Home

Latest Posts

How UK’s Book Lovers Win £18m Jackpot

If you think you should stop buying lottery tickets because your books tell you not to do it, you should re-consider about this. Recently, a couple of book enthusiasts from Bristol have won the UK’s Lotto lottery jackpot. The £18 million jackpot they win has also made them the older lottery winner in UK history.

After winning the jackpot, the couple, Dennis Banfield (87) and his wife, Shirley (83) spoke announced the good news to the media at a local hotel in Gloucestershire yesterday. The husband was so emotional during the press conference. Even though he never stops buying a lottery ticket every year, he never truly expected to win it. Even though his wife, Shirley, has stopped buying a ticket since a few years ago, Dennis won’t stop. He believes that spending his money to buy the ticket will at least other people who would win the jackpot.  He has no idea that yesterday, one of the men he always wants to help with his money would be himself.

When the media asked them about their plan on the jackpot, the couple decided that they will not keep the winnings to themselves. Instead, they will share it evenly with their daughters: Karen and Tina as well as other people in need. They believe the winnings are not theirs. The more they share it with other people, especially their family is the only way to enjoy the jackpot.

Perhaps, this is not a story we often heard. We’ve seen many people who won a jackpot in the past and they decided to keep the money to themselves. This couple teaches us that no one should ever do this. Sharing is better for everyone.

Their life story should teach us that there are still some good things in winning a lottery. Both Dennis and his wife, Shirley are not a wealthy couple. Their simple life teaches them not to keep things to themselves but to share it with other people.

The wife bought the winning ticket at a local newsagent in their city on a Saturday night. Her husband realized that they have won the lottery when Shirley read out the winner’s number, saying, “Who’d have those numbers?” Dennis soon replied, “I do.”

Speaking about their own plan after sharing the winnings with their daughters, the couple said they were thinking about replacing their current 3-door Nissan Micra with something better and roomier. Another plan in their mind is swapping their current 3-bedroom house. After living in the house for 57 years, they think it might be a good time to move into a new house. When telling the media what that house would look like, the wife told that at least it should have a workshop so Dennis can keep his hobby on woodworking. Also, they are not looking to spend all their fortune in the house as they still want to share as much as they can to other people. It’s nice, right? We don’t always see people like them who win a jackpot and are still thinking about other people.

Revealing the Truth from the “Secret” Book of Lottery

Lottery can change your life like how it has changed Richard Lustig’s life.Twenty-seven years ago, this man had no intention at all to enter a lottery. He never bought a ticket and kept his life away from it. However, today we know him as a grand winner in lottery games. He has won at least 6 grand prizes from different lotteries. Now, he believes that he is on the right path to becoming the nation’s largest Powerball lottery winner.

The good news is, he is kind enough to share his own recipe to winning those lotteries. Instead of keeping the secrets to himself, he wrote a book about “Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery.” As simple as it is, this book has everything you need to know about winning the prize. So, shall we start?

Forget about luck

In his book, Lustig said that if you want to win a lottery, you should forget about luck. you never need it. All you need is enough information to make the best strategy. Lottery is just like another game. If you do not know how to play it, there is no way you can win the game. So, you should learn about it.

Never buy quick picks

Some people believe that computer can help them win a lottery. So, they choose quick picks instead of choosing the numbers manually. Well, the fact is, even quick picks cannot guarantee anything to you. Even though we know there are many people who win the prize using quick picks, there are also a lot more of them who lost due to the same reason.

Birthdays rarely work

For some people, birthdays usually bring some luck. This situation usually happens with newcomers. Well, it may be true under some circumstances, but not in a lottery. Anniversaries, birthdays, and other significant dates rarely give you the prize. It is because you are limiting your own chance. In Powerball lottery, for example, you have to choose between 1 and 69. However, if you limit yourself to those significant dates, you can only choose from 1 to 31. It means you have reduced your winning chance more than 50%.

Keep your numbers

Believe in what you have picked. It is almost impossible in any lottery game for the same winning numbers to re-appear. Therefore, if you keep the same numbers, you can increase your winning chance.

