Ebooks for the mature professional, by Liz Weinmann

ebook readerAre you a visionary, intelligent and motivated professional over 40? Liz DiMarco Weinmann has published four ebooks specifically targeted to you and your needs.

Regardless of your education or lifestyle, you are a manager – of your life, of your family, of your career, and even to a certain extent, of your community. Shouldn’t you DRIVE, ADVANCE, RULE and EXPRESS Your Own EXPERIENCE & EXPERTISE  toward something beneficial for you, something that will make you happy while you’re meeting your responsibilities and duties to others?

These ebooks are your roadmaps!  Available now, they offer important intrapersonal, interpersonal and instrumental principles and practices to help you to drive your strategy, apply your motivation, and expand your vision to Get DARE From Here!™.


Drive Your Own Strategy,
Uncommon Career Advice for Professionals Over 40 Facing Common Career Challenges

 

 

 

 

Advance Your Own Plan, Uncommon Career Advice for Professionals Over 40 Facing Common Career Challenges

 

 

 

 

Express Your Experience & Expertise, Uncommon Career Advice for Professionals Over 40 Facing Common Career Challenges

 

 

 

 

Rule Your Own Platform, Uncommon Career Advice for Professionals Over 40 Facing Common Career Challenges

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of Business – 21st Century Style

file221263244327Following are some keen gleanings, amusing musings, and plain common sense for mature professionals who get a lot done – with and for other people, taking care of themselves, their teams and their businesses. These are culled from workshops I’ve run recently for mature professionals, classroom exchanges I’ve had with business students in various universities, and “heard on the street” revelations that surprise even someone more over 40 than I want to admit!

1) In today’s workplace, karma is as karma does. If your default leadership mode now that you’re a seasoned professional is to be all dictatorial diva and command-and-control queen, then you’re practicing the outmoded, discredited management principles of the 19th century.  What worked in the factory-driven Industrial Revolution (or in The Devil Wears Prada) is negatively Neanderthal in this environment of self-actualization and self-driven career professionals. Team disenchantment that’s allowed to fester leads to massive defections, operations challenges, and external backlash. If you’re “that guy,” keep in mind this commonsense advice from a variety of leadership experts:

  1. a) Learn to analyze complex team situations – because no one management theory works for all employees in all industries or companies.
  2. b) Develop a broad repertoire of behaviors and knowledge about when to use them – focusing on optimizing your team’s strengths, rather than focusing on their weaknesses.
  3. c) Develop the self-control and self-discipline to go beyond your natural leadership style and adapt to a rapidly changing environment – not everything is a “turnaround” situation. 

harvard bus review2) Learn how to manage yourself, and manage how you learn, before you can hope to manage others – including the leaders to whom you report. A classic Peter Drucker article about how we learn is even more relevant today than when it was published 15 years ago in the Harvard Business Review. I assign it to students as well as mature professionals, because Drucker demonstrates:

a) your preferred ways of learning drive whether you consume and process information efficiently and effectively;
b) you take subsequent actions based on how you learn, and therefore, what you think you know;
c) those actions govern the responses you’re likely to receive (pro and con) from your direct reports as well as your own management;
d) if you’re not learning anymore, it means you’re bored, and if you’re bored, your job is on the line.

3) Should leaders focus on frenetic output and efficiency no matter the company or situation? Or, should they build in time for thoughtful consideration, reflection and resetting of strategies, desired outcomes and potential impacts? Recent media stories skew bipolar for both sides:

social media logosa) The camp that says we’re battling insomnia because we’re multi-tasking, pinging, Tweeting, Linking, Facing, and Pinteresting well beyond reasonable latte hours – BUT we ALL should be getting a “minimum” of seven hours of sleep. Here, please note that mattress manufacturers, sleep app marketers and pharmaceutical companies create a lot of this “reportage” because they’re only too happy to push worry and “remedies” to those of us who sleep six or fewer hours a night, and we do just fine without new mattresses, rain simulators or sleep drugs.

