For Those Who Want to Lead, Read

by John Coleman  |  10:00 AM August 15, 2012

When David Petraeus visited the Harvard Kennedy School in 2009, one of the meetings he requestedwas with author Doris Kearns Goodwin. Petraeus, who holds a PhD in International Relations from Princeton, is a fan of Team of Rivals and wanted time to speak to the famed historian about her work. Apparently, the great general (and current CIA Director) is something of a bibliophile.

He’s increasingly an outlier. Even as global literacy rates are high (84%), people are reading less and less deeply. The National Endowment for the Arts (PDF) has found that “[r]eading has declined among every group of adult Americans,” and for the first time in American history, “less than half of the U.S. adult American population is reading literature.” Literacy has been improving in countries like India and China, but that literacy may not translate into more or deeper reading.

This is terrible for leadership, where my experience suggests those trends are even more pronounced. Business people seem to be reading less — particularly material unrelated to business. But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.

Note how many business titans are or have been avid readers. According to The New York Times, Steve Jobs had an “inexhaustible interest” in William Blake; Nike founder Phil Knight so reveres his library that in it you have to take off your shoes and bow; and Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman called poets “the original systems thinkers,” quoting freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson. In Passion & Purpose, David Gergen notes that Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein reads dozens of books each week. And history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.

The leadership benefits of reading are wide-ranging. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight. Some studies have shown, for example, that reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading — whether Wikipedia, Michael Lewis, or Aristotle — is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information. Many business people claim that reading across fields is good for creativity. And leaders who can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, or psychology, and apply them to their organizations are more likely to innovate and prosper.

Reading can also make you more effective in leading others. Reading increases verbal intelligence (PDF), making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator. Reading novels can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others — traits that author Anne Kreamer persuasively linked to increased organizational effectiveness, and to pay raises and promotions for the leaders who possessed these qualities. And any business person understands that heightened emotional intelligence will improve his or her leadership and management ability.

Finally, an active literary life can make you more personally effective by keeping you relaxed and improving health. For stressed executives, reading is the best way to relax, as reading for six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, and some studies suggest reading may even fend off Alzheimer’s, extending the longevity of the mind.

Reading more can lead to a host of benefits for business people of all stripes, and broad, deep reading can make you a better leader. So how can you get started? Here are a few tips:

    • Join a reading group. One of my friends meets bimonthly with a group of colleagues to read classics in philosophy, fiction, history, and other areas. Find a group of friends who will do the same with you.
    • Vary your reading. If you’re a business person who typically only reads business writing, commit to reading one book this year in three areas outside your comfort zone: a novel, a book of poetry, or a nonfiction piece in science, biography, history, or the arts.
    • Apply your reading to your work. Are you struggling with a problem at work? Pick up a book on neuroscience or psychology and see if there are ways in which you can apply the lessons from those fields to your profession.
    • Encourage others. After working on a project with colleagues, I’ll often send them a book that I think they’ll enjoy. Try it out; it might encourage discussion, cross-application of important lessons, and a proliferation of readers in your workplace.
  • Read for fun. Not all reading has to be developmental. Read to relax, escape, and put your mind at ease.

Reading has many benefits, but it is underappreciated as an essential component of leadership development. So, where have you seen reading benefit your life? What suggestions would you have for others seeking to grow their leadership through reading?

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Nokia Has $6 Billion In Patents And It’s Ready To Start Selling Some Of Them

Jay Yarow | Jul. 19, 2012, 6:04 AM
stephen elop nokia lumia 900

Ellis Hamburger, Business Insider

Nokia whiffed on building a true competitor to the iPhone until it released the Lumia 900 this year.

It’s not because the company didn’t see the iPhone coming, rather it’s because the company was too dysfunctional to release a great smartphone.

That’s the takeaway from a terrific story by Anton Troianovski and Sven Grundberg at the Wall Street Journal on how Nokia lost the smartphone war.

Internally, Nokia’s designers were giving presentations on a single button, touch screen smartphone that would do email, gaming, and more seven years before the iPhone was released. Obviously, that Nokia phone never really hit the market.

