Ventures and Non-Profits

Sienna Wildfield of Hilltown Families

Our language about entrepreneurship tends to emphasize the for-profit enterprise and the growth-driven venture. But entrepreneurial behavior is alive and well in, and critically important to the success of, not-for-profits.

Counting health care, education, social services, the arts, and business services, there a few thousand not-for-profit organizations—those with federal and state non-profit tax-exempt status—in western Massachusetts employing over 20,000 people. State-wide, there are over 23,000 not-for-profits listed with the Attorney General and Secretary of State.

In a highly competitive environment, where these organizations compete for donations, grants, contracts, and public attention, the more successful and sustainable non-profits are led and managed by people who model the best in entrepreneurial practices. These leaders and managers help grow their organizations, manage complex organizations that include very active and engaged Boards of Directors, and deliver caring public benefits. This is an arena that requires mindfulness!

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The IT Sales Tax

Engaging Public Policy

No IT Sales Tax copyIn addition to starting, running, developing, growing, and sustaining a small business, you have a role or two in your communities. In your business community—you, your colleagues, business partners, those with whom you collaborate, those from whom you purchase and to whom you sell—you get to participate in establishing values, principles and behaviors simply by how you do your work and engage others. In your civic communities, including the networks of friends and associates with whom you exchange ideas as well as social interests, you can also be involved in some level of public policy.

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Provocateur, Explorer, Inventor, and Risk-Taker


I get impassioned about issues, concerns, art, ideas, explorations and discoveries.  Among my primary passions is “entrepreneurism”, applied to creating and developing businesses and organizations, and applied to a particular way individuals can create new pathways and stimulate innovation. In our collective pursuit of “new communities” and “new economics” since the melt-down of 2008 and elevated concern about the environment and global warming, nothing stands out to me as being more revolutionary and transformative than entrepreneurial initiatives.

If local community-based, resilient and sustainable economies and enterprises are at all desirable, then you, too, are or soon will be an advocate for venture and enterprise creation and development. New small businesses and community-based organizations create local wealth while inventing, building, producing, and distributing everything from locally grown healthy foods to advanced materials to smart-phone “apps” to socially responsible investing and crowd-funding to works of art. And if you’re already an entrepreneur, business owners, inventor, or organization leader and participant, then you’re actively engaged in building and sustaining the communities and cities of the future.

The Role of Uncertainty

Somewhere between protecting older and almost obsolete technologies, sectors, and skills and trying to plan and direct what sectors should develop next, is the preferred approach in the arena of enterprise development.  I’m a advocate of entrepreneurs; I’d like to see more resources and efforts go to training, educating, supporting, and assisting individuals and groups to try and eventually succeedin their individual and small group initiatives. The mindful entrepreneur is all about supporting innovation, exploration, discovery, creativity, and production in the context of working collaboratively, in networks, in and on behalf of communities: this is, in my mind, the direct approach to the common good.

“Try and eventually succeed” is a key phrase. The entrepreneurial approach is uncertain; it is risk-based, and more akin to being an explorer and discoverer than it is to being a builder. You, the small business creator and owner, are barraged by hundreds of new books each year about how to succeed, how to do it right, how to start and grow a business, and on and on. There are detailed lists of must-does and how-tos, should-nots and avoid-these. If you read and practice and evaluate even half of all these, you may never have the time and energy—or interest—to actually have a business. It’s better to read and learn as you explore and develop.

Here’s my best advice in all of this:

