The Intern

As you may recall, this was a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. Not a great movie as movies go per se, but it has some hidden meaning for management and startups.

The nominal story is that a president of an internet startup (Anne Hathaway) hires an old codger (Robert DeNiro) as an intern, after she gets the idea that she should have some age diversity in her company.

He’s just looking for something to do because he’s bored being retired, but he has a lot of management background that she lacks, that the whole firm lacks,  because it’s gone from one person to 200 in 18 months.

And the company is a disaster waiting to happen….at one point, a guy who looks like he might be the CFO lists the faults, besides management: poor customer service, slow changes to the web site in a fast industry (fashion), no organizational structure, VC’s in an uproar because of the aforementioned problems.

At one point, Anne asks if she can ‘take CEO pills’ to get smarter about running a company. Robert demurs, but he convinces her to look for a professional CEO, which is a good idea, to bring some order out of the chaos. She does find one, after some false starts; her husband, with whom she started the company, but who has ‘retired’ to raise their daughter, validates her choice.

Presumably, the company goes on to remain a roaring success.

But, there’s a lot of sturm and drang on the way, most of which might have been avoidable with more adult supervision. Even a board of directors, beyond Robert DeNiro.

Makes you wonder if a lot of this is going on in Silicon Valley and elsewhere because all the founders think they’re too cool for school, when they’re really not.

So, if you’re a startup, take some CEO pills on the American School of Entrepreneurship website. Or you can just call us at 1-800-716-9626 for that old school personal touch

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The Business Case for Brexit

We’re commenting on this because 40% of our School enrollees come from outside the United States, so we think it would be in order. So, here goes:

  1. Philosophically, the Brits just don’t fit with the other, more socialized and structured democracies on the Continent.
  2. The British businesses are more innovative in our experience, and it seems that all the rules and regs coming from Brussels are stifling innovation in Britain.
  3. Immigration. Under the EU, the British have to apparently take all immigrants, a sizeable portion of which are Muslim, when the Brits already have about 15% Muslims. And, they’ve had problems with Muslim terrorists.
  4. Our sense is that British business taxes are lower than those companies on the continent, and should remain so. We cousins could emulate this low tax policy, but we’ll have to wait a few months.
  5. The Brits had their own union, known as the Commonwealth (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some lesser countries), so it was rather amazing to us when they went in the EU in the first place. Our trading relations with Britain are excellent. In our experience, it is a lot easier to set up shop as a business branch than in the EU.
  6. We would suspect that the Brits signed on for the trade advantages in the EU, and weren’t too happy with the government regs they’ve gotten in the last few years.

So, that’s our .02 worth. Looking forward to comments on this post.

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Hamlet Ryan

This isn’t a political blog, but we do get into leadership, or lack of it.

Whatever you might say about the Donald, he’s a leader. Get on the noisy train, or he’ll diss you and you’d wish you’d been thrown off. Standard business practice in New York. This ain’t beanbag.

Leadership study #2 is Paul Ryan, whose behavior is looking increasingly bizzare. Forget the fact that if Trump is elected, he might loose his perch as Speaker to someone more in tune with Trump. And he’s doing his best Hamlet interpretation.

Frankly, after he and Trump sort of kissed and made up, we thought the union would at least be civil.

But, it appears that Ryan’s whining again about suing Trump for something. At least Trump is giving Ryan time to come to his senses. Trump is the best opportunity Rs have had in a generation to get an R agenda enacted. But it might not be Ryan’s agenda, it might be a compromise. Trump has given all kinds of signals about what he wants as President.

Trump is pretty tolerant of other idiot politicians (meaning he’ll at least listen to them), but don’t diss him in public. Pick up the phone or the email.

Paul, don’t be surprised if you see a Trumpkin running against you in November, unless you’ve already won your primary. Your governor is on the Trump Train; he’s no fool.

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Four Essential Elements of a Power USP

We have a course on this topic in The American School, which fleshes out these ideas, but reading this blogpost is even faster than taking the course. In case you don’t know, USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition, or what makes your products or services unique.

The Entrepreneur Magazine article takes a bit different spin on the idea:

  1. You’re unique because of the customers you serve; you don’t try to be all things to all customers. This is occasionally a hard lesson to learn, because sales are sales, and not all are equally profitable. An example of this sort of targeting would be the over 50 dating website, Not so much.
  2. You’re unique because of what you sell. Your products or services should be unique to your market, and you should have things like after sale service that distinguish you. Inbound customer service is an important differentiator. 24-hour turnaround, or less, is important. “It’s fixed today or you don’t pay” is one used by a local HVAC firm.
  3. You’re unique because of what your product does or doesn’t do. Maybe there’s a bad result that you prevent, or a good one that your product or service does. A key question is ‘does your customer perceive that your product is doing something for them that’s unique.
  4. You’re unique because of your guarantee….done right the first time, fixed today, etc. There’s a local HVAC and pest control company whose owners do entertaining radio ads….could you do something like this? What’s your return policy?

If you’ve got all four of these covered, in the minds of your customers, Bravo! 3 of 4, could be better. 2 of 4, or worse, ya need some work. Take the School course.


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Do You Need an Incubator?

We tend to ignore those folks in startup mode, but we were all startups once. Entrepreneur had some useful stats in its May issue, such as:

  1. Major benefits were connections (29%), community (29%), and information sharing (21%). About what you’d think.
  2. When asked if they needed it to achieve their current level of success, 70% said yes, 30% said no.

