successful partnership strategies
On Monday, April 8, 2013, we lost a truly remarkable lady and leader. Before there was Condi or Hillary, there was a woman who could stand up to men and lead their country to greatness. To paraphrase Churchill, I would say Prime Minister Thatcher was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. When Prime Minister Thatcher spoke, the world listened. After the she left the world stage we heard very little from her again. She was a paradoxical leader at a time when world freedom was at stake. She was a conservative feminist. She chose to lead in difficult times. What can we learn from this unique woman who helped create the world we live in today? Continue reading
I’ve been involved in mergers and acquisitions for the past 25 years. I’m always asked how my clients and businesses decide who to buy. Why do they choose to buy certain businesses and pass on others? Sitting in a conference on Succession Planning for Private Businesses last week reminded me of my earliest exposure to mergers and acquisitions, including working with a larger business bought by Berkshire Hathaway back in the mid 80’s and then working in several different divisions within that business. I came away understanding a key component to acquisition success is buying companies with enduring competitive advantage in their markets. This hasn’t changed over the length of my career. I was also involved early in my career with several venture funded buyouts that did not work out for either the acquired and/or acquiring businesses. I wondered why it worked out well for some companies while other acquisitions ended in failure. What made some owners financially successful when they sold their businesses, and others not? Continue reading
The first strategy is to become a leader. People in challenging times are looking for leaders. If you hope to create the success you want in your life you must be willing to stand for what you believe. It’s easy to try to become a follower of others in the industry in challenging times. Going along with the crowd will not provide you with the success you desire. You must stand for what you believe and advocate why what you believe is the best course of action for you and your organization. How would you define leadership in your market? Would this position in the market allow you to use your own strengths, gifts, and life experiences?
The second strategy is being willing to see opportunities where others see only challenges. Many great organizations have been founded during tough times because people like you chose to seize new opportunities instead of seeing only difficulties. Moving first can provide you with the needed edge to create a breakthrough organization. Times of change like we see today create trials but also incredible opportunities for the person who is positive about managing change and willing to take risks. You must train yourself to see opportunities and then ask yourself how you might leverage your resources to seize these new opportunities.
There are many additional resources available to you during these trying times. To seize opportunities, you need to develop better judgment and decision making capabilities. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs successfully add great people and businesses to their organizations during economic downturns. These mergers and acquisitions have helped their organizations achieve breakthroughs that their old organizations could only dream of.
The third strategy is not to do what others do. Look at how your peers do business and decide if they are doing it the best way. It’s easy to go along with the crowd on big trends. The question is, do these new trends serve your ultimate purpose? Will they resonate with the people in your markets? If you do what everyone else does, you get average results. You’re one of the crowd. Many of my best clients have made a good living by being contrarians. When their market leaders go one way, they go the other. If low price is the key strategy for their industry they charge more, significantly more. They have discovered that in a price war ultimately nobody wins. So for their small businesses, they choose to spend more time creating an incredible experience for their clients than trying to uncover the ways to produce a cheaper service. Most of my best clients have decided to create many of the more expensive products and services for their markets. They believe it’s a more sustainable business model. Judging by their results today and the recessions they grown through in the past they are on the right path.
Over the next several blogs we will discuss each of these strategies in more detail. I will share with you different ways of succeeding in challenging times.
One of the most rewarding relationships you can create in your life is volunteering with a nonprofit organization. To get the most out of your volunteering experience, it is critical to find a nonprofit that can use your skills and gifts to enhance and expand their reach in the community.
Many nonprofits are eager to work with those that bring business skills and knowledge to their groups. Study after study has shown the benefits of volunteering both for the organization and the volunteer. Volunteers are healthier and happier than their non-volunteering counterparts. The key to making it an extraordinary partnership is finding the right organization with which to get involved.
Nonprofits need help this time of year because many of their volunteers have returned to school or college. For many nonprofits, this is the busiest time of year. Their communities need help more than ever because of the challenging economic conditions. Because of the increased demand for services this year, their yearly budgets are starting to run out early. In past year’s economic conditions, most are forced to do more with less. Your time or contribution can make a huge difference to so many, both people and animals.