However, as a result of Nokia’s R&D efforts, Troianovski and Grundberg report Nokia is sitting on $6 billion worth of patents. The company’s market cap is currently $6.42 billion, so investors are basically valuing the rest of the company at almost nothing.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop says he’s ready to sell some of the patents to keep Nokia alive. “We may decide there could be elements of it that could be sold off, turned into more immediate cash for us—which is something that is important when you’re going through a turnaround,” he told the Journal.

With the mobile patent wars raging around the world, this could turn into an interesting bidding war. MicrosoftFacebookGoogleSamsung, and many others would be interested in owning some of Nokia’s intellectual property.

What kind of patents are up for grabs? Here’s one example from an interview with Elop that’s broken out on Digits, the Wall Street Journal’s tech blog. This quote also illustrates Nokia’s failures to bring innovation to the market:

Elop: You know on an iPhone, you touch on the digital keyboard and you know how the letter pops up and shows up bigger so you’re making sure you’re touching the correct letter? That’s Nokia innovation. That’s something that Nokia designed and patented but it didn’t land in Nokia products for many years, and yet Apple had taken advantage of that innovation and landed it in their products.

So there are some really good examples of innovation that Nokia had invested in, had patented and so forth but because of this barrier that Symbian represented they just couldn’t land the products fast enough.


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Frugal Innovation: Lessons from Carlos Ghosn, CEO, Renault-Nissan

by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja  |   6:00 AM July 2, 2012

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, famously coined the term “frugal engineering” in 2006. He was impressed by Indian engineers’ ability to innovate cost-effectively and quickly under severe resource constraints. And under Ghosn’s leadership , Renault-Nissan has proactively embraced frugal engineering and become one of the world’s leading producers of both electric cars as well as low-cost vehicles — two of the fastest growing and most promising market segments in the global automotive sector.

Recently, in New York, we participated in a panel discussion organized by the Asia Society called “Jugaad Innovation: Reigniting American Ingenuity” (you can watch a video here). We were honored to have Ghosn as our key panelist. During the panel discussion, Ghosn explained that Western automakers must sacrifice the “bigger is better” R&D model and adapt to frugal engineering.

In today’s resource-constrained environment, Western firms are feeling the growing pressure to “do more with less” — that is, deliver more value to customers at less cost. CEOs of these firms can emulate four best practices initiated by Carlos Ghosn at Renault-Nissan:

1) Create “good enough” products that deliver high value for money: Over-engineering products is no longer sustainable — both for economical and environmental reasons. Rather, Western firms need to make simplicity a key tenet of their innovation process by developing “good enough” offerings that deliver significant value for money to cost-conscious consumers. For example, in 2004, Renault launched Logan, a small, no-frills family car. At a starting price of $10,000, the car is built with drastically simplified product architecture and minimal components. In addition to a stripped-down, modern design, Logan is reliable and energy efficient. As a result, it has become Renault’s best-selling car across recession-weary European markets as well as in many emerging markets. Building on Logan’s success, Renault has now developed an entire line of low-cost vehicles (under the brand Dacia) all modeled after Logan’s technology platform.

2) Foster healthy rivalry among global R&D teams: CEOs may find it difficult to persuade R&D teams in the US and Europe — used to abundant resources and pushing the technology frontier for its own sake — to embrace frugal innovation. Yet engineers and scientists love challenges. Western CEOs can create challenges for global R&D teams by introducing artificial constraints that foster a sense of urgency and healthy rivalry that can lead to frugal solutions. In one instance, Ghosn requested three different R&D teams — one each from Japan, France, and India — to come up an engineering solution for the same technical problem. The teams came up with solutions of equal quality — yet the Indian engineers’ solution cost only one-fifth of what the French and Japanese engineers’ solutions cost.

