crises have to stop? That leaders need to learn to deal with the problems we know we will face? Is it time to start thinking long-term and stop closing our eyes to what will develop into a crisis if we ignore it? 

Video: World Economic Forum – You Tube

Do you agree with Joseph Stiglitz on market fundamentalism?

March 9th, 2014

Yes that’s right, not Islamic or Christian fundamentalism but Market fundamentalism. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz has a lot to say about market extremists. As you may know, he predicted the 2008 economic crisis but nobody listened until it was too late. Decided to post a video with him because I read his book “Free Fall: America, Free Markets and the Sinking of the World Economy”. Columbia University Professor Stiglitz knows what he is talking about so devote 4 minutes to watching this video :

It’s interesting to note that even Alan Greenspan, former chairman of The Federal Reserve concedes he put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending. And to make matters worse American style deregulation was forced upon a multitude of countries world-wide by the IMF. No wonder the domino effect was so swift when Lehman Brothers collapsed. India,for instance, didn’t deregulate and hence weathered the storm.

Do you agree with Joseph Stiglitz that Market fundamentalism is flawed? In retrospect do you believe deregulating the financial markets was such a good idea? Would the world be a better place today if the markets hadn’t been deregulated? Do you believe the financial markets should be regulated again? Should the Glass Seagall Act become law again to prevent another meltdown? In short, is it time for the world to stop implementing neo liberal economic policies that don’t work? If not, will poverty keep on increasing on a global scale? Or maybe you think neo liberalism is the way forward?

(Video: YouTube – gmshadowtraders)

What’s your online reputation worth?

March 2nd, 2014

Small companies can be completely ruined by one person that decide to vent his grievances online. And for large companies losses can amount to millions of dollars. All it takes is one disgruntled employee or customer.

Have you calculated how much bad online reputation would cost you? To avoid it are you making sure internal communication as well as customer service are excellent?

More than an eye for an eye

Today’s online world has enabled destructive people to have a field day. Small companies can lose a lot of money and even go bankrupt. Sure companies make mistakes but sometimes there is no proportion between what harm they have caused and the price they have to pay. But still few companies take precautions.

Beware of disgruntled employees and customers

One company got badly hit by a former employee making negative comments in a forum of relevance to their business. The comments swiftly came up high on Google’s search results. Another example is an angry customer that took revenge on a small town company that had to close down as a result.

An IT company was mentioned in a thread on an online forum with thousands of comments. What the dissatisfied customer wrote had a huge impact and because the company didn’t react swiftly the damage was huge. They are still having problems despite the fact that the customer in question was compensated years ago.

How much does bad online reputation cost you?

Having a bad reputation online can easily be calculated financially per month or year. A company that suddenly has a bad reputation just need to compare their sales to the year before. The difference is the price they are paying.

Ruining your brand or burning your company?

If customers don’t dare to buy from you because Google is wrongly giving the impression that your company is surrounded by conflict you will suffer. All it takes for that to happen is that someone googles your name and a revengeful post ends up high on the first page of search engine results.

Is your customer service excellent?

The customer is always right. But regardless if they are or not, you have to make sure your customers are content. Already before the internet one upset customer meant you lost ten. Nowadays you may lose thousands. So having excellent customer service is absolutely fundamental in our online world.

Does your internal communication make staff feel appreciated and important?

Many companies, especially SMEs, have not paid much attention to internal communication and merely regarded it as an expense. Nowadays that’s no longer possible. Do your employees feel “part of the family”? If not, do you communicate in ways that make them see what’s in it for them? Do they have access to you or other superiors to air their grievances? If not, they are likely to vent their concerns online. Nowadays everyone has an online audience, Facebook friends if nothing else. So if your internal communication isn’t making staff identify with and like the company, you have a problem that needs to be rectified swiftly.

How can you change your online reputation?

By pushing already highly-ranked negative posts down search engine results pages so that they are seen by fewer people. Several companies have started blogs and used social media to turn around their reputation online. By constantly updating their blogs and social media accounts it normally takes about three to six months to squeeze the bad post down from the first to second page on Google.

Prevent it from happening

All businesses should keep an eye on the web and do what they can to prevent anyone from harming their reputation. You have to start monitoring SERPs (your search engine result pages) and how and when you are mentioned in online articles and forums. A simple way is to use Google Alerts or other such tools. It’s also important to make sure that you own all the URLs that could possibly be used to give the impression that the information comes from you. Angry environmentalists for instance purchased a .net for one company and started publishing negative information with the intent to harm.

Have you adapted to the internet recording everything and forgetting nothing?

With the increasing number of constituencies using the internet to find information, are you doing online reputation management? Do you know what your employees, customers or the public at large write about you online? If not, it’s high time you look into this aspect of our online world. The World Economic Forum recognized the importance of doing so by naming one online reputation management company as one of the 31 Technology Pioneers for 2011. Through proprietary technology they enable companies to monitor the web, delete information, and control how they look when searched online. If necessary, use one of those companies.

The tools are there, so what are you waiting for? Someone to get a negative article about you published online? That people bent on revenge should have this kind of power is in my opinion completely wrong. But that’s unfortunately the way it is so, like it or not, it’s time to start contemplating how we should live our lives in a world where the internet records everything and forgets nothing. There are software that enable companies to see everything a person does online, including on social media. And once that kind of software is widely used the tables will be turned and revengeful people will find their online reputation ruined. They will not be able to get a job and people will be reluctant to do business with them. Presumably that will make such people think twice before trying to harm someone online. But until then, invest in internal communication and customer service to make sure your customers and employees are happy. It’s a small expense compared to a bad reputation online.