  • First, accept that you’re an explorer. You will be discovering and learning something new—about yourself, your business, your customers and clients, your markets, your community—every day you stay in business. You can’t duplicate another person’s success; you’ll have to  explore and discover a lot on your own. If you have no inclination to explore, and find uncertainty and risk troublesome, don’t go into business alone. Consider the possibility that you shouldn’t go into business at all.
  • Second, understand that you need to be a critical thinker, problem solver, and innovator, because you’ll have to figure things out for yourself. You’ll face situations for which there are no magic-bullet answers. If you’re still in business after five years, and are successful by any measure you choose, then you know as much about this arena as anyone who has published a book about it. You may still need and want—and even enjoy—the expertise, knowledge and insights of others (never underestimate the value of someone else’s learning and experience!) and you’ll continue to find books,articles, and workshops of great value. Pursue and use these opportunities. Just realize that you, too, could be a business-advisor and author!
  • Third, this enterprise is about you and your networks of colleagues, customers, and communities. Through your individual and collaborative initiatives, you can retain individual freedom and achieve community-wide benefits and value.
  • Fourth, master the basics as you go along. Learn something about value-chains, SWOT, organization and management. Involve others—partners, consultants, employees, friends—who know more about these things, and who bring expertise you may lack: typically new product and service development, bookkeeping and finance, sales and marketing.
  • Keep learning every day.

Returning to Your Core Strengths

But if you find that you can’t start or make a move until you’ve read the most recent piece of advice or the newest technique, that you need to get all the answers and perfect your approach first, and this sense repeats itself over and over, you should probably reconsider your options. Most of you are not feeling this, but you probably do feel anxious at times as you wonder why some aspect of your enterprise is not going as you expected or planned. Combine reading with using an analytical technique. Don’t just learn about metrics: use them. Reach out into your network of fellow explorers and consultants: you will find comfort, strength, support, and information. And you will reinvigorate your own insights and core strengths; you are, after all, the well from which your success will emerge.

Mindful of What?

Mindful of what? The INCOMMN Example

As entrepreneurs, we need to be forward looking. “Being entrepreneurial” is a set of behaviors practiced inside an organization as well as used to create or perfect others. It involves creativity, thoughtfulness, awareness (of self and of others), agility, and management of resources. Entrepreneurs are in motion: their behavior is dynamic. They don’t bring everything to a standstill to look back for detailed analysis. Yet successful entrepreneurs know how they got to the present situation.

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Pursuing Quality, Customers, and Business

“A product or service possesses quality if it helps somebody and enjoys a good sustainable market. Trade depends on quality.”

“Everyone expected the good times to continue and to wax better and better…In contrast to expectations, we find, on looking back, that we have been on an economic decline for decades…”

“We can elevate our our economy with specialized services and products. This change will require knowledge. In other words, our problem is education…”

“Customers expect what you and your competitors tell them to expect. And the customer is a fast learner… No customer asked for electric lights. No customer asked for photography. No customer asked for a telephone. No customer asked for an automobile.”

“Zero defects is not sufficient…(Products and services) must show constant improvement…Innovation is essential…It is necessary to innovate, to predict the needs of customers and give them more. The innovator will take the market.” “A good question for anybody in business to ask is ‘What business are we in?’ .. We must keep asking ‘What product or service would help our customers more?’ “

The Business-Customer Relationship

These are all taken from essays and presentations by W. Edward Deming; they appear collected in his 1994 book, The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education . Taken together, in the way I have them appearing here, they provide a good summary of the book while telling an essential story.

Here’s how I put these together:

When I’m a customer, I can clearly express my preferences from among product and service choices, but I don’t innovate, invent, or make. When producers and service providers bother to inquire and listen, what they’d learn about are my needs, interests, pain-points, disturbances. They’d then realize that their role is to invent, build, improve (through innovation) and provide the solutions. When I’m the entrepreneur, I have to make and provide those things and services which best solve the customers’ pain-points. I can be successful in the market place if I can tell customers that my innovation responds to their need, and if I can continually innovate so that I have constantly better solutions as well fewer and fewer errors.

That’s the core of the business-customer relationship: the customer informs the producer/provider, and the producer/provider creates, improves, and supplies the right response to that information. The customer and the producer are partners; their informed, educated exchange results in inventions and solutions that continually improve. When that partnership breaks down for any reason—the producer stops asking and listening, the customer can’t find ways to provide information, the innovation stops (because of business’ arrogance or loss of concern, or because—and this was big for Deming—business leaders lacked the knowledge and education to sustain continual innovation), the value diminishes in relation to price—then the economy as a whole suffers and businesses fail.

What Business Am I In?

