Category Archives: Shared Experience

Outsourcing: Knowledge Attracts Knowledge

Professionals know what’s next

Professionals who employ their depth of knowledge to service clients, appreciate genuine expertise in others.

In delivering consistently high-quality services, professionals often have to outsource some or all of the work.

The challenge lies in locating complimentary services and products sold by professionals who also possess deep commitment to honing their expertise.

Tradeshows and conventions are terrific environments for discovering outstanding skills, products, and expertise without the hollow ring of “showing off” that marketing and advertising content can introduce.

For example, the annual IDS—Interior Design Show—is a professional-on-professional trade show that also invites end users to enjoy the mix of innovation and sustainability. If you’d like to observe professional communication in action, this is a great place to start.

Ask IDS Exhibitor Michael Pourvakil of Weavers Art about his business creating “the world’s most beautiful rugs” and it’s not long before he is extolling the value of professional interior designers.

Pourvakil explained, “The best products and best services are shown to advantage by interior designer expertise.”

The value of Weavers Art products and services is embodied in the “rugaholics”—Pourvakil and his staff—who curate the extensive and continually changing, internationally-sourced inventory.

They know that their expertise is amplified by the expertise of interior designers. At Weavers Art, they understand that this dictates their job is doing all they can to ensure working with Weavers Art is the best decision each designer makes.

Pourvakil stressed they do not sell on price since handmade rugs do not come down in price in a world where labor costs are increasing. The focus is peace of mind for all concerned which makes clear, accurate communication essential in every stage from design and creation to installation of the finished custom rug.

  • Does the process of servicing your clients involve the exacting delivery of products or service by other professionals? If so, how do you identify genuine talent and commitment when outsourcing? Or is price/cost the main focus?
  • How do you ensure you understand the specific value—from your point of view and your clients’—of outsourced professional expertise?
  • What steps do you take to guarantee respect for expertise—therefore, communication—works both ways and always benefits your clients?

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Expansion Demands Preparation

Q: How do you reach out globally to evaluate the potential of a country you want to target for expansion before investing heavily?

A: Find a global conference or think tank that features speakers and business experts knowledgeable about your chosen international market.

When “global” is the big issue, conference organizers will include embassy, trade, banking, and other dignitaries. This means a two- or three-day conference can place you in face-to-face contact with highly-knowledgeable, well-connected experts who are knowledgeable about the market you value for expansion.

This combined “been there, done that” expertise can save you from expensive dead-end inquires and false-starts. I known entrepreneurs who used this type of contact-rich investigation opportunity and discovered their business was not the exact match that they expected. I’ve known even more entrepreneurs who found that attending a global summit opened was like an advance screening and opened doors for them that they never knew existed. Contacts made during the conference may lead to introductions for the first country visit that amplify progress.

Intellectually-stimulating global conferences and forums allow engagement with business people who know from experience. For instance, discussions concerning the relevance of North American best practices can save a lot of time and help avoid offending cultural norms when visiting the target country. This is networking at its best—if you are prepared!

Merely showing up with a fist full of business cards or a snazzy web presence is not enough.

Preparation for global expansion involves investigating the target country, so you can articulate why this country is your best expansion choice. This preparation will enable intelligent exchanges with those who know what you do not and will help you learn how to make the right expansion match:

  • Details of population, culture, traditions, and geography are as important as legal and financial frameworks and economic policies.
  • Where politics are dramatically different, issues regarding civil rights, rule of law, and foreign (that’s you) requirements will define your project. This is where professional expertise will be essential.
  • Don’t expect others to do the thinking for you. Know what you need to know from your business’ perspective. Understand which types of professionals to search out when at the conference. Aim to discover where your thinking and knowledge may be off and how to avoid mistakes obvious to decision makers in your target country.

The more prepared you are to make your point, that is, communicate the advantages of doing business with you and your company, the luckier you’ll be.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur

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Entrepreneurship: What’s Your Edge?

kehindetunde

Serial entrepreneur Tunde Kehinde’s successful mimic of Amazon astounded Africa—and many others, too. Now, he fosters entrepreneurship across the emerging African market of 1 billion…and beyond.

