Thursday, April 3, 2014

Intrapreneurs Inspire

Getting to the "top" of  an organization with your idea or product can be a real battle but people who have an aptitude for this are real game game changers.

I had a great conversation last night with my next door neighbor growing up, Allen, and was reminded about the Intrapreneur.  I've blogged in the past about the Entre-ployee (wants something more, is bored, perhaps) and the B2B Service Provider (provides services to businesses).  The term intrapreneur on wikipedia reminded that it was invented by Gifford Pinchot III of the US Forest Service where I worked during 2012 and 2013 in their Enterprise Program.

While in the US Forest Service's Organization Development Enterprise, I connected with Matt in Idaho to help him mature his product and pitch for a national system to recruit for and manage the hiring process for Forest Service personnel.  Matt was a classic intrapreneur.

I helped others form a national Performance Management Group within their CIO organization.

Allen's a true, inspiring intrapreneur:  he's trying to make big and better things happen within his company, Select Sires.  He's already done big, innovative, ground-breaking things, and looking to do more in their industry and  company.  He's been with them for 15 years.

So let me add the intrapreneur to my list of people I want to meet.  They're very inspiring.

Being an intrapreneur is frequently like fighting dragons.  Many people may have tried it before and you'd better be prepared for the battle.  And form a team of supporters around you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Inspiring talk by Simon Sinek and my thoughts

Saw this fella talk tonight.  He did a very good job.

I went to a very great talk by Simon Sinek tonight.  His talk was about leadership and was very inspiring. He's a very dynamic speaker. 

One of the main topics for him is getting to the WHY of what you do.  I did a quick experiment / brainstorm for myself:

What I do:
  • Help organizations change
  • Implement technology
  • Manage projects
  • Lead things
  • Make things
  • Try things
  • Connect with people
  • Network
  • Build lists and systems
  • Build teams
  • Write things down
  • Communicate
How I do it:
  • Facilitation
  • Teamwork
  • Teambuilding
  • Project management
  • Politics
  • Facilitation
  • Skill
  • Luck
  • Records management
  • Systems engineering
  • Software development
  • Product development
Why I do it:
  • To change things
  • To make a difference
  • To make things better
  • To make things suck less for people
  • To bring people together
  • To make people hate each other less
  • To break down barriers and walls
  • To find the truth
  • To innovate
  • To try new things
  • To work with data and things real, tangible, observable
  • To integrate disparate people and parts
  • To make new things possible
  • To invent and bring the future

Direct RELATIONSHIPS, not just direct marketing

Maybe it's not about direct marketing but about direct RELATIONSHIPS.  Yeah, consumers need to have a RELATIONSHIP these days with their brands.  Brands who are not good citizens or custodians of the customer's data, etc. will not be around or successful for very long.

Live at the bottom of the funnel.  Form relationships.  CRM, lifetime value, not just quick wins and bang for the buck.  Be responsible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Learn who you are: Turn "them" into your recruits, customers, and partners

Sometimes networking feels like there are a lot of "them" but not a lot of us. I'm seeking to build a model that creates more of "us" and turns "them" into our recruits, customers, and partners.

Yesterday I wrote about meetups and talked about the importance of having role clarity.  The different roles I discussed yesterday as being involved in a "business services" meetup are:
  1. Entre-ployee
  2. B2B Service Provider - be this
  3. Business representative - be this
  4. Self - be this
  5. Non-B2B Business Representative
Today I'd like to add the following roles to the list:

  • Employee
  • Contractors and consultants - be this
  • Job Seeker
The employee is an important role of course.  The entre-ployee is an employee and many business representatives are employees as well, but not necessarily.  Owners are not typically employees but might sometimes be.

Contractors are an interesting breed.  They are B2B service providers but may think of themselves more like employees; it just depends.

Job Seeekers are another interesting dynamic in the crowd.  They are "looking" and might need to find something.  They are similar to the B2B Service Providers in that they are looking.

Together these roles  make up our model and network.  Understanding each of their types and needs helps us navigate in this maze.  Identifying the roles that we do and do not play or desire to play is also a part of this dynamic.  

Setting our objective on being business services professionals we must exemplify business representatives, B2B Service Providers, ourselves, and contractors/consultants.  Really, we are sales people who are confident and not stuck in a system or brought down by our employment.  

