Executive Briefings: Thirstie, Exceptional Spirits Delivered to Your Door

The C-Suite is a vast audience of leaders who all have a little extra insight into their industry and the current business world. I sit down with these leaders to give them the opportunity to share that insight and give a glimpse to their personal stories as a business leader. I recently had the opportunity to interview Devaraj Southworth, CEO and Co-founder of Thirstie.

Alcohol is a heavily regulated industry, and because of that the way consumers have traditionally purchased alcohol has not changed much. Thirstie has created quite a disruption within this industry; how did this come about?

There are companies delivering products within the food, transportation, grocery industries, however within the wine and beverage industry we immediately noticed there was no one clear technology leader. We wanted to be the technology company to take an innovative approach to alcoholic beverage distribution. Of course, we had to address the legal challenges and that was about solving business challenges on a consumer side as well as the distribution aspect.

I’m having a party, I’m about to run out, or I want to have a party and I need to stock up – I can now call Thirstie.

Yes, call Thirstie! We created a system that would enable the consumer to use their mobile device to purchase alcoholic beverages and have them delivered to their home within the hour. We also offer more specialized products that can be delivered within 3 days as well as integrated recipes as a way to wrap our consumers in a fabulous value added experience.

Regarding wrapping your consumer in a value added experience, what didn’t work and what did work and what do you do as an ongoing process to continue to learn?

Early on we did a lot of testing. Our first tests involved a very niche approach. We assumed that our viewers and our readers would want a more limited group of products. We were wrong; we quickly learned our consumers wanted the largest selection possible. Our customers asked for more so we created a mail order division to better serve them.

Listen to your consumers.

Our early customers were asking for more information and education. The traditional model involves going to the liquor store, seeing thousands of items and generally leaving with the same product you usually buy. That’s not the ideal purchasing experience, so presenting information that is not overwhelming is part of our customer experience.

Five years from now how do you see change, if at all, in the primary distribution of liquor and spirits.

I think technology much like ours will enable the large massive brands to sell directly, as well as the smaller and early ones. This is the future. Using a mobile device to order alcohol does not mean we are cutting out a person, or tier. The reality is we’re not, we’re working within that system and the system’s being – first tier manufacturers, the second being distributors, and the third being retailers.

What we are doing is leading additional demand, which is beneficial to the retailers, the distributors, the brands and ultimately the consumer.

This article is also featured on Huffington Post.


For the Rules They Are A-Changing

By Shriram Natarajan
CTO, Digital Services, Persistent Systems


Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changing.” The way business works is changing. That is familiar territory for all business leaders. However, this current crop of changes is dramatically different from the ones past. The particular mix of causes, symptoms, effects, and the potential for value it represents are fundamentally novel. The nexus of elements and effects are together called digital and the process to get there is digital transformation. Let’s look at the particular confluence of forcing functions and strategies that will enable companies to thrive in the new normal.




From Real to Virtual

The most valuable businesses today (Uber, Netflix, Airbnb) often do not own the products they sell or the means of the services rendered. Their value proposition is that they can realize value in an ecosystem much more efficiently than the traditional players in the market. The digital natives are able to capitalize on the data capital amassed by others or created by their platform.


We see that over 40% of the S&P 500 companies in 2005 did not make the list in 2015. In the global marketplace, disruptive forces (be they competition, legislation, new technology, behavior shifts) are the most worrisome for established companies. Enabling flexibility and agility throughout the organization is the only recipe for success. Business models need to change on a dime – only software driven businesses can hope to achieve that. Digital immigrants are also able to make it in the new world. Companies like United Airlines and CVS are able to parlay their customer knowledge and assets to truly engaging experiences.


From Competition to Disruption

There used to be clear demarcation of what the market place was. Everyone knew who the competition was. There was a clear way to differentiate from the rest. Your mission statement laid out your unique value proposition. You had years for the message to percolate through the company and rally around the efficiencies that your organization created. You also expected that differentiation and competitive advantage to hold for the length of time it took to gain market share. But we live in a time of rapid tectonic shifts. A few short years ago, Facebook was not a threat to carriers. Recently, with WhatsApp they have encroached on the traditional telecom industry.


