Friday, August 11, 2017

How People and Businesses Everywhere Grow

by Kevin L. Baker
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Why People and Businesses Do Not Grow

If a person is frustrated, failing, and fearful in life or in their business as an entrepreneur, owner, or manager, I will ask them questions about courage--strength in the face of fear. The presence or absence of courage is the crucial factor that determines whether a person, business, or organization is growing.  

My business works with people, teams, and companies to lead them to reach the peak of their potential and grow.  I often encounter very intelligent people when I begin an engagement with a company.  Yet, even the best teams get stuck.  Stuck companies are not developing internally, or growing sales and profits.  There is usually one of two things going on in stuck companies--lack of courage or lack of ability to execute growth strategies.  

How the 4Cs Formula Changed my Life

For several years, I was part of a Vistage CEO peer mentoring group.  After a change in the Chairman of the Board of the company where I was President, the direction of the company took on a "circle the wagons" mentality.  As a leader, that was not the strategic plan our senior management team had built for 10 years.  I was asked by my business owner and CEO peers why I did not just go out and start my own business at that point.  I was obviously capable and competent to do so.  

Having started four entrepreneurial ventures in my life with three of four succeeding, I should have had the confidence to believe I could succeed. Nevertheless, I was stuck and not moving forward.  My business coach, Linda Murphy gradually uncovered the reasons I was holding back, and we began to address the underlying fears of change that had gradually caused me to not move forward.  That is when I discovered the 4Cs formula.

The 4Cs Formula

I am a lifelong learner, and in my pursuit of growth as a businessman, I had come across Peter Diamandis' "Abundance 360," and his podcast with Dan Sullivan.  Dan is founder of an entrepreneurial coaching firm in Toronto which was just 90 minutes form Buffalo, New York where I lived.  Dan has a teaching on "The 4Cs," and it changed my life.

Sullivan says, "
Nothing starts until you commit to achieving a specific measurable result by a specific date in your future. After you’ve made the commitment, courage is required because you have to take action before you’ve acquired the capability to achieve the result. Capability is actually created because of your commitment and courage. And, finally, confidence is the result of these first three stages."

“Commitment leads to Courage. Courage leads to Capability. Capability leads to Confidence.  Confidence leads to Commitment. Apply, lather, rinse, repeat.” 

Sullivan's work helped me to unlock the reason I was holding back from launching out into my own business venture and staying there.  I now know, the 4Cs are "a universal language for any person to grow into a bigger and better future."  Having taught the principles to many in my work as a consultant and coach, I have grown in my understanding of them and added my own observations and learnings as I coach CEOs and key executives.  

Commitment--Selling Your Goal to Yourself

The root of fear is often a belief that you do not have the capability to do something you want to commit to.  Since you do not think you are capable, you do not make a commitment. I have known many leaders who say things like, "I will not make a commitment for our company to something until we are capable of doing it." Let me translate that.  "I do not think I am capable of leading our company to become capable and confident enough to carry out this commitment."

Commitment is the cornerstone to building anything.  The best way to make a commitment to a goal is to have a starting line, a finish line, and a deadline.  

Example of a commitment: I make it my commitment to grow from having no business, to launching my business by January 1, 2016.  

Procrastination Is the Opposite of Commitment 
Once you publicly state you are doing something, you have "skin in the game."  Commitment forces us to start moving forward.  You may realize, "I cannot do this alone."  That is where courage comes in to take stock of what you will need to carry out your commitment.

However, not being capable yet of carrying out a commitment is not a reason to kick the can down the road until you are capable.  If you make that choice, you will become frustrated, fearful, and failing.  Commitment is the first step on the road to growing capabilities.

Next Time: Courage Moves Us Forward














Saturday, April 22, 2017

What is Your Business Mindset?

By Kevin L. Baker, MBA

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The Realization of My Personal Business Mindset

In my life, I grew up working in our family printing business founded by my father.  After getting a Bachelors degree, I have also worked in corporate life beginning in middle management rising to the executive offices as a CFO and then President (the American title for what other countries call a Managing Director).  I have worked for public and private companies, and been an entrepreneur starting a non-profit and two for profits businesses. 

Having worked in both entrepreneurial and corporate environments, I know that my greatest happiness and performance at work occurs when I work in an environment where my personal basic business mindset matches that of the organization where I work.  

I have realized that I work best in a business environment where the entrepreneur mindset I learned from my father (and genetics) is combined with just enough structure to have efficient and productive systems on board.  

Now, let's ask an important question: Are you more entrepreneurial or corporate minded?  You need to work with people who share your mindset and who think like you do and appreciate that view to be happy and reach your peak performance.  

The environment you work in is fundamentally either ENTREPRENEUR (E) OR CORPORATE (C).  Neither is bad. Just radically different. Are you on the right team?  A good match between a person and where they work occurs when you ask, "Am I right for this organization, and is this organization right for me?"  The answer is found by looking at the contrasts between the E and C mindset.  

The Two Fundamental Business Mindsets Contrasted

Am I an "E" or a "C" in my basic business mindset?

1.  Change or Stability

  • E sees an environment of change as good and normal. Change makes things better and brings improvement.  If there is no change there is no growth. Cs may think things are stable, but stability is an illusion. Markets in the tech age are dynamic and changing.  We must learn to live with ambiguity.  Nothing is sure forever. 
  • C sees change as a threat to stability, a risk, and disruptive.  Change must be incremental, carefully planned, and managed.  

