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P=2S+O© - #2

by Rick Baker
On Nov 5, 2009

For every Problem, there are at least 2 Solutions and there may also be some hidden Opportunities.

As promised in the last blog, here is a link to the P=2S+O worksheet/template. [click to download]

The worksheet is easy enough to use.

I kept it to one page.

At one page, people should be more inclined to use it. At one page, it can fit into a binder. Several copies can be printed in advance and completed later as Problems arise throughout the day.

I would like to thank the author Dan Kennedy - NO B.S. Ruthless Management of People & Profits, 2008, Figure 37.1, Problem-Solution Communication Template – for the idea of using a straightforward one-page format for communicating Problem-Solutions.

Here is a link to Dan Kennedy

Bosses think things like, ‘Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions’.

Dan Kennedy provided an easy way to do that.

When I read Dan’s book, his template jumped out as a great fit with our P=2S+O philosophy. I adapted Dan’s template.

So, now we have a P=2S+O worksheet/template.

We encourage our people to use the template.

We go beyond saying, “Don’t bring me Problems, bring me Solutions”.

We say, “Bring me Problems and bring me Solutions, and, from time to time, bring me Opportunities”.

We encourage our people to seek out Problems.

More on this in the next blog...


Change: Creating Positive Change | Solutions & Opportunities

P=2S+O© - #1

by Rick Baker
On Nov 3, 2009

Some time ago, I made up the math formula P=2S+O.

It means, for every Problem there are always Solutions and there are often hidden Opportunities.

P=2S+O is a philosophical statement.

P=2S+O is a positive-thinking tool.

P=2S+O is a problem-solving tool.

In a series of a few blogs, I will explain things from the philosophy behind P=2S+O to the practical value it provides for problem-solving.

Perhaps the best starting point is “P”.

P = Problem

“You can’t start a formula with Problems. That’s pessimistic. You must start with Solutions or Opportunities!”

“You can not call problems Problems. You need to come up with a less-negative description.”

I’ve heard that.

I have disagreed.

Problems are Problems.

We do not need to make it prettier or any more complicated or any more palatable than that.

This ‘let’s just call problems Problems’ approach ties in with two other pieces of philosophy I embrace:

  • Seek Simple [when things are straightforward, keep them that way]
  • Seek Obvious [more on this later, or Google ‘Obvious Adams’ if you can not wait]
So, the formula starts with P... for Problem.

For every Problem there are at least 2 Solutions and there may be hidden Opportunities.

Bosses tend to buy into this.

Bosses have said things like, “Don’t bring me problems - show me solutions.”

And, that’s the main reason the formula P=2S+O was created. It was designed to help business people convert Problems into Solutions. Later, a ‘worksheet/template’ – a hands-on tool – was developed to help people.

At the next blog, I will provide the worksheet/template and more discussion of – Why use P=2S+O?

Also, I will explain why spending time thinking about Problems is not the work of a pessimist…it is the work of a realist.


Solutions & Opportunities

A Lesson on Cold Calling

by Rick Baker
On Jul 6, 2009

Last week I met a fellow...an entrepreneur.

As we exchanged information about ourselves, he mentioned doing business with Disney.

I asked - how did you get that done?

He told me the story...

Several years ago, he and his partner were enthusiastically going about building a business. They met regularly on Sunday evenings to strategize for the upcoming week. One Sunday night they were discussing the difficulty they were having 'making contact' with Disney. They had made numerous attempts to connect with the 'key contact', who happened to be female.

Numerous attempts, phone messages, etc - zero success.

Then, one Sunday evening as they were strategizing, they decided they would send a bouquet of flowers to the lady with a note 'From the guys who have been bugging you for a meeting'.

They sent the bouquet of flowers the following day.

That generated a positive response.

They met the lady at Disney.

Then they did the deal with Disney.

[What a nice little story and lesson on cold calling.]




