Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Parallel Universes: Tribal Leadership and The Feminine Mystique

 I just finished reading the book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright (Harper Business: 2011) and had a stroke of insight about the parallels between the Stages of Professional Development described in this book compared to the evolution of women since Betty Friedan’s book   The Feminine Mystique with Anna Quindlen (reprint W. W. Norton & Company, September 2001).

Tribal Leadership describes 5 stages of personal/professional development.  Stage 1 is characterized by the phrase “Life sucks!”  Representing 2% of the professional population, this stage is typified by those individuals who can barely cope with the misery they see around them.  This is very similar to Friedan’s “problem with no name” – the angst and ennui of housewives stuck in suburbia with children and a tedious existence whose only purpose was cooking for and pleasing their husbands.

Stage 2 (representing 25% of the professional population) is characterized by the phrase “MY life sucks!”  It represents a clear step forward, recognition of ownership of one’s own problems, and an awareness of self separately from the amorphous world that surrounds us.  This stage is similar to the early phase of the women’s movement, where women stepped out of their traditional roles through rebellious activities and bra-burning.

Stage 2 (where 49% of the professional population dwells) is described by the phrase “I’m great – YOU suck!”  At this stage, the individual has developed a stronger sense of self and a personal “expertise” – both of which are good things – AND she knows it – which also is a good thing, subject to limitations which have not yet been recognized.  Too often, this is where a woman gets “stuck” thinking that she alone can do it all, that she must always be in control, and that everyone else is a lesser being.  If she stays in this stage, she is inviting stress and burn-out because nobody can do it all alone. Human beings are essentially social entities.

Progress occurs when she moves forward and realizes the power and value of effective collaborations, everywhere. Stage 4 is where “We’re great!” defines the state of mind.  At this stage, teams get built, and their accomplishments fuel the enthusiasm of individuals who make up the group.  A key ingredient of Stage 4 is the synergies of skills and values among team members.  Diversity contributes to thoughts, words, and deeds of this stage.

Stage 5 (a rarity at 2% of the professional population) is when magic occurs, “Life’s great!” These are the encounters with the top of the mountain – the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the 1980 US hockey team championship, the Mars Rover landing, as a few examples.  Individual women achieve this stage as “outstanding women” and “women in leadership.”  As with the rest of the world, this is a rare occasion.  It would be nice, if we could work toward creating more such experiences for all women in leadership – women achieving top tier positions in politics, appointments to courts and departments, women rising to top C-suite and board level positions.  

Here’s to celebrating more and more Stage 5 experiences for women and men alike!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Entrepreneur's Guide to Market Research

Written by Anne Wenzel, this book was brought to my attention by ABC-CLIO, the book’s publisher, because they know I’m on the lookout for good books to guide new business start-ups.  This is just such a book.

Ms. Wenzel has the credentials to write a great book on the subject.  She is a Principal with Econosystems, an economics and market research firm which she founded in Menlo Park, CA in 1999. See more details about her work at SRI International and other economics roles at Ms. Wenzel's author page.

Most books about market research really only talk about branding, broadcasting, or selling.  Ms. Wenzel focuses on the foundation of defining the ideal customer, then going out and researching the characteristics of all like-minded customers who might make up a marketplace. I especially like her description of the contributions market research could make to many if not all of the other components of a business plan: clarifying the mission, product design, production requirements, forecasting sales in competitive markets, market share and market growth estimates.

She dedicates a complete chapter to developing a thorough demographic profile of the customer – a task too often overlooked on the way to “build it and they will come.”  A second important chapter is why and how to analyze market trends, including tapping the resources of contemporary blogs for insights that would complement the cold, hard data analytics.  A third chapter examines how to get goods or services into the hands of customers -- what are the distribution and spending patterns of the marketplace and how that provide the foundation for a viable sales and distribution strategy. In the chapter on estimating market size and growth, she shows how to roll market research up from the bottom or slice and dice it from the aggregate on down . Another chapter provides an in-depth focus on competition and competitive trends and technologies.  The bottom line challenge is how the market research fits coherently into the overall business plan – a topic that she spends some time addressing in the final chapters.

Throughout the book, she builds up a body of examples using statistics on the supply and demand for Yoga Studios and the traits of that marketplace.  This is a profoundly basic, easy to understand example for today’s typical service economy entrepreneur. She builds the case for when primary vs. secondary market research is appropriate and what resources to use in each instance.

This is a book we will be adding to our recommended reading for women entrepreneurs and, more specifically, for those women who would be candidates for our Business Plan / Pitch Competition before area angel/venture capital firms because it addresses many of the questions entrepreneurs have about “what do I need to do to interest” lenders or investors in a business enterprise.