Photo: Christopher Hill – PhotoExpress

Have you ever gone straight from success to failure?

February 23rd, 2014

A lot of Silicon Valley executives have. But essentialism usually get them back on track again.  Watch this short interview with Greg McKeown telling Stanford University what he found when evaluating them:

Interesting video, isn’t it? The problem in a nutshell, according to McKeown, is that we believe we can do it all. An abundance of successful entrepreneurs and executives become overwhelmed by expectations and options. As a result they often lose the single-minded focus that led to success.

Focus on less

McKeown is of the opinion that focusing on essentialism, i.e. the disciplined pursuit of less, often  is what makes them successful again. His recipe is hence to start by figuring out what’s most important, eliminate the trivial and establish routines for effortless execution.

Can you relate to what’s stated in the video? Has it happened to you that success has made you lose your single-minded focus? Have you like the Silicon Valley executives swiftly gone from success to failure? Did you ever try essentialism to get you back on track again? Are you after watching the video going to try focusing on less next time you need to? Or maybe you have found another strategy to get you back to the single-minded focus that deliver fantastic results?

Video: stanfordbusiness – You Tube

How inspiring leaders work

February 16th, 2014

Successful leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence people. Well practiced leadership contributes to job satisfaction, motivation and productivity. JFK knew how to do it. Devote 4 minutes to watching Stacey Bredhoff explaining how he thought and communicated:

John F. Kennedy was an inspiring leader who, as shown in the video, knew how to communicate. Men went out of their way to please him and women fell in love with him. Forgetting about the falling in love aspect, what is special about him and other inspiring leaders? 

What characterize a great leader?

  • A strong set of values and openness, trust and true respect for others
  • Genuine humility and not afraid to show vulnerability
  • Regularly reflect and have an unquenchable thirst for learning
  • Bend rules, take calculated risks and sometimes guided by gut-feelings and tolerate this in other people
  • A certain amount of flexibility to adapt to circumstances and make real strides forward
  • Accessible and informal which is a very powerful motivator for their colleagues
  • Not only skills and training are valued but focus is heavily on attitude, because, without the right attitude and motivation, nothing worth while will be achieved

So why do these traits produce results?

Simply because pay is only one component of job satisfaction. Other equally important factors are respect and prestige and making staff feel good about themselves, their jobs and the company they work for. In other words inspiring leadership produces results by contributing directly to fulfilling many of people’s emotional needs. Consequently it’s also fundamental for a leader to have people skills and emotional intelligence.

Passion to inspire

Unless you are passionate and inspired about something you can not inspire others. But even that’s not enough if you don’t manage to create and convey a memorable vision that people identify with and want to be part of. A good way to make your vision memorable is to tell stories to illustrate it.

It’s not about you – it’s about them

Your colleagues are asking themselves what’s in it for me? Answer them and don’t make them guess, because if you do there could be misunderstandings. People should feel they own your vision and understand where and how they fit in.

Bring everybody into the process

Employees, customers and investors should all be part of the process of reaching the vision outlined. It’s your job to solicit input, listen to feedback and incorporating what you hear into your vision. That way you make people feel important and that they are doing something meaningful.

Convey optimism and hope

Everybody wants a better future. Churchill gave people hope during the darkest days of World War II. Optimism has a ripple effect throughout an organisation so you have to use positive and optimistic language.

Encourage and praise people

Praised people flourish just as when you criticize staff they shrivel up. By encouraging you connect with them. Genuine praise diminish doubts and spirits soar. And that’s exactly the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. Happy, optimistic and ready to go the extra mile to make your vision come true.

An interesting fact is that by inspiring your people you become the kind of person they want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees work with you and investors back you. And it all starts with learning how to inspire and motivate. You want a company full of positive energy and buzz where people cooperate and encourage innovation and growth because they identify with what you are trying to achieve. And don’t forget the importance of fun. In successful companies people work hard but enjoy themselves while doing so. It’s a key innovation driver and as a leader it’s your job to inspire staff to enjoy what they are doing.

Video: usnationalarchives – You Tube 

White House Maker Faire – Will it inspire innovation?

February 9th, 2014

“Joey Marshmallow” fired his cannon at The White House a couple of years ago. The Joeys of America are driving the next era of innovation in the US. The White House hence wants to encourage  them by holding its first Maker Faire. Will such events inspire more Joeys amongst students and entrepreneurs? Have fun for a minute by watching this video with Joey:

Forget what your opinion of President Obama is and just look at the event for what it is. A way of getting young US innovators to come forward. What kid would not, like Joey, want to shoot a marshmallow in The White House?

After Joey fired his cannon he handed Obama a business card reading “Don’t be bored, make something”.  That inspired the president and the result is a Maker Faire in The White House to inspire young innovators to haul their inventions into spotlight. The ultimate aim, naturally, is to grow a generation of students who are not just consumers but makers of things as well.

Innovation develops society

What would a country be like without innovation? Everything would be at a standstill and progress halted. It’s hence lamentable that young innovators are often discouraged by people around them. President Obamas idea of holding a Maker Faire in The White House could have a positive impact on encouraging innovative youngsters. It could be a signal to them to believe in their ideas and not give up when discouraged. The possibility of showing what they have made in The White House is certain to be a carrot for many creative young people.

Do you believe it’s a good idea to hold a Maker Faire in The White House? Will it encourage young innovators to come forward? Could it have a positive impact on fostering a generation of makers and not just consumers? Would it be a good idea for other heads of states to hold similar events to encourage innovation? Or do you believe it’s a silly idea that will not have any impact on young, innovative Americans?

Video: The White House – You Tube