Now, how do you go about finding the perfect nonprofit for you and your talents and gifts? Making the right decision for you and the nonprofit requires some time and effort, but it’s not difficult. Here are several questions to consider as you begin looking at nonprofits with which to work:
• What is your passion? The first step in identifying the right place for you is to look at what you are passionate about. Do you have a soft spot in your heart for animals? Know someone suffering from a particular illness? Do you want to help those less fortunate? There is no shortage of organizations that need your help. You need to decide who you most want to help.
• Is there a local branch? Once you decide where you want to donate you time, you need to determine how to donate it. Can you work with them online or does the organization need someone that can provide face time? Most organizations can use people both in person and spreading the word online, if that’s where your skills lay.
• What are the politics like? Nonprofits are like any other organization of people. There is frequently a political hierarchy. There are a few people that do most of the work and a few people that get most of the credit. Make sure that you know how the organization is organized and if you can live with the people and politics. It’s one thing to deal with prima donnas for your paycheck. It’s another thing entirely when you are volunteering your time.
• Can you live with doing the worst jobs? Volunteering for a nonprofit isn’t all about the annual charity ball. Sometimes it’s getting down and dirty cleaning the dog kennels or emptying bedpans, or whatever the worst job is for that particular nonprofit. An organization needs people willing to do whatever needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Make yourself an asset and be willing to be the go-to volunteer. Sometimes that means getting dirty. A volunteer that only does the clean jobs isn’t much help at all.
• Are you dependable? Not only do nonprofits need people to do the lousy jobs sometimes, they also need people that follow through and do what they say they’ll do. If you have difficulty following through on commitments, or think, “Hey, it’s not like I’m getting paid to be there,” don’t volunteer and waste everyone’s time.
• Are you willing to take a leadership role? Volunteering is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and expand your skills. Be willing to step up and take on assignments that might be more than you’ve done before. Whoever did the job before you is usually willing to give you a hand in learning the ropes. And just think how that will look on your resume.
• Can you afford to volunteer with that organization? A nonprofit status doesn’t mean no money changes hands. It just means there’s no money left at the end of the year. Some organizations require you to join and pay dues or a membership to help out. With others, some people spend a lot of their own money to make sure the organization can help as many as possible. Do you have the monetary resources to join the group?
These are a few of the questions you can ask yourself to make sure you join the right nonprofit group for you. Many organizations are out there, needing your time and help to succeed in their mission. Find the right group so you both come out winners.
I started my professional consulting career back in the early 80’s before consulting was really being taught in undergraduate business programs. I remember sitting in class and wondering how would I apply all I learned in business to my life. During this time I had a chance to get to know Professor Ron Ehresman. Professor Ehresman was faculty advisor for many of the best students attending my college. They all raved about Professor Ehresman. At this time in my life business was a dry subject full of facts and figures. Then I met Professor Ehresman and he made business interesting. I wanted to know how he did it. When I had a chance to sit in on some of his classes I soon uncovered his teaching secrets. I’d like to share them with you here today in hopes of helping make your leadership more interesting. I know I’ve used his lessons at all the stages of my consulting career and when I teach my graduate students across the globe.
First, Professor Ehresman knew his subject cold. There wasn’t a day where he didn’t share some fact or figure to get you interested in business. He was always prepared to discuss today’s class or seemed to be miraculously prepared for whatever seemed to be going on in the world that day. He always had an interesting take on that day’s news and was always challenging you to look at things differently. First lesson, know the facts.
Second, He always knew his students. He had a strong understanding of who you were and what you were interested in. Everywhere he would go he would remember you from his classes but also facts about your other activities. He could chat you up on sports or music or some current event going on in your life. It was amazing to watch him talk with my fellow business students. Not just when they were his students but far beyond the time spent at college. When I returned to college many years later, I was struck by how familiar he was with his students’ lives. He made it a habit to keep up. As one of the leaders of the business school at BW this was no small achievement. Second lesson, know the student or client.