3) Tap partners in emerging markets who excel at innovating more with less. Rather than relying exclusively on in-house R&D teams to develop frugal solutions, companies in developed economies need to connect with entrepreneurial organizations in emerging markets that have a knack for innovating on a shoestring. Recognizing that even its least-expensive pickup truck was five times costlier than the Indian market could afford, Nissan established an R&D and manufacturing joint venture with Ashok Leyland, an Indian commercial vehicle manufacturer. Ghosn recounts with humor how Dr. V. Sumantran, Non-Executive Vice-Chairman of Ashok Leyland, paid a visit to the basement of Nissan’s technical center in Atsugi, Japan and pointed to a four-generation old Nissan pick-up truck. He told Nissan’s baffled head of product planning: “Give us the design specs of this vehicle and our Indian engineers will use it as baseline to develop a great-looking yet affordable and robust pick-up truck fit for the tough Indian roads.” And they did it. The result is DOST, an entry-level pick-up truck with a starting price of Rs 3.7 lakhs ($6,600). Since its launch in September 2011, DOST has garnered more than a third of India’s hypercompetitive light commercial vehicles market. The Ashok Leyland-Nissan joint venture now plans to introduce DOST in other emerging markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

4) Send your top executives to emerging markets to cultivate the jugaad mindset: 
Ultimately frugal innovation is not just about doing more with less. It’s about learning how to innovate under severe constraints and turn extreme adversity into an opportunity for growth. But it’s hard for Western executives to cultivate this frugal, flexible and inclusive mindset — which we call jugaad — in resource-rich and relatively stable Western economies. That’s why Ghosn dispatched Gérard Detourbet, a senior executive in Paris who was in charge of Renault-Nissan’s entry-level cars, to India. From his new base in Chennai, Detourbet will be leading the development of a “global small car” — an entry-level car priced at around Rs 3 lakhs ($5,200) that will first be commercialized in India and then introduced in other emerging markets like Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa. When Detourbet returns to Renault-Nissan’s headquarters in Paris, he is poised to bring with him the jugaad mindset he honed in India. As Ghosn, a Brazilian-born French national of Lebanese descent, explains: “We don’t go to emerging markets to just bring back a product, but to learn something — like new processes or a whole new mindset.”

To win in today’s resource-constrained global economy, Western CEOs must follow Ghosn’s lead in embracing frugal innovation. By inculcating the jugaad mindset within their enterprise, Western CEOs will be able to build a resilient organization that can deliver significantly more value to customers using fewer resources.

Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja


Navi Radjou (left) is a Silicon Valley-based strategy consultant and a Fellow at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge where Dr. Jaideep Prabhu (middle) is the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business and Enterprise. Dr. Simone Ahuja (right) is the founder of Blood Orange. Radjou, Prabhu, and Ahuja are co-authors of Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth.


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4 Reasons Your Company Needs A Collaboration Upgrade, Stat

BY JACOB MORGAN | 07-12-2012 | 6:31 AM

This article is written by a member of our expert contributor community.

Microsoft’s $1.2 billion purchase of Yammer shows just how crucial enterprise networks are to business already–and how major a role they will have going forward. Here are four more motivators to get social.

An organization is no longer limited to a physical structure or proximity; an organization is now limited only by its ability to connect employees and information together.

By far, the number-one business driver for most organizations is being able to connect colleagues across teams and geographies, and this should come as no surprise. Companies of all shapes and sizes have employees based in multiple physical locations and working remotely; this is now commonplace. The ability to keep employees connected is not something that legacy systems and e-mail platforms can do effectively or perhaps at all.

Collaboration isn’t new. Employees have collaborated for many years via phone, e-mail, in-person discussions, letters, carrier pigeons, and other media. In fact, collaboration has been around since the first two humans grunted at each other while planning their next kill for sustenance.

If collaboration has already been enabled in other ways, why bother investing in collaboration via emergent collaborative software? Why do organizations need to connect their employees via internal social networks, wikis, or workspaces when they can just e-mail one another or call one another on the phone? Ed Coleman, the CEO of Unisys, put it best when he said, “Sharpening our organization’s communications capabilities, creating greater transparency, and improving access to our intellectual assets [people] could only increase our flexibility and responsiveness.”

Knowledge Sharing and Transfer

There are two types of knowledge that need to be shared and transferred at organizations: new knowledge and old knowledge. The concepts are exactly what they sound like: Old knowledge refers to knowledge that already exists within the organization, and new knowledge refers to knowledge that is created within the organization, perhaps new ways of doing things.

