How to lead expansion into new markets

How to lead expansion into new markets

Mihir Kittur, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer for Ugam, is responsible for business development and delivering customer success. He has over 20 years of experience, and has worked closely with clients across the globe, to understand their needs and help create solutions for their success.

Earlier this year, we opened our first office in Melbourne, our eleventh office globally. As a global company, we are no stranger to driving expansion into new markets.

However, assuming a formula will succeed every time is probably the first mistake one can make. Expansion is fun and exciting, but it also requires a lot of groundwork before seeing results. Here are some considerations business leaders will find useful when planning to expand.

  1. Define the business case

    If the business has a steady income flow and a stable, talented workforce, but the current market is saturated or has ceased growing, then moving into a new market could be a good idea.

    There are many reasons that the business might look to expand. Establishing the business case for expansion is an important initial step. Once a strong business case is established, look within to confirm the availability of resources to support it.

  2. Allocate resources

    Not knowing the business’ limitations, could result in committing to unrealistic objectives, maybe even failure. Get a clear…

Chief Consumer Officer Of Humana Shares Insight On Shift From B2B To B2C Marketing


In a recent discussion with Jody Bilney, Chief Consumer Officer Humana, about the changes occurring in healthcare marketing, I was fascinated to learn about her background. She has moved across industries and held a number of different C-level positions in both B2B and B2C firms. Bilney shared her perspective on the differences across positions and roles below.

Kimberly Whitler: You’ve been a Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Brand Officer, and now a Chief Consumer Officer. What are the differences in these positions?

Jody Bilney: There are some similarities across the different roles and some key differences. The part that has been the same is that my role has always been to make sure that the consumer’s interests are sitting at the top management team table. It means that their interests are always considered. In regulated industries, the order in which business considerations are often contemplated – i.e., regulatory, financial, and then maybe the consumer – you have to make sure that the consumer (and, in the case of health care, the medical provider) point of view is consistently contemplated. And this has always been my job, no matter the industry or title.

At Humana, I didn’t realize the wisdom of not calling my position the…

Why GoDaddy Is The Key To Solving Hollywood’s Weinstein Problem

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving holds a foam hat on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as he waits for his company’s IPO to begin trading, Wednesday, April 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

has done what many tech insiders thought was impossible: it has transformed its workplace culture from sexist to respectful and fair. This is a company that made its bones on degrading Super Bowl ads, but as Charles Duhigg of the New York Times reported in July, CEO Blake Irving had the wisdom to see that promoting gender equality is both the right thing to do and smart business move too.

Here are Irving’s leadership lessons and why Hollywood studios should follow suit.

Admit Your Own Bias

You’re biased, and so am I. Better to accept that fact and work toward minimizing or eliminating our biases than to delude ourselves by saying, “I’m not sexist.” That’s how GoDaddy began overhauling its corporate culture.

“The most important thing we did was normalize acknowledging that everyone has biases, whether they recognize them or not,” Debra Weissman, a senior vice president at the company, told the Times. “We had to make it O.K. for people to say, ‘I think I’m being unintentionally unfair.’”

An antidote to bias is getting a second opinion about your judgment. Don Feldmann, a Director of Rippe & Kingston Capital Advisors, Inc. of Cincinnati, told me that this helps him make good hiring decisions.

“If I’m bothered by something a job candidate as done, I pay attention to this feeling, but then I ask myself, ‘OK, what’s really going on here? Do I feel this way because of something that’s genuinely wrong with the candidate, or is it my bias?’ Sometimes your instincts are valid, and sometimes they’re not. It’s a hard call. We’re capable of fooling ourselves a lot.

The musical Avenue Q, written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, includes a…

Meet The CEO Who Leveraged Education To Build A Global D2C Pearl Retailer

Photo courtesy of Pearls Of Joy

When it comes to building a strong connection between consumers and brands in today’s digital age, trust and authenticity are paramount.