Entrepreneur Thinking | Marketing

How should we view and analyse a Market Sector?

by Rick Baker
On Jun 5, 2009

A few decades ago, Michael Porter presented a way to analyse an industry sector…ie, a marketplace.  

He recommended Five Forces Industry Analysis”...see Michael Porter, ‘Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors’, [1980].


Porter’s Five Forces are:

  1. threat of new entrants
  2. bargaining power of suppliers
  3. bargaining power of buyers
  4. threat of substitute products or services
  5. degree of rivalry among existing competitors

It is wise to consider the Five Forces described by Procter…[perhaps after almost 30 years that’s now considered common sense]. 

It also makes sense to look at your choice of business sector from different perspectives.

This note is about a different way to think about your market niche…the sector where you are doing or will do business. 

Last year, Fernando Trías de Bes presented some different thinking in his book ‘The Little Black Book of Entrepreneurship – A Contrarian’s Guide To Succeeding Where Others Have Failed’ [2008].  

The book focuses on why businesses fail. Rather than talking about only KSFs [Key Success Factors] it recommends we consider KFFs [Key Failure Factors]. The author answers the question – “Why?”…”Because in order to apply the success factors, you need to clear the terrain of failure factors.” 

Is that contrarian?  [What about the W and the T of SWOT?] 

According to the author, one reason entrepreneurs fail is poor choices of market sectors. The author believes the root of the problem is many entrepreneurs do not consider the market sector to be a decision. Rather, they consider it to be a consequence of a random idea.  

The chapter on market sector is titled ‘ROUND NINE - No Novice Ever Won a Nobel Prize’ 

An example is given: a vacationer sees a new type of shoe while visiting a foreign land. The vacationer – the entrepreneur – knows that shoe is not available at home. The entrepreneur’s random idea is: we could sell that shoe at home. And the consequence of that random idea is: we will go into business in the shoe sector.   

Another example is given: a fellow became enthralled with a particular fast-food outlet. He spent six months studying the business of that fast-food outlet but failed to ask himself if he had a real interest in being in the fast-food sector. 

The author believes entrepreneurs often fail because they ‘back into’ the market sector because they are convinced they have a good idea for a product or have a good idea for a specific business.  

The way I’m looking at it, Fernando Trías de Bes tells us what we better think about before we follow the ‘process-analytics’ advice provided by folks like Michael Porter.  

Fernando Trías de Bes provides the following advice:

“The choice of the market sector for your business venture must be the result of a considered decision.

Choose your sector or product because it appeals to you.Go into a sector you know.

If you don’t know the sector, either take time to learn it or surround yourself with people who do know it.

You must bring something new into the market sector you choose to do business in.

Innovate by knowing the rules so you can break them.” 



Some Additional Thoughts: 

Fernando Trías de Bes at the cover of his book describes himself as a contrarian. It is sometimes difficult to tell the traditional from the contrarian.

One section of the Introduction of The Little Black Book of Entrepreneurship – A Contrarian’s Guide To Succeeding Where Others Have Failed’ caught my attention. At page 3 of the Introduction the author describes an on-line exercise he did using the words ‘key success factors’ and ‘key failure factors’. The author states,”Out of curiosity, I typed ”key success factors” into a search engine and found 636,000 pages; a search engine for “key failure factors” yielded only 119 pages.”

Last December, I performed an exercise using a few combinations of words like “Why Businesses Fail” and “Why Businesses Succeed”. My results, at least , my views about my results, are certainly contrary to those of the author. I feel I obtained the opposite result. For my search, I was not interested in the number of pages search engines found. I was interested in what the first 10 pages [using Google] contained for each search [see www.google.com]. My goal was to find 10 lists where writers provided their views about “Why Businesses Fail” and 10 lists where writers provided their views about “Why Businesses Succeed”. I was astonished to find a huge amount of free on-line articles and summaries covering the topic of  “Why Businesses Fail”…it was easy to find free-information and compile numerous lists of  “Why Businesses Fail”. Going from memory, I believe the first 12 websites contained 10 lists…so, my task of generating the 10 ‘failure lists’ was done quickly. Conversely, I had to read through almost 100 websites to find 10 ‘success lists’…and, I had to cheat a bit to get that done. I had to cull the ‘success’ verbiage to create lists while the ‘success’ writers volunteered simple lists…some numbered, some with bullet points.