Dynamic entrepreneur Tunde Kehinde, with three successful start-ups to his credit and another well on the way, shared ideas on entrepreneurship and emerging markets as a speaker, panelist, and attendee at the recent Global Forum. I had the privilege of speaking with Kehinde privately to explore entrepreneurship further.

Listening to Kehinde explain his business theories and strategies, I was struck by one question: “What gives Tunde Kehinde his unique entrepreneurial edge?

The list of career highlights for this man—who has many more decades ahead—is already impressive. When matched with essential entrepreneurial skills, the list explains a lot about his serial success, but not everything…

  • Nigerian Kehinde credits his education and work experience as the foundation of his entrepreneurial success. A finance major, he earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. Hands-on experience as a business development executive with Diageo in London and as an Investment Banking professional with Wachovia Securities in North Carolina and New York City revealed the difference between theory and reality. This experience accounts for his solid foundation in analysis, quick thinking, and flexibility, but it’s only the beginning.
  • This impressive communicator has a warm, natural style and a creative command of public speaking that facilitates his delivery of his point in any context. For all these reasons, he was a popular Forum speaker. One media colleague referred to him as a “rock star” since each time he spoke, lines of attendees gathered, eager to speak with him and snap a pic. Essential communication skills and salesmanship often separate successful entrepreneurs from those who merely have a good idea, but there’s more to this.
  • Kehinde’s track record has created a credibility and momentum that makes future success almost predictable:
  1. Kehinde began by co-founding Bandeka.com, an online dating platform identified by Forbes Magazine as one of the hottest tech start-ups in Africa.
  2. Then, he saw the need for a version of Amazon that would fill infrastructure and other system gaps for Africa and Jumia.com emerged as Nigeria’s leading ecommerce platform. As Co-Founder and former Managing Director of Jumia, Kehinde helped grow the business from 5 employees to almost 1,000 to serve customers across Nigeria.
  3. Next, he emerged as the Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of Africa Courier Express (ACE) (www.ace.ng), a technology-driven logistics platform, that enables ecommerce companies, financial institutions, and healthcare businesses to ship items directly to consumers across Nigeria. ACE shipped to almost 400,000 customers and collected payments on behalf of 1,000 merchants. ACE plans to expand across Africa.
  4. To address financial and banking barriers for ACE clients, merchants, entrepreneurs, and the growing African online middle class, Kehinde co-launched Lidya.co which offers easy, reliable, secure online access to finances.

What gives Tunde Kehinde his unique entrepreneurial edge?

When I explained to Kehinde that I had met entrepreneurs with credentials similar to his that explained his and their polished professionalism, he nodded. When I went on to say that I saw more than the sum of these parts in his ability, magnetism, and calm resolve, he smiled. When I asked, “How’d you get so smart?” He laughed and began to explain…

Acknowledging the importance of education, career opportunities, and practical start-up experience, Kehinde revealed that his parents were both entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial mind set was ingrained in him. That’s what makes the difference for him.

That’s the key to a powerful entrepreneurial edge: a clear inner, empowering “you can do it” voice.

This inner determination is either instilled early in life or deliberately acquired later. Parents who embody entrepreneurial drive and repeat entrepreneurial sentiments to their children can be powerful role models. The resulting family environment, can make the business drive to succeed part of both conscious and unconscious thinking and decision making in the next generation.

Family is what gave Kehinde a very early start and a unique entrepreneurial edge. He’s taken it from there.

What gives you your entrepreneurial edge?

Even if your parents were not in business and never encouraged you—or, perhaps were even a discouraging force—that inner certainty came from somewhere. The more conscious you are of how your certainty arose, the more in control of it you’ll be, even in the toughest times.

For more from Tunde Kindhe…see “Harnessing the Potential of Emerging Middle-Class Markets” in “Explore New Markets At A Global Forum

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Part 2: Framework Responsive to Millennials

Mobile-friendly or responsive websites and online content are vital if you aim to attract and serve millennials.