Don’t fall for scams

If you receive an email or phone call claiming that you’ve won a prize, but asking you to pay first, do not fall for it. It is impossible for you to win a lottery prize if you do not have a ticket. Besides, you should never pay anything before you receive the prize.

There is no ‘lottery curse’

In his book, he does admit that lottery may have ruined your life. There are people who won the prize in the past and instead of living a better life, they went bankrupt within a few years. However, it has nothing to do with lottery curse. They failed because they did not know how to handle their money. They spend the money without clearing all their debts first. You should never spend the money without paying your house debt, credit card, or any other loans you have. The prize will only be useful for you if you are debt-free.

Small Firms: Stacking The Odds In A Crisis; Entrepreneurs finding ways to thrive in hard times

Printed in Investor’s Business Daily
Small Firms: Stacking The Odds In A Crisis
Friday November 7, 2008
Gary M. Stern


It pays to be a big guy.

When losses at American International Group (NYSE:AIG – News) hit the billions, the federal government bailed it out to save the economy. When subprime mortgages tanked at Washington Mutual, regulators arranged its sale to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM – News) to protect the financial system.

But when small businesses falter — despite contributing over 70% of GNP — they’re on their own.

“There’s no safety net for small businesses,” said Steve Bloom, an Atlanta-based counselor at SCORE, a nonprofit association that partners with the Small Business Administration. “The SBA is not in the business of making loans to small businesses; it only offers financial guarantees to participating lenders,” he said.

This means that typical small-firm owners have to rely on themselves and not governmental agencies. The good news is that they can not only survive, they can thrive by acting on their own.

One ways to do that is to generate enough capital to invest in growth, or network to find investors willing to lend the money.

But before taking action, it’s always best to know where you stand. The first thing to do is “analyze why you’re in trouble, why you’re losing customers or why customers aren’t paying you fast enough,” explained Ed Hess, co-author of “So, You Want to Start a Business? 8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap.” Entrepreneurs must cut costs, generate cash flow, and if the system self-corrects, tap community banks for loans, he added.

Beware Ripple Effect

When access to capital from banks is cut off to most small businesses, there’s a ripple effect. Small players can’t expand or hire more employees so unemployment rises. Orders to suppliers are cut back, reducing the revenue of other businesses. When small firms can’t grow, the impact is felt in loss of jobs, revenue stagnation and supplier retrenchment.

Without access to capital, small businesses are at risk. Retail businesses without a seasonal line of credit that do much of their business between Halloween and New Year’s face hardship, says Dennis Ceru, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and business strategy at Babson College. Desperate for cash, some small-business owners are forced to borrow against their homes, take out expensive loans, or offer suppliers a small percentage of profits to pay faster.

This credit crunch worsens the money squeeze for many small firms. Most small businesses already have a tough time getting loans from banks, which want to see three years of rising profits, something many businesses can’t provide. “Banks are collateralized lenders only,” Bloom said.

A Baker’s Example

To survive, Dan Leader, owner of Bread Alone, a Boiceville, N.Y., wholesale and retail bakery with three outlets, raised bread prices three times and added a fuel surcharge for deliveries. In fact, he raised his prices to offset the $140,000 jump in his cost of flour in 2008.

But Leader also focused on expanding business without requiring additional capital. He spends one or two days weekly making cold calls to new customers who have multiple locations that can yield $100,000 of annual business. He made presentations about new products to major customers like Fairway’s, Whole Foods (NasdaqGS:WFMI – News) and Zabar’s, which led to a surge in orders.

Diversification is key to Bread Alone’s keeping its $7 million in annual revenue intact. One-third of its business comes from retail stores. Another third comes from wholesale orders, while the remaining third comes from mail order and Internet sales.

In case he needs to open another retail outlet, Leader maintains a strong relationship with a local bank, which loaned him $100,000 several years ago. The money was repaid. “For a small business, a close relationship with a local banker is key,” Leader said.

If a small business has some capital to invest, it can prosper during these hard times. In times of tight credit, SCORE counselors advise that owners with capital on hand turn to buying used trucks or used office equipment, for example, rather than buying new. “With foreclosures and bankruptcies, you can get things for 30 cents on the dollar via eBay and Craigslist,” Bloom said.