2.  Personal or Impersonal

  • E remains focused on relationships with customers and clients as the most important thing whether they are truly entrepreneur startups or mature companies.  A certain segment of buyers prefer to do business with companies that keep it personal.  They do not like being treated as "just a number."  If you perceive that quality is always sacrificed for quantity, and that deep relationships with clients and customers are the priority, you are an E.
  • C sees a meaningful personal connection as costly.  The cost of growth is providing more transactions to more customers or clients.  A positive customer experience and lower prices to more people is the best model. While relationships will not be able to be as deep as in an entrepreneurial business, the population of people seeking lower prices is more than those wanting the deep, personal relationship that a small or young business provides. 

3.  Flexible or Fixed

  • E sees being flexible in the approach to business as what it takes to thrive, keep things relevant and interesting so people remain engaged, and the wellspring of continuous improvement. 
  • C sees a fixed environment as fair, reasonable, and the only way to prevent chaos and division.

4.  Do or Study

  • E business mindset is to learn by doing.  Trial and error will produce iterations which further learning. 
  • C mindset is to research and study, run focus groups, and require careful project planning to conserve resources by getting it right the first time.  

5.  Windscreen or Rear-View Mirror 

  • E business mindset is a focus on where we are right now.  To use the analogy of driving a car, the focus is looking forward through the windscreen, not where we have been in the rear-view mirror.  Rewards come by being resourceful and producing results right now in the great game of business. 
  • C business mindset is oriented to "the rear view mirror." It rewards by seniority, loyalty to the company, the status of prior achievement, and how you play the game.

Why Your Business Mindset Matters


The best combination for your personal achievement is when you match your business mindset with the environment you work in.  Am I right for the company and is the company right for me?

If you are an E, you belong on Team E.  If you are a C, work on Team C.  If you an an E/C then seek to live out your business mindset on Team E/C.  Both the person and organization will be happier and more successful by asking, "What's your business mindset?" when job seeking, hiring, and evaluating the growth and performance of a company. 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Living in Sydney--A Thriving Entrepreneurship Center


Living in Sydney--A Thriving Entrepreneurship Center

G'day from down under!  I have exciting news to share with everyone who follows my blog. First, innovation and startup are a huge part of my professional life, and have now guided me in my personal life to live in one of the world's premiere cities--Sydney, Australia!

This city is a thriving center of innovation and entrepreneurship.  I have a lot to share with everyone in the USA about what is going on here in the innovation and entrepreneurship space.  In coming posts, I will share the many opportunities for Americans wanting to invest or sell products here.  First, let me quickly catch you up on me.  



Why I am Living in Sydney

I relocated to Sydney in November 2016 after visiting here many times over the past two years.  My move is strictly personal as I am married to an Australian and we decided to make our home here.  I loved my life in Western New York. Three of my grown children and grandchildren live in Western New York.  I also have a daughter and a grandchild in Virginia.  Being back in America to visit my mother and family each year is a must.

Now that I am running an international business with clients in the States and here in Australia (known as Oz here), Sydney is our home base, but we will also spend time in the USA between Buffalo, New York and New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  



What I am Doing

After almost three decades in corporate and non-profit executive management, I have launched out as an entrepreneur.  Working for another family building their vision and balance sheet without an equity stake became too constraining for me.  I am now building my own portfolio business full-time under my Kevin Baker Inc. flagship.  

Kevin Baker Inc. is my business consulting practice founded in 2012 in New York.  My original consulting business continues with clients in New York and now here in Sydney specializing in:
  • M&A Advisory and business brokering.  
  • Due diligence services for business buyers.
  • Exit and succession strategies for sellers all the way through sale.  
  • Capital sourcing strategies--Working with existing business owners, startups, and business buyers on business plans; presentation decks for lenders, seed capital, angel investing, and venture capital; and cap tables. 
  • General management consulting with a focus on strategic growth.




I have also added a Chair Group practice providing group and 1:1 executive coaching affiliated with The Executive Connection (TEC) in North Sydney.  In the USA, I had been a member of the executive peer mentoring organization Vistage.  TEC is the Aussie counterpart to Vistage. So I have changed which seat I sit in--from member to Group Chair.  

And finally, after 10 years leading a food manufacturing company with sales channels in major grocery stores, I am working on launching a line of "New York Style" branded food products in the market here.


What I am Excited About

One of the first steps I took as a former college professor in a new country is to find my way into the academic ecosystem here.  

I was very excited discovering the "Gather, Innovate, and Grow Engine (GIG Engine) Created by the Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and NewSouth Innovations (NSi) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney Australia.  Initiatives like this help people like me meet the new people in a new country!  

What's New?

As an American living abroad, I am still reading the same websites, talking to the same people, and have a USA phone number so I am very connected to America.  The only difference is travel takes a bit longer to see clients!  I now rely more on Go to Meeting, Messenger, and Google Hangouts to see Americans when I am here in Sydney.

Here in Sydney, I am enjoying meeting new people and building a new network.  It is a true entrepreneurial work here, and I am loving it.  

So, with all that and more new with me (I will tell you more later), what's new with you?  I am launching my "Peak Your Potential" podcast in the near future and will be interviewing many whose life and business stories will inspire others to push toward the summit of their life potential--so please write if you think others in Australia and the USA would like to hear about your story!

Keep climbing!

Kevin