sleepb) The camp that loves the cliché that “Sleep is vastly overrated.” That cliché should be relegated to the Industrial Revolution and its outmoded factory management techniques, in any case. Its proselytizers are supposed gurus of how to get more done, all of it!, most of it!, work!, play! – in four or fewer hours a week, supposedly with games, virtual assistants, and gargantuan gulps of 20-ounce cups of Coke. Phew – who has time to dump all that Coke, let alone sleep!

c) Try this instead – the antidote to all this frenzy! Tony Schwartz’s Life@Work column that ran on Valentine’s Day in the New York Times, extolled the virtues of purposely building in time in our day to be offline, rather than off and running, unless you’re using that run as time to think and reflect. That kind of deep, insightful, refreshing, brain-cleansing reflection focuses us on several important priorities: 1) what we truly need and want to accomplish, 2) when such activity really needs to be done, and – 3) here’s the wakeup call for many of us who think we’re indispensable – does it absolutely, positively, need to be done by YOU? Read the article

If you’re a mature, professional leader and you’ve been “taking care of business – and working overtime,” remember that song was recorded back in the 1970s – even if it did briefly surface again in the 1990s! Wake up, it’s a new century! Time to give some deep thought to your default management style, its impact on your team and your management, and whether you need to be offline thinking more than you’re overtime working.

 

You’ve been Meaning to Write a Book: 6 Tips to Get it Done

book

People ask me daily about writing a book, since my book was published: “Get DARE From Here! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest Of Their Lives.

Everyone, it seems, wants/plans/means to write a book. In today’s new self-publishing world, anyone CAN write a book and get it out there.

Are you one of those people? Do you have something to say and just don’t know how to start?

Many authors will tell you to be prepared that you will do almost nothing else for a year or so while you are writing a book. Yeah, right! Maybe, if they’re already household names! They spew on (disingenuously) about the languid literary lifestyle – writing in your pajamas for eighteen hours straight; subsisting on pizza, potato chips and caffeine; ignoring friends, family and creditors. All the while they’re supposedly developing the concept, writing (and rewriting) the book’s outline, doing the research required, and then writing and editing several drafts before turning out the draft that won’t mortify them when they take their masterpiece down to their local copy center to print out and bind for them to proofread before sending it to their publisher.

Hah! Unlike those languid literary lifers, I spent six months writing and then overseeing the editing, design, distribution and marketing plan for my book – while working in my consulting business full time and teaching at two universities, while also trying to have a life. It wasn’t easy, but neither is working with legacy publishers these days (the ones who are left hanging for dear life), which take a huge chunk of your profits and leave all the marketing to you. The work I put in was worth it.

Many of my friends, colleagues, former professors and students think it’s great that I’ve written a book – they are the best support team ever. So, for all my friends, especially all the mature professionals who also have a story, expertise, valuable life skill, untapped artistic talent, or other aptitude that makes them proud and wanting to get loud, here’s a short tip-sheet, taken from my book, that might help you write your book. The same advice applies to any other artistic endeavor you’re thinking of pursuing for business purposes or other fulfillment.

1. Focus on one thing you do really well and figure out how to write about it, shout about it or grouse about it. Think intensively and extensively about it, and you too might be churning out a few thousand words on of insight, inspiration and motivation.

2. Think hard about your particular interests, passions, concerns, hobbies and other worthwhile endeavors you’re drawn to learn more about in the course of your daily life. What’s your story? Everyone has one. And, if you’re over 40, you probably have dozens of them. If it moves you, it behooves you. And, if you can figure out how to move someone else with your insights and ideas, that’s an excellent motivator to start and – ultimately – finish.

3. If you really want to learn more about a particular subject to the point of becoming an expert and getting recognized as such, do some initial research and seek out others who have similar interests and skills in your area of focus. Want to be known as an expert? Write a book (or other media) on it. (Where do you think the expression, “She wrote the book on it!” came from?) In fact, a recent New York Times article details that newsletters are making a comeback. If you don’t think you can spit out a whole book, start with a newsletter. That’s what I did.

