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Archive for the ‘CEO Insight’ Category

I first found out about Greg Blencoe’s book The Supermanager when I stumbled across some of his blog posts.  I enjoyed the posts and connected with him on Twitter.  He subsequently visited my blog and over the last few months he has been a great supporter and shared many of my posts.  I was thrilled when he offered to send me a copy of his book to review, as in honesty given my enjoyment of his blog posts, I would have in time purchased the book anyway.

Greg was previously CEO of Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc. an alternative energy start-up company and also published the Hydrogen Car Revolution blog.  In his book The Supermanager, Greg shares seven principles of great management told in a conversational tone through a short story.  The story begins by introducing Andrew, a management program trainee in the Electronics industry, about to embark on the daunting task of managing 6-8 people.  Just prior to beginning his new management role, Andrew is having lunch at a fast food restaurant, where he is surprised to see happy, motivated, efficient and engaged employees.  Upon his return visit he receives a similar experience and approaches the restaurant manager Leo to learn more about effective management.

Over seven subsequent meetings Leo shares the following 7 management principles with Andrew:

1. Surround yourself with high-quality employees

As a manager your employees play a big role in determining your success, so it is important to hire great people. 

2. Train employees well

Put yourself in the new employees position, thoroughly explain the job, encourage questions and guide the employees in the right direction.

3. Communicate the end result you want, then empower employees to achieve it

Manage the result over the process, pick your battles and confront unproductive behavior.

4. Lead by example

As a manager your actions set the standard for your employees to follow. 

5. Listen to employees

Have an open door policy: be available, open and receptive in order to uncover problems and obtain employee suggestions.

6. Praise good work

Positively reinforce good performance by all employees to increase the likelihood that such actions will be repeated. 

7. Manage each employee differently

Take a customized approach to management that acknowledges that different employees have different needs, abilities and are motivated by different things.

While many of these principles are common sense, as Greg acknowledges in his book and as I know from my experience they are unfortunately not necessarily common practice in many organizations.  What I loved about this book is its accessibility. While balancing moving states, working a full-time job, grad school and job searching delayed me getting around to reading this book, when I finally did, I found it to be a quick read at only 97 pages long.  I would definitely recommend this book to organizations that are looking for a book to give to new managers that provides a great overview of effective management.  Often I have seen companies give their managers huge management texts hundreds of pages long.  Such books are daunting to many overwhelmed new managers who may not know where to start. By contrast, The Supermanager is a far more time efficient read and a lot more approachable for managers in any industry.

In addition to the seven principles, this book also demonstrates the importance of having the courage to approach people you wish to emulate.  I have heard entrepreneurs such as Laura Zander from Jimmy Beans Wool speak on the importance of approaching people in your industry in order to learn from them. Similarly in the case of this book new manager Andrew saw Leo a manager in an unrelated industry doing a great job and sought to learn from him.

The Supermanager is a simple but effective short text, for the manager who is serious about becoming a great manager.  I would encourage you to check out this book, which is available for purchase on Amazon.

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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen to Laura Zander co-founder of Jimmy Beans Wool speak on entrepreneurial success. Jimmy Beans Wool is primarily a web commerce company (with one retail store in Reno), which sells yarn along with its more recent product line addition of fabrics. When you think of a company that mainly sells yarn, you don’t typically think innovation. Yet Laura and her husband Doug have been very innovative in how they have grown their business in ten years from nothing to a $7 million company. The KOLO video below describes a little bit about their successful business model:

Of all Laura’s tips for business success, the one that stood out the most to me was her philosophy of having the brand continually pop up in unexpected places. Since it is estimated 1 in 4 women in the U.S. know how to knit, Laura recognized this gave the company a huge reach offering endless possibilities for branding partnerships. These branding partnerships represented first mover advantages for Jimmy Beans Wool.