Traditionally, industries like retail, fashion, and jewelry have stood as markets that attract skepticism from consumers slow to trust the online shopping experience, with a lack of education leading to the purchasing process feeling risky and inauthentic. From understanding very little about the products and how they are manufactured, to looming uncertainties regarding quality and pricing, consumers are inevitably forced to blindly choose from an array of options online, instead feeling equipped enough to confidently make smarter shopping decisions.

However, despite this looming lack of trust in e-commerce, consumers still remain disinterested and unsatisfied with the status quo. For example, stepping into a traditional retail store means being limited to available inventory, aggressive sales representatives, and the unspoken pressure to make a purchase before exiting. Yet, when a consumers are educated and prepared, they can effectively filter through products to properly evaluate whether what’s on display aligns with their needs.

Noticing the void and value of thoroughly informing consumers, one founder implemented an education-driven approach to building a jewelry retail business, introducing a model that has definitely disrupted a niche, yet incredibly high-end industry.

Founded in 2003, Pearls of Joy is a direct-to-consumer pearl retailer that removes middle men and jewelry store showrooms to deliver high quality pearls to consumers at a more reasonable rate. With a keen focus on informing sellers and buyers about the changing market, Pearls of Joy has also helped launch various educational platforms to help guide consumers on when and how they should purchase pearls.

Respected as a high-priced jewelry asset, pearls are primarily purchased as gifts. As a result, buyers commonly lack insight into the complexities surrounding quality and sourcing, causing uncertainty around which specific pearls to buy. This has made the company’s blog and extended educational efforts a key driver of growth within the industry, in addition to fueling the growing success of their own business.

I spoke with Founder and CEO Kevin Canning about the vision behind his company, the importance of educating consumers, and building a disruptive business model within an emerging industry.

What is the void or opportunity that inspired the idea behind Pearls of Joy?

Kevin Canning: I started by looking at certain industries that had been built around high markups. Jewelry, in particular, has margins around 300%, even higher if we’re talking luxury retailers. Combine that with the high cost of displays, retail space and sales staff, and the jewelry industry was a perfect candidate to be disrupted by the direct to consumer model. With a love of Asia and a firm belief in ‘niching down’, I zeroed in on the small underrepresented pearl jewelry segment. Pearls have been popular gemstone for hundreds of years. Yet, most jewelry stores carry only 2-3 pieces at a time. And, in 2004, online competition at that point was practically non-existent. By cutting…

Lessons in Technology: Website Security Wisdom From a 30 Year Veteran

In the Beginning

Today is my 45th Birthday – not really a big deal, but for many of us those years that end in zero or five tend to present themselves with a little stress and anxiety. Like many folks, I tend to use these moments to review my life’s road-map, and check in on my long-term goals, developmental milestones, and bucket lists. Time is illusive and seems to gain speed with age. One thing I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, is that we can’t live in the past, but we must often look to our past for key learnings, patterns and insights. This is how we develop wisdom.

Thirty years ago today, a nerdy and pimply-faced sophomore in high school, I feverishly opened up my birthday gift, in great anticipation of its contents, and much to my surprise and satisfaction, I got exactly what I had asked for. A shiny, brand new 300 baud modem for my Commodore 64. Within minutes, it was hooked up to the family phone line, and I was pulse dialing my way onto CompuServe and several local BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems). Over the next six months, I was interacting online daily, making new friends – one of whom would eventually introduce me to my future wife, and unbeknownst to me, starting my career as an internet developer, and security expert.

The Early Need for Web Security


As I began to delve into this early form of the internet, where email was exchanged with the Arpanet only once every 24 hours, and private user groups anonymously exchanged information and files on thousands of topics, I was an early adopter that got a glance at the internet in its earliest of stages. One day, as I was browsing around sites loaded with pirated games, instructions on how to hack long distance phone codes, and downloads for “War Games” dialers that could be used to find and illegally gain access to a myriad of computer systems I realized one thing – the Internet was going to have a massive need for security.