At your company, if you want to share information or transfer knowledge, how do you do it? Most likely your organization is using a legacy intranet system that basically acts as a massive warehouse for information. Employees attempt to search for and find the information they need. If an employee wants to edit that information (assuming he or she has permission to do so) or update it, it is usually necessary to download it, make the edits, and re-upload it. Even then it becomes a bit tedious for multiple people to collaborate on a document or a piece of information. Chances are, your organization also uses e-mail as a way to share information. E-mail has become the de facto chat messaging program in many companies. Employees send an e-mail and then instantly get a response. That’s not e-mail, that’s instant messaging, and it needs to stop.

Does this mean that e-mail is evil or that a massive war should be waged against it? Although many would say yes, I say absolutely not.

E-mail was meant for asynchronous communication, and sometimes using it does make sense. However, e-mail shouldn’t be used for everything and should be integrated into other existing flows of work.

Even though e-mail was meant for asynchronous communication, what do we do? We stare at our inboxes and our phones, waiting for new messages. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I have watched people walk into poles, walls, and other people because they were checking and responding to e-mails. Technology is supposed to support us and do what we tell it to do. Instead we have the opposite: Technology tells us what to do and when to use it.

Sharing knowledge and information in this way is very inefficient. Using e-mail causes problems with versioning, content duplication, reaching the right people, and locating the proper information later, among a host of other annoying problems.

Emergent collaborative platforms not only allow employees to store and share information; more important, those platforms allow them to collaborate on that information without ever sending an e-mail. Institutional knowledge is something that exists within every organization yet is one of the hardest things to share.

New Opportunities and Ideation

How does your organization come up with new ideas or identify new opportunities? Chances are that specific teams within departments or groups of executives get together to discuss these topics. However, every employee in your organization should be empowered to share his or her ideas and help discover opportunities. Why should this be limited?

Many organizations struggle to empower their employees to develop and create new ideas that they can share within the organization. In effect, the voice of the employee is lost inside many enterprises. Being able to empower the employees to share ideas and opinions in a public way allows an organization as a whole to develop new ideas while exploring potential new opportunities.

Thinking Out Loud

One of the ways people learn from themselves and from others is by thinking out loud. This allows coworkers and colleagues to see the thought process around how certain decisions are made within organizations. I know many of us have that little internal voice we hear when working on something, especially if it’s an exciting project. I’m sure many of you often talk to yourselves out loud. You are not the only one who can benefit from that little voice inside your head. I guarantee that you have several colleagues who could learn from you by tapping into your thought process, and you could learn from them. For example, let’s say you want to develop a business model for something you are working on. You can share your thought processes publicly as you begin to crank out ideas. Other employees will then be able to provide you with feedback and their own ideas, which you may be able to incorporate into your model. This ability to think out loud was never possible before.

Collective Intelligence and Memory 

Lew Platt, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, once said, “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.” Collective intelligence refers to the ability of an organization to use the wisdom of its employees to make business decisions. This premise means that better, more accurate decisions can be made. Let’s say that an executive at your company says that she wants a new product developed in three months. Employees from different departments and business units can share their ideas and feedback on whether this is feasible. Perhaps the marketing team is not able to meet the deadline because of a conference it is planning, or perhaps the product team is already swamped with projects. The same idea can be applied for budget estimates for projects.

Being able to leverage the knowledge of a collective is more accurate and far more powerful than leveraging the knowledge of just a few.


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7 Tips On Building Your Business With Better Metrics

Eric SavitzEric Savitz, Forbes Staff

TECH  | 7/09/2012 @ 3:49PM

Guest post written by Justin Moore

Justin Moore is CEO of Axcient a provider of data backup software.

Justin Moore

Measuring and managing with metrics is essential to keeping your business on target. It’s critical to choose the right parameters – and then to know how to use them. Measuring with the wrong metrics can do more damage than good. Getting too obsessed about the numbers can lead to bad decisions and make you forget about the human element, that you’re managing people, not robots. And not measuring on at least a weekly basis can leave problems undiscovered until it’s too late to course-correct. But, when you leverage metrics properly, they can be one of the most powerful ways to propel your business to success. I’ve found an effective metrics-based management strategy that strikes the proper balance.