Research proved to Boston-based social enterprise Framework Homeownership, LLC that mobile-savvy millennials make up more than 35% of the target for their national online home buyer course, so creating a mobile-friendly or responsive version of their highly-regarded home education resource was a “no brainer.”

For-profit Framework arose out of the combined efforts of two leading national nonprofits that share empowerment mandates to build strong communities: the Housing Partnership Network and the Minnesota Homeownership Center. The social enterprise has two main directives:

  1. Access: Any time, anywhere, anyone…responsive home education which sets a high standard for home buying and home ownership
  2. Revenue Sharing: Framework’s future lies in partnerships—profits shared with non-profits and for-profits intent on serving their real-estate-intent clients with unbiased online education.

Framework’s Holly Mott, Vice President of Brand Marketing, reports that almost 80,000 Americans from all 50 states have completed the online course since its creation in 2013—including more than 49,000 this year!

Even if real-estate-intent millennials are not your prime target, you can learn a lot from how strategically this innovative home education organization serves users and partners.

Framework has done many things right in communicating its “responsive” intent in all senses of the word:

  • The online course, with optional downloadable content, is available in English for platforms from mobile to desktop. (The Spanish version is not yet mobile friendly.)
  • The course has proven to be such a strong buyer-be-aware starting point that Fannie Mae made it an eligibility requirement for a major program. Wells Fargo and others see the value of home education for their clients.
  • The $75 fee is counterbalanced by readily-available discounts and coupons (scholarships) from advisory partners and growing numbers of lending and real estate professionals.
  • Framework acknowledges that expanding product offerings and applications is essential for continued connections. For instance, free monthly email content concentrates on what new homeowners need to know. The expanding national network of free, unbiased expert advisors (not salespeople) keeps millennials and other buyers, sellers, and borrowers coming back to Framework.
  • Mott says they broke start-up rules by launching in 2012 with just one product—the online course. However, Framework has built significant credibility by developing the best-possible, high-standard responsive course and online platform. This effort is very deliberately balanced by establishment of an industry-wide advisory and partnership network. Now, next steps can be giant steps. Three new products are in the R&D phase. Future plans will transform the responsive site into a revolutionary online platform to create new national standards for home-buying and ownership education and to let consumers, including millennials, reap the real estate rewards.

How responsive is your online presence?
Do you understand your target markets well enough to be responsive—online and off—to what they want and to what they may not realize they need from you?

Resource:
To learn more about Framework:

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Part 1: Are You Responsive?

More and more people are using their phone to search the net. This means your net presence must quickly make a vital user-friendly statement. What message do you deliver when your website or online courses are not responsive?

Google™-recommended Responsive Web Design is the most common method of achieving mobile-friendly web pages configured to look great on the small screens of smartphones and other mobile devices. Search engines favor this user-friendly design. Responsive uses computer code that responds differently to different screen sizes, but ensures page displays remain similar and readable on any mobile device.

Are you asking users and target clients to deal with non-responsive websites and online content that are stuck in the “desktop dark ages?” They’ll probably vote “no way” by clicking on the mobile-friendly competition.

If your target market is mobile savvy, engage them on their terms. Transforming your website, blog, and online content into mobile-friendly territory is essential. Take time to decide which change strategy is most compatible with your short- and long-tem goals and those of target clients:

  1. Nowhere Fast: Those who find little or no business comes to them over the internet may decide there is no need for responsive design. (There is a very good business case for going responsive and optimizing the site to gain traffic, leads, and referrals, but that’s another article, for another time.)
  2. Halfway There: Blogs are not automatically responsive. For instance, WordPress  (WP), which accounts for almost 25% of internet activity, offers many mobile-friendly templates or themes, however, earlier WP blog templates were not responsive. Even now, new bloggers do not have to choose responsive themes. Check it out: Transforming your non-responsive WordPress blog and website may merely involve switching to a responsive theme.
  3. All the Way: The process of transforming a website to responsive is not as simple as switching templates. Coding changes are just the beginning. Design—including layout, fonts, images, and site navigation—will need modification to optimize smaller reading “windows.” Then, there’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to consider. Although this may be an opportune time for a full-site overhaul of content, navigation, and all related marketing elements, a phased-in re-do or scaled-down site are other alternatives. A big job with a big budget? If the website drives your business, delay will be even more expensive. Action: In some cases, recreating the site as a responsive WP site may be faster and less expensive. Google suggests  other ways to optimize for mobile search.