Companies need to embrace the bi-modal approach of driving efficiencies in existing value streams at one level while innovating for the future at the next level. The two speed approach ensures the right amount of focus and investments for each bucket. This is paired with the right level of executive engagement and expectations in each of them. Whereas in mode 1 the goal is reliability and operational success, mode 2 looks at to achieve transformation by time-bound, budget-bound experiments. Either mode would fail without the other. Each mode feeds on the other. Success in this two speed approach would lead you to continuous transformation by design.


From Acceptance to High Expectations

Customers have been demanding customers since the dawn of commerce. However due brand loyalty, inertia, cost of switching, or lack of choice, they tended to stick to a particular offering. The new breed of consumers is the savviest, least loyal, most demanding, most geographically widespread, most diverse of all time. They have the widest footprint of technology to derive value at their disposal. And they have the least attention span to boot.


Companies need to have omni-channel engagement strategy in place to play in the new market place. You have the tiniest window to go to market, capture the attention, and shape the behaviors of your target market. Being iterative and incremental is the only way to go. This applies equally to customer experience as it does to employee and partner experiences as well.


From Protection to Full Exposure

Traditionally access to capital, dominant market share, brand recognition, favorable legislative/regulatory policy all used to be fortress walls to keep out competition. There are many new ways to raise capital and build a core user base with crowd funding platforms. Market dominance is very fickle in many industries: either the business model shifts or a digital disruptor upends the market with a new compelling proposition. Even in today’s legislative climate, newer standards and requirements emerge that can force entire industries to rethink their product, positioning, and pricing.


Since the traditional defenses are crumbling, building agility within the enterprise is the way to go. It is said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it yourself. The best way to prevent disruption is to stay innovative. You need to foster an innovation culture. It can take the form of skunk works projects, a unit level agility initiative, or a full blown horizon two program. All of such efforts would be advantaged by a digital platform that is assembled specifically for your business. This unleashes creativity of your teams and can quickly standardize it too.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”  …Alan Kay, Xerox PARC maxim


From Speed to Warp Speed

The only constant is change. We all know that. Everyone says that. No one said that the rate of change would be constant. The speed, sheer number of variables, and the multidimensionality that digital represents is different. Humanity is living longer. The number of lifestyle changing waves per lifetime is increasing (see below). The only thing that moves this fast and has the global reach is software. Software and technology has permeated to every layer of your organization. Instead of just using software, adopting its ways can make you a software driven business.


Key Pathways to Success

The “why” of embracing digital is plain to see. To recap on some of the elements of “how” to digitally transform:

  • Innovation culture: Enable your teams to adopt innovation as a way of life. Encourage experimentation. Failures are okay as long as they are fast failures and there has been an adequate return on learning.
  • Platform based approach: a flexible, rapid, secure platform is the key to tap the creative elements within the company. The platform provides a framework to show the value quickly and decisively. It also is the means for crystallizing the innovation developed and making it part of business-as-usual.
  • Embrace disruptive forces: companies that adopted the cloud and mobility have successfully surfed the first waves of digital. The ones that are not afraid to try new technology: IOT, Blockchain, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Gesture based computing, 3d printing.
  • Software driven: businesses that choose to be software driven and adopt the Software 4.0 model have the greatest chance of achieving lasting success. At least till the rules change yet again!


It is quite easy to be left behind on the digital journey. Even if you are successful today, you cannot afford to sit out the digital wave. There are the wave riders or those that get washed away. It requires agility and readiness heretofore unseen; and it promises returns in orders of magnitude greater than the effort expended. So while Bob sings about times that are changing, you can put your organization into high gear and skip to the next song in your playlist. Katy Perry’s “Roar”.

2 Must-Have Qualities for Success – Hint: The Posture of a Baseball Player

By: Dave Fleming


Whether baseball is your thing or not, it’s worth watching a few innings of an MLB game this season. If you watch, pay attention to the stance of a player, just before a play occurs. This posture reveals two qualities we all need to increase our success no matter the endeavor.