Third, and most importantly to me, he made learning fun and never took himself too seriously. I can remember getting stuck on a topic. With a funny smile, he’d ask the obvious question. He had the way of a court jester. When I first saw Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, I thought of Professor Ehresman. I can’t help but smile when I remember some of our discussions over the years. He made it okay to be smart, but never made it okay to push your ideas on other people. He taught me to ask questions when trying to help other come to their own decisions. He had a way of making learning fun for everyone. He never seemed to leave people behind, he was very engaged with his students while remaining detached from the outcome. Third lesson, make learning and growth fun.
Now why am I sharing this with you today? This past weekend I had a chance to return to Baldwin Wallace for Homecoming. It brought back many fond memories of my time in college. I ran into Professor Ehresman at the alumni party. I hadn’t seen him for many years, but many of his successful former students were talking with him about their lives. He listened to them, his mind still going, as well as his sense of humor. The conversation turned to his life. He began talking about his retirement and his children. He was animated as ever and very proud of his son, a Miami University graduate. Then one of his older students looked at me and Professor Ehresman and asked if I was his son. We both laughed and said no, but thank you for the compliment. I reminded Professor Ehresman that his son might have been a student of mine at Miami, but I was willing to share in his son’s success. We both laughed and he began funny story about a client that we both knew and off to the races we went. This man who I modeled much of my teaching life on was teaching me another secret of his success in life and success. Cheers, Professor Ehresman. Thanks for inspiring me to be a teacher and a student. Not a bad thing to leave for a life legacy.
I was recently paging through the new Forbes magazine. This year the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans has dedicated a large part of the magazine to how the wealthy invest their money in nonprofits and charities. This issue not only lays out the facts but shares an insider’s look at how the wealthy are getting more involved in giving. They share how many of these billionaires are investing in our society and help provide insights into how the big donors make their decisions. It’s really a great resource and for less than $8.00 you can see how these individuals think and what they want in the organizations with whom they work. A thought came to me as I read the article. That is, the world of philanthropy and giving is changing. Whenever there’s change, some people see the opportunities and others see only loss. The people that see opportunities also find success in the new reality. It seems to work the same in both the business and nonprofit worlds.
Bill Gates starts the discussion with laying out what he sees happening and even begins defining this new discipline as Catalytic Philanthropy. I worked with Microsoft leadership back in their heyday and I can tell you once Bill creates a vision in his mind many people follow. He is a relentless person in advocating his world view. He has a secret weapon in his philanthropic work that he didn’t have at Microsoft, his wife Melinda. She provides an emotional charge that moves people in ways that Bill might be awkward doing. To be clear, I’m not saying Bill isn’t passionate about what he wants to accomplish but he’s always more about getting things started, innovating, and then implementing for early success. Melinda, on the other hand is very capable of moving people when sharing the vision of the collective future they both see. She talks about responsibility and the role philanthropy has for people who have the ability to make such a huge difference in the world. Talk about a dynamic duo, WOW. And I’m not talking about his bridge partner.
Now if that’s not enough, you can see how Warren Buffet looks at making a difference and why. If you’re a regular reader you know that I started my career in the Berkshire Hathaway family and have spent the past 30 years working with Warren’s many different businesses leaders, including Ralph Schey here in Northeast Ohio. Ralph served on the leadership team at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. His work helped take a strong medical organization to a world class medical institution while building a team of trailblazers to help shape medical leadership moving into the future.
Warren’s quote should be a challenge to all serving leaders everywhere. He said “You should be doing things that can change lots of lives. And you should be doing things that have some real chance of failing.” Doesn’t that remind us why we do what we do for our clients? A great quote may inspire but Warren’s financial contributions continue to change the face of modern philanthropy. They also talked about the person that inspired Warren to be so giving and I don’t mean Bill and Melinda. A little known fact about Warren is that he was inspired by another lesser known person who helped change the world with his philosophy of giving similar to how Benjamin Graham shaped his investment philosophies. His name was Abraham Flexner and he changed the way Warren looked at giving. When you have time check out his biography I think you will see several interesting similarities. All great givers and business leaders have strong philosophies behind what they do. Uncover the philosophy and the rest is easy.
