EmTech08: Sponsor Me

August 21, 2008

Next month is the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech08 Conference held on the MIT campus (September 23-25). EmTech08 is a conference and workshops to discuss emerging technologies “that are poised to make a dramatic impact on our world.” EmTech also presents the TR35, or the top 35 technology innovators under the age of 35. I am extremely excited about this years EmTech conference and selection of breakout workshops that include: Developing Technical Leadership: Lessons From The Top, Social Entrepreneurship, Intrapreneurship: Fostering Innovation with a Large Organization, Web 2.0/Web 3.0 Mashup, Is There a Clean-Tech Bubble?, Open-Source Hardware, and many more. Some of this year’s featured speakers include Desh Deshpande, Chairman of Sycamore Networks, A123, and Tejas Networks; Parker Harris, EVP of Technology at Salesforce.com; Rich Miner, Group Manager – Mobile Platforms at Google; and keynote speaker Craig Mundie, Chief Research & Strategy Officer at Microsoft.

I am seeking sponsorship to attend the conference so I can share my insights with my readers. As I wrote about the Enterprise 2.0 Winner, I plan on writing much more about the EmTech08 conference. I looked in to getting a Press Pass, but do not qualify. I also contacted the EmTech08 organizers in attempts to get the registration fee waived, but the best they could offer me is the student rate of $395. If you are interested in reading my entrepreneurial insights about the EmTech08 conference then please help me find a sponsor to cover the $395 student registration fee for me to attend the EmTech08 conference. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you and I hope I will be seeing you at EmTech08.

You can contact my school e-mail at eshooman1@babson.edu


Links to My 5 Favorite Entrepreneurial Blogs

August 14, 2008

I think it’s about time to share my 5 favorite entrepreneurial blogs:

  • Not your typical entrepreneurial blog, Mike Michalowicz a.k.a The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, might need to stay in the bathroom to wash his mouth out with soap.
  • Let’s apply some pressure to Jeff Bussgang to come back from vacation; I’m hungry for more new posts from his Seeing Both Sides blog. Jeff provides his perspective and insights; being a former entrepreneur and current partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, I really think he should charge.
  • One of the most fun entrepreneurial blogs, Ben Means Business by Ben Jones, truly thinks “outside-the-box.” Don’t miss this one!
  • Scott Kirsner impresses me with every post on his Innovation Economy blog. Scott is a columnist for The Boston Globe, meaning the PR people at start-ups make sure he is “in-the-know.” Lucky for us, Scott is a great writer and loves to share emerging start-ups with his readers.
  • Some may consider it a news site, but I consider it a blog. VentureBeat is updated throughout the day, providing information about technology start-ups, current trends, and government policy.

Entrepreneurial Leadership: Be The Best Part II

August 12, 2008

Now that we’ve gone through the two negative leadership styles, it’s time for the positive. Positive leadership styles empower its subordinates, but not all styles are effective for sustainable success. In this, the second part of the two part Leadership Styles post, I will identify the four positive leadership styles as identified by Daniel Goleman in his March-April 2000 Harvard Business Review article titled “Leadership That Gets Results”. The four positive leadership styles Goleman identifies are: Affiliative, Democratic, Coaching and Authoritative.

Affiliative – The affiliative leadership style is all about the people. People come first. Affiliative leaders “value individuals and their emotions more than tasks and goals” –Goleman. The leadership approach works by building loyalty amongst subordinates, and creating a culture of “let’s do it for the boss.” Even under poor subordinate performance the leader has a positive approach, cheering-on poor performing employees that they are doing well. Unfortunately, the affiliative style creates the perception that poor performance is tolerated, and lacks guidance to help employees improve. If everyone is performing well the affiliative leadership style can keep the train rolling, but if there are underperformers the train may never get to the point of sustainable success. Knowing when to use the affiliative leadership style to rally the troops is essential for an entrepreneur.