About the same time as the pitcher winds up to throw a pitch, the rest of the players assume a position I call relaxed vigilance. It’s easy to spot when you’re watching for it. Moments before the ball leaves the hand of the pitcher, players assume an open and flexible stance. This flexible stance readies them to move multiple directions based on where the ball is hit. In other words, their stance readies them for a number of possible scenarios. Simultaneously, players add vigilance to their stance. They are completely focused on the present moment. This focus directs attention at a very specific point in time and space. This allows them to see what is happening and quickly respond to it.


The key to this stance is the combination of relaxation and vigilance. That’s the ticket.



If a player’s posture is vigilant but not relaxed, it leads to rigidity. This rigidity then diminishes his ability to quickly adapt his body to the emerging moment. A rigid stance doesn’t allow for needed flexibility. However, if a player’s stance is relaxed but not vigilant, it leads to unresponsiveness. This unresponsiveness then diminishes his participation in the moment. The play is over before he has any chance of entering it.

Many moments of our day require this same kind of relaxed vigilance. Without the simultaneous expression of these two qualities, we are rendered ineffective (or less effective) in the moment. It seems that most of us are better at one of the two qualities.


Some of us are superb at vigilance and others are excellent at relaxing in and through a moment. But, it’s the combination that increases success.



About the Author

Dave Fleming is a student and teacher of human ingenuity. Dave’s varied career, research and almost two decades of coaching groups around the world led him to develop a framework for collective innovation he calls Tribal Alchemy. Dave’s desire now is to get the word out about Tribal Alchemy. He wants to help groups turn what they have into what they need.

Dave earned a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership and a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems. He is an assistant professor in the department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. He speaks, writes, coaches and curates ideas on the process and practices of collective ingenuity.

10 Sales Tips for Asking More Effective Questions

By: Dr.  Tony Alessandra

What is the #1 rule in sales? Ask more questions! Sometimes the most knowledgeable expert is the most likely to fall into the trap of talking too much. Remember to slow down and let your prospective client do most of the talking. Study after study tells us that the most effective sales tips a trainer or manager can reinforce involve asking a lot of questions. Hall-of-fame keynote speaker on the subjects of sales and customer service, Dr. Tony Alessandra, shares his top 10 sales tips for asking more effective questions…


1) Ask permission.

In some situations, it’s understood that you’re there to gather information. In other situations, it’s appropriate to show respect by asking permission to ask questions.

Example question: “May I ask you some questions about your business?”

This may be a rhetorical question, but it’s worth asking anyway.

2) Start broad, and then get specific.

Broad, open-ended sales questions are a good way to start gathering information. They put your prospect at ease because they allow any type of response.

Example question: “Could you tell me about your business?”

This is a non-threatening way to begin. Listen to what your prospect says and what she omits. Both will suggest areas to explore in greater depth, such as, “Could you tell me more about how absenteeism impacts your bottom line?”


3) Build on previous responses.

Any good interviewer knows that the most logical source of questions comes from the interviewee’s responses. Dovetail your questions with the responses by listening for key words.

Example question roleplay:

[Prospect] “I own six flower shops that specialize in large event decorating.”  

[Salesperson] “You specialize in large events. Why did you choose that niche?”

[Prospect] “Lower overhead. I can work out of a warehouse rather than a storefront. I don’t have to maintain perishable stock; I order in large quantities only when needed, which keeps my prices down.”

[Salesperson] “What do you mean by large events? How would you define that? What are the minimum orders?”


4) Use the prospect’s industry jargon, if appropriate.

If you’re talking to an expert, show your expertise by sounding as if you’ve spent your whole life in his industry. If you’re talking to a neophyte, don’t embarrass him with your technical jargon. This is especially true in retail sales in which customers look to salespeople for guidance, not confusion.

Every field has its own jargon, and you may be an expert in yours; however, your prospect may not be as well versed as you. Avoid questions that will confuse your prospect or worse, make him feel inferior.

Example question not to ask“Was the baud rate of your present system satisfactory?”

Example question to ask:  “Were your telephone transmissions of data fast enough?”


5) Keep questions simple.

If you want useful answers, ask useful questions. Convoluted or two-part questions should be avoided. Ask straightforward questions that cover one topic at a time. It’s best to ask for one answer at a time.