1. Measure before you manage

Accountability is fundamental to effective management, but it’s impossible to achieve it without tracking each department and individual progress against very specific, measurable goals and objectives. Every element of your business should be measured – marketing, support, operations, sales, finance, engineering, employee performance, and so on. You first need to determine the right metrics and then make sure you have all the tools you need for measurement.

2. Choose the right metrics

Using metrics is a bit of a double-edged sword, because it can just as easily send you off track as it can bring you greater focus. The key to effective measurement is knowing what to measure. First, you have to really know your business, starting with your core values, vision, and company mission. Ask questions like:

  • What five things will most impact the business in the next 12 months?
  • What are specific revenue objectives, both for the year and for each quarter?
  • What are the “subjective” criteria for success in the next 12 months?

Then pick your metrics based on what matters the most to your business. Set yearly and quarterly company and departmental goals, from which individual objectives are created.

3. Avoid common metrics pitfalls

I’ve learned from past mistakes that metrics must be extremely clear. A broad goal like “provide better customer support this quarter” can leave everyone, at the end of the quarter, with very different ideas on whether or not that goal was met since there were so specific metrics tied to it. Other common pitfalls avoid include:

  • Metrics with inaccurate or incomplete data
  • Metrics that are complex and difficult to explain
  • Metrics that complicate operations and create excessive overhead
  • Metrics that cause employees to not act in the best interest of the company

In brief, metrics should be so clear that an outside person could come in at the end of the quarter and check whether the objectives have been met.

4. Invest in tools that deliver real-time feedback

To make metrics really effective, you need real-time feedback. Whenever possible, invest in measurement tools that put your metrics at your fingertips. Today’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications make it easier than ever to quickly and frequently pull data that provides measurement against objectives. You might use Salesforce reports to track sales activities and leads. Or HubSpot for Website rankings and inbound site links. QuickBooks, Excel and other office applications you’re already using can be set up to collect and analyze current data.

Whatever measurement tools you use, be sure to connect and automate them as much as possible so you don’t spend all your time on number-gathering. At Axcient, some programming from our engineers and in-house Salesforce experts allows us to feed numbers and charts from more than a dozen measurement tools into “Departmental Dashboards.” Using the dashboards, management is able to quickly view the status of every group in the organizational weekly meetings.

5. Share metrics with employees

One of the most important and often missed reasons to track metrics is cultural. At Axcient, we share metrics and results not only with management, but with every employee. At all-hands meetings, we go through slides that Axcient shares with the board of directors. A large screen in the common area shows weekly highlights – and challenges. Maintaining transparency and celebrating big wins leads to a culture of success, where everyone is on the same page and motivated toward unified goals.

6. Remember that accountability starts at the top

Business leaders don’t always recognize how closely employees will follow their example. But if you want your workers to take goal-setting seriously, you should be prepared to share your own goals – as well as how you came out on delivering on them at the end of the quarter. Such transparency shows your team that you are in the trenches with them, making every effort to achieve what you set out to do – even if your targets were off.

7. Continually question, reevaluate, and refine

Keep in mind that you will need to reevaluate and adjust your metrics as your business priorities change. Every week, month, and quarter is a new opportunity to test and refine your ability to set and track metrics that will drive growth. When you invest time and thought into setting, monitoring, sharing, and refining your metrics, you’ll be amazed at how much more in tune you are to the state of your business, and how much more easily you can make the critical decisions that can catapult your business’ success.


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Five Reasons Britain May Be The Best Place To Start A Company In 2012

Parmy OlsonParmy Olson, Forbes Staff

I cover those who agitate and innovate.