Here are a few of the brand’s unexpected partnerships:

The Emmy’s: As part of their strategy of going where no other yarn company has gone before, Jimmy Beans Wool were able to negotiate to have a swag suite at the Emmy’s. As part of the event the Jimmy Beans Wool team even got to teach stars how to knit. After the event Laura capitalized on the opportunity sending press releases with titles such as “Hollywood Hunks Turn to Knitting” and calling magazines relentlessly to create a buzz. The approach worked and Redbook magazine ran a story on the company.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA): More recently Jimmy Beans Wool have teamed up with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association as their official and first ever yarn, knitting and crochet supplier. Beyond giving the brand great exposure, the partnership makes sense when you think of all the warm beanies, sweaters, scarves etc. the skiers and snowboarders need. The partnership doesn’t stop there either as Laura also recognizes that there is an opportunity to market their yarn products to family members of the ski and snowboard teams.

The Heart Truth: The heart truth is a non-profit campaign by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and sponsoring corporations to increase women’s awareness of heart disease. You’ve probably seen the campaign’s red dress symbol on diet coke cans. Laura chose to get involved in the campaign not only to give back but also to add credibility to Jimmy Beans Wool. The other sponsoring partners are huge corporations including Coca Cola, AOL, CVS and Johnson & Johnson among others. By being a part of a campaign supported by such large corporations, Jimmy Beans Wool can use this to their advantage to appear bigger than they actually are to win future business deals. Jimmy Beans Wool have set up a campaign site for the cause called Stitch Red to enlist the help of yarn retailers, manufacturers and their customers to increase heart disease awareness. The company has created products related to this cause and in June Laura is releasing her first book called “Knit Red.” Knit Red contains 30 red garments and accessories donated by celebrity designers who share their tips for staying healthy and preventing heart disease.

Laura’s future dream partnerships include the Today Show, and having knitting kits on Virgin Airlines. As the company’s tag line says there really are “Endless Possibilities” for where this company could take yarn.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen to John Farahi speak on business success. John Farahi is the CEO of Monarch Casino & Resort Inc. who own and operate the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno, NV. In spite of the tough economy and declining casino industry, Monarch Casino & Resort Inc. is growing. Here are John’s tips for business success: 

Opportunity can be anywhere

When John Farahi’s father David first moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1970 he began looking for a business. When he was told of the Golden Door Motel (the original site of the Atlantis Casino Resort) in Reno, NV he initially dismissed it saying:

‘I did not come to the U.S. to go to Reno, NV, I’m not interested.’

Some how he was persuaded to take a look and realized that there was actually a lot of opportunity to be had in the hospitality industry in Reno, NV.

Surround yourself with honest & successful people

Distancing oneself from people with issues is another of Farahi’s recommendations. He encourages entrepreneurs starting out to approach people who have experienced success in your desired industry and to ask question after question to learn from them.

Don’t give up

John and his brothers took over the Golden Door Motel in 1976. The motel struggled in its early years and the brothers found themselves doing every job in the resort, to try to turn the business around.

Later when trying to build the Atlantis Casino Resort, the brothers had to fight the city of Reno in court to get casino-zoning laws changed. Financing was also extremely challenging and the brothers became accustomed to hearing ‘no’ a lot. John says that in business there are always obstacles to overcome and you can never hit every mark perfectly. Thus it is important to be tenacious, work hard and not give up when you encounter hurdles.

Do your homework

In Fall 2011, Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. began the process of acquiring Black Hawk Casino in Colorado from Riviera Holdings Corporation. Prior to this acquisition the company had spent five years researching the area, looking at every property in their industry, evaluating restaurants, what the market was missing and what resources would be needed to get the property up to par. Once the acquisition is complete the company will evaluate every employee at the resort in order to build a good team.

What was good yesterday may not be tomorrow

John Farahi talked about the importance of being willing to continually change and take risks. In 1993 when Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. looked to go public, many people thought they were making a crazy decision. However, after many rejections they succeeded in going public, raising enough funds to build the Atlantis’ second tower.

Today the company has starting making moves into the Internet gaming industry, which may offer the opportunity for future joint ventures. Farahi believes that being a brick and mortar company will enable them to offer better customer incentives (such as resort stays) relative to what Internet gaming companies can offer.

What tips would you give new entrepreneurs on how to be successful in business? Please share in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

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