Example question not to ask: “What do you think about the marketing plan and will the new ad campaign confuse customers and would that confusion actually be beneficial to the long-term product growth?”

This will not produce a meaningful answer. If you ask a two-part question, people tend to either answer the second part only or only the part they were interested in or felt safe with. One question at a time!

6) Use a logical sequence for your questions.

Prospects like to know where your questions are headed. If they can’t tell, they may suspect you’re manipulating them. By following keywords and asking sales questions in a logical order, you will keep your intent clear and build trust.

7) Keep questions non-threatening.

Start off safe, general, and non-threatening. That means asking open-ended questions that don’t touch on sensitive subjects. Later, after you have built up trust — and when it is appropriate — you can ask about financial ability, business stability, credit rating … anything relevant.

Example questions: Here’s a post that highlights seven questions one sales rep uses to ask more intense questions in a light and friendly manner. 


8) If a question is sensitive, explain its relevance.

It makes sense to justify a sensitive question to your prospect. After all, she has a right to know why you are asking.

Example questions: Here’s a post on how to ask sensitive sales questions without upsetting your prospects.


9) Focus on desired benefits.

Many prospects will not know all the benefits of your product or service. Therefore, don’t ask them what benefits they are looking for; tell them what benefits will be theirs! When you ask them what they want, have them generalize about the improvements they would like to see.

10) Maintain a consultative attitude.

Remember, you’re a liaison between your company and your customers; you are a consultant. As such, you want to question your prospect in a way that will yield the maximum amount of information with the least effort. To do so, take the pressure off the questions. Ask them in a relaxed tone of voice. Give time for the answers, even if it means sitting quietly and waiting. Don’t be in a hurry to get to your next appointment. The investment you make in time now will pay off handsomely when the prospect evolves into an annuity.



Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, internet entrepreneur, business author, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He earned a BBA from Notre Dame, a MBA from the Univ. of Connecticut and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University (1976).

Known as “Dr. Tony” he’s authored 30+ books and 100+ audio/video programs. He was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame (1985) and Top Sales World’s Hall of Fame(2010).  Meetings & Conventions Magazine has called him “one of America’s most electrifying speakers”.


Dr. Tony is also the Founder/CVO of  Assessments 24×7.  Assessments 24×7 is a global leader of online DISC assessments, delivered from easy-to-use online accounts popular with business coaches and Fortune 500 trainers around the world.  Interested in learning more about these customized assessment accounts? Please CONTACT US.