Democratic – As per the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of “democratic” is: “relating to, appealing to, or available to the broad masses of the people”, which describes the democratic leader; a leader who asks for his/hers employees majority vote to make a decision. The democratic leadership style increases morale by creating employee buy-in. The best use of the democratic styles is when you, the leader, are unsure about the best direction to take. As entrepreneurs we are notorious for taking risks, but masters at minimizing them, thus we are usually more competent at steering the ship with less risk than our employees. I suggest caution in use of the democratic leadership style; only implementing on rare occasions when you know your employees are more competent than you at a given point.

Coaching – “Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations… Coaching leaders excel at delegating; they give employees challenging assignments, even if that means the tasks won’t be accomplished quickly. In other words, these leaders are willing to put up with short-term failure if it furthers long-term learning.” –Goleman

If you are close to retirement and have a chosen successor, then the coaching style may suit you. In most cases the coaching leadership style is too time-consuming to operate effectively (especially in an entrepreneurial environment). Being an entrepreneur may allow you the flexibility to coach your child’s baseball team, but it does not create more time to run your business. For this reason it is difficult to efficiently lead with the coaching style. “Of the six styles, [Goleman’s] research found that the coaching style is used least often.” – Goleman

Authoritative – The authoritative leader is the most positive leader; he/she is a “visionary; he/she motivates people by making clear to them how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization.” – Goleman. The fundamental concept of the authoritative style is to look forward, but do so in a way that is clearly spelled out and easy to follow. With a clear vision subordinates can creatively fulfill their goals; all for the good of the company. “Authoritative leaders give people the freedom to innovate, experiment, and take calculated risks” – Goleman. Most entrepreneurs need to be authoritative; without a clear vision how will your company grow? And without strong employees capable of following through with your vision where will your company go? With a team of capable employees the authoritative leadership style seems natural for an entrepreneur. A clear vision and authoritative leadership style implemented in an entrepreneurial environment will result in a sustainable future.

In closing I would like to identify one last point Goleman makes: “Leaders who used styles that positively affected the [employee] climate had decidedly better financial results than those who did not.”  The most prepared leaders knowingly demonstrate positive leadership styles that best prepares them for sustainable success.

Entrepreneurial Leadership: Be The Best Part I

August 8, 2008

I’ve had the pleasure, and displeasure of working for others. For those entrepreneurs that have never needed to earn extra income by working for others, I commend you. For those who have never experienced “the boss from hell,” and even for those who have, it is important to understand the six different leadership styles identified by Daniel Goleman in his article “Leadership That Gets Results” published in the March-April 2000 Harvard Business Review. Goleman identifies the six leadership styles as: Coercive, Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and Coaching.

In the first part of this two part post I will begin with the two negative leadership styles; two leadership styles we must learn to avoid and try to eliminate, the Coercive and Pacesetting leadership styles.

Coercive – A coercive leader essentially uses scare tactics to produce results. The coercive leadership style brings a quick fix, but disrupts the organizations climate when doing so. Carl Icahn’s reputation as a corporate raider is an example of a coercive leader. He purchases distressed businesses, demands immediate compliance to his recommendations, cleans house, adds value, then sells off; the remaining employees are left scared, looking over their shoulders, and a negative working environment is created. We will never have a positive working environment with happy employees by using coercive leadership. Through your entrepreneurial journeys avoid the coercive leadership style or you may find yourself helpless, literally.

Pacesetting – “The hallmarks of the pacesetting style sound admirable. The leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself. He is obsessive about doing things better and faster, and he asks the same of everyone around him. He quickly pinpoints poor performers and demands more from them. If they don’t rise to the occasion, he replaces them with people who can. You would think such an approach would improve results, but it DOESN’T. In fact, the pacesetting style destroys climate.” – Goleman

The pacesetter’s biggest weakness is his/her inability to clearly state guidelines; if you don’t know how to complete the job, then you must be the wrong person for it attitude. Also, pacesetting leaders tend to lack feedback for his/her employees; the pacesetter believes the job can always be done better. My impression of a pacesetter is a leader who thinks he/she is the best person in the world at what he/she does, and is scared to give guidance in fear that someone else might some day be better than him/her. Pacesetters also attribute past and present employee successes to himself/herself, and not to the employee. I had the displeasure of working for a pacesetting leader once; an experience which killed my morale. An experience I cherish, because his leadership style pushed me to leave his company to start my own. If you want to retain intelligent high value employees, provide guidance and avoid the pacesetting leadership style.