Networking Works

To obtain capital in tough times, savvy small businesses are advised to intensify networking. Join trade associations, chambers of commerce and rotary groups to tap private investors, Bloom said. Angel investors are more likely to invest in the hot tech firm, not the local hardware store, restaurant or uniform supplier.

Most small businesses fail when “they haven’t planned for the proverbial rainy days and haven’t established an emergency fund,” Ceru said. He advises that owners put aside three to six months in operating cash and salary to withstand a downturn. “Businesses have to plan for eventualities that can happen outside of their control, like a luncheonette (that finds itself) near Wall Street after 9/11,” he added.

Hess urges entrepreneurs to draft a detailed emergency plan to stay afloat. Included in the plan would be detailing which employees are critical, which 10% of employees can be cut, how severance pay will be handled, and ways to cut personal living expenses and increase cash flow.

Some businesses are taking smart steps to stay alive. One business sends out invoices that day, instead of after 30 days, and gives discounts to customers that pay within a week.

Businesses that thrive during a credit crisis and downturn “understand how to best manage their cash, minimize expenditures, and utilize their resources effectively. They lease rather than buy and hire part-time rather than full-time employees,” Ceru said. Small firms, knowing that they can’t rely on the federal government or banks in a jam, depend on their own resources to succeed.

“In tough times, entrepreneurs must adopt a survival mentality, do everything you can to focus on getting cash in, delay paying expenses and keep the essence of your business alive to survive and play another day,” Hess said.

Managing Execution: THE XQ Scorecard

By Edward D. Hess,
Distinguished Executive in Residence and
Adjunct Professor of Management, Goizueta Graduate School of Business

Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia

edward_hess@bus.emory.edu

 

Managing a business so it continually improves and grows is hard – in fact, very hard. Prerequisites to that result are the business builder’s passion, determination and perseverance. Additionally, you must produce a product or service which meets customers’ needs at a fair price. But just as critical is the concept of leverage. A business builder must leverage himself or herself through others. It is only through the effective leveraging of yourself through your employees that you can create value. A business builder must instill his or her employees with values and standards so they will do what you want, when you want, and how you want just as if you would – many times a day – every day.

A business builder is like a football coach. A coach gets results through a team. A coach determines the game strategy, designs and teaches the team the plays, teaches each player his assignment, critiques and grades the players’ performance, and adjusts the plays based on feedback.

You, the business builder, have the same responsibilities as a coach; you set the strategy, you design the product or service to meet certain needs, you teach your employees their assignments, you measure the results, and you adjust to customer and competition feedback. This analogy breaks down when you look at the fact that football teams practice, review films and critique their performance four days a week and only play one game a week. You have to play the business game every day, six days a week. And you have to simultaneously lead, teach, critique, and adapt every day.

It is this simultaneous execution of teaching, critiquing, and adapting that is the challenge for a growing business, and the fact is that you have to do it day in and day out. Big businesses have the structure, management depth, and organization which allows them to separate the training from the execution and to separate the grading and measuring from both the training and execution. Most growing private companies do not have this luxury.

What I have learned from working with business builders and from building businesses and teams over 30 years is that many forget the following three basic principles:

  1. Employees will do what you measure;
  2. Employees will do what you measure better if you also reward it and;
  3. The purpose of management is to manage the details of what you measure.

The devil is in the details – what you measure. I advocate measuring behaviors which lead to results, not the end results. In my last business, I was able to double productivity by using this approach – drilling down into each step of the process until I got to the key behaviors I wanted to measure and reward. Unfortunately, most people measure financial or customer satisfaction conclusions and not specific desired employee behaviors which will lead to those results.

Identifying and measuring behaviors requires you and each employee or team to focus on the details of execution – what they will do every day to best carry out their assignments. Moreover, it gives you the opportunity through this process to teach and leverage your standards on their performance. Managing through an XQ Scorecard is the way you tell each person or team what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and why doing it that way is important.