4. If you’re considering writing non-fiction or a memoir or how-to (or all three, which is what I did with Get DARE From Here!) to express yourself, be careful about “telling all.” Be sure to think very carefully about what, how and when you want to tell all by publishing, and what your overall objective is for doing so. Edit, edit, edit. Have someone else close to you read it. Then, be sure to consider the consequences before hitting “send.”

5. As a first time author you might want to bypass so-called legacy publishers, and work instead with an extremely creditable Amazon affiliate, Create Space. For an upfront investment less than many New York salons charge for one haircut, you can work with a publisher that will help you take your worthwhile message, articulate prose and proofreading stamina the whole distance. Or check out LinkedIn’s new publishing platform.

6. If you really want to express yourself fully and with little or no inhibition, write poetry or fiction instead, perhaps short stories or a novel. If you have the discipline and stamina to write and/or edit for at least an hour every day, and publish your novel or series of short stories with a reputable author-publishing service, you need to gain a following via social that helps you sell at least 5,000 units. Who knows, you just might grab the attention of a publisher who will want to sign you to a contract to publish your next book(s). It’s not as much of a long shot as you might think.

This time around, I chose non-fiction, as it had long been my goal to publish a book about and for mature, intelligent and motivated professionals. I’m thinking that my next book, if there is one, will be fiction. No way I will be hanging around in my pajamas to do it. There are easier, faster ways to get a book done these days than ever before. 

Click here to check out “Get DARE From Here!My book, “Get DARE From Here!” – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest Of Their Lives – is available on Amazon.

 

Over 40 and considering a master’s degree? Consider this…

salute to edAre you an mature professional who is considering a return to school for a master’s degree? Going back to school for any level of higher education is a fast-growing trend; recent stats from the U.S. Department of Education confirm that adult students are now the fastest growing demographic in the educational arena.

In my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I hear is “Should I go back to school and if so, should I pursue an MBA?” The MBA is certainly a hotly discussed degree. Many seasoned professionals leave the corporate world (by choice or not) to start new businesses, and think they have what it takes to do their own thing. Maybe, maybe not. However, it is possible that the training involved in achieving an MBA could be their best defense against some of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make.

By the same token, an M.S.in Education or in Psychology and Human Services may empower you to reach for better, more interesting, and higher paying jobs than those available to someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Here is a brief overview of three possible master’s degrees you may be considering:

Master of Business Administration

The MBA is the most popular advanced degree in America and is one of the most reliable paths to a successful career in business – whether your goal is to rise in a corporation, run your own business, or lead a nonprofit. An MBA program provides you with the essential general management portfolio of strategy, operations, finance and marketing, with a strong emphasis on organizational development and personal leadership training. You will upgrade your technical business decision-making skills and increase your overall organizational effectiveness and value through improved self-management – skills that will benefit other areas of your lives

A good MBA program provides you with the invaluable opportunity to learn from professors with extensive experience as well as expertise in their respective fields of strategy, operations, marketing, finance and organizational development.  Look for programs where faculty members have extensive experience in, and a passion for, mentoring, training and educating diverse professionals and helping them build fulfilling careers.

Master of Science in Psychology (or other Human Services)

Senior managers recognize that they get a better worker when you go back to school for additional training, which can lead to promotions and pay raises. If you have established yourself in a specific type of counseling career for a few years and decide you want to try something different in the field, a graduate degree will prepare you to do so.

Master of Education

A master’s degree in education gives you the latest essential skills for educators and can provide you with an advantage in the job market over candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Whether you are interested in teaching in a public school, or simply wish to expand your understanding of the education process, but do not plan to teach in a classroom setting, an M.S. in Education can increase your options.

Look for colleges that can tailor programs to meet your specific career goals, needs and interests. Learning the latest classroom trends enhances your resume and expands your employment options. Look also for programs that are affordable and accessible to over-40 individuals already working in the field.

You, the over-40 professional, know you will be living longer, and you demand more from your life. In returning to school for a master’s degree, you are DARE-ing to pursue new career ideas, create new businesses, and fulfill your lifelong dreams.