Let’s see how this might apply to another great giver, Oprah Winfrey. Here a quote from this same issue, “When you go to Nelson Mandela’s house, what do you take? You can’t bring a candle.” How do you think you work with someone who sees the world this way? Would you go and ask for something small and insignificant? This world changer is looking to be involved in projects with world changing implications but of a highly personal nature. Look at the school she launched and you can see a project that gives you another clue to her personal philosophies. You knew she couldn’t fail and she would stick to it until it was successful.
The final thought I would share with you is that the innovators see change as a great thing. Change leads to new opportunities that no one could imagine in the past. The coming years will challenge you to be more than you ever thought possible. We are entering a golden age of business and those who can’t see the possibilities doom their organizations to failure. It will not be a matter of money that you lack but a vision for your organization that others will embrace with all their hearts, minds, and energy.
The world lost a great man yesterday. Dr. Stephen Covey was one of the most optimistic people I knew. He saw the potential in people and created systems and processes that could help anyone become more effective. Many of the other psychologists I met said he wrote pop psychology and thought he over simplified things for the common man. I thought he was brilliant in his ability to simplify was a reflection of the great potential he saw in people. Stephen loved everyone and his writing provided many people with a framework for becoming a highly effective person. While others would have stopped after his initial success, he considered it important to continue developing life strategies for people who never had enough time or enough personal growth. His lectures could take you through a personal revolution in one day. By consistently honing the skills he provided, you had a ladder for growing and becoming an effective serving leader.
I’d like to share some of the things I learned from Stephen. The first thing I learned was to approach life on a proactive basis. Stephen shared a vision of the world that anyone could create a stronger vision for themselves. He wasn’t a person who believed in going half way in any way. He shared the idea that without strong vision, people perish. His writing and his passion were something that I found refreshing in the world of academia. This insight by itself would have taken his teaching and impact to a different level but having built this foundation he then proceeded to give you the tools you might need to create a better you.
The second thing I learned from Stephen was the ability to simplify his thinking to an understandable level. Think about the titles of the different chapters of his books. From Private Victory to Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, and Sharpening the Saw, these chapter titles made his material easy to share with others while always reminding the reader of the required work to become more effective. He broke down the development process to several simple ideas that you could work on with others. His thinking always made you think and his thinking always made you work. His books could be read several times and each time it could have a slightly different meaning to the reader. To me, this is what made his books so wonderful. Every time you read them you were given a new experience. I loved giving his books to others; I knew once they started, they would be touched by the care that went into Covey’s thinking and approach to life.
The final thing I learned from Stephen was the willingness to fight for what he believed in. I remember as a young leader asking why we didn’t have Stephen come in to talk to our group. I had several hundred sales professionals on my team and I thought his material could lend well to the task ahead of changing how we did business moving into the future. On the way up the corporate ladder I had found his books helpful in helping me create the life I wanted for myself and my leadership teams. My human resources person then informed me that values training had little place in our sales training. God forbid that we would try to help our team members become all they can be. I was floored. I was shocked, God forbid that my business development teams could become self-sufficient. I reviewed the material I was suggesting and darn if she wasn’t right. Stephen was suggesting no less than a personal revolution for people who chose to learn his life philosophy and strategies. After this, I chose to leave the company. Why would I want to have my teams be serving leaders in their approach to business?
Well, if you’re still reading this, you know why I chose this path. I believe serving leaders make better people, and better people make a better community, and better communities lead to better countries and better countries lead to a better world. I know Stephen believed this was his life’s mission. I will follow the path Dr. Stephen Covey shared with me many years ago and I will continue to share many of his philosophies with the next generation of serving leaders around the world. I will miss Stephen’s new books and lectures, his growing spirit and his ability to continually challenge our thinking on a person’s role in the world. I would say rest in peace Stephen but I have a good feeling when you get to heaven, your time invested here will put you in a position of honor with many others who have shared your understanding of mankind’s greatness and have strived to help others have the lives of their dreams for them and their family.