TECH  | 7/09/2012 @ 12:26PM
Old Street in London, a growing hub for tech startups from Britain and overseas

A guest post by David Mytton

All around the world, governments are spending time and money to figure out the best way to attract the attention of entrepreneurs. New startups are a great way to stimulate the economy because they are seen as innovative and exciting, create new jobs and are in a unique position to generate real value just from an idea. Over the last five years, the British Government has announced changes in every annual budget to help nurture the growing ecosystem that had already started to establish itself organically in the United Kingdom. In my opinion, the effect of this has been to make Britain the best place to start a new business in 2012. Here’s why:

1) The barriers to starting a company have been falling.

Over the last 10 years I have been involved in the creation of five businesses in the UK, either as a sole founder or part of the founding team. In 2001, when I was 14, I did freelance programming in between schoolwork and formed my first company from my bedroom in Birmingham, England just a few years later. Since then, the regulatory and legal requirements behind exploring commercial ventures have actually become easier here. Whether that is registering as self employed and filling out a tax return through the U.K.’s color-coded online system, or incorporating a company in about an hour for £14, the barriers to getting started have been steadily getting lower.

2) The British tax man is dealing with startups more intelligently. 

Britain’s tax authorities have become smarter about their understanding of how businesses begin, (often unprofitably) in the early years. Now in it’s third year, my current startup has been able to claim real cash back on R&D expenses which can include the salaries of my 10 employees because they are all engineers; a benefit which will switch to tax credits as we hit break-even.

3) A variety of helpful financial schemes. 

The British government provides several financial schemes that offer significant tax benefits not just to smart investors who can afford expensive tax advice, but also to the founders and even employees of companies. If you sell your company, you can claim up to £10 million of Entrepreneurs Relief and investors can claim up to £150,000 in tax credits on their investments each year. Joining an early stage startup is a risky move for individuals and they are often incentivised with stock options. Employee share schemes can be set up to allow these to be cashed out under capital gains tax at lower rates of around 20% compared to income tax of up to 40%. Many of these benefits have only existed since 2008 and each year the thresholds have been bumped up – for example Entrepreneurs Relief was just £1 million in 2008, increased to £5 million in 2010 and following changes in 2011 now sits at a limit of £10 million.

4) The benefits are not just limited to British citizens.  

Anyone resident in the European Economic Area can relocate to Britain, but from last year, a new category of visa was created to allow anyone from anywhere in the world to enter the UK and establish a company, so long as they have £50,000 of UK-based investment. This follows a trend set by other countries also trying to encourage immigrant founders. Chile leads the way by paying you up to $40,000 to move there, with no inward investment requirements. Singapore and Ireland have similar schemes as the UK, which all need a certain level of investment to qualify. Somewhat surprisingly, the US lags well behind with fairly stiff requirements, such as already having $1 million minimum investment. But that is looking to change with the StartupVisa Act which is supported by big names such as Fred Wilson of New York’s Union Square Ventures and Paul Graham from Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley based startup incubator. However, it is somewhat telling that this movement came from the grassroots level back in 2009, rather than being instigated by the government itself, and still has to pass through the House and Senate.

5) The rise of Seedcamp and government support.   

The difficulties involved with moving to America to start a company as an immigrant has sparked the growth of incubator programs outside of the US with direct access to hundreds of well-connected, local mentors. Seedcamp, perhaps the biggest one outside of the U.S. and an investor in my company, Server Density, runs its program throughout Europe and has recently started to branch out further east, into Africa and even on the East and West Coast of the United States. Yet the main Seedcamp Week event, which all the other events feed into, is still run in London, where Seedcamp is based. Recognizing the importance of London, UK Trade and Investment, part of the British Government, established the Tech City Investment Organization in March 2011, amid a lot of noise from the government about East London being the place to be for tech companies. Whilst I don’t agree that just a single area of the city should receive all the attention — it should really be about promoting the whole city, if not the country — it highlights another way the government is trying to encourage the ecosystem through involvement of high-profile companies like Cisco, Intel and Google and by offering incentives to be based there.

