Catch the Wave of Innovation in Maine: Start Up & Create Week

Innovation debaoklThere is a movement afoot in Maine – highlighted by Maine’s Start Up and Create Week, this week. Over 75 events. Over 45 panels, workshops, speakers. Countless connections, affiliations, partnerships and new ideas. It is an event fueled by volunteers committed to growing innovative businesses in Maine. Over 20,000 volunteer hours since the beginning of the year.

Just last week, Gorham Savings Bank held their Launchpad event, where Maine businesses competed for $30,000 to fund their growth. Flowfold,who makes wallets and tote bags from recycled high tech sail material, won the event where five finalists competed for the prize.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, with 10 finalists of the five month Top Gun program competing, John Rooks and Justin Jaffe of Rapport won the $10,000 prize. They had competed in 3 Top Gun locations to get to the finals, and  were judged on scalability, feasibility, viability, innovation and presentation. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development runs the program, which is made possible by Maine Technology Institute, Blackstone Accelerates Growth Initiative and many sponsors and mentors.

When I think that IDEXX, now over a $1 billion company, began as a start up at the end of 1983, the potential of the many start ups and small businesses in Maine is staggering.

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Partners Creating Wealth works with companies to realize their profitable opportunities. We have considerable experience in generating and selecting innovative ideas; developing and commercializing new products; and connecting to new markets. We offer coaching, strategic planning, market research and financing expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Contact Tove Rasmussen @ 617-615-6419 or 207-409-7576 Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: debaokl (Sketchnotes based on chat with Trenton L. Cycholl, Group Director, Business Technology Solutions at Citrix.)

 

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Dangerous Gaps: What Information is your Business Missing?

Dangerous Gaps Norman BearSome pieces of information are critical to your business. What information do you need that uncovers potential market sales, brings home the value of your offering, or is the defining stroke for going forward with an opportunity? Without this information, the business suffers.

For some of you, the haunting question will come to mind immediately. Others will need to pull themselves up from the weeds to consider the big picture – what key piece of information is needed? What is missing? What information, if gained, will have the biggest impact on the business?

PCW is here to help with divining and understanding the key information needed – as well as acquiring the information for you.

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Partners Creating Wealth works with companies to realize their profitable opportunities. We have considerable experience in generating and selecting innovative ideas; developing and commercializing new products; and connecting to new markets. We offer coaching, strategic planning, market research and financing expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Contact Tove Rasmussen @ 617-615-6419 or 207-409-7576 Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Norman Bear

 

 

 

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Are you Considering the Big Questions?

Big Questions Marina del CastellAre you mired in the day-to-day? Getting the sale, customer service issues, invoicing, getting the job done. What brings you out of the trees to the forest? To focus on the key questions that will drive your business forward. What are the big questions?

Well, some key items to think about include the competition and the value of your business. What does your business offer customers that competitors can’t offer? Why do customers go to you rather than the competition? Do you know this, and base your answers on objective data – rather than a general feel. PCW conducts effective market research to gain the data you need – so you have the facts to base your plan on.

How about where you want your business to be in 5 years, and how you are going to get there? Have you thought about this in awhile? Do you have a process for ensuring this is revisited regularly and updated? Do you have a plan, and actions to get there? Are you working on them, or is the latest emergency getting in your way?

What about your ideal week? Knowing how best to spend your time allows you to focus on these key questions. And how you handle the burning issues of the day  can allow you to bring strategy into day-to-day issues. Remember to consider the longterm strategic impact of the emergencies – this increases your impact immensely.

Finally, considering and discussing key business issues with trusted advisors, your board of directors, your business coach, on a regular basis allows you to stay focused on them and to move forward. It is important to have an effective process and sounding boards to ensure the key strategic issues do not get lost in the weeds.

PCW can help you determine the key questions for your business, and the best way to ensure they are addressed effectively.