Are YOU responsive? This post explores communicating your value and intentions using technology. “Responsive” means much more. In both the technical and relationship sense of this word, how do you manage client and partner interfaces including websites and online interactive content? Closing the gap between what target prospects and clients value and need and what you offer enhances your relevance and responsiveness. That’s what credibility means to targets.

Resource: What’s Your Point?

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Sao Miguel coast

Itinerary: 12 Days in the Azores

Itinerary: 12 days in the Azores

Azores vista

Green-blue vistas, red-roofed homes and rolling farmland…great places to ramble and explore

Lagoa harbor

Lagoa’s colorful harbor with kids swimming off the dock and fisherman preparing to launch

Arquipelago dos Acores

Portugal’s Azores Archipelago (Click to enlarge)

My first visit to the Azores, Portugal’s mid-Atlantic archipelago, landed me on São Miguel for a month and hooked me on this green-blue island, the largest of the nine islands. My recent 12-day trip combined a return to São Miguel and brief visits to three new islands: Faial, Pico, and Terceria. Now, I’m hooked on the Azores and I still have 5 more islands to go.

This adventure introduced a significant element of context. The Azores trip followed a month traveling throughout mainland Portugal, so how did my view of the mainland—its people, culture, and countryside—color my latest island explorations?

For now, I’m resisting the urge to rave about the natural beauty of the Azores—the stunning landscapes, striking coastlines, rolling green farm fields lined by blue Hydrangeas, inspiring sunrises and sunsets, colorful red-roofed homes, artistically cobblestoned plazas and streets…and much more. The accompanying photos were hard to select because the Azores is paradise for a photographer (or artist or traveler of any kind).

In subsequent posts, I’ll share ideas, observations, and inspiration from the Azores relevant to this whatsyourpoint blog’s themes: perspectives on context, extreme service excellence, entrepreneurship, meeting dynamics, and related communication topics, as well as suggestions for your trip to the Azores.

If you want travel details now, visit the Azores Promotion Board’s www.visitazores.com The regional airline, Azores Airlines, offers direct flights from North America: www.azoresairlines.pt

Faial surf

Surf’s up on Faial’s north coast

My itinerary: Courtesy of SATA Azores Airlines
Day 1: Leave Lisbon Portugal 12:30; arrive Ponta Delgado, São Miguel 13:45

Day 6: Leave Ponta Delgado 8:20; did not arrive at Horta, Faial at 9:20 but diverted to Pico Island airport because of fog on Faial. Short tour of Pico and then ferry ride to Horta, Faial.

Day 10: Leave Faial airport 11:20; arrive Terceira Island

Day 12: Leave Terceira 16:45

Why do I say the right hotel makes your visit?

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CUBITAT: Think Around The Box

CUBITAT

CUBITAT: your unique “home in a box.”

CUBITAT, a 10’x10’x10′ (3-meter cube) with “plug and play elements” that seamlessly reveal and hide the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, laundry, entertainment area, and storage.

Exploring CUBITAT revealed the potential for future flexibility and mobility in the way we live, treat our “stuff,” and invest in ownership. The CUBITAT Project examines how our “stuff” and life functions could fit into a self-contained cube.

Take this concept a few steps further and consider that we could move the cube, or have it moved for us, when it was time for a change. This could foster Continue reading

CSI & Fresh Financial Thinking

The line between NON-PROFIT and FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS has blurred. The non-profit sector is primed for positive disruption, just like everything else that’s come under social media’s spell.

Non-profit/for-profit hybrid organizations and arrangements like social enterprises and venture philanthropy are on the rise, but is 20th-Century thinking holding some organizations back from stepping outside tradition and embracing financial resilience? Continue reading