 

adult ed pic two 9 4 2013

Plant Seeds of Renewal in Your Brain this Spring!

plant-164500_640This year, it seems like there is no spring season in sight… after a hard, very long winter. If you live in the northeast, you may be waiting to plant your real garden, due to the hideous weather we’re all having (hail the size of golf balls here in Vermont the other afternoon).

But what a perfect opportunity to plant seeds of renewal in our brains. Here are 7 SEEDS of ideas to get you growing and sowing. After all, Mother Nature herself needed seven days to get the earth in BLOOM, and even SHE rested!

  1. To PLANT your SEEDS of accomplishment for 2015, first decide what you want to reap. Do you want to learn valuable new skills, gear up for a brand new, exciting and fulfilling career? Develop new connections, friendships and relationships? Maybe you have an even loftier goal, such as starting a multi-million dollar business. Decide what you want your full-blown PLANTS to look like!
  2. Once you determine how you want your flourishing GARDEN to look, you need a plan to make it happen. If you want to learn a new skill, why not sign up now for a finance class, a computer class, a ballroom dance class or music lessons? Why not learn a new language?
  3. If your goal is finding a new career, June is the perfect time to set up informational interviews or networking sessions where you talk with people about their jobs and figure out whether their career might be a perfect career for you. Even with all the slush and muck in the streets, people you want to know are ready to come out of hibernation for a quick lunch or espresso. [For more helpful tips on job-hunting in these challenging economic times, click here.]
  4. If you have to literally crack open your copy of What Color is Your Parachute, then don’t wait for evidence of moth larvae infestation between the pages before you buy yourself the new edition. No one writes about career reinvention, midlife crises or having a “Plan B” the way that Richard Nelson Bolles does.
  5. If you haven’t taken a career assessment test since you wore miniskirts the first decade they were in style (which would also be the decade that Cher could scowl and smirk with the lips, eyes and forehead that Mother Nature gave her), then sign up to take a Myers-Briggs personality test (www.mbticomplete.com). Even though Myers-Briggs experts say that your personality traits stay the same as you move through your life, taking the test again will reaffirm for you who you are today, and what type of job would be a good fit for your personality now. At the very least, it’s a way to PLANT new SEEDS in your own head, and then in others’ heads.
  6. Speaking of heads, two (or more) heads are sometimes better than one. If you want to develop new networks of friends or relationships, make sure you have a profile on a business social network like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), or update your professional profile, and make plans with people whom you haven’t seen in years. Or, how about hosting a dinner party for six friends that you think would have fun together brainstorming the next move in their lives – even if you have to order in? Or, go to a panel sponsored by your alma mater or the local YMCA, so you can be exposed to new ideas while meeting new people.
  7. Finally, this might not sound like an activity for a “day of rest” but if your daydreaming time tends to veer toward visions of having your own business, maybe this is the perfect time to PLANT the SEEDS for that. Decide what type of business you want to start that fits in with the rest of your goals in life. In entrepreneurial finance, the term “lifestyle business” is used to define a business that will also allow you to have a normal life. And, we’re all for that! Start researching the industry you’re thinking about entering, and the companies that might be your competition. Then think about what you would need to do to put together a kick-butt business plan.

    SEED that need and get yourself in full BLOOM!

 

Job-Hunting as a Mature Professional? FLEX YOUR SPECS! There are more ways IN than you think!

northeaster us mapIn the last few years I enjoyed leading a rewarding series of workshops for executives in transition, who very much want to land their next full-time job.

It was such a pleasure to meet and work with talented, educated, highly skilled executives, most of them in transition not of their own volition, and all too many of them in a serious state of shock, denial, anger.  On top of all that there’s the engulfing sense of shame and fear about their future job prospects, as well as the financial burdens.   Here are some of their challenges, how to deal with the most pressing roadblocks, and a few good books that will help.

The Challenges:

1)    Shock and Denial:  Many executives are determined to land a full-time position in a “reasonable amount of time” that is the same as or very similar to the position they left.  This time frame usually coincides with that of their severance package.  But if the reason their jobs are gone is that they were combined with or absorbed by talent that is often younger, less expensive and more flexible, this determination to “replace” the lost job and its perks often leads to even greater disappointment.