After performing the above free-information-search exercise, I reached two conclusions:

  1. People who write about “Why Businesses Succeed” want to be paid for their opinions…so, they don’t write them out the way others write about “Why Businesses Fail”. Rather, when you search those business-success words you end up at sites that sell books…and 
  2. People who do express free advice about “Why Businesses Succeed” make far more subjective claims than do people who write about “Why Businesses Fail”. For example, they state things like business success is linked to long-distance running, meditiation, etc whereas the people who write about failure focus almost entirely on business reasons such as poor marketing, inadequate finance, etc. 

My December 2008 exercise coupled with the author’s differing view about on-line searches cause me to think two things:

  1. Many people think other people will pay for business-success education, so business-success information is not offered as freely as is business-failure information. There’s a good argument to be made this is all about packaging… and 
  2. I’m not sure Fernando Trías de Bes is a contrarian. His search-engine test...I struggle with that.

Injecting Value - Systemizing Your Business

by Rick Baker
On May 31, 2009

Over the past month, not by sheer coincidence, I have participated in many discussions about ‘business systems’.


People have differing views, ranging from ‘the need’ for systems to ‘the design’ of systems.


I am not writing about my personal views at this time. However, I’d summarize them this way: with respect to ‘the need’ I am of the view business systems are essential and with respect to ‘the design’ I am of the view business systems should be comprehensive yet user-friendly and containing user input, automated within reason, simple to follow yet sufficiently detailed, and crystal clear.


Business systems must be taught and they must be learned. They must be embraced.


Here is one way to look at business systems…it is an introduction to the good work Brad Sugars is doing with his business-consulting company ActionCOACH…for more information visit www.actioncoach.com.


As part of his ‘INSTANT SUCCESS’ series, in his 2006 book titled ‘Instant Systems’, Brad Sugars wrote about “The  Nine Steps to Systemizing Your Business”. While one needs to read the book to understand the strength of Brad Sugars’ 9 points, the following summary illustrates his approach to business systems.


1.      Step 1: VISION – this is a long-term [Brad says a 100-year view] of the grand picture of what your business will be like when it is finished. The Vision should be clearly understood by everyone at your business. Brad provides his company’s Vision, which is captured in 5 words.

2.      Step 2: MISSION STATEMENT – this states how you are going to accomplish your business Vision. It should clearly explain: who you are, what business you are in, who your customers are, and what makes you different than your competition. Brad provides his company’s Mission Statement, which is described in one page.

3.      Step 3: CULTURE STATEMENT – Brad says this is usually a 14-point statement covering: the company leader’s 4 most-important values, the team’s 4 most-important values, and the customers’ 4 most-important values. At his company, Brad covers these using the following 14 points: Commitment, Ownership, Integrity, Excellence, Communication, Success, Education, Teamwork, Balance, Fun, Systems, Consistency, Gratitude, & Abundance.

4.      Step 4: GOALS – your Goals help you achieve your Vision. Your Goals should be SMART, consider the end point, ie, your exit from the business, and provide direction and focus.

5.      Step 5: ORGANIZATIONAL CHART – again, consideration must be given to the end point.

6.      Step 6: POSITIONAL CONTRACTS – using Brad’s words, ‘It’s very important to tell your people what they’re supposed to be doing.’ And, ‘Spell it out in clear, unambiguous terms.’

7.      Step 7: KPIs – Key Performance Indicators for every position. Brad recommends 5 to 10 KPIs. He ties pay-for-performance bonuses to each person’s KPIs.