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Partners Creating Wealth works with companies to realize their profitable opportunities. We have considerable experience in generating and selecting innovative ideas; developing and commercializing new products; and connecting to new markets. We offer coaching, strategic planning, market research and financing expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Contact Tove Rasmussen @ 617-615-6419 or 207-409-7576 Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Marina del Castell

 

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5 Steps to a Compelling Vision for your Team

Saipan. One hands is holding a glass sphere and it projects the sky and the clouds at the beach.Sammy Fox wanted to inspire his team, to motivate them, so he settled on the idea of communicating a compelling vision. Yet, when he told them the vision they didn’t really care. It didn’t matter to them. There was no impact. How can you avoid this?

ONE. First of all, your team needs to believe you. Over time, as a leader, you need to foster a climate of trust and credibility with your team. You need to develop a positive relationship with them. An optimistic viewpoint, consistency, fairness, fun, support and demonstrating your knowledge without always having to be right are excellent ingredients for creating this.

TWO. Then there is the vision itself. What does it need to be? A positive picture is always more inspiring than a negative one. Be careful, though, a polyanna view can be unaccepted and uninspiring. A vision that involves the greater good, that is bigger than the bottom line, is generally most inspiring.

THREE. Be clear that the vision will not be achieved in a day, and possibly in a year. It could take some time. Part of the vision can be the timeframe of when it is expected to be accomplished. This in itself can be a motivating force.

FOUR. Keep it simple. A complex vision will be hard to grasp and remember. It will not be easy for people to get behind it. So, don’t get caught in the need to capture every detail – the web of complexity: keep it simple. Sometimes one word is effective: $1 Billion (in sales).

FIVE. Finally, be sure the team understand how it benefits them. Does it fit in with their values and goals and what they want to achieve in the world? Will it give them more interesting work and opportunities? Answer the question for them of “What’s in it for me?”

Using these tips, Sammy developed a successful, motivating vision, and spurred his team to greater heights. If you need more guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us. And let us know your stories of how this blog helped you to develop an effective vision – we look forward to your success stories.

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Partners Creating Wealth works with companies to realize their profitable opportunities. We have considerable experience in generating and selecting innovative ideas; developing and commercializing new products; and connecting to new markets. We offer coaching, strategic planning, market research and financing expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Contact Tove Rasmussen @ 617-615-6419 or 207-409-7576 Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Nepal Schools Aid

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

edison liu 2Creativity is fostered, not forced, says Edison Liu, President of Jackson Labs, a leading genetics research facility based in Bar Harbor, Maine. Creating a culture of creativity is like herding cats and requires a special touch, said Liu last Friday.

It is the culture of creativity that will yield ideas for innovation and growth beyond solely your ideas, says PCW, creating a multitude of possibilities among which to choose. It is the culture of creativity that will overcome the hurdles on the way to successful implementation and commercialization. This is the power of a culture of creativity, successful implementation of which takes a special brand of leadership. Below is a summary of the many excellent points Lie made concerning this in his talk to the Association for Consulting Expertise.

herding-catsFostering creativity begins with a compelling vision that draws the creative cats forward to a common goal. Sounds basic and simple, yet the vision needs to be compelling to the group, to bring them together behind one purpose. However, it is easy not to be compelling to team members. Stay tuned for more on creating and communicating a compelling vision.

Liu also espoused setting clear and achievable milestones. The vital issue here is the celebration of the small victories on the way to the big win. If the end goal is to cure cancer, celebrate the small steps along the way to build morale and confidence. Otherwise the task becomes a long, daunting and discouraging road.

Unherdable cats are not given naturally to sharing ideas so, as well as encouraging ideas, broker collaborations, praise collaborative efforts and  collective outcomes. Synergies will slowly arise among team members. From my own experience, some creative folks naturally build on the strengths of others; leveraging these tendencies will foster synergies more quickly.

Cats are independent and seldom agree. Be decisive when no consensus emerges, says Liu. Creative people will disagree with you. It is a fact of the matter. However, make the decision and be clear that you will take the consequences and not blame the team.

