Tag Archives: Team

TEAM – A CASE STUDY

3vby Terry Flanagan

Your next opportunity may be right under your nose.  When people with common values and objectives—coachable individuals with unique expertise come together, they can deliver value in a very short timeframe.  

Eighteen months ago, four of us formed a new advisory firm, “ATVM – A Third View Medical.    The reasons we believed this was the right thing to do may have broad implications for other new and established companies.

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Common Values

At the early stages of a business, the team is certainly the most important element.  It can be argued that it’s ALWAYS the most important element.  Examine your team.  Ask yourself if the other founders share the same values: 

  • Trust and knowledge of one another
  • A high level of ethical competence
  • A strong work ethic
  • A high standard of performance
  • An unquestioned desire to deliver value to the client

You might identify other values than these, but it’s important that the ENTIRE TEAM hold them in common and hold them passionately.  Three of our partners knew each other from their association with IMC, the Institute of Management Consultants, so we had time to build relationships, observe, and be sure of one another.  

Ask yourself:  “Does my team share common values?  Am I sure?”  If the answer is YES, then you have a key element to a great organization.

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Common Goals

Does your team share common goals?  Our company is a consultancy.  Each of us is committed and determined to add value to clients in three fundamental ways:

  • By helping them grow revenue
  • By improving operating efficiency
  • By utilizing capital resources more effectively

Between us, there is no argument over these goals; we all share them in a profound way. 

Ask yourself:  “Can I honestly say that my entire team shares common goals?  Am I sure?”  If the answer is YES, you have another of the key elements to a great organization.

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TERRY FLANAGAN

Complimentary Skill Sets

Recently, one of my respected friends, Bill Burnett, challenged me rather directly.   He asked the reason the business was formed.  That may seem on the surface an innocuous question but knowing Bill, I appreciated the depth of  his challenge.  It made me pause. 

I reflected back on how one of our partners, Bill Pierrakeas, once asked if we had the right team assembled.  That question had caused us to come together in a serious way.  At that time, we identified three fundamentals that challenged the “why” of our existence.   In other words, what made us think that our TEAM offered something significant?   I believe these three questions are important to all companies. 

  • First:  Does the majority of the team have significant experience in the industry? 
  •  Second: Does each team member bring a distinct and unique skill set to the table that can be leveraged for the benefit of the organization as a whole?  
  • Third:  Are all the key roles filled? 

In our case the answer was, “Yes,” and, “Yes,” and unfortunately, “No.” 

  • YES—Three of us come with an experience in consultancy in the same industry – health care.  That puts us in a strong position to help those companies we intend to serve.  
  • YES—Each of us come with distinct and separate subject matter expertise.  That makes for a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The members build on each other and the team can leverage its skills. 
  •  NO—After we identified the fundamentals, the partners realized very quickly that we lacked one ingredient crucial to our kind of organization—experience in transaction advisory.  In our case, two of us knew a person to fill that role—a person we could trust—one we had watched in action over time—a person that brought the same values to the table.  For us, it was an easy choice.  Fortunately, that person agreed to come onboard. 

Ask yourself:  “Can I honestly say that my team is strong in its industry?  Do the members offer complimentary skill sets?  Is the team complete?  Am I sure?”  If the answer is yes, then you have another of the key elements to a great organization.

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Getting Good Guidance

With a foundation of strong values, strong goals and complimentary skill sets, the real work of building the business began.  For the next four months, we met weekly to hone our value proposition and prepare for our announcement or coming out party.  

For that event, we gave each partner an assignment:  Bring industry practitioners to the table.  Yes, we set ourselves up to get shot down.  The night before the event, I recall a heightened sense of nervousness.  I now know how opening night jitters actually feel.  But we would not launch our venture without outside counsel and this posed the best opportunity to elicit passionate debate.

This particular play started off at a favorite restaurant and in an orderly manner.  Introductions.  Then a couple well-placed questions.  That opened up the conversation and from there it flowed freely.  You know you have a successful meeting when the wait staff tells you the restaurant is closing.  We knew we had something real!

Ask yourself: “Have I sought objective outside guidance?  Not friends, family, and fools, but really objective outside guidance?”  If the answer is yes, you have another of the key elements to a great organization.