If you’re a nonprofit and you are not using social media, you may be missing a key ingredient to developing stronger relationships with your key stakeholders. It might seem obvious to you, my reader of my blog, that social media is critical to your organization’s long term success in sharing your mission, vision, and values beyond your organization. But, of course, you already know this or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
I don’t see social media as a standalone process for most of the organizations I work with. It is part of their marketing mix but cannot stand alone and be successful. For many of my client organizations, they have failed to embrace social business as a concept. I find that their failure in social media has come from three key breakdowns. Without these three elements, it’s very difficult to get any traction in your new social marketing efforts. It took me a long time to get the hang of social business, but once I understood these strategies I started seeing results from my time investments.
The first element is that you must reach critical mass before you start to see the results you expect. Now what is critical mass for your efforts? I find that even a small targeted following can insure success on the right social platforms. If you build your following based on similar interests and values, you will begin interaction almost immediately if you provide content that has value to this group. You also must consider who your ideal partner is for your information. Many unsuccessful nonprofits have huge followings with limited engagement with their followers. They send out their messages to the world, but wonder why they have so little interaction with their community. Sending out messages using only one way is like traditional advertising, you need huge numbers to get any results. Try to engage several people every day and you will start to see your messages taking off. Then use different search tools to help find the right people. I could write a blog on this topic alone and still have a lot more to share on the concept of targeting your message and how to influence key people in your causes marketing efforts.
The second element is that you get more by sharing some great information than you do by sharing a lot of average information. People are very busy today and they don’t have time to go through 100 tweets to find a gem. They are looking to find great information for themselves or their fellow peeps. Sometimes they are looking to keep their name in front of others and other times they are looking for a solution to their own questions. Make it easy to find and share your information and they will share it. Learn how to find great material and then share or create it. There is nothing wrong with using others’ content to help build your own credentials and expertise. I have built lasting relationships based on sharing a review or article for a well known author.
The third element is to share others’ information in the spirit of giving, but not expecting to get anything out of every time you contribute. I know that not every I share is brilliant but I appreciate people sharing it with their friends and people in their community. Take time to share others first and after a short time you will begin developing partnerships with key people within your community. They will share your message with others. Some people will never share your message with others. They come from the world of there is not enough business to go around. It’s not true, but they feel they are so important that you can’t live without their wisdom, they may be right and you should still share it with others. You don’t know what future influencers you might meet along the way. I found several of my best guest bloggers in this way.
The bonus tip for today is learn how to keep the spotlight on others and your efforts will be rewarded tenfold. I discovered the more I do for others, the more I get back, not always from the people that you highlight, but by people who appreciate your efforts for the community. When I follow people, I always try to find something of theirs I can share with others. It’s my way of starting the relationship on a positive note. I also use Follow Fridays on Twitter to highlight new people I uncover in my reading to help them build a stronger following. When someone is new to a platform, I try to help them get positive feedback early so they can feel more comfortable sharing with others. I always say it’s a very quiet place on Twitter when you first start out, but providing early support can make all the difference to the new person out there.
I hope this helps you understand several key philosophies behind social media. I will be sharing more in-depth breakdowns to some of the platforms I use and some tips on how to use social to amplify your reach for your cause over the next several weeks. Stay tuned and don’t be afraid to share this!
How do you make a difference in the world today? It seems like we’re always being challenged to become better leaders. But at a time where we can all impact the world in our own ways, why do we strive to be more like everyone else we know?
I try to model my life after a carpenter who walked the earth over two thousand years ago. He was a serving leader. Jesus didn’t have great political skills or army of followers at the time he launched his mission but he did have a powerful message that would change the world forever. He worked closely with his followers and he shared his wisdom with anyone who would listen. He picked a team of followers from across society. He may have been the first leader who recognized the power in community and the inherent value of diversity.
His followers included many of his society’s least desirables and the unclean. The stories about him leave little doubt that he loved people. He enjoyed his time while he was here but understood how challenging it was to go against manmade power structures. He understood how hard it was to make change happen across society. He strove to help others make lasting change. He understood that even the best people backslide, no matter how committed they might be to a cause. He loved them always.