Left unanswered is how much one should pay for an incubator (none of them is free). Our guess, at least for the Phoenix area, is about $500 per month. Also left unsaid is the expertise of the advisors: have they helped a company like yours?

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Why Mentally Tough Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence

It’s been a while since we wrote about this topic, and the Harvard Business Review has come up with some concrete outcomes of having emotional intelligence. The overarching idea is that you’ll be mentally tough, not go to pieces at the first sign of adversity. But, here are some concrete outcomes:

  1. You will know what fuels you. What you feel down deep in your psyche.
  2. You will have a plan B for when things go awry, and maybe a C and a D, and know when and how you’ll implement them without missing a beat.
  3. You will have self control. You won’t say things in stressful situations that you might regret later.
  4. You will not let fear take over.

These tenets are taught at the FBI Academy at Quantico, so they’ve been vetted.

Now go out an conquer the world.

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Get That Loan!

We don’t think it’s a secret that banks aren’t lending to small business. Those over 50 employees probably have their needs satisfied.

Out of our twenty or so Solutions Forum clients here in Arizona, only two of them even have a credit line. Everyone else is self funding.

And yet, economist William Dunkleberg from NFIB says that the banks have something like $3,5 trillion in excess reserves over capital requirements, that could be lent.

And, too, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently that the SBA is having problems meeting its targets for lending.

All of this means that the banks ought to be in the mood for lending, but aren’t. It looks like extreme risk-averse behavior.

We know that banks paperwork requirements are a bit odd, having headed a focus group on how they could speed up the process.

So, now that you’re out of your Memorial Day funk and hangover, go out and see if you can get that loan.

Let us know what problems you encounter.

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The Entrepreneur’s Case for Donald Trump

This is the title of a nice article by Anthony Scaramucci that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 16th.

We don’t even have any substantive criticism of the article, for a change, other than to add that he is a turnaround artist, having bought many of his properties below market value and turned them around, profiting handsomely. It’s what we all aspire to do; we’ve done it with several companies.

The government clearly needs to think more entrepreneurially. Many of the agencies have lost sight of their original mission, which might be shrouded in the mists of time.

The EPA, for example, has probably outlived a lot of its original mission. Sure, we need clean air, clean water and better fuel economy, but do we need mandates?

Commerce is just as vital as it was, but needs to be more pro-business. Lower taxes, although we don’t have the financial resources anymore to lower them much without major cuts in spending, which can be done.

Health and Human Services? Again, much of what they do is either going away (Obamacare) or will be substantial modified. The mission really needs to be rethought.

The Department of Defense is certainly vital, but needs to be rethought. Readiness to fight needs to be a lot better. Let’s put performance metrics on the Air Force, Navy and Army; years ago, we did it through a Total Quality Leadership program, and it worked very well. Prune out a lot of middle managers, both civilian and military, to match the force reductions.

So, have at it Donald. Another point of differentiation from Hildary Hoo Hah. You weren’t going to get many votes in and around Washington DC anyway.’


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Apple’s Long Slow Slide

This was a headline referring to Apple’s stock price, but that’s not the point of this post.

It seems to us that Apple has gotten where it is by missing one of the tenets of business: if you’re an innovative company, you better keep innovating.

Clayton Christensen of Harvard first outlined this problem in the 1990s in two books about innovation that said basically once you start innovating, you can’t stop, or your company stagnates. Facebook appears to get this, but it’s where Apple was 20 years ago. Google has continued to innovate.

And, as a result of past successes, Apple is sitting on enough cash to go buy a small country. Seriously, why not go buy Vodaphone in Europe? And buy another telecom in China?

Seriously, the one product that really should have been introduced earlier is the low priced (comparatively) IPhone SE. But, we’ll bet there was a big fight inside Apple about diluting the brand. However, consumers here and abroad have been clamoring for a cheaper IPhone for the last five years.

The ICar looks most interesting, but we’ll bet that it comes out at too high a price, say $50k when it should be $35k.

As I’ve said before, but it bears repeating, Tim Cook doesn’t strike me as the most innovative guy. I’d like to see him move up to Chairman of the Board and put Jonny Ive into his job.

So, Apple, we hope you take these lessons to heed. See you at the stockholder’s meeting.

And here’s an update, based on what Apple is doing in India: Here’s Tim Cook chatting up the leaders of India and getting rebuffed about putting in Apple stores. Meanwhile, street and small shop vendors are selling the heck out of recon Apple I Phones. It seems to me that Apple is missing a market here: what happens to all those I Phones that get turned in for new ones? India might just be the tip of the market.

This miss is a classic case of not understanding India and what countries need. Seems to me that some Apple country manager should tell Cook that.

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Ronald Reagan Trump

This is supposed to be a business blog, and I’ve been meaning to write one on Trump, since I knew him a little bit at Wharton.

The foreign policy speech sounded like it was right out of Reagan’s playbook, other than Trump promised to make our foreign negotiations a win-win for us, Russia and the Chinese, which is what Reagan actually did. But there was the ‘we’ll bury you’ threat behind it, which no one should discount.

Presumably, one would add Mexico into the even handed mix. BTW, I saw an interview with a border patrol agent, from the Yuma section, and, with a wall, illegal crossings were down 89%. Trump just wants people to come legally, which he said last night.

In a business vein, what this all says is fair trade, unless it’s perceived that you’re taking advantage of us.

Trump is behaving more like the ACTUAL nominee than thee putative one. I suspect the foreign policy speech just put Barry, Ted, John and Hilary on the trailer.

But, the key thing is that the whole Trump era is going to be a paradigm shift. Go look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls, but I suspect the readers of this blog get it.

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