The other roles of entre-ployee, employee, job seeker, and non-B2B Business Representative are also important and we may want to see them as our customers, partners, and potential associates.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Zen and the Art of Meeting Up for Professional Business Networking

Finding harmony in disparate but connected roles within the AppsJack Business Services Meetups.

I've written several times recently about the AppsJack Business Services Meetups and continue to put thought into the goals, purposes, and capabilities of these things.  Part of me wants them to be exclusive meaning they'll only involve the right people and no riff-raff will be there.  Another part of  me wants them to be inclusive and harmonious meaning that they're great and powerful for those who attend.  So, then, how can this community and these events be both exclusive to the right people and inclusive as to individuals needs?  Seems oxymoronic but the answer lies in role clarity.  I'll explain.

Renshi's Performance Blog defines role clarity as "everyone in the company understanding their role and why they are doing it."  I see this as a major part of what I have to do with these meetups.  The primary roles involved in the meetups are:

  1. Entre-ployee - People working at a place where they're kinda bored and looking for something more. They're not really representing this company, but more themselves as an entrepreneur, consultant, adviser or service provider.
  2. B2B Service Provider - These are people whose primary business is providing products or services *to* businesses, such as an attorney, software sales  person, consultant, or project manager.  Their market = businesses.  
  3. Business representative - These are people who represent businesses.  The Entre-ployee sometimes plays this role but sometimes does not.  
  4. Self - Sometimes you're just representing yourself.
  5. Non-B2B Business Representative - These are people who work for or represent a business whose primary customer is NOT businesses.  For example, they're dentists, hair stylists, or dog-walkers.  They do not sell directly to businesses typically.
So within these roles five roles, how do we gain clarity?  I think that's the issue that we need to address with the meetups and through dialog on the blog and in our communities.  Why does each role exist?  What are their specific needs?  Where are there synergies?  What are the capabilities of each?  How can they help each other create new opportunities without destroying existing ones?  How can they protect and help one another?  How can they act cooperatively rather than competitively when possible?  

These are the issues we'll be discussing within these meetups as they take off.  What are your thoughts?

Fixing the local food supply chain

Beefs: they're what's for dinner!

How I got interested in food supply.  My dad and his family have raised grass-fed Angus beef for slaughter since the 1940s.  I grew up on the farm where I stepped in doody, drove the tractor, and helped with the hay and feeding.  As I got older and moved away I was still interested in the operations and for graduate school did a project on the price of beef that helped my dad reduce costs and gross more through better practices and marketing.  The operation is still small and more of a hobby than anything--about 75 head of animals--but it's a fun one to monitor.  I like the scientific, dynamic, and operational natures of it.

Why not make a career out of it? The project of studying the beefs in grad school was fun and I've recently started thinking more of food-related business opportunities.  I thought, "Why not pursue one: I love food and why not make a career or at least a project out of it!?"  My mom has co-authored  two cookbooks and write a blog on French Dip Reviews so why not keep up with the trend?!

There's some cool stuff out there already.  I recently discovered a service called 5 Dinners in 1 Hour and have been quite happy as a user of it since January.  It's been a fast, reliable way for my wife and I to get good quality, reasonably healthy home-cooked meals throughout the week.  Briefly, with 5Dinners, you pay to get a weekly menu including the recipes, shopping list and recipes that you shop for and cook...but rapidly.  The dishes are chosen to be efficient to:
  • Choose (she chooses then for you), 
  • Shop for (she lays out the ingredients by aisle in the store), 
  • Prepare (she tells you what you'll need and what to do) and to 
  • Cook (she makes it so you "stage" everything in the refrigerator and can get out ready-to-cook items when it's time).
But it's just not good enough yet.  I really like the service overall but when I think about it I am disappointed that it is not more automated. For example, if I go to Amazon Fresh (which we do indeed have in my locale), I can browse recipes and then easily add items to my cart and they'll appear at my doorstep soon thereafter.  This is a good start but still not an integrated solution like the one I'm seeking.  What I want is 

an integrated, end-to-end solution for people who want to get good, locally-sourced where possible, 
home-cooked food fast and play a specified role in the delivery process

Let me parse this out for us.  "An integrated, end-to-end solution" to me means that it's software based, automated or some kind of cool, designed, customer experience with their needs in mind and not just a "niche play".  It's more of a platform or strategy, for example.  "For people who want to get good, locally-sourced where possible, home-cooked food fast" means to me that they care about good food, not just food or Doritos, locally-sources--they care about local suppliers for example, home-cooked meaning it's not done in too large of a batch or a true industrial output, and fast meaning that they don't have a ton of time to dedicate to the overall process.  "and play a specified role in the delivery process" means that they care and we as providers need to inquire with them as to what they need and want and prefer. 