Web 2.0 Demands Web Security 2.0

Fast forward fifteen years, and I was a recent Marketing M.B.A. graduate, unable to convince Madison Avenue of my worth, instead following my backup plan working as a web developer for a boutique firm on Wall Street, building web-based applications for some of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world. Even back then, we were using SSL, and building in multiple layers of network and application level security, scanning for SQL injection attacks, denial of service attacks and other common forms of hacking that were being introduced as real…

How These 5 CEOs Are Transforming Their Company Culture

No company can afford to rest on its laurels. With technology advancing at a rapid pace and consumer behaviors continuously changing, it’s up to leaders to establish company-wide practices to ensure that the organization meets the needs of both its customers and its employees. Creating a culture steeped in innovation is the only real way to safeguard against irrelevance.

I sat down with leaders at five burgeoning organizations to better understand how they approach and prioritize company culture. Here’s what they had to say:

1. They Avoid Repeating The Same Mistake

Kory Stevens, founder and CEO of direct-to-consumer shoe retailer Taft, knows that creativity is the key to building an innovative and sustainable company. However, in order to foster creativity, employees need to be given the freedom to explore out-of-the-box ideas. According to Stevens, “One of the biggest mistakes companies make is stifling creativity and responsibility. Too often, employees feel like they can only contribute within the confines of their job descriptions. But boxing individuals into distinct roles diminishes the potential for creativity.”

As the head of a rapidly growing organization, Stevens knows that it can be difficult to prioritize creativity when you’re trying to scale up an organization. However, it’s during times of growth that organizations need to double down on innovation.

“When organizations are trying to grow, responsibilities narrow and people tend to focus only on their areas of expertise,” says Stevens. “Although this may be efficient, it leads to missed opportunities. Sometimes it’s easier for people outside of one department to think outside the box and find new solutions to existing problems because they’re already approaching a problem from an outside perspective.”

2. They Model Themselves After Successful Companies

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. When building a sound company culture, it’s more efficient to model your organization after others you admire. Chris Cavallini, founder and CEO of Nutrition Solutions, believes that prioritizing people, not sales, is the key to building a successful organization.

Cavallini looks to organizations…

Initial Coin Offerings Can Issue Social Change, Too

Something truly disruptive has been emerging in the world of social impact: the rise of digital currencies and blockchain technology as tools for accelerating change.

As cryptocurrencies gain favor with entrepreneurs, governments, businesses and consumers, their potential use cases for good are being rigorously explored by all of these stakeholders. Many cryptocurrency projects led by startups and large international agencies alike are striving for bold breakthroughs in entrenched social issues, fostered by the greater speed, transparency and data integrity of blockchain technology. As Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) pave the way for ever more types of cryptocurrencies, the sweeping potential for social progress increases by the day.


Is virtual currency really a viable solution to real-world problems?

Yes, according to many leading social entrepreneurs. It’s why blockchain gatherings are popping up all around the world, from Sir Richard Branson’s annual summit with global influencers, to a Blockchain for Good Hackathon sponsored by Linux, to The World Bank’s new Blockchain Lab. Whether the applications are for democracy promotion, cybersecurity, the sharing economy, voting, land titling, or specific social causes such as environmental degradation and poverty, blockchain true believers are racing to discover the ways that these technologies can radically improve the world.

As just a few of thousands of examples:

Project Amply is building a digital identity and subsidy management system on the Ethereum blockchain for pre-schools in South Africa, enabling children to receive benefits and services that they might have previously been excluded from.

UN Women has partnered with the government of Norway to develop a blockchain system for women in developing countries to safely transfer digital assets without the need for potentially suspicious intermediaries.

• Women’s rights advocate Roya Mahboob has proposed a decentralized e-marketplace so that Afghan women can trade goods and services, which would allow them to circumvent the cultural prohibitions that prevent them…

4 Steps To Bringing AI-Powered Products To Market: How Lyft Builds Intelligence Into Product

Lyft’s head of machine learning Gil Arditi talked today at VB Summit 2017 about how to take AI out of the lab and into real-world products that provide competitive marketplace advantage.

