How to Compete With Giants

compete with giants

Overcoming the Odds

If you enjoy reading stories of victorious underdogs, you will love Competing with Giants by Phyong Uyen Tran is Deputy CEO of THP group, Vietnam’s leading beverage company. The book is a compelling read as it takes you through the journey of a mega-successful family business. Imagine turning down $2.5 billion. What did it take to get there? How did they scale the business? What insights can we learn from Asia’s growth?

More to the point, what can all business leaders learn from her experience?

I found this book an incredibly fascinating read and reached out to learn more.

 

Turning Down 2.5 Billion Dollars

Take us inside you and your family’s emotions. What was it like to turn down a $2.5 billion offer from Coca-Cola?

When Coca-Cola made the offer, they certainly wanted to dazzle us by sending a private jet to take us to their headquarters in Atlanta. Even though my younger sister, Bich, and I were more or less a decade into running our family enterprise, we were impressed by the effort that they had put forth with the offer. However, Dr. Thanh, who is my father as well as the founder and CEO of Tan Hiep Phat (THP), was calm and collected. As usual, his words were economical, and he listened carefully to all that was said in the meeting. It was extremely difficult to read through his poker face. 2.5 billion dollars was a lot of money, but to my father, the decision had been made when the term of the offer would limit THP from developing any new brands and would limit THP from selling our products outside of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  It goes against the vision and mission that we have set for THP. There was no meeting of the minds, and that was that. Almost too simple of a decision.

 

“Great leaders also possess a future-orientation that allows them to seek out opportunities with a positive attitude rather than focusing on difficulties, which is a past orientation.” -Phuong Uyen Tran

 

What lessons should other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?

10 Vital Empowerment Factors

empowerment
This is an excerpt from Fat Cats Don’t Hunt: Implanting the Right Leadership and Culture to Accelerate Innovation and Organic Growth by Jim Hlavacek, PhD. Jim has over 40 years of global experience as a businessman, strategy consultant, and management educator.

Empower Your Employees

For employees to be empowered, they must have control of their immediate environments.

They must have the necessary mindsets and skill sets—either through hiring or training—to do their jobs effectively and authority to make decisions that maximize the quality, speed, and effectiveness of their work outcomes.

Following are ten key factors that must be present for employees to begin to feel empowered and act on doing what is right for themselves, their company, and their customers:

  1. Theory Y leadership. Company leadership must demonstrate McGregor’s Theory Y management style, in which authority is shared. Theory X leadership, in which all decisions are made from the top down, and cultures in which employees are empowered to make decisions instantly in their realms of responsibility and expertise, are by default, mutually exclusive.

 

“The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment.” -Martha Beck

 

  1. Redistribution of power. Per #1, senior managers must be totally committed to the redistribution of power and authority. This presents one of the greatest challenges to culture transformation. Theory X managers at every level of a company have significant difficulty giving up control over even small decisions.

 

“Autonomy leads to empowerment.” -Bobby Kotick

 

  1. Bottom-up decision making. In the old bureaucratic control model, brainpower is assumed to be located only with management in the hierarchy. But this has proven not to be true. As customers have become more demanding, front-line teams have been tasked with responding swiftly to them. As a result, the emphasis moved in some companies from optimizing efficiencies from top to bottom to developing more flexible, innovative and responsible decision-making by close-to-the-customer teams. By default, visionary companies moved away from control and compliance management models to a greater emphasis on entrusting individuals and teams with expertise in their areas to act in the best interests of their companies and customers. In a more committed and empowered organization, front-line workers have the authority to halt a production line or solve customer complaint decisions on the spot, without getting okays from managers higher up in the hierarchy.

 

Leadership Tip: empower front-line workers as much as possible.

Outsmart Change and Future-proof Your Career

flexology

Marketing Flexology

 

If you want to be a successful marketer today, in the middle of constant change, you need to be prepared. If you have a business, you want to stay ahead of marketing trends and be ready for what’s ahead.

Last month, I interviewed Engelina Jaspers about her new book, Marketing Flexology: How to Outsmart Change and Future-proof Your Career. Engelina is a 30-year marketing veteran who helps business leaders build nimble marketing organizations with customer insight and speed to execution at its core. Though the book may be targeted primarily to marketers, I found it full of great advice for individuals and businesses in the midst of change.

 

What is Marketing Flexology?

Our world, our markets, and our customers are in constant evolution. Consumers are no longer as homogenous as they once were in the baby boomer era. If we continue to use the marketing practices of the past, we will fall behind. Marketing success today requires a new management capability and a new marketing model to keep pace, which I call the Marketing Flexology management framework. It’s a nimble structure that allows you to quickly and easily change directions without missing a beat, breaking a sweat… or losing your job!

Copyright Engelina Jaspers. Used by Permission.

 

“There lives in each of us a hero awaiting the call to action.” -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

5 Marketing Shifts 

You share five key shifts in marketing. Is there one that is more challenging for leaders than others?

Marketing has undergone significant transformation over the past sixty years of our young profession. I believe the most seismic has been the shift from “art and science” to “insight and agility.” The need for high-speed listening, learning, execution, and iteration has never been greater, nor the challenge more daunting. Yet we still endlessly debate whether creative and artistic sensibilities, or analysis and measurement are most important. (Do a Google search on the words “marketing art or science” and you’ll see what I mean!) Frankly, customers don’t care what blend of art and science goes into our marketing strategies and programs. They only care how well our message hits a nerve and fulfills a need. And that requires real-time customer insight and the ability to turn that insight into action faster than our competitors. That’s why I believe “insight and agility” is the new “art and science” of marketing and requires a new management capability and framework.

