Relax Post-It's

Breath deeply. Relax.

Yesterday I left the office at 4pm, walked 6km through a park in the shade on a very pleasant summers day. When I reached home my children were playing with their friends outside, once they were done I took them for a quick swim. It was really good soaking in the water and letting the tension flow out of my muscles. Today wasn’t much different. I came home in time to give my eldest a hug as he arrived back from school – then had a cup of tea as they went down to play. I joined them 30 minutes later in the playground. After dinner we danced to some music, read stories and slept upside down on the bed.

It’s been a really nice few days. Some times it’s just about enjoying what’s already there. Ignoring the stresses of life and recognizing that what you have is really, really, beautiful.

Exercise and your usual daily routine are great staples – but sometimes you need to eat fattening food, get lots of sleep and enjoy a few long walks with very little to think about. It’s the best way to ensure you’re mentally & emotionally healthy.

Take a deep breath.

Chinese Dolls side by side

Every CMO’s five point strategy for scalable growth

Almost every start-up and investor loves to talk about hockey stick growth, and scalability. Creating a business that can scale, meaning handle substantial increases in workload without affecting quality, isn’t easy though. Lots of companies fail trying to scale. So how can you prepare to create a scalable company?

I asked Penny Wilson, the CMO of HootSuite. She’s proven her skill at scaling companies, having grown Alias from $35m to $110m before being sold to Silicon Graphics; and grown Macromedia from $125m to $650m before being sold to Adobe for $3.4b. As a plus, she’s got a degree in Computer Science, so she’s a bigger geek than most CMOs.

Penny Wilson, HootSuite CMO

Here’s her five point ACEIT strategy to scale a business:

1.       Assets

Understand what your core asset is, most companies only have one or at the most two. Focus on it, make sure to differentiate and build on that core asset. Don’t get distracted. Don’t try to be too much for too many people. Don’t chase the next shiny thing.

2.       Customers

Ensure that the voice of the customer is incorporated in everything you do, whatever aspect of your business or strategy that might be. Customer success, support, internal processes. I believe that customers will take you places you’ve never thought about. Make sure you understand who your customer is, what they want, and what their opinion on your products and your competitors are. Always be customer centric. Whenever you make a decision, make sure it’s in the best interests of your customer.

3.       Ecosystem

You can’t do it on your own. It’s really important to have partners, thought leaders and key people in your industry that can help you scale. Good partners will help you expand your reach, grow your offering and build your credibility – with a fraction of the investment you’d need to do it yourself. They are a key strategy for any company, make sure you work together to create win-win relationships.

4.       Innovation

You always need to be looking for something completely different from what you’re doing. It doesn’t need to be technology, it could be in your process or in your data. It’s just about thinking differently. In the old days of computer graphics nobody’s hair would move, so the key differentiator for us was to have an algorithm for digital hair. Making hair look real, allowed us to leap frog our competition. It wasn’t an incremental change, or something we copied to stay at par, it was radically different. Be bold and do things that will make you stand out.

5.       Team

If you want to get stuff done you need a good team. Keep building the strengths, talents and passion of your team. When managing a team, it’s important to be able to manage failure – because it’s inevitably going to happen. I believe that failure can be as good as success, the important thing is to take the high road. When something goes wrong, good leaders need to help people through it. Don’t hide from the failure, recognize it, accept it and move on. It’s about encouraging grit & resilience. Teams that are gritty will survive failure and grow better because of it.

What are you doing to scale?

You can’t accurately predict what will happen or how any particular plan will actually turn out. As a leader, scalability is about creating the right atmosphere and culture for growth. The software, processes and technology is important, but they’re just tools to support a team that’s focused on growth.

Speech bubbles with recommendations

4 easy steps to writing great LinkedIN recommendations

Being asked to write a LinkedIN recommendation is quite the honor, but can be surprisingly daunting. What do you say? What should you not say? How long, or short should it be? Fortunately there’s an easy template to get you started.

For many HR executives a LinkedIn search is one of the first methods of checking out a candidate. Unlike old fashioned letters of recommendation, recruiters can very quickly check out your referees, allowing them to establish your credibility with just a few clicks. So it’s important that your reference is succinct, honest (obviously) and helpful for the person you’re recommending. No pressure, right?

What should I write in a recommendation?

Step 1. Your one line summary

If yours is the only recommendation for a particular position, LinkedIN will display the first 240 characters (approximately) of your recommendation on the profile page. That number goes down to 120 characters if there’s more than one recommendation for the same position. To read more the visitor has to click through.

Add to this the fact that most people skim read, your opening line needs to be short, sweet and pack a lot of punch. Try to capture the essence of your recommendation, with a few specifics. For example:

Beth has exceptional team management skills, … (45 characters)

Alice is a social media guru, her strategies are incredible, … (60 characters)

Step 2. Your working history

It’s a good idea to qualify your relationship with the individual a little. LinkedIN automatically does this by asking you to specify the nature of the relationship, but it’s tiny and a short description will put the rest of your statement into context.

… we worked together for two years on over a dozen projects globally … 

… she expertly managed our New York marketing team for a year …

Step 3. Their most powerful attribute 

You don’t need to talk about what they’ve achieved for you or your company – that should be in their profile already. Instead focus on what makes them stand out. For instance, their ability to command a room, deliver under pressure or get the perfect event speakers. This should be something that’s not easy for the person to communicate in their bio (without seeming overly pretensions), but that is certainly a valuable attribute.

She is always buzzing with ideas,

Her ideas are exceedingly creative and thought provoking,

Step 4. Professional advantages

Whatever the specifics of the role are, it’s beneficial if you can communicate how their personal attributes make them excel in their specific role.

… her energy is contagious, it keeps her everyone inspired. She is so personable that suppliers and vendor’s go out of their way to support her.

… and her implementation is always impressive. She is very calm under pressure, and is always able to manage unforeseen events smoothly.

Step 5. The wrap up

Don;t feel obliged to write cliched statements like “I would recommend him” or “You’d be lukcy to have him on your team”. The fact that you’re providing a recommendation is proof enough of that.

You want to keep your recommendation short enough to be digestable and detailed enough to be helpful. So after you’ve finished describing any distinct advantages they have, simply stop. There really are only four steps!

Here’s what it might look like when you’ve put it together:

Alice is a social media guru, her strategies are incredible and she expertly managed our New York marketing team for a year. Her ideas are exceedingly creative and thought provoking, and her implementation is always impressive. She is very calm under pressure, and is always able to manage unforeseen events smoothly.