Creating Personal Power Through Increased Adaptability

Creating Personal Power Through Increased Adaptability by Dr. Tony Alessandra
A wise person once commented, “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” That is, as people begin to learn about a new topic, they tend to jump to oversimplified and incomplete conclusions. When that happens, they are often less successful than is possible. But with continuing effort, thought, and increased study, they eventually graduate to a higher level of excellence. In terms of adaptability, this means it is essential for us to understand the following principles:
1.           Adaptability is not a goal in and of itself, but a means to the end of increased personal effectiveness and success.
2.           A key to effectiveness is to realize what level and type of adaptability component(s) are the critical factors in achieving a targeted goal.
3.      Being adaptable also means assessing the other available resources that can allow you to get your desired outcomes by acting smarter.
Adaptability, then, is important because it directly relates to your degree of achieved success in relationships with other people, to coping with changing conditions around you, to managing different types of situations.
Extreme behavior can raise others’ tensions
At times people may perceive extreme adaptability as acting wishy-washy, sashaying back and forth across the fence line, or acting two-faced. Additionally, a person who maintains high adaptability in all situations and relationships may not be able to avoid personal stress. This is usually temporary and may in fact be worth it if you gain rapport with the other person.
The other extreme of the continuum is little or no behavioral adaptability. This causes people to view someone as rigid and uncompromising – on behaving at his own pace and priority.
Adaptability is important to successful relationships of all kinds. People often adopt at least a partially different role in their professional lives than they do in their social and personal lives. This is to successfully manage the professional requirements of their jobs. Interestingly, many people tend to be more adaptable at work with people they know less and less adaptable at home with people they know better. Why? People generally want to create a good impression at work, but at home may relax and act themselves to the point of unintentionally stepping on other family members’ toes. Not an attractive family portrait, but often an accurate one.
Adaptability works
Effectively adaptable people meet the key expectations of others in specific situations—whether it’s in personal or business relationships. Through attention and practice, you can achieve a balance of strategically managing your adaptability by recognizing when a modest compromise is appropriate. You’ll also understand when it’s necessary to adapt to the other person’s behavioral style.
Practice managing relationships in a way that allows everyone to win. Be tactful, reasonable, understanding, non-judgmental, and comfortable to talk to. This results in a moderate position between the two extremes. You’re able to better meet the needs of the other person as well as your own. Adapt your pace and priority. Work at relationships so everybody wins at work, with friends, on dates, and with family.
When you try to accommodate the other person’s expectations and tendencies, you automatically decrease tension and increase trust. Adaptability enables you to interact more productively with difficult people, helps you in strained situations, and assists you in establishing rapport and credibility. It can make the difference between a productive or an ineffective interpersonal relationship. And your adaptability level also influences how others judge their relationships with you. Raise your adaptability level—trust and credibility soar; lower your adaptability level—trust and credibility plummet.
Another way of looking at this whole matter is from the perspective of maturity. Mature persons know who they are. They understand their basic DISC behavioral type and freely express their core patterns. However, when problems or opportunities arise, they readily and deliberately make whatever adjustments are necessary in their core patterns to meet the needs of the situation or relationship. Immature persons, on the other hand, lose effectiveness in dealing with the real world when they lock into their own style. By disregarding the needs of others, they end up causing conflict and tension that lead to less satisfaction and fulfillment in their life environments.

Get a Fresh Start: Your Relationship Repair Kit

by Judith Glaser


Most of us experience moments of conflict daily as we fall prey to power, politics and personalities. When we disagree with someone on an issue, we get triggered, and then go for a win. If the conflict involves something important to us, we tend to take a position and fight for our beliefs.

Relationship Repair Ritual

My relationship repair kit includes conversational rituals that will help you reframe, refocus and redirect conversations and transform anger into alignment.

One such repair ritual is to Double-Click to reshape the future. This is a sharing and discovering approach to understanding the perspectives of others so they feel heard, not threatened. I call it Double-Clicking because the process mimics opening folders on your computer to drill down into details and unlock deep connections. As you strengthen your relationships by listening and caring, you quell fears, trigger the mirror neuron system, create empathy, and open your mind to think about conflicts in new ways. As you trigger oxytocin—the trust and bonding hormone—a conflict can open new possibilities.

To do this exercise, get with at least three other people, draw a circle in the center of a piece of paper and write Success. Then draw 12 spokes around the circle and write one word that represents success to you. Delve into your individual mind-scapes to share and compare word meanings and perceptions with each other. You will discover that people have different ideas about success. One may view team success as a lack of conflict, another as the ability to share different ideas and challenge each other and another might view it using only a financial measure.

We all hold different views of reality, and when we look inside to see the meanings we make of core concepts, we discover associations we didn’t know we had. Double-Clicking brings to light areas where people are aligned and misaligned.

We often assume we are aligned around success when we are not. Our success wheels represent the way we envision and measure success, and how we navigate to create success. If our movies differ in the details, we create cultures of distrust. I’m looking to produce my movie of success while you are looking to produce yours.

Double-Clicking is an antidote to conflict. When you look inside someone else’s meanings of words, you see that conflicts often come from the way we frame or define the words we use. Through this exercise we learn how to practice living in discovery. When we don’t stop to explore and discover, we live with the belief that we disagree, when in fact we may not. When we graphically map success together, we can feel an organic and chemical change taking place that turns foes into friends and transforms “my ideas” into “our ideas.” This dramatic shift moves us from I to WE — a neurochemical shift at the heart of Conversational Intelligence that enables bonding and collaboration.

We all hold different views of reality, and when we Double-Click, we explore the unique connections at the heart of the matter. We breathe new life and possibilities into relationships—often resulting in transformation.

