After Congress left for vacation earlier this month, President Obama granted Apple® a reprieve in its long running patent dispute with Samsung®. If I understand the situation correctly, Samsung® has accused Apple® of infringing on its standard essential patent related to connecting mobile devices to mobile networks. Apple® claims that Samsung® is violating an industry practice where the holders of standard essential patents license those technologies at “reasonable terms.”
The President’s veto means that the International Trade Commission (ITC) can’t block certain iPhone 4 and iPad 2 models from entering the United States, which helps Apple® sell its older, less expensive models.
This decision has relevance for all innovation-oriented companies. President Obama’s action is the first of its kind since 1987. As a result, the ITC may play a reduced role in complex patent arbitrations.
To some, the decision could seem like bad news for companies with ground breaking products. But my scientist friends and clients have long been saying that the ITC isn’t adequately prepared to deal with truly complex products and patent decisions. Since the ITC has too few options, they too often just ban imports because that is what they have authority to do. American companies and consumers lose.
Some important products have not been developed in recent years because competitors can just threaten to contact the ITC to force an import ban. When that happens, companies spend money on lawsuits and attorneys instead of innovation and scientists. Reversing that sounds good to me.
The End of Membership as We Know It (Sladek, Sara. Wiley, 2013) www.amazon.com
Now that is a strong title for a book!
I was the wrap up speaker last month at a leadership workshop for top association executives… the clients of AH www.AssociationHeadquarters.com. Greg Melia referenced that book and shared recent ASAE research findings. He’s the Chief Membership and Volunteer Relations Officer for the American Society of Association Executives. www.ASAEcenter.org.
Woah. You may think you have heard all of this before. But, the ASAE trend research about the decline in association membership, attendance at conventions, and participation in committees is striking. This is not just about a slowed economy! The trends are driven more by generational differences, advances in technology, and skepticism.
Frank Kane spoke at this event about loyalty www.JamesKane.com. There’s another dynamic and inter-related topic. One of many strong points that jumped out at me was that customers (or association members) want you to MAKE THEM SAFER, MAKE KEY TASKS EASIER FOR THEM and MAKE THEIR LIVES BETTER. In some ways, that feels almost like a continuum. Maybe one association’s advocacy about regulations and provision of insurance can make their members safer. And then can that same association provide timely education so their members can do core professional tasks more easily than non-members? And then…the big one…can that same association muster the resources and pick up enough speed to get out in front of its bright, ambitious members to actually make their lives BETTER? Woah!
From the AH event, I attended the annual convention of NSA, the National Speakers Association (NSA) www.NSAspeaker.org. There are lots of changes in NSA directly related to these inter related subjects. Imagine making the commitment to get out ahead of NSA members…this country’s top communicators … thought leaders… the authors of best-selling books!
This feels like a cue to all of us to take a close look at our own goals and strategies. Are you poised to be way out ahead of your customers so you can really make their lives BETTER…to earn and keep their loyalty?
George and his executive team succeeded in pulling their organization up out of a deep hole. They survived 2008 – 2010. They have been on a plateau for 4 years. That’s OK, right? They deserved a chance to breathe. Maybe you don’t have to always be aggressive, go for growth, and create new things.
These people are incredibly dedicated and work long hard hours. They have become accustomed to being short staffed and watching every dime.
But now George has become rather paternal. In fact he’s a little like the PAPPA BEAR in children’s storybooks. He looks for perfection in his team and can seem somewhat critical. But, WOW…you should see how his back tightens and his voice booms if anyone outside his team even hints that they need some training, should try something new, or might be stuck! ¾ of their board meetings are dedicated to bragging about how much and how well everyone has been doing.
George is not alone. Maybe you can identify with how he feels. Since the past 5 years have been pretty hard on most organizations, maybe you have also become a bit protective of your team. You certainly wouldn’t want anyone to leave. Right? You’ve all been through so much together…you can finish one another’s sentences. Right?
Be careful though. This pattern can feel like over protective parents. At some point, bright people who crave learning leave the nest to go try new things.
Instead of waiting for the bright people to leave George’s overprotective nest, they are making a group commitment to do some research, find new opportunities, learn new skills, and take some chances…together. They aren’t going to do anything crazy. There will be no diving into the deep end of the pool without swimming lessons. But they are facing the fact that the recession and the lingering tail of uncertainty has affected how they think. They are intentionally working on becoming less risk adverse, learning how to think bigger, and trying to expect more.
It’s one thing to SAY you want to go about the strategic planning process a completely different way this time around. But, if you are accustomed to the usual SWOT analysis, departmental status reports, and incremental progress goals, you could become very uneasy when the research step starts for truly strategic (not tactical) planning.