2)    Reluctance to network: This stems from lethargy or confidence challenges regarding its benefits.  The workshops prove that support from peers in a similar situation is invaluable!  Peers or mentors can become avid sponsors – I’ve seen it happen many times over the past few months with women I know who landed great jobs because they got outside of their own cocoon.  Sometimes this was due to someone much younger who was in a position of influence and wanted to help.  That’s hard for a lot of mid-career executives to accept. But it’s the reality.

3)    Shame: Many of these execs have been breadwinners, and are now suffering from shame.  Shame definitely becomes a firewall for some women and men who can’t see the value in joining professional organizations.  However, joining – and becoming active and visible in – networking groups, professional associations or a cause they care about would help them see there are other accomplished people out there who have risen past any notion of shame. They proudly announce they’re “in transition” and explain what they’re looking for as their “Big Next.”  Joining helps them to see there are myriad ways to contribute and expand their experience and expertise, and to meet mentors, sponsors and hiring managers.

4)    Inflexibility to pursue what could be valuable options outside their current experience and expertise – i.e., franchising, consulting/freelancing, starting their own business, etc.  The research that led to my book unearthed all sorts of women and men whose names (or the organizations they started) are now so well-known that few recognize their drive and subsequent success came after a huge adversity punch to their souls in mid-career.

5)    Fear: This is a big one; many attendees of my workshops report being “paralyzed with fear.”  Fear of networking, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong next move.  The reluctance and/or apathy I so often see with regard to their willingness to take advantage of tools for personal evaluation could be more about fear.  Professionals in transition sometimes fear these tests since they point out more deficits or deficiencies than they want to acknowledge.  Instead I encourage them to see the assays as an opportunity to benefit from a fresh look at their strengths and how to optimize them.

DEALING with these challenges:

For visionary, intelligent and motivated executives to combat these challenges, here are the three main areas of focus:

1)    linked in buttonMaximize LinkedIn:  there are more articles on the web regarding the benefits of using LinkedIn than I can possibly cite here, but the most critical reason to be there with a good profile to attract the work you really want to do and are good at (I rewrite mine once a year or more) is that almost every corporate hiring manager checks LinkedIn for profiles before looking anywhere else.   On top of that, if a hiring manager receives your resume and you’re not on LinkedIn, with a strong network and good skills profile that matches their needs, they often put your resume aside.

2)    Personal branding: I’ve written on this quite a bit, and there are dozens on books on it.  Pick the two or three that resonate with your strengths, motivation and where you want to land, and work the exercises.  There’s no substitute for the intrapersonal work you need to do before you can do the interpersonal connecting.  If not now, then when?

3)    Networking in generalto paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most inspirational women of all time, who also happened to be one of the great networkers well before the word became the 21st century catchphrase for connecting every possible interest, “You must do that thing you think you cannot do.”  Join and become very active in your industry’s professional organizations.  Comment selectively on business blogs and your industry organizations’ websites.  Participate in local philanthropic events where hiring managers in your industry also contribute.  You don’t have to have a lot of money to do this, but you do have to spend your time wisely.  Know how and when to cultivate contacts – and remember, you have to give to get.  It sure beats sitting in front of your laptop all day sending mass emails to black holes scanned by computer software that doesn’t care a bit about you and your potential.

A FEW GOOD BOOKS:

1)    Career Distinction, William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, Wiley, 2007

This is an invaluable “how to” manual instruction manual and branding bible for building a satisfying and successful career.

2)    The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, Reid Hoffman, Crown Business, 2012.   A great book to inspire you to entrepreneurial endeavors!

3)    Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Seth Godin, Portfolio Trade, 2011.

One of my favorite books; here is quintessential advice from a master on marketing, emotional investment in careers and work, on taking the initiative, on being a leader, an artist!

4)    How to Become a Rainmaker, Jeffrey J Fox, Hyperion, 2000.

An introduction or refresher course in the power of selling.

5)    What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith, Hyperion, 2007.