And that goes to the question, “What business am I in?” We tend to respond to this with the most obvious answer. We state what product or service we offer. “I’m in the automobile carburetor business” is an example Deming uses. That might have been a correct answer as far as it goes, but it turned out to be inadequate because the carburetor got replaced by better technologies and devices. Had the business owner realized instead that his business was all about creating and building fuel supply systems for engines, that business might have gone on to produce fuel injectors; and eventually, electronic devices. The customer didn’t invent this; the customer’s need was for a continually improved mechanism for getting some energy supply to an engine, and to accomplish this with fewer mechanical problems and at a lower and lower cost.

Case Study: ExecutiveValet Airport Parking, Suffield, Connecticut

The business any of us is in is similar along this dimension: we’re all in the business of creating, building and improving a response to a need. And we improve the likelihood of our business success when we are mindful about all the details that go into building and managing our response. In the past week’s 21st Century Business Round Table, the one in Holyoke, I got to talk with Steve Lepow, business development manager for ExecutiveValet Airport Parking in Connecticut about this. ExecutiveValet provides highly precise, customer-centric, valet parking services for those using Bradley Airport. The business has grown from handling a few hundred cars a day to handling well over a thousand a day; its facility is large and comfortable, it’s processes efficient and attentive to customer needs, and it’s been able to successfully run full-tilt even during the past two year’s worst storms.

I wanted to know how this business addressed quality concerns, innovation, and customer service. We learned that a well-designed and well-run parking service is a great deal more than a large parking lot with curb-side pickup and delivery at the airport. Details abound: designing the lots so that winter plowing never ties up the lot, installing the equipment and lines to add in electric car charging stations as they become more popular, having a comfortable place to drop off one’s car, having the cars ready in advance for each in-coming flight, and on an on. The result is exactly what I’ve just been writing about: a system in which all the things the customer needs but never thought to ask for are created and provided. The customer is not only satisfied but increasingly satisfied, as the company continually explores what it can do to be better.

This leads to having more customers, to having repeat customers, and to gaining big bites of market share. Would you have guessed that an airport parking service would be at the cutting edge of innovation and quality production? I left the conversation with a lot to think about in my own work; between Deming and Mr. Lepow, there’s a lot to learn here about mindful entrepreneurship!

Sharpening an Old Tool

Sharpening An Old Tool

“Most leaders and policymakers don’t have a clue about what makes entrepreneurs successful” (from Gallup Business Journal, September 2012)

Adequate financing is frequently cited as the primary factor in success, while academia tends to believe that business degrees are essential. There are certainly many entrepreneurial cases to study in an effort to uncover what makes entrepreneurship work: according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity 1996-2012, produced by the Kauffman Foundation — considered to be the world’s largest foundation dedicated to entrepreneurship — there were 514,000 new business owners each month in 2012. And if this seems extraordinary, consider that this is down from 2011 when some 543,000 new business owners created businesses each month. The decline is credited to an improved employment trend, which means that entrepreneurship is stimulated by, among other things, a lack of jobs. There are currently 12 million adults who own a business in the U.S. What drives this entrepreneurship and what drives success are increasingly important questions.

In our 21st Century Business Round Table sessions this year, we’ve been spending time with a few old tools to help us be successful entrepreneurs. I’ve dusted off a few venerable but tried-and-true techniques, such as SWOT analyses, in the context of tracking how well a venture is doing in aligning its resources and actions to its mission and vision. It’s a classic approach that, re-fashioned a bit for the small business owner and solo-entrepreneur, brings heightened awareness about capacity and capability in relation to challenges and opportunities. That is, we’re using, and coming to appreciate, some powerful tools that contribute to mindfulness and to our own successes.

When we dive into the data and analysis about entrepreneurship, the wisdom of this approach becomes very clear…

A few additional pieces of information from the Kauffman Index report are particularly useful in our exploration. The highest rates historically occurred 2008-2011, during the peak of the most recent recession. The “decline” in 2012 is actually a return to the trend line. The fastest regional growth rates of entrepreneurship in the United States, as well as the highest rates since 1996, have occurred on the West Coast, with the East Coast close behind. The lowest growth rates, as well as the greatest declines, have been experienced in the Mid-West.