Power, politics and personalities are part of being human. We are, by nature, social beings who function better inside a group. We want to be included, appreciated, valued, recognized and loved. By enhancing the quality of the engagement at each level, you will have more meaningful conversations that restore relationships, reduce conflict and move into co-creative interactions that achieved desired outcomes.

Judith GlaserJudith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of the best selling book, “Conversational Intelligence” (Bibliomotion, 2013), an Organizational Anthropologist and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.Visit her at; or contact her at Follow Judith on Twitter @CreatingWE or connect with her on Facebook.

Growing Up is Hard to Do: Charting Course from the Future 500 to the Fortune 500 | Part 1

by Ron Carucci


No doubt this title will provoke baby boomers to cue Neil Sedaka music in their heads as they join the lament of midcap company executives (let’s call them $100M-$1B) intensely focused on finding pathways to sustainable company growth. The number of midcap organizations (now more than 200,000 in the U.S.) and the number of people they employee continues to outpace small business growth and Fortune 500 performance. As do their loudest laments:

“I run around all day like a chicken with my head cut off, and not sure what I got done when the day is over.”

“I don’t feel like we are all rowing in the same direction — it feels like a lot of us are not on the same page with where we are going.”

“If I don’t tell them exactly what to do, it doesn’t get done. I might as well just do it myself.”

“I think the chaos is starting to get to people. For the first few years it was fun, but now the amount of bickering and the time I spend refereeing are telling me something’s got to change.”

The consistent question we believe lies underneath these leaders’ frustrations is “How do I step away from the daily grind of working in the organization to find the capacity to work on the organization?” Regardless of which aspect of the organization cries for attention, midcap executives suffer in the breach between today’s demands and tomorrow’s opportunities. As an increasing number of executives have reached out for help, we’ve identified several patterns as we’ve accompanied them on their journeys to growth into mature organizations.

In this two-part series, I’ll discuss two types of patterns that impact the realization of sustainable growth. In this post, we’ll look at strategic patterns — issues affecting the company’s identity, positioning and direction. In the next post, we’ll look at organizational patterns – issues like culture, organization design and leadership that can help or hinder growth.

By organizational maturity, we mean the degree to which the organization has the needed processes, systems, structures and culture in place consistent with its current and desired growth and size. Maturity, and size are different. Just because a company has revenues of $500M doesn’t mean it has the maturity of a $500M company. We’ve seen many companies with revenues of $8B+ struggling to operate at the maturity level of a company less than $1B. That’s because the necessary work to intentionally grow up was arrested — or never done. So a $200M company can have greater maturity than a $1B company despite being a fifth the size.

Among midcap companies, arrested maturity is an all-too common predicament. Whether due to the frenzy of accelerated growth or the daily grind and struggles to keep the lights on, an organization focused exclusively on today provides no time or capacity to plan and scale for tomorrow. Great executives force themselves to rise above the fray and focus the organization on the future requirements of growth despite the lure and immediacy of today’s fires.

These are four common strategic ditches we see midcap companies needing to dig out from. The good news is they are very avoidable, and if you find yourself in or headed toward one, they are survivable if you pay attention.

