Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to deal with problems -- big problems

Just a quick post for the holidays.   

There was interesting article in the New York Times on the day before Thanksgiving about Lundberg Family Farms, here in Butte County, and their response to  potential traces of inorganic arsenic being found in organic brown rice.
The findings as first publicized in Consumer Reports do not single out Lundberg; nor has there been any confirmation of any poison being found in our local rice; but what should a company do? The article features Lundberg executive and College of Business instructor Tim Schultz and paints a very flattering picture, I think, about how Lundberg is trying to deal with the issue.

It is a confusing issue and one that clearly is not fully understood; yet from where I stand it appears to me that Lundberg is doing everything possible to deal with the issue in a forthright and honorable fashion.

They are a great local company and I wish them well. Here’s a link to the article:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fall 2012 Business Concept Competition

Now that the World Series (thankfully, since I’m a lifelong Tiger fan) has ended and the Super Bowl won’t happen until February, it’s a great time to focus on the next enormous competitive battle – that’s right, the Fall 2012 Chico State Business Concept Competition. This year’s Final will be held Wednesday November 14 at 7:00 in Tehama 100. The public is more than welcome.

Past winners include Andrew Gazdecki with Bizness Apps ( ) and Jon Richardson, Hobie Jensen and Patrick Edelman of Upper Park Designs ( whose first production run of awesome disc golf backpacks is on its way to America even as I write this post.

If you haven’t attended any prior events then I whole-heartedly urge you to come take this one in. The range and breadth of the ideas is always staggering. This year is no exception. Here’s a list of the finalists and their business ideas:

Aram Favala ...      Global U
Bernard Maushardt & Laurence Duterte...           Ronin Brewing Company  
Brett Conner, Kevin Crowe...     Impetus Calendar Management  
Jason Schroeder, Keith Rincon, & Ashley Croom ...    Northern California River Rafting  
Jeff Huckabay...   FoodEase
Joe Malinovsky et al ...     DUI Vanguard
Katharina Chiu ... MEETING PUNKT
Max Frederick ...  MusicSession
Nick Delucchi ... Greenware
Raette Meredith  ...         Artazine
Raette Meredith, Kami Rowedda, John Woolery ...               Puppicures
Ricky Owaki, Jasen Henderson, Jake Wade  ...     The Accordion Curtain
Ryan Robeson, Neoma Frary & Joe Malinovsky ... Textbooks to Cash
Sam Thomas, Nico Chesterton,  Andrew Paddock  ...      EcoRacks
Tyler Israel ...      EasyScrip

Don’t worry if you can’t quite understand what these businesses are supposed to do; neither do I. We'll find out together. That’s the beauty of Finals night. See you there!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Setting Goals --- Really, really big goals

In my business plan class this week we have been discussing how one can possibly put together pro forma business statements before the company has even opened its doors? The questions abound from the students. Should I be super-conservative? Should I shoot for the stars? How can I be realistic? And, best of all, what does being realistic mean?

There are of course no easy answers to any of these questions and yet it is absolutely crucial that we set goals and make sales projections that will convince or entice or excite investors – or, of course, all of the above. So where does one turn? One piece of advice that has always resonated with me is to set what Jerry Porras and Jim Collins called in their book Built to Last Big Hairy Audacious Goals or BHAGS for short. Here’s what they wrote: "A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines."

And yet, how does a startup know where to draw the line? When is that super goal just too fantastic; how does one do it? An entrepreneur ultimately must be very comfortable with the vast contradictions that are inherent in starting up business; setting BHAGs while paying extreme attention to making the next sale or the first sale. How does one walk that line?

Let’s listen to what Abraham Lincoln said about Charles Blondin. Likening himself to the French acrobat who was famed for being the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tight rope, Lincoln asked: "Suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had to put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across Niagara. Would you shake the cable, or-keep shouting at him, 'Blondin, stand up a little straighter — Blondin, stoop a little more — lean a little more to the north — lean a little more to the south'? No, you would hold your breath as well as your tongue and keep your hands off until he was safely over .”*

Clearly the course a startup must follow is: don’t listen to the mob – set your course and as Nike says, just do it. Blondin, by the way, never fell.