Let's get involved.  We need to design a service or set of services around this premise and get going now.  Please let me know your thoughts and ideas.  Thanks!

Friday, March 14, 2014

A safe platform for entre-ployees: AppsJack Business Services Meetups

Letting employees pursue opportunities (safely) while working helps build the economy.  Here's how.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my desire to form a growing community of employees looking for "more" (excitement, opportunities, income) and mixing them with B2B service providers who are also looking for more.  I'm calling this the AppsJack Business Services Meetup.  I feel like these two groups can benefit each other in a few obvious ways if given a chance...and I'm trying to create that chance.

The employees want more income, more flexibility,  more freedom, and more growth.  For the employees participating in the group they get to meet new people, get help thinking about how to "sell" more change and things internally to their employers, and potentially get attached to fun projects and paid "finder's fee" projects that can result in passive income, helping these employees build their war chest and ability to leave their golden-handcuff situation.  The employees fear: getting bored, not making enough, being bored, being in a dead-end job forever, never realizing their dreams or full potential.

The B2B services professionals want more income, clients, capabilities, ideas, partners and freedom.  From the group they get to meet people within their target market, talk about strategies for selling within, and network with solid professionals who can advise on their businesses and help them think of and connect to new opportunities.  The B2B professionals fear: going out of business, not having enough leads, not being good enough or competitive enough, not having enough business, losing business.

Getting these people together is a win-win situation and further developing processes and services around helping them mix will be good for economic development.  Let's watch it happen!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The AppsJack Business Services Virtuous Cycle

By building a network and community of employees mixed with small businesses, employees who are currently not very empowered are able to strategize with these small businesses who are expert about selling value and change to businesses.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Vision of AppsJack Business Services Communities

I'm really excited right now: I had a great (first) meeting last night for the AppsJack Business Services Meetups that I'm putting together with a few associates.  I'd like this to be a big deal and feel like it has the potential to be and do just that.  

We met at the Pumphouse Bellevue and had a great time.  We covered many topics and had fun, food, and big beers.  I'm super pumped for what's in front of us and wanted to share with you a few details and thoughts on what this is all about and where we're headed.....

Communications.  We'll be good at outreach and communications
We'll stay in touch with event attendees and our networks through email, phones, F:F, blogs, events, lunches, etc.

Meet.  Meetings will continue and improve
We'll keep holding monthly events/meetings/meetups (I need a name, I guess) and: feature a business, have a featured topic, and perhaps alternate venues. We'll mix it up and keep it interesting but we'll add dynamic elements.  We'll get to know and bring the venue owners into the mix to add to the overall value.  We'll provide free beer or something like that to get people in the door.

Services.  We'll start providing services to help people sell
We'll develop a service that allows people to aggregate experience (projects) from various persons and businesses in their network to make a branded portfolio for a single person that makes them look larger than they may be alone.  

Governance.  We'll track how the network grows
We'll keep track of how people are included and introduced into the network to give credit to good additions and growth.

Identity.  "Repping" will be a core concept of the network
We'll flesh out the "rep and refer" concepts.  People can rep themselves or something else but they can only rep a single thing per event.  People need to be focused and intentional, not wavering.   

Community support and purpose.  It'll be focused while helping recruits, startups and established people
We'll ensure that the community stays focused about ONLY BUSINESS SERVICES.  
  • For employees.  We'll help employees who are looking for something else an ability to become owners and partners in other businesses and transition from employee to employer.  We'll help these people looking for something  else select a single project or capability that's been a success for them and mature that into something that is salable and scalable.  We'll transition services into products.  
  • For startups and small businesses.  We'll help small businesses and startups grow by capitalizing on and delivering services to leads known by recruits. 
  • For graduates.  For people who have "made it" and are just looking to help.
We'll clearly define these terms and roles of recruit, startup, and graduates and make this system sing.  We'll make the risk for recruits low and increase opportunities for startups and recruits. 