An XQ Scorecard can be the method by which you simultaneously teach, measure, critique, improve and reward performance on a continual basis. It allows you to maximize your managerial efficiency by making teaching, measuring and improving part of one continual and simultaneous process that can be imprinted by its repetitive use. It is a tool which allows you to measure performance often and focus on key employee performance frequently. This tool prioritizes what is important for the employees and focuses their behavior daily.

The key to using XQ is to think deeply about what behaviors you want to encourage – behaviors, not end results.

The XQ Scorecard for each employee should specifically identify the key “blocking and tackling” assignments for each player. This implies that if you do these acts, you will produce the desired results. So you must figure out what core, fundamental behaviors you want to measure and reward. By drilling down to the basic behavior level with your employees, you will teach employees what to do and why they should do it; you are linking daily behavior to the big results and you are focusing your employees on what is important for the success of your business.

Not surprisingly, there is no off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all XQ Scorecard. Most scorecards measure conclusions. Moreover, the behaviors you choose to measure will change as your employees improve and will depend upon:

  1. The maturity and size of your business;
  2. Whether you are in a high margin or low margin business; and
  3. What you are selling.

Using a sales person or business developer as an example, what behaviors should we measure? What are the critical foundations for sales performance? What are the behavioral building blocks? Closed sales result from need-responsive sales pitches being made by the right people to the right targets. Targeted sales pitches result from targeted sales calls being made in a way which gathers or collects (1) the key information about the customer’s needs (2) the customer’s ability and willingness to pay for the meeting of those needs and (3) the customer’s willingness to switch to either your better or cheaper product.

Targeted sales calls result from marketing research which finds the potential customers who may need your product or service. Market research depends on the value attributes of your product or service and understanding why someone will switch to your product. All through this process, we want to measure target feedback, pitch feedback, and customer feedback so we can improve our product, improve our marketing and sales productivity.

Just as importantly, we need to impose a sense of urgency.

So maybe we would measure:

  1. Efficiency and productivity of target market research, sales calls, and sales pitches;
  2. Information gathering from target marketing, sales calls, and sales pitches;
  3. Acting quickly; and
  4. Acting in a way to create positive customer response.

Taking all this into account, a suggested XQ Scorecard for a salesperson could look like this:

  1. Number of new qualified targets generated this week;
  2. Total number of calls to each target to produce sales call;
  3. Number of days from first call to sales call;
  4. Number of customer’s need forms properly filled out after sales call;
  5. Number of sales calls turned into sales pitches;
  6. Average number of days from sales call to sales pitch;
  7. Number of sales pitches made? Won? Lost?
  8. Number of sales pitch win-lose feedback forms properly filled out;
  9. Average number of days from sales call to delivery of product;
  10. Number of customer feedback interview forms properly filled out;
  11. Number of days from delivery of product to cash collection;
  12. Number of unsolicited customer thank yous;
  13. Number of lost target follow-ups.

What am I trying to measure? How efficiently we are working, feedback generation, and quality of target generation and sales pitches. As I sit with the employee and work through what they should do and how they should do it, we are agreeing on how to carry out the assignments, agreeing on the importance of learning from our acts and being better each day; and agreeing on a pace to measure productivity. This interactive process – the blocking and tackling of business execution – is a simultaneous teaching, measurement, and critiquing tool which can be improved upon frequently to continue the getting better and faster process.

XQ Scorecard is a tool which allows you to document and grade performance and it helps you leverage your intensity, passion, and values through your team. Only through effective team building and team execution can you build a sustainable and realizable value over time.

Independent Directors: Private Companies Need Them, Too

By Edward D. Hess,
Distinguished Executive in Residence and
Adjunct Professor of Management, Goizueta Graduate School of Business

Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia

edward_hess@bus.emory.edu

 

Much has been written post-Enron about the need for truly independent directors to represent the best interests of public shareholders and not the interests of management. We have seen the NYSE, NASDAQ, Congress, GE, Disney, and others put forth proposals, laws, and responses dealing with the definition, number, and responsibilities of independent directors.