Executive Coach Marshall explores why some people succeed in their careers, and others stall. He offers myriad pieces of advice and guidance, bad habits to break, plus gives powerful examples to drive home his points. Great book you will return to again and again.

 ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 

© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2015. 

Check out Liz Weinmann’s book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives, by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA. All rights reserved.  

All of the content on this website and in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation are based on sound business principles and practices of strategy, operations, leadership and marketing, and on current and emerging trends in those referenced business principles and practices.  None of the content on this website, nor in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation, are intended to be, nor should they be, perceived as, practiced as, or applied as, counsel, diagnosis, or treatment for any implicit or explicit mental, emotional or physical health challenges.  

 

 

 

$1,750 or $175,000-Plus – Questions to consider for your own reinvention in 2014

cap and diplomaAs so many of us think about new year’s resolutions to make, many mature professionals consider going back to school to get professional training or expand areas of their intellects that intrigue them. I’m all for that, if you have the time and money to pursue something that will benefit you – financially, emotionally, physically, whatever your motivation.

It so happens that in my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I get is should I go back and if so, should I pursue an MBA. I’m asked that one a lot because I earned my MBA in mid-career, and over the age of 50. I had a specific goal and plan in mind, and it worked for me.

mba biz cardThe MBA is a hotly discussed degree, for anyone over 21 and up. However, the dollar amounts above, in the title, are not salaries or billable-hour rates but rather tuition ranges for one course – for example, a marketing course at NYU, and the going rate for a two-year Executive MBA program at a top school. So, considering that the costs of earning an MBA today are climbing steadily, executives over 40 need to consider whether the investment in an MBA will be worth it in the long run.

Add to that question, the increasing number of MBAs who are jobless, “aged-out” of the workforce, or under-employed, and the question of whether an MBA is necessary for entrepreneurs is the new twist on what has become the business world’s favorite conundrum: good investment or waste of precious time and money?

Following is a NY Times article that is one of the best I’ve seen on the topic. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get into Stanford or Harvard. Read the piece and decide for yourself, and share your thoughts.

Click here to read NYTimes.com: Assessing Whether Entrepreneurs Should Get M.B.A.’s

 

 

 

Over 40? Go Back to School!

classroom picGoing back to school to get my MBA from NYU was truly one of the best things I ever did. With the global demand for higher levels of skills and education, adults are re-enrolling in college campuses across the nation and online. The stats are convincing:[1] studies are showing that 75% of future jobs will most likely need some type of certification or licensure, and those professions that demand a BS or BA will grow 50% faster than the national average. So a college degree looks more and more a necessity and a good investment.

You think, go back to school- not at my age! But by going back, you’d be one of huge numbers: recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education[2] are revealing that adult students are now the fastest growing demographic in the educational arena, with those numbers increasing steadily.

Baby Boomers know they will be living longer, and demand more from their lives. They want fulfillment, not just a job. More women aged 55 to 79 are deciding what they want to do in their next years. A report from The American Council on Education, entitled, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows that with older adults returning to college in record numbers, they are pursuing new career ideas, found new businesses, and create their lifelong dreams.

Go back to school!

1- http://www.luminafoundation.org/publications/focus_archive/Focus_Fall_2009.pdf

2- http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/adulted/index.asp
 

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What’s the Big Idea? – Inspiration and Cautionary Lessons for Entrepreneurs of All Ages and Motivations from NYU’s Business Plan Competition (Part 1)

nyu sternRecently, I served as a judge in a semi-final event for the 2014 NYU Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan competition, dubbed “The Entrepreneur’s Challenge.” The final event was held last Friday at NYU, capping nine months of preparation by hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs. Comprised of several dozen teams, it was ultimately winnowed down to winners in three categories: Technology ($75,000), Social Enterprise ($50,000) and New Venture in Any Category ($75,000).

Each of the winning ventures had one very compelling characteristic in common. (More about that in a minute.)Some of the young students and seasoned entrepreneurs sitting with me at the event were surprised at the winning selections, but I wasn’t. Having produced, pitched, taught and evaluated business plans and marketing campaigns my whole career, working with fast-talking money-changing Mad Men types, I picked the same winners the official judges did.