The report I’m referencing, again, is the Kaufman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity 1996-2012. That time span allows some trend analysis, revealing that the rate of entrepreneurship has been higher for those aged over 45 than for those younger. In 1996, the gap between the entrepreneurship rate of those aged between 20 and 34 and those older was small; the gap has increased significantly since, as older entrepreneurs are starting businesses at much higher rate than younger. About 340 adults out of 100,000 aged over 34 are starting new businesses each month, whereas about 230 adults out of 100,000 aged under 35 are starting new businesses. In 1996, almost 35% of new entrepreneurs were aged 20 to 34, and a little over 14% were aged over 55. In 2012, 26% were aged 20 to 34 and 23.4% were over age 55.

If this age shift seems counter-intuitive, ponder the education shift. This one surprised me: since 1996, the entrepreneurship rate for those without a high-school diploma has always been higher than for those with a college degree, except in 2001, when the two groups had the same rates of business creation. Since 2001, the trend for those with less education has gone up to the point where it almost doubles the rate of highly educated. But this turns out to be more of a demographic shift than an educational variation: the rate of participation in entrepreneurship has increased dramatically for immigrant, Latino, and African-American populations who have not obtained higher degrees and who have become unemployed during the recession years. Among native-born Anglo/white population groups, people with higher degrees are far more likely to become entrepreneurs than those with less education.

Entrepreneurship attracts those confronting an economic or employment disadvantage, regardless of education; as well as older and more educated professionals. Seen this way, entrepreneurship is a choice made to create jobs, incomes, and life-styles for the entrepreneurs while being “free” from the difficulties of working for, or becoming unemployed from, other employers. Entrepreneurship is an opportunity and sometimes a necessity.

Let’s go back to that Gallup Business Journal article I started with. The authors, Sangeeta Badal and Joe Streur, reported on “What Drives Entrepreneurs to Win.” All the data points reported in the Kaufman Index now become really interesting: regardless of education level, nationality, birth place, gender, and employment, the unifying theme is that all these entrepreneurs are self-driven. The authors identify 10 functional demands “that are enduring and universal:” all depend on the capacities and capabilities of the entrepreneur. These 10 demands include nuggets such as “Know your personal brand: entrepreneurs must interact effectively with others; successful entrepreneurs know themselves…”; and “Take on challenges”, “think through possibilities”, and “be a self-starter.” The authors note that “Startups that are growing rapidly demand long hours of work and high levels of energy and stamina.”

We spend time on SWOT analysis because it forces us to pay attention to all these factors. At the heart of this tool is the very first demand: self-knowledge. Once I can clearly articulate my vision, and develop a mission that will fulfill it, I have to gather resources, make decisions and take actions that will move my mission forward. And to fully understand how I will do that, I want to commit serious thought to understanding my capabilities, capacities, opportunities and challenges. I love this process: I turn to it often, and it always brings new insights and discoveries that me drive forward.

Of the roughly half-million entrepreneurs entering the market places this month, some are old, some young, some with advanced degrees and some not, speaking many languages and born in many countries. They all share this same drive: to use their capacities to create enterprises. To be successful, they will need to be purposeful, intentional, and mindful.

Links: “What Drives Entrepreneurs to Win,” Sangeeta Badal and Joe Streur, September 6, 2012. Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, 1996-2012. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Mindful Economy


A teacher and a consultant walk into a bar…and they have a conversation that anyone can understand!

My friend, Doug, a professor in education with a background in educational instruction and assessment and currently a department chair, and I got into a wide-ranging conversation covering our areas of mutual interest and concern. We both have wide-ranging interests, and we each read a lot and keep abreast of each other’s areas of interest. And although most of my recent work has been in business, organizations, finance and economics, we’ve worked on projects together involving education and community action. It’s fun as well as challenging to hang out with people like Doug; I have to keep my own learning up to date if I expect to keep pace! He began the conversation. “What’s your take on the economy, and what do you think we can do to make things work better?” he asked. I wondered about his thoughts on the status of higher education, and how well he thought colleges and universities were doing in fulfilling their missions. We discovered a couple of important intersections: education and economic growth and sustainability are very closely related.