  1. Prepare for major shifts.
    For smaller companies, major change feels like a major body blow. A transition to new ownership, a competitor’s sudden market share gain, regulatory and compliance mandates, or a major customer unseating you or naming you as strategic supplier, can all have profound impact on accelerating or stalling growth. The fragility of a smaller company’s growth must be bolstered by contingencies for such unforeseen shifts. But smaller companies have all they can handle just to get current orders out, stretch thinning resources, or pacify an angry customer. Thinking about issues which haven’t happened yet feels impossible. Yet with even a little foresight, they can do basic scenario and contingency planning that helps them rehearse the future before it arrives. While they may not have big strategic planning functions like the Fortune 500 might, they can still become strategists and plan as if they do.
  2. Avoid counterfeit strategies.
    It’s astounding how many companies will produce a financial plan or forecast when you ask to see their strategy. A compiled list of customers, products and revenue forecasts is an interesting look at what they hope to accomplish in the coming year, but it’s not a strategy.The other all-too-common replacement for strategy is when executives whip everyone into a crescendo by writing down their “mission, vision and values” statements. While these are important, by themselves they are insufficient and a poor counterfeit to real market identity. Perhaps the worst is whem they let their identity be formed by their buyers — whoever the sales force gets to say yes and buys the most, that’s the strategy. Executives in midcaps who say, “we’re too small for that kind of strategy work” do so at their own peril. The basic identification of your competitive positioning, your unique capabilities and the investments required to protect them, in addition to a shortlist of prioritized work to advance your position, can be built by companies as small as $10M. It’s a function of discipline, not size.
  3. Don’t confuse replication with sustainable growth.
    Many smaller companies are fortunate to find early tailwinds — a market niche for a service or product that grows rapidly. So “rinse and repeat” or “riding the wave as long as we can” becomes the strategy. This approach ignores the fact that one day the wave will crest. Being able to quickly replicate success is not the same as building for sustainable growth. And once the growth outpaces the organization’s capacity to supply it, you can hear the organizational seams ripping apart just trying to keep up while the cash rolls in. Stopping a train of success long enough to design strategies and organizations that can sustain growth is what distinguishes great executives from those that ride the wave until it crashes on them.
  4. Put strategy in the hands of many.
    In most small companies, it is the owner or one singular visionary calling the shots about growth with loyal soldiers simply carrying out the direction. This danger can’t be overstated. The insight, reach and creativity of a single leader, or a very small group of them, runs out long before they realize it — sometimes years before. This issue is greatly amplified when the founding executive remains in the picture.“Founderism” prevents the founder from separating his own identity from the company he created. As such, every decision, every critique, every suggestion, is weighed with unhealthy personal interpretation. The price of failure to transition to a broader group of executives coming together to co-create the future is pronounced when the great ideas finally run out and nobody else has been asked to offer any. Exceptional executives build teams of leaders around them well in advance and prepare them for sharing the reins of the future.

Making a few meaningful adjustments to how you think about your future, and how you plan to get there, can make all the difference in ensuring that you actually do. Next time, we’ll turn our attention inside the organization and how you build for growth and maturity.

ronRon Carucci, Co-owner and Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50s to start-ups. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. Best-selling author of 8 books, including the recent Rising to Power, The Journey of Exceptional Executives, he has been featured in HBR, Bloomberg, CNBC, CEO Magazine, BusinessInsider, Business Week and Fortune.

Is Your Job Who You Think You Are?

by Steve Rizzo


Years ago I was watching a Barbara Walters special on television. She was interviewing a major personal comedic influence of mine, Johnny Carson. Of course, Johnny Carson was an inspiration to an entire generation of performers.

As the host of “The Tonight Show,” Carson spent 30 years as the top dog in television comedy. To me, at least, it seemed like no one on Earth could have been happier and more successful, and I tuned in eagerly to hear what such a fortunate man might say.

The interview came during Mr. Carson’s last year as the host of the program. As you may know, Walters has a reputation of being very direct when interviewing celebrities, but if anyone could handle “The Woman Who Pulls No Punches,” I thought surely it would be “The King of Late Night Television.”

In the end, I was surprised, shocked even, at the way Johnny responded to Walter’s questions. I expected the carefree attitude of a man, having conquered the world, going out on top. Instead of the usual barrage of rapid-fire jokes and wisecracks when he was questioned about his personal life, he gave short, awkward replies that didn’t at all suggest confidence. There was an aura of melancholy about him that I believe even took Walters by surprise.

At the end of the interview, Walters alluded to Carson’s fame and long list of accomplishments, any of which were far more than any I — as an up-and-coming comedian — could have imagined attaining. Then she asked one last question: “Are you happy?”

I couldn’t help myself.  I blurted out, “What a stupid question! Of course he’s happy! He’s Johnny Carson!” I was shocked when he stumbled over what seemed to be a very simple question. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable giving his answer.

“I don’t know,” said The King of Late Night Television. “I honestly don’t know.”

Why, I wondered, was someone who gave so much joy and laughter to millions of people five days a week for almost 30 years unable to answer the question, “Are you happy?”

Of course, you could say that he was in a low mood because he was leaving the show that was a great part of his life. I could buy that. Surely anyone would be sad under similar circumstances. But even after being reminded of his accomplishments in the television and entertainment industry, and the monumental impact he made in people’s lives, he still couldn’t answer the question.