So, what exactly does it take to launch, differentiate, compete and scale a business idea into a profitable enterprise that attracts loyal customers, secures investors and thrives until such time as the entrepreneur decides to sell, expand or merge? From the official website of the NYU Entrepreneurs’ Challenge, the following are just some of the criteria, quoted verbatim, italics inserted for emphasis:

“…Not any old ideas. What we’re interested in are disruptive ideas, ideas with the power for great impact and influence. Ideas that challenge assumed boundaries and inspire a sense of what’s possible.

“The $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge provides you with the framework and motivation you’ll need to think and do what no one else is doing…”

Here’s my view of what the judges saw in this year’s winners:

1) Conscious competence – and the commitment, confidence and drive to turn an incipient idea into a viable company, i.e., to “scale.” By the time competitors get to the finals, they have lived, breathed, dreamed and agonized over their business ideas, making dozens of revisions. All of this has helped them further establish and demonstrate their competence, confidence and drive to differentiate, solve true marketplace needs and aspire to be the best solution to those needs.

2) Forget “analysis is paralysis.” In a competitive arena where millions (let alone thousands) of investment dollars and/or sales to consumers are in play, research is king, queen, and master of the universe. The winners demonstrated they had performed painstaking research into and testing of the differentiating strategies, operational levers and financial models that would turn their concept into a business offering worthy of at least initial investment beyond their friends and family. They considered every possible method for launching successfully, accelerating awareness, building positive perceptions and securing attractive customer bases, while also demonstrating they could manage unnecessary costs, fix weaknesses and address threats efficiently and effectively.

3) Practice, practice, practice, and be willing to take and apply what may seem like excruciating advice. The most motivated among the NYU competitors participate in energizing but grueling boot camps and multiple preliminary competitions, representing thousands of collective hours of sweat equity and brainpower expended. If it’s true that to become truly competent, one needs to have engaged in an activity some 10,000 hours, then I suspect the winners did that and more. If you consider yourself an expert already and resist the notion of all but the most essential business advisors, chances are you won’t sustain your business for long or you’ll struggle at some impasse where you absolutely need fresh thinking.

4) A truly differentiated product or service that answers a compelling marketplace need that the new firm can meet better, cheaper or faster than existing products or services. As good as all the finalists were in stating the need for their services and their differentiating competitive advantage, the judges rejected all but the three winners for the following reasons:

a) Unfocused or incorrect strategy: business models that were too complicated or too simplistic to make money and scale sufficiently.

b) Risky operations: underestimating logistical constraints and the inherent costs involved (among them, inventory costs, privacy issues and insurance liabilities); the team’s lack of industry experience; inability to address serious technological challenges.

c) Weak branding and/or lack of a marketing expertise: either too little or too much investment estimated for target audience segmentation, other market research and marketing itself to acquire initial customers, let alone build a brand that would scale, be sustainable and yield ROI in a reasonable amount of time.

So, what was the secret ingredient, the winning factor that distinguished the prize winners? Venture capitalists and other financiers ask a lot of questions regarding the marketplace need for a new offering, and the questions all boil down to this: is your business offering a vitamin or a painkiller? In a similar vein, is your business a pain to use?

nyu stern awardsThe ultimate winners of the NYU competition crafted and made compelling business cases for offerings that addressed marketplace pain. Take a look and see what you might be missing in your own business offering.

 

Radio Interview on The Takeaway: Shunning Retirement for Start Ups

“Shunning Retirement for Start Ups,” Monday, January 20, 2014

Check out the interview I did today on The Takeaway Radio Show.

“Older Americans are increasingly shunning retirement to start companies. Liz DiMarco Weinmann is 61-years-old and started Dare Force Corporation, which helps women over 40 to start new careers. Susan Price is 54-years-old and was laid off in 2008. Losing her job prompted her to go back to school for an MBA. She now works full-time and has also started her own side-business as a career coach. Together these two women explain how they made their career transitions and what the process was really like.”

LISTEN to The Takeaway Radio Show.