These are a few of the tips Liu gave. For more advice on effectively implementing a creative culture for profitable growth, PCW would be happy to talk with you further.

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Partners Creating Wealth works with companies to realize their profitable opportunities. We have considerable experience in generating and selecting innovative ideas; developing and commercializing new products; and connecting to new markets. We offer coaching, strategic planning, market research and financing expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Contact Tove Rasmussen @ 617-615-6419 or 207-409-7576 Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Leslie Bowman

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How to Select the Best Growth Opportunity

ipad  sean MacEnteeWe all struggle with it. We’ve worked hard to gain a plethora of ideas for new products and new markets from our insights, customers, suppliers, employees, the marketing department and now it’s time to choose. The big moment has arrived. What do we do?

Well, hopefully some thought has been put into this before we arrive at this point. There are many things to consider when selecting the new products and opportunities that will propel the most significant growth for your company. Among these include strategic fit, the technical difficulty of implementation, time to revenue, expected revenue, expected profitability and more.

The key lies in selecting the key measures that are most appropriate for your company – and no two companies are exactly the same. For example, some companies’ new products can bring a lot of technical difficulty – other companies have simpler products to launch and it’s the marketing that’s a challenge. Some companies are focused on revenue – others on profit. In addition, each company has its own unique strategies to consider. PCW offers expert advice on selecting the most appropriate measures for your company. Keep in mind, too, that the criteria used can be honed over time.

Once the criteria for new products and opportunities are determined, each opportunity can be assessed based on these criteria. Of course, in the early stages the information will be a rough guide and imperfect. However, the top projects can still rise to the top. These ones need to be researched further, to determine the priority projects to devote resources to. When decisions on the priority projects are being made, it’s a best practice to include experts in each business function – operations, research and development, marketing, finance, regulatory, and any other relevant ones – to be sure all aspects of the project are considered upfront.

Follow these steps and you are on your way to focusing resources on the projects that will yield the most return. Bon voyage!

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Partners Creating Wealth works with companies to realize their profitable opportunities. We have considerable experience both launching and commercializing new products as well as connecting to new markets. We offer coaching, strategic planning, market research and financing expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee

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See with New Eyes: The Possibilities of the Everyday

Eye ElaineEveryday we see the customers, suppliers, employees and operate within our business environment. It becomes the same old, same old. Yet, within this situation and among the people surrounding us, there are possibilities. Ideas for new business growth.  How do we notice them?

Within the mundane lies marvelous opportunity. A new-found respect for the day-today as well as the thoughts of everyone around us, will help us notice opportunities we missed before. We will observe what is going on around us, listen with new ears, and see with new eyes. Then we just take simple, practical actions that will move us forward. Something many do not do.  For example, Panasonic was the first company to visit customers’ homes in China, finding out the size and orientation of the washers and fridges that would fit in the homes – catapulting sales 5 and 10 fold respectively.

It has to do with attention. Paying attention. Listening to others, especially those you think will not have the ideas you want. Understanding that they can be a special source of originality and insight. Ask questions, to be sure you understood. Probe for more detail, if there is any. Compile the ideas in your list of Opportunities.

Look with your eyes. See the needs that are there, that are not being addressed. Therein lies the gold. It may be a small issue or item. Start with that, if that is what you have. You can build upon it or add it to your list of new opportunity ideas – and then determine the best ones to pursue. Stay tuned for the best ways to evaluate these ideas in one of my future blogs – or feel free to contact me for assistance.

Don’t wait for the skies to open and the big answer to appear. Take small, practical steps toward finding unmet needs and meeting the need, toward realizing the opportunity. It is a process and you will learn as you go.

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Partners Creating Wealth are business strategy, market research and financing experts with national and international capabilities. We offer business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Elaine

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How to Innovate to Grow!