  • Four patterns stand out as causes for economic woes:
    • undermining the importance of information
    • confusion of goals
    • inadequate education that must include critical thinking skills in an ever more complex world
    • the loss of sustainable employment and the decline of wages.
  • The troubling patterns in education include:
    • Educators at each institutional and grade level tend to find fault with the previous grades for not providing “good education” but rarely question their own roles and responsibilities, and then fail to attend to the real learning needs of students
    • Consequently,  education systems and structures have hardly changed in relation to the needs and conditions of the world around us
    • Students and learners carry the brunt of the consequences, and teachers are blamed for everything, while education in general is underfunded and un-prepared
  • If our information and analysis are at all accurate, then the joke emerges: our economy and our economic systems rely heavily on education, the education system is inadequate to the challenge and to fix it we need a public commitment to changes and alternatives in education and we need funding for education as both local and national priorities, and the funding won’t be available without a robust and sustainable economy.


  • For free markets and vibrant business to succeed, information about any and every transaction, must be reliable, and it must be equally shared with all parties, and that includes underlying information about the participants themselves.


  • The desire for “confidentiality” as applied to producers and traders is entirely misdirected: without reliable and timely information about a product, and about the commercial (including financial) health of the producer and the distributor, any market exchange is skewed and its results are suspect.


  • A major cause, perhaps the largest single cause, of the 2008 recession and bust, was the huge quantity of misinformation being passed between market players: banks misinformed each other, lenders misinformed borrowers, borrowers misinformed lenders, corporations misinformed stock-holders, everyone misinformed ratings organizations, and markets were left managing transactions built on falsehoods and misdirections.


  • Computerized trading in financial markets only amplified the misinformation, taking trade markets rapidly in one direction or the other without real data or evidence.


  • Reliable information was, essentially, taken out of the market. And for markets to work — for markets to act even remotely like the Adam Smith model — traders need to have access to the same, and to all, the information embodied within any proposed transaction. Auctioneers, market makers, and brokers all serve a mid-ground position to help match up buyers and sellers through an information posting and exchange mechanism. That’s what the ideal stock market does, and that’s what the ideal public marketplace does.


  • Regardless of political persuasion, every rational person will have to admit to the importance, the sacredness, of quality information if he or she believes at all in market economies.


  • The stated technical goal of free market liberal economies is the rational resolution of participants each seeking maximum benefit. It has been believed that well formed markets will allow rational players to each reach their best possible position in relation to every other player, because rational players in a rational market, having the same complete information, will essentially negotiate a transaction that is mutually beneficial.


  • But the current unstated goal is that each player gets the chance get whatever he or she can. That is, the way we tend to play it out is to pursue individual self-interest at all costs to others. Gold becomes a highly valued and over-priced commodity in a market built on greed and deliberate misinformation, for example. Yet investments in gold support child-labor and near slave labor working conditions, engagement in environmentally hazardous extraction processes, and the movement of working capital into metal stockpiles such that capital becomes  unavailable to local and regional economies.

Education that includes learner-centered methodologies, project centered learning, life-long learning, critical thinking, and complex systems — and, importantly, this includes education that encompasses and embraces the arts! — is essential to the long-term development of sustainable systems as well as market economies, not to mention healthy democracies.

In A Local Economy’s Network

In A Local Economy’s Network

We continually review and often revise—to better describe—INCOMMN’s vision and mission. Let’s start with the name: INCOMMN is an acronym for “Interactive Communities Network”. “Communities” include the communities we live in, we work in, and interact in. Our name is itself visionary: imagine a highly active fabric of interconnected businesses and communities that describe a regional economy as a whole. To accomplish this, we’re committed to building, encouraging, and supporting ecosystems of businesses, non-profit organizations, and local communities. An ecosystem is the detailed interactions and resources in which we all operate. For INCOMMN, this ecosystem provides the environment, resources, transactions, and supports for on-going venture, organizational, and community development. What emerges from all this is the collaborative economy: all the players, ideally on and with purpose, but often enough by accident, interact in ways to help each other achieve and accomplish. This is the “common good” in action.