He taught the lesson of inclusion and belonging. This may have alienated many of his family and friends who believed they were called to a unique position in the world. This stand against organized religions is still talked about throughout the world.
He chose not to judge others and felt love was more powerful than hate. He came from a highly structured culture but chose to share an intimate view of his Holy Father. His belief that God was approachable changed how people viewed God across many cultures.
When you study the times in which Jesus lived you uncover a very violent time in mankind’s history. He was the not the first man that the Romans crucified or would he be the last. Many of his early followers would meet a similar fate. He chose to preach love and not overthrow. Many historians believed that this is why many abandoned his early church.
Jesus came from a culture that preached an eye for an eye and this would leave many people blind. Jesus focused on serving in others, forgiveness, and love to be his lasting legacy. These simple ideas would create a movement that has helped changed the world for over 2000 years.
For my friends and fellow serving leaders across the globe I wanted to take time to wish you a Happy Easter from Tricia and I.
Next week I will return to discuss how to attract, build, develop and retain your nonprofit teams. See you then.
I once heard a speaker use the statement, “I have been sentenced to success!” I heard that almost twenty years ago, yet it still sticks in my head.
Imagine that. What if we had been given a life sentence to serve, say 75 years, and the sentence was to do time in a place called “Success”? The truth is that we have.
Let me back up. We have been given a life sentence. But, unlike a sentencing in a real life courtroom, we get to actually choose where we will “do our time.”
Here are some of the choices people make:
The prison of poverty. Poor people are no better or kinder or anything else than people with money. People are people regardless of how much money they have. Frankly, I have had little and I have had a lot, and yes, I will choose having a lot! When you choose to live in poverty you are in a prison that does not allow you the freedoms we were intended to experience. We are unable to help others as we desire. My advice? Don’t choose a sentence to the prison of poverty.
The prison of depression. Depression is like a blanket that overwhelms you and eventually smothers you. Now before you go accusing me with, “Chris, you just don’t understand.” Yes I do. I have had a history of depression. Depression is rampant in my family of origin. I know firsthand what a prison of depression is. When you are locked up in depression you cannot live life as it was intended. But you can get out! My advice? Don’t choose a sentence to the prison of depression.
The prison of the lack of health. Lacking health is a real pain! The freedom we lose when we choose to live in a state of a lack of health is terrible – and unnecessary! We don’t have to live in that prison. We can choose a different sentence! We can choose health! My advice? Don’t choose a sentence to the prison of the lack of health.
The prison of doubt, worry, and fear. This is a dark, dark prison. It is one that haunts you the whole time you reside there. It makes you believe that the surroundings are worse than the really are. It keeps you from enjoying life and becoming the kind of person you were intended to become! My advice? Don’t choose a sentence to the prison of doubt, worry and fear.
There is another option. You can choose to be sentenced to success! You can choose to actually be set free! You can choose to walk out of that courtroom and live the life that you choose!
What can you experience when you are sentenced to success? How about these:
A career you love
And how will you experience these? By choice. Your choice. You choose exactly what kind of life you will live. You choose the sentence you will serve here on earth and the experience that you have.
Will you languish in a dark prison or in the open freedom that comes from the sentence of success? That depends on the choices you make.
I challenge you to choose this day to:
Pursue financial independence
Develop yourself spiritually
Make a change so you are in a career you love
Re-commit yourself to loving relationships
Achieve emotional health
Make a choice TODAY. Do not spend another day in a prison where you do not belong!
Where will you serve your sentence? You get to decide.
As for me?
I’ve been sentenced to success!
Chris Widener is an internationally recognized speaker, author and radio host. Chris is the author of eight books and audio series as well as over 400 success articles. To learn more or to order Chris’ products, including his newly released book, The Angel Inside (top seller on Amazon.com, The New York Times top 10 list and The Wall Street Journal top 10), or his other books including Live the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of, The Image or Twelve Pillars co-authored with Jim Rohn, or his newest CD series, Twelve Pillars – The Skills You Need to Succeed, or Winning with Influence, The Extraordinary Leaders Seminar go to http://www.chriswidener.com or call 877-929-0439.