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Lean on a Trade Group

Since that time, the partnership is formalized with an operating agreement and a value proposition that we constantly fine-tune. We show even more focus today than at the beginning.  We continue to make presentations to our peers.  They like what they see and willingly make introductions for us.  

In our case, the Institute of Management Consultants provided the opportunity for four professionals to share values, get to know one another, develop a high level of trust and a desire to build a business, and find the connections to make it a reality.  

Ask yourself:  “Is there a professional organization I can look to for such support?”  Seek it out.

I share this story so that others can see the same opportunity.  At the recent GROW Conference, many of the speakers made the same point:  

Aldonna Albers said, Opportunities are waiting for discovery.

Somers White said, Opportunities go to those who are prepared and are willing to make the effort to become very prepared.

Charlotte Roberts said, Business models are waiting to be discovered but you have to think that way to find them.  

And finally Rick Berrara said, It’s up to you to develop your overpromise and to execute your over-deliver.

Always, always over-deliver.   

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Links

ATVM – A Third View Medical

888-985-0006A Third View Logo

Terry@aThirdViewMedical.com

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IMC – Institute of Management Consultants 

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GROW Conference

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Photos courtesy  A Third View Medical.  Edited by John Jonelis.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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4 Comments

Filed under big money, Chicago Ventures, Consulting, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Innovation and Culture

THE SUM OF THE WHOLE

Moises GoldmanHigher Education and the Economy

Moises Goldman PhD – resident scientist

In today’s digital environment, the words entrepreneurship and innovation are the flavor of the day. Universities and even certain high schools believe they are preparing their students to go out into the world armed with the necessary tools to excel. But are they?

Parts - Royalty Free 5

Consider the following points:

  • The “whole” is equal to the sum of its parts.
  • The sum of its parts is equal to the “whole”
  • The sum of its wholes makes a bigger-and-better “whole.”

This article will focus on the third idea.

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The Part

Graduate engineers can usually code in various languages—Python, Flash, Java, CSharp, Ruby on Rails. Perhaps they are able to create “apps.” They are specialists. With diligence and luck, they go to work in enterprise and fill specific roles.

In those roles, they create what might be call “parts.” A project manager pulls together all the parts into a “whole.” As typically happens, several of the parts do not fit. The process provides for other specialists that fill the gaps.

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I am describing a typical mode of work. Specialists in cubicles re-design parts designed by specialists in other cubicles until the organization achieves a satisfactory whole. This is an iterative process, but not a creative one. Industry blunders forward. By any economic measure, it is grossly inefficient. Where, one may ask, is the root of the problem?

Moises Goldman PhD

Moises Goldman PhD

What is Optimal?

We need only ask a few questions:

  • Do the individual engineers on any given project understand what impact, Parts - Royalty Free 4implication or influence their developments have on the overall wellness, intent or strategy of the enterprise they serve?
  • Do they take into account current policy, regulatory, ethical, or socioeconomic factors?
  • Do they are work together—focusing on the whole and not their “part alone?

If the answer to any of these is no, then without a doubt their efforts cannot be optimal.

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The Whole

Parts - Royalty Free 1Universities turn out engineers that are themselves essentially parts. I would argue that they should train-up collaborators adept at comprehending the larger view and better understanding their “part” in the “whole”—in other words, people who are themselves whole.

When each specialist embraces the larger picture, each specialty complements the others. The sum of each whole person makes a bigger-and-better whole project. The sum of the wholes is a bigger-and-better whole.

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GO TO PART 2

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Contacts

This article was adapted from a paper for the Institute for Work and the Economy by Moises Goldman PhD.  www.workandeconomy.org

Moises GoldmanMoises6@comcast.net

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

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.Copyright © 2013 Moises Goldman – All Rights Reserved
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2 Comments

Filed under chicago, Chicago Ventures, Economics, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, MIT, MIT Enterprise Forum, Think Tank

5 KEYS TO BIG FISH AND INVENTION

T Big Fish“Given a choice between trivial material brilliantly told and profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly.”  Robert McKee.  With that quote, Esther Choy, founder of LEADERSHIP STORY LAB (tm), goes on to reveal her secrets to great storytelling in business.

I’m at Northwestern, surrounded by fellow Kellogg grads and feel privileged to be here.  One never stops learning, and Kellogg never stops offering opportunities to do just that.  I’m a storywriter, not a storyteller so this workshop shows both promise and challenge for me.