A Regional Economic Model

At the more mundane level—putting this into practice—I often get to work on projects that fully illuminate the network. In the past month, I’ve been developing an economic model—a picture—of the Western Massachusetts region and sub-regions to reveal the particulars of this networked economy. It’s truly fascinating to develop the image at this highly detailed level. I’ve been doing this sort of data gathering and analysis for almost thirty years now; studying regions throughout New England, Colorado, Illinois, California, and Europe. Regional economic modeling and analysis has its rewards: great, beautiful pictures are revealed. This week, I was reminded of this again. We discover in these projects just how tightly woven the economic fabric in any region can be, and what might be achieved if we work even more on developing that fabric. And it is a fabric: a network so well connected and established that we see very clear patterns. For example, even small scale increases in production in any one major industry create jobs and raise incomes throughout the entire network. The inverse is also true. A decline in regional and local food production, for example, impacts food pricing; which will impact household purchasing, restaurants, grocery stores, and even tourism. And if households continually have to limit their purchasing choices to smaller and smaller ranges, then some purchasing gets delayed or even eliminated. Another example is the rapidly expanding world of telecommunications. It’s almost impossible to remain competitive in any business without ready access to advanced telecommunications: data, voice, and video delivered via broadband connectivity. If Western Massachusetts lacks adequate and affordable connectivity, the ecosystem cannot support business or organizational development and growth. Jobs will be lost, incomes reduced, and towns and cities decline. In fact, every industry in a region is eventually—and most often very directly—linked to every other industry through what gets purchased and produced. To produce the telecommunication infrastructure and services needed in our region, that industry has to purchase wire, cable, wood, plastic fasteners, a variety of metal parts, tools, trucks, parts, electricity and…Well, in fact, over $400 million worth of inputs and services a year. And it has to hire people, and they need decent wages, and they need to purchase food, health care, clothing, housing…the network of interactions becomes increasingly complex!

We’re All in This Together

You, me, and our colleagues in entrepreneurship, understand this even at our smaller scales of operation. INCOMMN purchases and rents space, pays for printing, owns computers, and buys a variety of web-based and telecommunication services as well as devices. And we’re very small economic players in the whole network. Our success depends on our own choices in many ways, but it also depends on finding what we need from all the other businesses and organizations in the region. Vibrant, growing and complete ecosystems allow us to gain capacity, produce high quality services, and deliver what our customers and stakeholders need and expect. When you work at your desk today, think about how you’re an important player in a vast, tightly connected network. Stop for a minute and appreciate the rich texture of the economic fabric that sustains us. Be mindful of just how much you interact with your community and its networks! Come to one of our FREE Mindful Entrepreneur’s 21st Century Business Roundtables and join the growing community learning and talking about our local economy as a network and much more.

More information and registration at the InCommN Events Page on Eventbrite

Between Interesting and Mythic

Entrepreneurs are like soccer players

We move on to the fourth in our series of 21st Century Business Round Table workshops in the coming week (April 23rd in Northampton; April 24th in Springfield). The series mirrors this blog: gaining presence in your organization to know but not fret about where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. We’re going to do more with basic tools for gaining critical insights.

Let’s quickly review this whole idea of mindfulness in business and organizations: if you’re mindful, you know what you’re doing; you care about and work to provide benefits to your clients, customers, stakeholders, and participants; you care about the impacts of your enterprise on others and on your community; you care about your colleagues and any employees; you operate with the highest standards and dedication to quality; and you pay attention.

And you function and operate with purpose. Your work, and your enterprise, isn’t activity-driven, it’s outcome-driven. Outcome, purpose, action, care, principles, ways to track and monitor, internal and external actions—everything is integrated. These aren’t separate arenas of concern; they come together into a single whole, into a unity of concern. The task falls somewhere between interesting and mythic, and it may border on the impossible. I’ve had the good fortune to work in and with organizations that fulfill this vision, where both those leading—owners, principals, directors, or CEOs—and those working in the organization can state their roles, functions, limits and areas of concern easily; communicate openly and completely; and support each other in achieving the desired outcomes for their customers. The “mindful entrepreneur” is not a fiction, nor is it difficult to arrive at that level. Three things are required, however:

  1. Realize that all aspects of your enterprise, especially when you’re a sole proprietor or leader of a small enterprise, are related to each other; if they’re not all mutually supportive, the places where they aren’t supporting one another will become major sources of dysfunction.
  2. Most of what you learn and practice focuses on a limited subset of all these components. The integration and wholeness of all the parts is rarely if ever considered. That includes the relationship of your enterprise to the world around you.
  3. This integration and the dedication to principals is outcome-driven and purposeful. You have things to unlearn—and things to explore and discover and learn for the first time.

