Archive for December 2010

Powerpoint presentations; a quick word before you start

December 27, 2010

Over the past month, I have been asked to advise or help with several presentations.

I could easily have directed people to some wonderful help sights and told them to get on with it. One of my favourites is “slideshare“, and specifically the guide which encourages to steal the presentation. Worth the 5 minute browse.

If you want something more hands on, consider the critiques on Steve Jobs. These really tell you how to be simple but effective.

And of course there is the now ubiquitous 10/20/30 rule, as proposed by Guy Kawasaki.

Now, I am no tech wizard with microsoft tools. I am no genius with choosing new fonts of colours. I do encourage people to think differently before even drawing up the initial slide.

We all know the situation. You have to prepare something. And the first question is often along the lines of: “Right, what shall I tell them”.

For me, this is the wrong starting point. How about considering:-

  • Who is my audience?
  • What message do I want them to take away?
  • What action items do I want them to follow up on?

A little bit of thought beyond the immediacy of yourself will help you to generate a much more powerful creation. And here are some examples of what I mean, when this action is not taken.

How many start ups use multiple slides to describe their tech, when an investor simply wants to know what and when they are going to receive a return? Or consider the inventor who is so chuffed explaining his tech can do that he forgot to explain how it can be monetized?

And how many presentations have you seen when all the speaker does is effectively read from the slide, which is usually so full of text that the font is annoyingly small? Not much left for the audience to do but go to sleep.

 Bottom line: as YOU start planning YOUR presentation, think about OTHERS.

What happens when you boycott Israel

December 24, 2010

It’s almost Christmas time, the season of smiling at your fellowman…except if they are Israeli?

The year of 2010 was marked by an increase international campaign to delegitimize Israel. The musicians, Elvis Costello and the Pixies, cancelled a concert in Tel Aviv at the last moment. This week in Seattle, a series of adverts were placed on public buses, decrying so-called Israeli war crimes. In London, there are now regular demonstrations outside retailers stocking Israeli products. And so on, at great length.

Years ago, if you wanted to protest about Israel, you stopped buying Jaffa oranges. So what would happen today, if you were to ignore deliberately Israeli products?

Teva is considered the second largest manufacturer of generic drugs in the world with facilities in Europe and in the USA. Many of their products end up in the bodies of the poor on all continents. I suppose you could just avoid the company, and either suffer or hope that you could afford the alternatives.

What about Argo? Their equipment is helping thousands of people confined to wheelchairs to start walking again. One application was featured recently on Glee, the award-winning tv programme. Of course, paraplegics in Seattle may wish to remain immobile, but me thinks this unlikely.

And then we have fans of Lady Gaga, Bruce S or U-2. These artists and others depend on technical support from Waves Audio, based near Tel Aviv. Like the music or not:

Waves Audio … will be presented with a prestigious Technical GRAMMY® Award during the GRAMMY Week celebration in February 2011. ……With this presentation of the Technical GRAMMY®, Waves joins a prestigious list of previous recipients which includes such well-known names as Apple Computer, Inc., Sony/Philips, Shure Incorporated and Yamaha Corporation.

And we must not forget Intel. 95% of people reading this item will have a computer whose chip tech had been developed in the Holy Land. And the next generation is already in the planning stage. So, switch off your computers and stop listening to most modern music?

So what is the boycott all about?

The true hypocrisy of the boycott was exposed on a picture of the front page of the newspaper Yediot, this Christmas Eve. The reader saw a stream of illegal refugees from Sudan and other parts of central Africa hiking across the Negev desert into Israel.

You have to conclude that Israel is not that bad for these people to come here. And, assuming that they are persecuted in their home countries, why are those protesters against Israel not uttering a word of behalf of these poor souls. Anti-Israel or just old-fashioned hatred?

When a “key performance indicator” is not so keyed in

December 23, 2010

Coincidence?

Earlier this week, I was told of a report commissioned by a leading Israeli company, which wanted to track customer responses. The bottom line did not make pleasant reading. Complaints of arrogance, misleading pricing policies, poor products, and other comments nobody expected to read.

And yet this was a company doing well. Most key budget targets had been met over the outgoing year.

Meanwhile, my IIB colleague, Siu Ling, has directed me to “Misleading Indicators: how to reliably measure your business”. Her bottom line: not all key company indicators are measuring what you think they are.

The results can often be disastrous and confusion. What can be done? Remember, businesses live and thrive in a dynamic situation. Just remember why you cannot take anything for granted.

Christmas cheer and Bethlehem’s economy

December 20, 2010

How do you know it is Christmas time?

The Europeans always complain that the amount of snow is wrong, whatever the quantity. The shopkeepers are never happy with either the pre or post festivity purchasing stats. And the “spinners” in the Israel-Palestinian conflict begin to bombard the gullible with slanted stats about life in Bethlehem.

Here’s what I mean:

In “New Christmas Story: Bethlehem under Occupation“, the reader is asked to believe that Israel has effectively banned Christianity from Manger Square. Published almost on the same day, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York called for a boycott of Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank, as the Jerusalem government must be seen as a brutal occupying force.

Israelis will reply that economic growth in the West Bank is bouncing along at about 8-9%, now that the Palestinian Authority is directing more resources towards proper government and away from violence. And the HRW report can only be described as a pathetic or dangerous whitewash, as “the manufactured allegations erase the context of a protracted and intense conflict, and ignore the legitimate security needs of Israel.”

So what is happening in Bethlehem, Christmas 2010?

The Catholic News Service has just reported that:

With five new hotels in the works, a handful of new souvenir shops opening recently and nearly 40 restaurants able to serve crowds from 100 to 1,000, the Bethlehem economy is showing signs of recovery following the desperate intifada years. For the first time in years, shop owners and tourist industry workers in the birthplace of Christ are optimistic and have confidence in the economy. For most, 2010 was the best year for business in a decade.