Leadership Story Lab

In preparation for the class, we all view a video about innovation and entrepreneurship, the subject of a previous article.  I watch the video twice and take notes.  Amazing the way two wildly differing speakers like Sinek and Gingrich can come to identical conclusions about a specific topic:  “Why do people succeed at what they do?”  Both speakers use the Wright Brothers as an example.  I find these talks inspiring and this evening I will again meet an inspirational speaker–this time a humble one.

Esther Choy

Esther Choy

Quietly, almost shyly, Esther Choy points out you don’t have to be a superhero to tell a great story.  She talks about mining, refining, and telling.  Tonight, she explains that “mining” is all about getting at the “why” and converting it to key words.  The key words become metaphors.  She says that on average, we use metaphor every 25 words without even knowing it.  She gently takes us through a practical example, lists a few sample questions, then splits us into pairs.

And it works!  All fifty of us immediately tell or facilitate a story—I mean everybody.  We switch places and the result is just as startling.  This is powerful stuff!

She introduces us to another exercise.  This time she wants us to talk about something we are passionate about, so she directs us to our hobbies.  And sure enough, nobody has any problem talking at length about that.  She actually needs to keep us to a time limit.

My hobby is fishing.  After telling a fish story, we identify five keywords: Challenge, Environment, Patience, Collaboration, and Satisfaction.

Now she’s issuing a challenge:  Tell a story about a business experience.  She instructs us to use the keywords just generated from our hobby.  And like before, everybody is suddenly able to tell stories!

My story is about entrepreneurship.  I’ll break it down into the five keywords we identified from my hobby.

Big Fish

CHALLENGE

Early in my career, my company found itself in need of a radical new product.  The president called together the entire engineering staff, described the result he needed, and asked for an all-out effort to develop the new technology.  He asked us to push the limits in unimaginable ways.

I found out later that not one of the engineers took up the challenge.  Nobody.  Zip.  At the time I didn’t know why.

The president personally showed up at my office door one day and talked to me about it.  “John,” he said, “I want you to do this.”

Now, I have not yet explained my position.  My training was as an artist.  I was a wet-behind-the-ears kid who joined the company sales force.  I made a lousy salesman.  My presence at the meeting was purely as an observer.   So I argued my lack of credentials.

But he then said a curious thing:  “If you don’t do it, John, nobody will.”  That inspired me to try.  So I baited my hook and cast my line in the water.

ENVIRONMENT

Fishing takes place in a creative environment, usually with no competition or hurry.  It’s enjoyable, even if you get no bites.  It’s okay to be non-productive.  It represents both freedom and peace.  It turns out that R&D can be a lot like fishing.  Because everybody else refused to try, I had in my hands a project with no real competition but myself.  I was not only allowed but expected to let my mind run free and that was pure joy.  Like fishing, I could try the various lures in the tackle box and if those didn’t work, make my own.  Even my budget had an open end.

As it turned out, all the creative principles I learned in art school translated directly to research and development.  And the technology hurdle?  I crawled around inside these units and learned all about them.  Back at my office, I doodled on scratch paper.  One dumb idea after another.  That led to a concept, design drawings, and finally a prototype.

PATIENCE

In fishing, you either keep using the same lure till it works or keep trying new lures till you find one that works.  It’s trial and error.  So it is with R&D.  I spent weeks struggling to come up with a viable concept.  The hurdles turned out to be significant.

This device needed to be cheap to manufacture and easy to install.  What else is new?  But it needed strength and accuracy to do its job well.  It had to withstand a highly corrosive environment, a constant 400 degrees, and frequent fires.  It had to do all that in close proximity to a 40,000-volt electrical source and yet not draw an arc.

This particular application needed to be perfect.  If the first installation failed, the company could get wiped out.  It was a bet-the-farm project, but that was a big secret.  Nobody but the owners and me knew the risks involved.

Every time I thought I had something that showed promise, I looked for alternatives.  Lots of alternatives.  Meanwhile, the sales department was already busy selling my product—even though it was little more than a glimmer in my mind.

But I finally drew up the plans for the first prototype.  We hired a shop to assemble it.  I flew it and two tradesmen to a jobsite in the company plane.  We installed the thing ourselves.

It worked.