How does Innovation Happen - Brilliant FORGEOne Friday, a Google engineer, stymied by a complex problem, posted the details on the ideas board in the hallway at their headquarters. On Friday evening, a few engineers hanging around at headquarters without plans started working on an algorithm to solve the problem posted on the board earlier that day. The issue was solved by Tuesday.

This is the power of the hallway conversation ramped up a few notches, and is a source of ongoing creativity at Google, a company that could easily be too big for innovation. Simply, Susan Wojcicki, Google’s Senior Vice President of Advertising, says she looks everywhere for innovation and ideas.

The key to innovation is new data, new information, according to Cathy Renault, trained in Innovation Engineering. Four categories of new stimulus for new ideas are technology, the market, insights through Voice of the Customer and the future trends. Technology data can come from patents, inventors, vendors and more. Market data is found in benchmarking, borrowing briliance from other industries as well as the tried and true SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

To develop ideas to grow the business it is important to understand customer needs and unmet needs before developing lots of new ideas. Then the ideas that are developed will focus on solutions that to generate value for customers – the winning ideas.

Stage-Gate International and the Product Development Institute looked at the most effective ideation methods versus the most popular. They found Voice of the Customer (VOC) methods were the five most effective of the 18 studied. However, not all were popular. Ethnography was found to be the most effective, but is not popular, likely as it requires camping out at the customer for extended periods of time, as well as people trained in cultural anthropology. Three other VOC tools are both effective and popular: customer visit teams; customer focus groups for problem detection; lead user analysis, or working with the most innovative customers. The fifth most effective, customer or user aided design, has not caught on in popularity.

The Harvard Business Review, in discussing New Patterns of Innovation, sees three sources of innovation: competency-based, customer-focused, and changes in the business environment. However, it recommends a fourth – creating value for customers using the data and analytic tools available. This can be generating data of use to customers, digitizing assets and more.

In the end, innovation is making connections and even combining opposing ideas. Smashing magazine notes the invention of the Burkini, a combination of the Burga worn by Muslim women and the bathing suit – which is innovative, but not necessarily  spawned from a market need or cultural awareness. To this end, a future blog will discuss how to select the best ideas.

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Partners Creating Wealth are business strategy, market research and financing experts with national and international capabilities. We offer business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Brilliant FORGE

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Want Growth? Five Excellent SOURCES of Ideas

Babe Oct 29 14 Adriano Aurelio Araujo

Novices offer many excellent ideas for growth

Our economy is in its sixth year of expansion, unemployment is at the lowest level since 2008, and the stock market has rallied from the dip last month. The recovering economy is tantalizing more business leaders with visions of growth. Successful leaders understand that opportunities are all around us and so pay close attention to the ideas of people in their everyday lives.

Here are five ways to raise your awareness of the creativity and knowledge around you to spark ideas for growth. We have found that the best opportunities come from one of the following five sources.

1. Your existing customers. After many years of being in China, Panasonic created a Customer Insight Team and visited the homes of Chinese customers who had bought their washing machines and refrigerators. The researchers found that refrigerators needed to be narrower and washing machines had to be front-loaded in order to fit the space available. Panasonic used this information to develop new products. As a result, Panasonic’s refrigerator sales increased ten-fold and washing machine market share increased from 3% to 15%.

This is the power of visiting customers, perhaps even spending a day there. Your company can learn how customers use your products and spot opportunities for offering improved value. Start by talking with customers to see if they have ideas for new services, products and potential markets. Then visit your customers, even spend the day on-site, if at all possible, right where your product is used.

2. Employees are an often overlooked source of ideas for opportunities but 3M has taken full advantage of employee creativity. The innovation of employees is embedded in its culture, encouraged by the company. In fact, a 3M employee created the post-it note, by mistake, I might add. Still, the product is on the market and bringing strong sales and profits – a testament to the culture of innovation, seeing and acting on growth opportunities.