 

“Frankly, customers don’t care what blend of art and science goes into our marketing strategies and programs. They only care how well our message hits a nerve and fulfills a need.” -Engelina Jaspers

 

Prepare for the Unexpected Shifts

Exit Your Comfort Zone and Become a Networking Pro

networking
This is an excerpt from Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office Doesn’t Work for Every Woman and What to do Instead by Kathryn Sollman. Kathryn is a recognized leader in helping women navigate the many stages of work and life.

Become a Networking Pro

One of my coaching clients, a 56-year-old woman from California who was navigating her way back to the workforce, realized she needed to network far out of her comfort zone. She emailed me this question:

I have connections at organizations where I’d love to work in a flexible way, but they are either people I’m not close to or people I don’t feel comfortable approaching. Call it anxiety or an old-fashioned sense that I’d be “using” them to get a job, but it’s an obstacle for me. How do I get over this? Just be pleasant and directly state what I want? That’s it, done?

Yes, that’s pretty much it. Here’s how to do it well:

 

“The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” -Karen Salmansohn

 

Establish even a very loose connection.

Networking involves a shared connection, not just out-of-the-blue cold calls to strangers. Networking connections do not need to be people you know well: you can establish connections through relatives, school or employer alumni groups, club members, or a friend of a friend of a friend. Figure out how to give your connection the comfort level of knowing that in some way you are connected. It could be as simple as having children in the same soccer league or being connected to the same person on LinkedIn.

 

Be specific about the help you need.

No one wants to hear, “I’d just like to pick your brain about flexible fundraising jobs.”  That’s a conversation that could wander aimlessly with no easy end. Busy people want to slot you in for a quick brain dump of specific information they have at hand. A better approach would be, “I’m trying to get an idea of how most large fundraising departments are allocating part-time responsibilities among functions, and I’d like to see how yours is structured in relation to peer organizations.” If you lay this out in an email or LinkedIn message, your connection can think about and summarize a worthwhile, bite-sized response. This very focused networking request would help you gather information about where and how your skills and experience would most likely fit at your connection’s organization and many others. When you ask a dozen networking connections the same question, you start gathering valuable anecdotal research.

 

Limit the amount of time your connection needs to invest.

100 Insider Rules for Beating the Startup Odds

startup secrets

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Over the course of their careers, veteran venture capitalist Randy Komisar and finance executive Jantoon Reigersman continue to see startups crash and burn because they forget the timeless lessons of entrepreneurship. But, as Komisar and Reigersman show in their new book, Straight Talk for Startups: 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds, you can beat the odds if you quickly learn what insiders know about what it takes to build a healthy foundation for a thriving venture.

 

“Apprentices work furiously to learn the rules; journeymen proudly perfect the rules; but masters forget the rules.” -Randy Komisar

 

Randy Komisar recently shared his perspective:

 

How did this book come about? Have you been compiling these rules for years?

We wrote this book because we were distressed by the growing frequency of missteps by entrepreneurs, many of whom are notoriously splashed across business pages and websites. Jantoon Reigersman brought fresh eyes to the situation as the CFO of a Silicon Valley rocket ship gone awry. We had been having a dialogue for years about what was really going on in the Kabuki Theaters of startup boardrooms and venture capital firms. And we felt that entrepreneurs and investors, professors and students, and frankly anyone curious about the startup game could all benefit from our conversations regarding the time-proven best practices for building successful companies. I have been part of the scene since the mid-1980s, and Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins, was one of the original Silicon Valley venture cowboys. I had been compiling and sharing these insights with entrepreneurs since I co-founded my first company. These are the insider rules that the random hero stories heralded by the press conveniently leave out. In Straight Talk for Startups we address the nuts and bolts of choosing investors, raising money, building boards, achieving liquidity, and mastering the fundamentals by distilling decades of frequently forgotten wisdom about how to beat the odds.

 

“Venture Capitalists have one of the greatest jobs in the world. They get to sit across the table from passionate strangers who hallucinate the future for them.” -Randy Komisar

 

Rule 1: Starting a venture has never been easier; succeeding has never been harder. You’ve had an extraordinary vantage point in your career, and I’d like your perspective on the why behind Rule 1. 

It’s all about capital. Privileged places like Silicon Valley are awash is excess capital. The recovery from the Great Recession has left interest rates at record lows. Investors have been looking for ways to juice their returns, and venture capital’s black swans are a siren song. Forget the low odds of winning; the size of the pot is mesmerizing. So investors have been ignoring risk and plowing money into long-shot bets.

This may seem great for entrepreneurs. And on its face it is. But there is a downside. Too much capital means that too many companies are being funded in any single market. With easy capital comes reckless spending on scaling—often times resulting in highly uneconomic growth, that is the acquisition of customers who pay less than the cost of providing the product or service and who have little loyalty to the business. This “all or nothing” mentality leads to wasted dollars, talent and effort. And when one competitor makes the leap to noneconomic growth, the rest are left with little choice but to follow.

The cornucopia of money and startups also affects the job market. Salaries are inflated. People are quick to move from perceived losers to winners. In the Bay Area, for instance, the price of housing, the suffering infrastructure and the breakdown of communities makes building businesses much harder, even if starting them is easier than ever.

 

Startup Rule: Starting a venture has never been easier; succeeding has never been harder.