But it became immediately obvious to me that my thinking had been two-dimensional.  Certain weaknesses remained and a far better solution waited.  That night at the restaurant, I sketched the new plan on a paper napkin.  That’s right—just like all those stories you hear.  And I got the usual response from those two experienced tradesmen.  “No, that won’t work.”  I was brought up knowing that opportunity lurks wherever you hear those words.  To me, it was like a red flag to a bull.

I remember flying back in IFR conditions in my single-engine plane.  I couldn’t see the ground, but I could see the new design as clear as if it already existed.  When I reached the office, I committed it to an assembly drawing and had it built.  I drew up plans for a miniature unit so I could install prototypes right on the premises.  The prototypes required tweaking.  A lot of tweaking.  I learned to use tools I’d never used before.

Meanwhile, the president approached me and ordered me to release the design to sales.  Now, you’ll recall that I stated that if it wasn’t perfect, the very first installation would certainly bankrupt the company.  I turned him down flat.  Where did I get the power to do that to the president of the company?  Knowledge is power.  I kept at it and refused to release it until I knew it was right.  As it turned out, that took two more months.  A fisherman must have patience.

COLLABORATION

When I’m fishing, I don’t want to run the boat.  I just want to cast.  I prefer to fish with somebody who knows the lake.  I get so wrapped up in my fishing that I don’t even know where on the lake I am at any given time.  If I had to find the way home, I’d be lost.

I built a great team out men from the trades.  Boilermakers.  Pipefitters.  A kid in the back room that I could see needed to move on to bigger things.  These guys didn’t believe in the dingus we worked so hard on.  They worked for me because they believed that I believed.  And because they believed me, they were willing to do anything I asked.  We brainstormed.  We bent metal together.  We shared beers.  We failed and cursed and tried again.  I never received an ounce of discouragement from this group of brilliant guys till the first prototype worked.  They were so eager to launch it, and yes, they were the ones who resisted the big change at the end—the sketch on the table napkin.

You never know where the big fish are hiding.  When I released the final design and companies started buying it, we faced serious struggles in quality control and cost containment.  A purchasing agent—a guy not even on my team—came to me with the solution.  He discovered a vendor in the slums of Chicago that could make the thing to the tolerances I needed.  They could do it consistently.  They could do it for 1/4 the price of our other suppliers.  That guy transformed a technical success into a financial success.

SATISFACTION

Fishing can mean a trophy or meat on table.  Either represents the satisfaction of a primal urge.

When this project started, I had no expectation whatsoever of successfully launching the boat.  Certainly not landing a trophy fish.  But because a leader inspired me, I tried.

And as a result, I wound up in charge of that engineering department and won seven patents in my own name.  That one product and its subsequent variations became the flagship of our company—a company that I bought into at the bottom.  And for four years we grew exponentially, orchestrated a successful exit, and ultimately became part of GE.

So I did indeed put meat on my family table.  As the saying goes, “If you don’t get your line wet, you won’t catch any fish.”

It’s since been pointed out that my story talks about three distinct groups of people:

  • As a new minority shareholder, I had as much to win or lose as the president and other owners.  My house–everything I owned vs. a chance to grow a company.  High stakes, high reward, total freedom of movement and a chance to create something new.  None of the employees had a glimmer of the risk involved–only the owners.  If the employees knew that, they would have found steady work elsewhere.
  • The team I cobbled together caught my vision.  They risked nothing but they believed in why we were doing it.  They bought in heart and soul and participated without any other expectation.
  • The engineers that refused to pick up the challenge feared personal failure, looking bad to their peers, damaging their careers–nothing more.  There was little upside for them.  Perhaps a small raise?

MY TAKEAWAY – People seldom create on a paycheck. It requires taking on risk, an entrepreneurial mindset and self sacrifice.  People need much deeper reasons to do that.  They need to believe in what they are doing.  They need to catch the vision.

MEANWHILE, BACK TO THE MEETING – I look at my story partner in surprise.  Did that narrative just pop out of me?  Thank you Esther Choy.  May you continue to rack up success after success with your Leadership Story Labs.  Thank you for codifying the elements of storytelling and making the process seem so easy.

Find Esther Choy at http://leadershipstorylab.com/

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GO TO PART 3 – WALTER MITTY STRIKES AGAIN.

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www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com
Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.

15 Comments

Filed under Kellogg, Leadership Story Lab, Northwestern