And it is an established fact that Israeli and Palestinian tour guides are cooperating, bring trade to each other under a new scheme. In fact, as Israel is completing a boom year in tourism and as around 2/3 of the visitors are Christians, it can be assumed that many have ended up visiting Bethlehem.

Start crawling the net and the evidence from non-partisan sources is that life ain’t too bad in Bethlehem these days. By the way, it should be emphasised that every since the municipal boundaries were reorganised by Chairman Arafat in 1996, the city has been predominantly Muslim.

Led on by the Palestinian PM, the Christmas preparations near their climax. Meanwhile, 15 miles away in Israel, two Christian tourists were attacked , probably by terrorists. One died of her wounds.

Managing the expectations of partnerships

December 18, 2010

“Get the expectations clear up front to prevent your business partnership’s failure.” Jean Charles

I was sitting with a new client, listening to how they wanted to set up the business. Super qualified, experienced, dedicated, I heard the rich and thought out commercial philosophy in full. And now is the time to set up their own legal office. Fine. What were my thoughts?

Fine, I wanted to agree, but I had the suspicion that there was a “fly” disturbing our conversation.

So my experience as a business mentor told me that it was time to prod. And very quickly, we were not chatting about their own letterhead, but being associated with partnership. Their former boss in Jerusalem, who is much respected, wanted my person to set up in Tel Aviv. And this would be a partnership. Good.

Very good. They would be linked to a fine national team. They would not need to search for the first clients, ensuring an initial revenue stream. Groovy!

And one last question: Did this concept match their own philosophy and approach? Well, not exactly. And suddenly, I had the “fly” in my sights.

A few rapid questions later, and the truth began to eek out. No, there was nothing wrong professionally or personally with the boss of old, but he had rejected the initial suggestion of partnership. So what was their understanding of a “partnership”, I asked.

And suddenly, a chasm opened up. It appeared that assumptions had been made by both sides. The expectations of all had not been defined, and the road t confusion was wide open in front of them all.

In 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a short but brilliant book about the Four Agreements Of Life.  

Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.

I encourage my readers to find a copy of the book.

If that is retirement, how do I get there?

December 15, 2010

Yesterday, I received this joke about retirement

Question:  How many days in a week?  
Answer:
  6 Saturdays, 1 Sunday.
Question:  When is a retiree’s bedtime?  
Answer:
  Three hours after he falls asleep on the couch. 

Question:  How many retirees to change a light bulb?  
Answer:
  Only one, but it might take all day. 
Question:  What’s the biggest gripe of retirees?  
Answer:
  There is not enough time to get everything done.

Question:  Why do retirees count pennies?  
Answer:
  They are the only ones who have the time.  

Question:  What is the common term for someone who enjoys work and refuses to retire? 
Answer:
  NUTS!   

Question:  Why are retirees so slow to clean out the basement, attic or garage? 
Answer:
  They know that as soon as they do, one of their adult kids will want to store stuff there. 

Question:  What is the best way to describe retirement?  
Answer:
  The never ending Coffee Break. 

Question:  What’s the biggest advantage of going back to school as a retiree? 
Answer:
  If you cut classes, no one calls your parents. 
And, my very favorite…. 
QUESTION:
  What do you do all week?  
Answer:
  Monday through Friday, NOTHING….. Saturday & Sunday, I rest.

And that was the abbreviated version. But behind the joke is a more pertinent question. If retirement is so wonderful, how can we get there that bit quicker?

As a business mentor, I effectively ask that question almost every day of my clients. Whether as a start up or as an on-going concern, they come to me with great ideas and say “I’m stuck – Help me!”

All too often, we discover that two key ingredients are missing.

VISION – it is often incomplete. The concept of why you want to do something has not been fully thought through

TIMELINE – people tend to be so concerned with immediate tasks that they forget about longer term milestones. Perspectives become lost or muddled.

Yes, there are may solutions. They often relate to the issue of instituting building blocks or aids that will allow you to look beyond the present. For example, start working with a friend or mentor. 

That way, you might be able to retire that bit earlier and really start to do the things you want to do and deserve.

Why investors continue to show faith in Israeli hightech

December 13, 2010

The annual Globes business conference in Tel Aviv is a great occasion for Israelis to reveal their economic capabilities. After all, Israelis never need to be given a second chance if asked to show off.

And there is much to shout about. At the macro level, GDP will have moved ahead by around 4% in 2010. Unemployment dropped to under 6%. Israeli scientists, who have created successful careers abroad, have begun to find jobs locally. etc etc.

I noticed this morning a series of press releases that show how well parts of the economy are performing.

NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE), the worldwide leader of intent-based solutions that extract insight to impact business performance…..has been recognized as the worldwide leader in speech analytics implementations, with a 34% market share, …..by DMG Consulting LLC, a leading analyst firm.

That is very welcome praise indeed for this high tech outfit, based north of Tel Aviv in Ra’anana. And they are not alone amongst Israeli companies receiving glowing reports: –

 ClickSoftware Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CKSW), the leading provider of automated workforce management and optimization solutions for the service industry… has been named as a winner in the ninth annual Mobile Star Awards™ program, hosted by mobile technology news portal MobileVillage.com.

A leading internet investor’s guide, INVESTORS.com,  summarised the issue very clearly.

If you’ve been sifting for top-rated stocks, you’ve probably noticed a gaggle of stock-market winners from Israel popping up on your screen recently. And a lot of these hail from high-tech industries.

Israel? Talk about a country with problems. But some basic features of its economy compare well with the U.S. and Europe, though not against emerging-market stars such as China, India and much of Latin America.