To be continued…

Positive leadership styles coming soon

Manny Ramirez Is No Entrepreneur’s Friend

August 7, 2008

I would be guilty of a great disservice if I did not comment on the Manny Ramirez trade fiasco from last week. I’m going to reach a little to relate this to entrepreneurship, but please keep an open mind and come along. For those of you unfamiliar with Manny Ramirez, he is a future Hall of Fame baseball player with a history of discontent with his team, and over the past four years has made multiple trade requests; finally lucking out last Thursday ‘(July 31, 2008)’ by getting his wish when the Boston Red Sox traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A situation which reminds me of the book Good To Great by Jim Collins, a must read for any interested in entrepreneurship.

In Good to Great, Collins analyzes eleven great companies (as determined by specific criteria) and uses data research to determine which characteristics make great companies great. My favorite characteristic of great companies Collins identifies is the “First Who… Then What” team building strategy. In other words, great companies get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off, and then go. Manny Ramirez was on the Boston Red Sox bus for seven and a half seasons; it took this long for the Red Sox organization to realize Ramirez did not belong on their bus. At the beginning and throughout every baseball season the Red Sox attempt to assemble the best team by getting the right people on their bus and the wrong ones off. Luckily, Red Sox management realized that a team member on their bus, Manny Ramirez, did not belong. Manny Ramirez was causing problems in the clubhouse, which included pushing a Red Sox employee almost twice his age to the ground; he was the source of the Red Sox stalling bus. To reach their destination, the Red Sox chose to change the bus’ route by going from a power hitting American League group of individuals to a high performing five-tool group of teammates. Since the Red Sox threw Ramirez off the bus, and picked up Jason Bay to take his spot, the Red Sox have won four of five games. I do not see them slowing down anytime soon. Now the Red sox have the right people on the bus, and they are ready to go from a good baseball club to a great baseball team. Just like the Good to Great companies Jim Collins analyzes, sky’s the limit for the 2008 Boston Red Sox!

Business Strategy:Don’t be a Tourist

August 1, 2008

My July vacation is finally over!  In July I’ve been working for a small start-up on a SEO project, enjoying the summer, and traveling to such places as Montreal, Nashville, St. Louis, Detroit and Minneapolis. I am tired of traveling, but I do have a little more to do before summers end. One aspect I love about traveling is experiencing new cultures, all be it mostly American cultures. American cultures are similar yet unique; everywhere people eat PB&J sandwiches, shop at the local mall, and use Google to search the internet, but some Americans pass on PB&J’s for St. Louis BBQ, shop at the Mall of America instead of the local shopping center, and search Google for the hottest new pair of cowboy boots, not for the closest Wal-Mart. During my travels I experienced St. Louis BBQ in St. Louis, aimlessly wondered the Mall of America in Minneapolis, and Googled cowboy boots while in Nashville. My goals while traveling are: 1. Experience the local culture, and 2. AVOID LOOKING LIKE A TOURIST! My goals while traveling are transferable to business strategy.

Start-up businesses should experience local cultures and avoid looking like tourists. Local cultures in business are unexplored business territories. Explore these territories. Search for new areas within your start-up’s scope of business, even if unfamiliar. Submit your business to take in and learn as much about the unexplored, almost becoming a member of the unexplored, but DO NOT be a tourist! Entering the unexplored is scary and difficult; if entered without confidence others will see you as a tourist. A tourist is one that goes on a tour for pleasure or culture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a tour is “a journey for business, pleasure, or education often involving a series of stops and ending at the starting point.” While researching new business territories you are touring new areas, but areas which you may not want to leave (you may not want to end “at the starting point”). The best strategy to enter and stay in a new businesses territory is to learn the territory first hand by experiencing it (experience the local culture) and blend in like an expert (avoid looking like a tourist) in case you choose to stay. By exemplifying confidence and avoiding looking like a tourist, your business will be more accepted into its new community if you choose to stay. Don’t be afraid to experience the local culture as long as you avoid looking like a tourist.