On the final episode of “The Tonight Show,” Johnny gave his farewell address to the millions who were watching. And it was then that the reason why was evident. Let me explain.

Most people would say then that Johnny Carson had the world in the palms of his hands. But, perhaps, having the world in the palms of your hands shouldn’t be the point of focus. What really matters is the realization that you always hold your own world in your hands — and the choices you make as you are holding it. Your entire life is based on the choices you make. It is important to know that some choices are made consciously, while others are made unconsciously.

Either way, there are always consequences for the choices you make. This is not a threat but a universal fact. We would all stand a better chance to live a happier life if we were more conscious of, and put some thought behind, our choices. The problem is that many of our choices are made unconsciously; therefore, we don’t think they are choices.

Believe me, they are. In fact, everything that is occurring in your life at this moment is a result of choices you made in the past. Those choices that were made, consciously or unconsciously, are key factors that determine your quality of life right now. I have you thinking now, don’t I?

On that final episode of “The Tonight Show,” Carson said, “I am one of the lucky ones in the world. I found something I always wanted to do and enjoyed every minute of it.”

I’m sure he did.  But not too long after that statement he revealed deep regret and apologized to his sons Kit and Cory for “not being there enough,” adding that he loved them. He also expressed sorrow and guilt about the death of his son, Richard, who died in a car crash in 1991.

Let us not forget that Johnny was married four times. His ex-wives were often the butt of his jokes. Behind the mask of humor was there someone who truly wanted a lasting relationship? It was apparent that he was so caught up in his role as “The King of Late Night Television” that he had difficulty identifying himself with anything or anyone else.

It’s obvious that Carson gave much and received much, but he paid heavily. It makes one wonder: Is there always a price to pay when what we do for a living becomes our whole life, no matter what the level of success that’s achieved? We have to ask ourselves: Is the price worth it? And,is there a way to find a happy balance?

JVI_0469j-webSteve Rizzo is more than a Funny Motivational Speaker. Don’t let the laughter fool you! What Steve brings to the table is his captivating ability to engage the attendees with laughter as he challenges them to SHIFT their focus and way of thinking to discover greater enthusiasm, increased productivity and new levels of success. Recognizing difficult situations don’t cause us to fail or be unhappy, but rather our negative thoughts and beliefs about the situations, Steve has been Adjusting Attitudes in organizations throughout the world such as AT&T, Prudential, State Farm, LaQuinta, and even the CIA (yes, he even had them laughing!) since 1994.
Find him on Twitter @RealSteveRizzo, Facebook at Riz’s Biz Steve Rizzo, LinkedIn and Google+.

The Way Toward the Goal

by Steve Rizzo


Here’s something to consider: Let’s say your goal is to become the vice president of a big company. After many years of intense stress, worry and an avalanche of emotional, mental and physical overload, you finally achieve your goal, along with all the wealth and prestige that comes with it. Is this success? If you consult a dictionary, the answer would be yes.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “success” as follows: 1. The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.  2. The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

I think it’s amazing that the words “happy” or “happiness “or “joy” are not included in the definition of the word “success.” Unfortunately, our conventional definition of success is simply achieving the goal. Not enough emphasis is placed on the value of experiencing and enjoying the journey, building character and learning life lessons along the way.

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If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It

by Steve Rizzo

photo by David Shankbone

One Saturday night in 1980, I was performing at East Side Comedy Club on Long Island. I was fairly new in the comedy arena, and this was my first weekend appearance at a premiere comedy club. To say that I was a bit nervous would be an understatement.

Sharing the marquee with me was a young comic by the name of Eddie Murphy. Yes, the Eddie Murphy.  I knew Eddie pretty well back in the day. We performed at a lot of one-night gigs together at bars, dance clubs and restaurants in the tri-state area. Even though I was 12 years his senior, I knew from the moment I met Eddie there was definitely something special about him. He always stood out from everyone else. Besides being brilliantly funny and having great stage presence, he had an air of confidence on and off stage that was unusual for someone barely 18 years of age.

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