Lyft, which just closed an additional billion-dollar round of financing led by Google, has an internal four-stage process, Arditi says.

(Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Lyft)

The first step, of course, is data. And it’s not just about the amount.

“You have to normalize the data, make the data very clean, and very standard,” Arditi said.

This is a critical first step not only because machine learning requires data to process, but that bad data can lead to sub-optimal decisions that actually kill competitive advantage. Neural networks in particular are very sensitive to noise in the data, Pinterest’s head of engineering Li Fan has…

The Link Between Design Thinking And Resilience

Design Thinking & Resilience

In 2009, my law career stalled. I was burned out and ready to make a professional change, but I had no idea where to start or what my next step should be. Should I continue to practice law, but in a different setting or practice area? Should I start my own business, and if so, doing what?

One of the most important aspects of resilience involves developing a flexible way of thinking about challenge and adversity and being able to solve problems in an accurate way. Design thinking is a type of innovation methodology – a problem solving process to help you generate options, test strategies, and get feedback so that you can develop something (often applied to facilitate the creation of new products or processes). As I discovered, design thinking is also a great tool to help you get unstuck and problem solve life’s biggest challenges.

Design thinking can help you craft a more meaningful life, create the type of relationships you want after a divorce or breakup, or open up new pathways for you at work. Here is how I used design thinking to help me identify a new career (and save lots of time and money in the process):

  1. Observe. If you were going to design a new product, you would first learn all about the end-user to identify pain points and patterns of behavior. In my application of design thinking, the end-user is you, and you have some work to do.
  • Define the problem. What is the exact problem you’re trying to solve? This is an important question because you can lose years working on the wrong problem. The trick to uncovering the right problem is to think like a beginner and get curious.
  • Reframe counterproductive thinking. Your automatic negative thoughts (“ANTs”) about stress can cause you to miss critical information. As a result, you need to be able to quickly reframe ANTs in order to think more flexibly and accurately.
  • Cut yourself some slack. Self-compassion involves being kind to yourself, getting support from others, and taking a balanced approach to your emotions.

The problem I decided to get curious about was, “What do I love doing at work?” I had ANTs about feeling like a failure for quitting my law practice, but I soon realized that many thousands of lawyers had done the same thing. Practicing law is simply one of many things you can do with a law degree.

5 Common Empathy Mistakes CEOs Make And How To Avoid Them


A direct report tells you in anguish that his computer crashed, taking the presentation he was preparing for the board with it. As a member of the C-suite, you’re accustomed to putting on your poker face, tamping down emotions and giving measured responses in a crisis. But what happens when you’d like to let your guard down and respond to a colleague in a human way?

Watch on Forbes:

Much has been written about empathy as a key component of emotional intelligence (EI), which is a hallmark of effective leaders. Psychiatrist and author Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept of EI, lists many benefits of empathy, such as being able to better understand others and to more effectively communicate. When he first became Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella asked his executives to read a book on how to collaborate empathically, signaling the importance of this leadership trait. Nadella is credited with increasing the company’s market value by $250 billion in four years, which many partially attribute to his empathetic attitude and focus on company culture as much as on technology.

The common definition of empathy, however — putting yourself in others’ shoes — can create problems. Eager to help, we misunderstand what it means to really comprehend and share others’ feelings. You might offer solutions or a sunny outlook that a coworker isn’t emotionally ready to accept. Despite good intentions, you’ll put the benefits of empathy at risk. Your colleague, rather than viewing your actions as supportive, may feel disconnected and dismiss you as an ineffective leader.

Here are five mistakes to avoid when trying to be empathetic:

Tell Others You Know How They Feel

We each experience events uniquely. We can’t truly know how someone else feels so saying, “I know how you feel” comes across as presumptuous or condescending. Your intent is to connect, but it can have the opposite effect. Instead, recap what the other person says she’s feeling or check that you’ve understood what she said before asking how you can…