I have written about some of the serious issues which created the 90’s bubble. (See “The Aftermath of Enron: Earnings Management Transparency Rules”; “The 90s Bubble: 4 Unresolved Issues”; “Non-Executive Chairman”; and “Audit Committees: The Hard Questions”.) What about private growth companies? In most such companies, management is the shareholders. So, do private growth companies need independent directors? Yes!

Private growth companies need independent directors either formally as part of the Board or informally as an Advisory Board as much or even more than public companies. The private company reasons, however, differ in most cases from public company needs. Entrepreneurs need independent objective advice from seasoned wise business builders. Entrepreneurs need reality checks; entrepreneurs need a check and balance mechanism; entrepreneurs need critical intellectual debate; entrepreneurs need someone to tell them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear; and entrepreneurs need advice on what does not work as much as what does work. That is the role of private company independent directors.

    1. It is Lonely at the TopMany leaders or business builders will tell you it is lonely at the top. How do you lead people and be their friend? How can you expect your employees and managers to be totally open, honest and direct with you when you control their paycheck? To whom do you turn to for straight talk, for a reality check, for dissent? With whom do you debate personnel issues? With whom do you debate ideas? With whom can you let your guard down in confidence and be totally open and honest?That is why independent directors are so important. Business builders have strong personalities and they need reality checks frequently. They need sounding boards; they need to test their assumptions; they need a fresh pair of eyes and ears. Business builders need someone with whom they can let their guard down in confidence, be totally open and honest, and say, “I need some help here.” Independent directors can meet those needs.

 

    1. Been There, Done That is Valuable ExperienceIn working with successful entrepreneurs, it is interesting how many have told me “I wish I had had a few successful business builders as mentors – people I could run ideas past – people who have dealt with the common issues: for example, when should I hire a real CFO; when do I put in formal HR policies and reviews; what has worked and not worked regarding team building; how do you keep employees motivated?Most businesses as they grow face similar issues at different stages of the life cycle regardless of their product or service. Whether they be marketing, finance, HR, internal controls, or employee morale, certain issues appear at different stages of everyone’s growth cycle and those issues are generally related to the need for more organizational structure, more policies, and more controls as you grow. The balance between controls, systemic processes, and informality and flexibility is a constant tension.Most entrepreneurs and business builders regardless of the stage of their company ($1 million in sales; $5 million; $25 million; or $100 million) are facing commonly occurring issues for the first time. Building a business is hard but it is not research microbiology or aeronautical engineering. You can save a lot of time, money, and trouble by learning from those who have been through what you are going through.

      Business builders do not need the latest consulting fad or to be laboratories for the next strategy idea of the month. Business builders need wisdom and judgment from successful people who can listen, who have no underlying agenda, and who have “been there and done that.” And for that wisdom and judgment to be valuable, the advice giver needs to be educated about your business, your people, and your industry so that he or she can respond quickly. That is why having these people serve on your board is wise – because it institutionalizes an education process so they are up to speed on you, your company, your results, and your issues. It prepares them to give you reasoned advice quickly. Find people who you can learn from.

 

  1. Who and How Often?Who? Clearly the ideal candidates are people who are knowledgeable about your industry, have a proven track record of business success, impeccable integrity, and the willingness to be an advisor, mentor, and straight shooter. It helps to have people who have experience in larger companies because they have dealt with some of the issues you will face as you grow. Find people with skills which you lack.Look for diversity of experiences, in both business and life. Look for people who have overcome personal and business adversity which builds character. Look for people who have mentored others successfully. Look for “horses who have won different kinds of races.”How often? Growth companies need frequent Board meetings to review progress and as a check and balance against the daily chaos. Entrepreneurs get very emotionally involved in building their business and their emotional involvement can impact decision making negatively if bias, rigidity of thinking, or arrogance sets in. Most people do not know what they do not know. Most people cannot step out of their own shoes and test reality and their underlying assumptions.

    That is the purpose of monthly one-half day Board meetings with independent, objective directors. Monthly meetings can institutionalize a rigorously applied reporting, critiquing, and intellectual debate process which entrepreneurs need.