Of course names have been changed whenever I provide examples. See if you identify with Jake’s situation.
Jake is the CEO of a national non-profit/charitable organization. There are no real chronic recurring problems (like tight cash flow, high turnover, etc.). There are no significant organizational issues (conflict, silos, confusion, productivity, etc.). And there is fairly clear information about the competition, and current clients and funding sources. Jake’s organization knows enough about its day to day operation that they can take this opportunity to pause and consider much larger trends related to: the economy, societal patterns (particularly re. power and influence), how money (including philanthropy) really works, technological advances, the legislative and regulatory environment, best practices of similar organizations and completely different entities, etc.
Each member of his executive team would be assigned one major area (like technological advances) and they could help one another out. They could share what they are learning as they explore. They could get one another “unstuck” if anyone inadvertently regresses into tactical day to day thinking. For six weeks, they would each dedicate 10 hours/week to research outside their organization. It all has an impact on them, but the 6 weeks is about opening their minds and thinking beyond their organization. Each executive would have a “buddy” from their board of directors. The Director(s) would not be asked to do research, but the Executive could pick the Director’s brain and benefit from his/her contacts. Plus, the Directors would feel more engaged and become curious about the upcoming strategic planning retreat.
If you met Jake, you would think he could embrace this. He thought so. He has advanced education and a curious mind. But when the research began, he reverted to a bit of a control freak. Poor guy. He needed reassurance that no one was going to make him look foolish and the health of the existing organization wasn’t going to be forgotten or taken for granted. He became very protective…. of himself, the board members, the executives, the staff, the funders, and the clients.
Punch line: If you engage the services of an outside strategy professional, make sure he/she/they understand the emotional commitment it takes to be a good CEO these days. Jake has a strong sense of stewardship. It would be terrible if an opportunity for everyone to open up, learn, and be better prepared for the future didn’t also include compassion for how uneasy bright dedicated people become when they are out of their comfort zones.
RAPID growth is one of the surest signs of a successful business, and management consultant Aldonna Ambler plans to reveal her secrets to guaranteed growth at the Grow! conference for consultants in October.
Grow! is led by the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) USA, and is aimed at helping management consultants grow their skills, develop their strategies, and network with successful entrepreneurs in their field. This year’s agenda includes eleven industry leaders speaking on topic from negotiation to accountability to client relations.
Ambler’s talk will focus on tactics to accelerate growth while ensuring sustained profitability. Ambler’s consultancy has helped leaders in the technology and business-to-business industries build successful companies.
“As a growth strategy consultant, a true entrepreneur is never happy with ‘good enough,’” Ambler said. “We’re always looking how to grow a little more, how to push our companies a little further. That’s what I specialize in and what every business consultant should be focused on.”
Ambler says that her techniques are constantly refined by talking to some of the best minds in the business.
“Every week for nine years I’ve been sharing strategies with CEOs on my online talk show and asking them how they ensure growth and profits,” Ambler said. “These are people whose companies do hundreds of millions of dollars in business, and often they built them from the ground up. Those results are reproducible.”
Grow! will be held at the Las Vegas Mirage Hotel October 20-22 and is open to all business consultants.
“It’s going to reshape how you talk to your clients,” Ambler said, “I can help you grow your own practice and help you better guide client growth.”
When the leaders of a mid-sized business decide to intentionally accelerate growth, inevitably there are at least a handful of improvements needed. Solidify gross profit. Speed up cash flow. Fully commit to recruitment. Refine calculations related to capacity utilization. Aim marketing messages. Update performance pay and incentives.
It pays to frame these projects as a “Get Ready to Grow” strategic initiative.
The more participative the strategic initiative is the better. That way, client services or the production department can see if/when the marketing department is ready with compelling campaigns. The sales department will be reassured to know that there is sufficient staffing to deliver on their stepped up proposals/ promises. The accounting department will be relieved when client services demonstrates a heightened understanding of what contributes to gross profit. Everyone will be more excited if they know that the results of hard work to grow the company will benefit more than just the owner. Transparency matters during one of these initiatives.
The faster a business can complete a “Get Ready to Grow” strategic initiative the better. When the process is protracted over several months, the specific tasks (pricing, budgets, account review/planning, job descriptions, scheduling procedures, performance standards, etc.) can become tedious and boring.
It’s worth considering a “Get Ready to Grow” strategic initiative if you (as President) are even slightly reluctant to go after larger client accounts. Don’t stay stuck there. It is time to lead a process that creates a larger business instead of inviting your team to try and perfect the current size.