8.      Step 8: HOW-TO MANUALS – written down, video- or audio-taped…whatever works.

9.      Step 9: MILESTONES – you must consider the main stages your business will go through from infancy to maturity.


That’s a summary of a concise set of instructions for setting up Business Systems. Perhaps, the most striking piece is the step called Culture Statement. Many businesses have given little thought to culture. Based on our discussions with many businesses, the first three steps – Vision, Mission Statement, & Culture Statement – appear to be the most difficult.


Business Contains Only 3 Things | Entrepreneur Thinking | Marketing

An excerpt from a note sent to a business associate

by Rick Baker
On May 7, 2009

Spirited Investors helps businesses tackle their problems and opportunities. We do this by investing money, know-how, effort, and time. 

Spirited’s key investment focus, at this time, is smaller businesses. Smaller businesses: think in terms of private companies ranging from early-stage revenue to $10,000,000 in sales.  

Smaller-business success is influenced in a profound way by the presence or absence of good Marketing & Sales performance.


Unfortunately, the absence is more common than the presence Together, we can fix this.  

Marketing: Most small businesses do little marketing, aside from a very-limited set of things such as attending trade shows and having a printer do up some brochures to support sales. Websites exist but often they are neither compelling nor updated. When marketing activity does happen it is rarely measured or tested. Marketing work receives perhaps sporadic attention. There is little commitment to doing marketing. Some say it is not required. They are wrong. Many think they do it right or state ‘these things are under control’. Yet, most businesses struggle at identifying: [1] target markets, [2] value propositions, and [3] unique selling propositions. Meanwhile, the whole marketing & sales process, from strategic to tactical, must start with those 3 things.  

Sales: Often, small-business owners personally handle much of the sales activity at their company. They regularly choose to do sales work rather than delegate it. They have problems when they do try to delegate it. The recruiting of sales people is another real challenge. And, about 7 out of 10 sales people shouldn’t even be in sales jobs. The 80/20 Rule is confirmed, that is, if sales success is happening at all then ‘the few’ generate the lion’s share of the sales revenue. Within an industry, most competitors do sales work more or less the same way. Not much innovation, not much creativity. So, sales attitudes can be quite lackluster and even when sales performance is happening the work isn’t much fun.  

Most small businesses do not have a written Plan for their Marketing & Sales.  

Almost all smaller businesses need help with marketing & sales [not just sales work on its own]. Even those that are earning profit are leaving money on the table and leaving clients less than fully satisfied. They would do better if they had a Marketing & Sales Plan. Marketing & sales must start with Plan the Work [ie, Napoleon Hill – Plan the Work and Work the Plan].  

Planning offers at least 2 major benefits: (1) it forces folks to think through the issues and that ‘thinking through’ alone adds value and (2) the Plan serves as a guide and a reference…it is a map. Maps help. 

We will do the smaller businesses of our community a tremendous service if we can create together an education and training ‘tool’ for marketing & sales.


The marketing & sales training tool we create should have 3 overall components: [1] marketing, [2] sales management, and [3] sales.


The existing sales training programs can provide a good starting point for the work in the sales area. Most of the sales training I have purchased is too complicated…it needs to be simplified. We must make our marketing & sales training tool ingenious and simple - that is...we must make our marketing & sales training tool elegant. Many good books and tapes exist to help us create all 3 of the parts. These 3 parts must be integrated because sales work can only be excellent and resilient if it is meshed with the results of good sales management and marketing work. And, there will be no excellence [or peace of mind] if marketing & sales work is not handled in a Plan the Work and Work the Plan way…much strategic thought, much tactical thought, alignment, measuring and testing, training, etc. 

We can create a special ‘tool’ for Marketing & Sales education and training. 

And then, we can share it. 


80/20 Rule | Entrepreneur Thinking | Investor Funding | Marketing | Sales

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