Typically, we expect these ideas from marketing or from research & development, or product development. But, who talks to the folks in the IT department or on the production line for new product and service ideas? Employees care about the company, want to see it succeed, see what is really happening and often have good ideas for potential growth. So, take the time to talk to front-line employees, production employees, those just starting out – you don’t know where the best idea will come from. Find out where they see the opportunity – it may be the one you are looking for. Or, perhaps with some modification, it is an important idea that could propel your company’s growth forward.

3. Your internal and external situation. Nordstrom has built its success around customer service. Just try the outstanding Personal Shopping service. Nordstrom is clear that its key strength is customer service – and the company takes customer service to levels not seen in other department stores. Witness listening to a live pianist while shopping for shoes and much more. This from a simple, yet effectively performed, SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths. Such an analysis can help you – take a close look at your company’s SWOT.

Similarly, a comprehensive analysis of your company’s environment can yield more ideas. For example, even a downturn holds opportunity – note all the cheap, reasonable quality, private label brands in the grocery store for paper towel, coffee and more. A PEST analysis consists of understanding and assessing political, economic, social and technological trends. It’s a good habit to review and update your PEST analysis each year.

4. Experts in the industry, such as Faith Popcorn, can see beyond the present to the future. Faith specializes in predicting future consumer trends and is consulted by many consumer packaged goods businesses. It’s important to tap the brains of the experts in your industry. They can often see what is needed and where the industry is headed. Just be sure you don’t launch a product ahead of its time – it won’t sell well.

5. Novices or babes in the woods. How did Starbucks revolutionize their industry? An English teacher, history teacher and writer brought the Italian-style coffee shop to Seattle. Good-bye cheap coffee, with orange walls spinning customers in order to sell huge quantities. Hello comfie chairs, good music, wireless, and high quality coffee with everything for sale and high prices to match. Definitely a profitable model that many have copied.

So, talk to the novices. The new employees, people outside the industry. They are the ones we don’t want to listen to. However, they are not blinkered by industry standards and mores. They see through the complexity to challenge assumptions and envision what is possible. Novices in your industry often bring experience from other industries – many of these models and ideas may work well in your industry. They can even transform it.

The five sources above are just scraping the surface. If you’d like to strategize about where to find growth opportunities for your business and how to go about that project, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.
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Partners Creating Wealth are business strategy, market research and financing experts with national and international capabilities. We offer business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive.
Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com
Tel: 207-409-7576
Photo credit: Adriano Aurelio Araujo

 

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Realize your Profitable Opportunities

Opportunities blog Oct 1 2014 Nigel HoweI hope you are up for a challenge, dear readers, because I have one for you. Beginning now, I challenge you to look for a few key business growth opportunities to focus on. We understand how difficult it is to find and implement new, good business opportunities. We know. We have been there.

Many stages of businesses- from start up to established – face challenges in identifying and implementing growth opportunities. Identifying the best opportunities to pursue can be helped significantly by supplementing sales information with insightful market research and effective analytical techniques. New and existing opportunities can be implemented more smoothly with excellent strategies, market research,  financial analysis capabilities, potentially business coaching and more.  A myriad of skills and abilities will take your company to the next level.

By achieving greater profitability, you not only improve your bottom line –but also the economy and community around you. The economic growth makes your world a better place.

Once you begin to look for opportunities, you will find yourself:

  • Scaling up the existing business
  • Moving into new, though related, markets
  • Launching new products
  • Getting into new cities, states or countries

For specific actions to grow your company, keep an eye on this blog. Much more information is forthcoming. Until then, take a look at our article on 14 Sources of Competitive Advantage or check out an earlier blog, 5 Keys to Business Growth, or scan any of the earlier blogs for advice to suit your needs. As always, feel free to let me know if you’d like me to cover a specific topic in one of our future blogs – input from my readers will provide excellent guidance on where to focus.

So, begin evaluating the growth opportunities surrounding you, with a view to focusing on the big-hitters. Take some time to work on them daily and see your world improve.

 

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Partners Creating Wealth are business strategy, market research and financing experts with national and international capabilities. We offer business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com

Photo credit: Nigel Howe

 

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