“…you move with purpose, to be where you need to be when the critical play occurs….”The mindful entrepreneur is a soccer player: the field of action is large, there are many players in motion, the ecosystem in which you operate is changes constantly, and it involves many others. Your well-being—your success—depends on how well you master your place and action in that field in relation to all the other action. You might be very strong and very fast, but you can’t simply be running around the field: you move with purpose, to be where you need to be when the critical play occurs. Join us at this month’s workshops to gain more of these soccer-player skills. Among the basics we’re learning is how best to put SWOT analysis to work for you.

Taking Measure

Being present, taking measure, introducing CoreValue Software

The 21st Century Business Round-table is heading to session #3 in Northampton and session #2 in Springfield. Our theme this year links mindfulness and enterprise success for you, the mindful entrepreneur.

First, Happy Birthday to my INCOMMN partner, Daniel Lieberman! Daniel is the editor and chief writer for this newsletter, and he started the Don’t Eat Lunch Alone (DELA) lunch-time networking and discussion sessions. He and I joined forces to further our visions of resilient enterprises and resilient communities. All that for such a young man is astounding! (aw, shucks, thanks! — Ed.)

Measuring the Right Thing: How Alaska Airlines Does it

What is the measure of “age?” Does it really tell us much about who a person is, and what he or she is doing? Some of us celebrate, and some get worried as they count the passing years. But is it age that matters, or is it something else: fulfillment, achievement, accomplishment, satisfaction, happiness, a sense of wholeness? At any moment (at any age) in life, each of us can take measure: “Who am I? If not now, when?” The same for our businesses and organizations. Alaska Airlines, one of the few airlines, and in some recent years, the only one, to be profitable in North America, employs over 50,000 data points daily to measure how well it’s doing. It’s been an astonishingly successful enterprise with a full national flight schedule: it has the highest on-time take off and landing rate, it has the most satisfied customers and consistently high customer ratings, it has a safety record second to none, and yet it’s profitable. This is the airline that developed satellite tracking and guidance systems, the first to fully utilize this technology. Satellite guidance initially solved the airline’s home-base problem: Alaskan airports are nestled in small areas between mountains and coasts, and the winds and weather can be brutal. Flying there had been high risk yet left no room for error.

This example can teach us many things, including how to engage innovation effectively, and how to manage a complex system successfully. And profitably! And, by the way, for the common good: folks in Alaska depend on this transportation system, and the company has been committed to community and public interests.

InCommN offers CoreValue Software

We don’t always need 50,000 measures, or data points, to help us. I’m now working with, and offering as a new INCOMMN service, a measure-and-analysis system called CoreValue Software. INCOMMN is an advisor with this system, meaning that we employ it to help enterprises measure and track every key aspect of business and organizational development. The system uses 18 dimensions, or areas of measure, including internal (management, organization, accounting, leadership, and legal dimensions) and external (marketing, sales, product/service placement, pricing, brand, customer satisfaction) measures. On each measure, the business is compared to other businesses in its industry sector and also measured against its own stated goals and needs. Each measure is scored, and each results in a number of recommendations for improving that score. It’s the perfect tool for business valuation if owners are thinking of selling, and for entrepreneurs thinking of buying. And it’s equally powerful for assessing any businesses strengths and challenges, for growth planning, and for loan evaluations.

We’ll be carrying more information on our web-site about this exciting new tool. Give us a call if you want a demonstration or preview, or if you’re wanting to acquire, sell, grow or elevate any business. There are many great opportunities and rewarding birthdays for the mindful entrepreneur!