The United States has been a great place to run a company for a long time but now, the scene has been set for Britain to really show off the kind of companies that can be created here — from well known successes like (acquired by CBS), Message Labs (acquired by Symantec) and Tweetdeck (acquired by Twitter) to fast growing startups like Mind Candy (behind Moshi Monsters), Red Gate Software and Spotify. The tech industry is one of the few that has been mostly immune to recession, explaining why governments are focusing so much on it, but you don’t have to be in tech to take advantage of running your company in what I see as the best place to be: the UK.

David Mytton is the founder of server monitoring startup,Server Density. He has been programming for over 10 years, regularly speaks at tech conferences around the world, co-founded the Open Rights Group and can usually be found cycling in London or drinking tea in Japan.



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The 7 C’s: How to Find and Hire Great Employees

ENTREPRENEURS  | 6/19/2012 @ 11:22PM

Alan Hall

Alan Hall, Contributor

Speaker, author, investor and catalyst for entrepreneurial growth.

A founder can’t grow a winning enterprise singlehandedly. Some may try, but it is nearly impossible to do so. Every famous entrepreneur has built a flourishing company with great employees by his or her side.

Hiring the best employees is more important than ever

An entrepreneur can invent and even commercialize an idea as an enterprise of one. In time, however, the tasks of running a business become too great for the entrepreneur to manage alone.  At this point, a savvy leader must find and hire the best workers to help achieve the entrepreneurial dream.

In today’s economy, hiring the best people is more critical than ever. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to lose time, money and results from a bad hiring choice (a recent Forbes article by David K. Williams pegs the cost of a single bad hire at anywhere from $25-50,000). The cost of finding, interviewing, engaging and training new employees is high. Employees also require desks, computers, phones and related equipment, let alone the largest costs of being an employer—salaries, benefits and taxes.

Leaders view new employees as an investment and anticipate an excellent financial return over time.

Over the course of my career, I’ve hired hundreds of people. Some were exceptional employees who were major contributors to our success. Others didn’t work out. In most cases, when an employee left or was terminated, I was the problem. Those dismissed were good people. I just did not know how to properly hire new employees.

Historically, and sadly, the only criteria I had used were to find the candidate with the best skills, experiences and ability to match a job description.

I have since identified seven categories—I call them the “7 C’s”–that you should consider to find the best new employees, as follows:

1. Competent: This is still the first factor to consider. Does the potential employee have the necessary skills, experiences and education to successfully complete the tasks you need performed?

2. Capable: Will this person complete not only the easy tasks but will he or she also find ways to deliver on the functions that require more effort and creativity? For me, being capable means the employee has potential for growth and the ability and willingness to take on more responsibility.

3. Compatible: Can this person get along with colleagues, and more importantly, can he or she get along with existing and potential clients and partners? A critical component to also remember is the person’s willingness and ability to be harmonious with you, his or her boss. If the new employee can’t, there will be problems.

4. Commitment: Is the candidate serious about working for the long term? Or is he or she just passing through, always looking for something better? A history of past jobs and time spent at each provides clear insight on the matter.

5. Character: Does the person have values that align with yours? Are they honest; do they tell the truth and keep promises? Are they above reproach? Are they selfless and a team player?

6. Culture: Every business has a culture or a way that people behave and interact with each other. Culture is based on certain values, expectations, policies and procedures that influence the behavior of a leader and employees. Workers who don’t reflect a company’s culture tend to be disruptive and difficult.

7. Compensation: As the employer, be sure the person hired agrees to a market-based compensation package and is satisfied with what is offered. If not, an employee may feel unappreciated and thereby under perform. Be careful about granting stock in the company; if not handled well, it will create future challenges.

Job applicants will give you their answers to the seven categories. They may be modestly presented or exaggerated. You are searching for the truth. To obtain a clearer picture of potential workers, I recommend you talk to former employment associates. The references a job candidate provides will nearly always provide a biased report. Instead, ask the candidate for the names of former bosses, peers and subordinates.

I’m here to tell you that good references will share the truth and not mince words. With these names in hand, call former co-workers and ask them if the job applicant fits my seven characterstics. This will give you a full and accurate view, good and bad, that will leave you much better equipped to select the best candidate.

For more detailed information about hiring employees I have written an e-book on the 7 C’s of Hiring that is available from Amazon or from my personal website at


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