Safe and legal.  There will be incentives and a legal framework available
We'll provide a legal structure to support collaboration and operations, repositories for the artifacts as well as incentives and compensation for certain relationships, milestones and acts.

We'll grow the network.

We'd really love for you to participate in this community and give us your thoughts on how it can flourish and grow.  Also, let us know what you think this kind of communicate could do or be FOR YOU and how it can add the most value to people like yourself and those you know.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 4 Parameters for Thinking about and Planning Your PMO

Thoughts on building a structure and plan to manage organizational resources and work at the aggregate.
I attended a great talk last night from Puget Sound Project Management Institute (PMI) called the PMO Roundtable and I'd like to share some of the insights with you.  At the talk, people agreed that PMOs are hard to create, many people struggle with the same basic organizational and cultural tensions, and that there are some basic and shared parameters of planning, resources, and work that can help us think about solving these challenges as we apply them to our own business domain or work problem.

There are five main parameters that I've identified that can help our thinking of PMOs:

Parameter #1 - Resources are of discrete types and have statuses
 Although it all boils down to "they're humans" we can simplify the problem by thinking of the people as: utilized, available, expert, etc. to help  us sort out how to fit people into slots.  Availability is another property of the resource that can of course help us with planning.  Of course the time dimension of WHEN people are of a specific type is critical to us as well.  Time is a constant dimension in systems like this that must be considered throughout the planning process.

Parameter #2 - Resources are consumed or utilized in discrete ways, some more effective than others
Resources, like their name applies are value to us if utilized properly.  There's good ways to use resources (putting them on the right tasks, treating them well) and there are poor ways to use resources (being abusive, overusing them, being mean, forceful, coercive, etc.)  We want to respect our resources but they're here for some kind of compensation and we need to get value out of them in exchange.  The matrix of resource type to preferred and dis-preferred utilization types is interesting for our planning purposes.

Parameter #3 - We can think of the work separately from the resources but need to put them together and manage the connections to add value to the system
It's nice to be able to separate the work and project plan from the actual resources.  Some people in the roundtable were talking about finding your "critical resource" (a concept borrowed from Critical Chain and Theory of Constraints) and then planning the project around them.  I feel like this method, however, is problematic and puts too much pressure on "hero individuals" rather than the team or collective.  I prefer approaches that get the team, collectively, to estimate their work and have leaders such as that critical resource work on making the others faster or more confident and build skills.

Parameter #4 - Systems, portfolios, programs, projects, and resources have slack and utilization properties; unplanned or unused slack is waste and cost
Someone in the talk last night said that you WANT slack in your project.  I couldn't understand this.  I can see how it is nice to have people free to apply to the project and critical tasks but at the aggregate slack is waste if not applied to the project.  Managing the slack is a key issue in planning one or more projects.

What do you think about these parameters?  Do they make sense?  Are there others?  Please discuss below!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A little more info on the AppsJack Business Services Meetup I'm hosting this Tuesday Evening (and on the 4th Tuesday of every month, recurring)

Hi Everyone, 

I wanted to give you a little more context on this meetup I'm organizing on the 4th Tuesday of every month and my thinking behind it.  I'd love to see you there and get your input on the concept as well.

I've been involved in several "lead sharing" and networking groups over the years and I typically find that they lack focus and direction.  I want to fix that:  I've formed and led many effective teams and groups inside of corporations and the federal government and want to apply that same capability to help us do well in the Northwest market.  I want to work with you on growing this effort.

My goal is to form a team focused on selling quality services to BUSINESSES (rather than consumers, families, etc.) and then within that, sub-organizing into "practice areas" by vertical (healthcare, tech, small biz, etc.) and skill or capability (legal, tech, mgmt consulting, finance, etc.). The objective is to expand our mutual reach, capabilities, opportunities, and bottom lines through teamwork, collaboration, and coordination.

Please provide your feedback, input, or ideas; I look forward to seeing you participate in this exciting new community.  

Thank you.  

Best regards,

Eric Veal