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Paul Millerd shares eleven timeless insights on the value of life and work options.

#1 Valuation & Options On The Pathless Path

When I listen to my own podcasts, I am often surprised at how I don’t fully remember everything from the conversation. This can be embarrassing until you realize that this happens in many conversations. We remember how we feel during rather than the words being spoken.

I recorded an episode about a month ago with a friend, Kris Abdelmessih. After finishing the conversation I remember being excited about what we talked about but it wasn’t until listening again this week that I realized how many great ideas I took from the conversation.

Some of you may read his newsletter, Moontower Meta. If you don’t, you should – it’s a great reflection on life and decision making through the lens of finance and trading, his former profession.

He’s recently left that world behind and embraced the pathless path. Some of his reflections were incredibly helpful for helping me re-frame the conception of my own journey. I’ve included some of these reflections below.

#1 I used to believe in Creativity, Inc.™

Early in my career I never thought of myself as creative. Creative people had titles like “creative director,” or sold paintings, or did crafts with their friends.

Now I realize that turning information into stories that resonate with people is also a certain kind of creativity. One that I can use in many different ways and that I can improve at over time.

Another kind of creativity is being able to navigate modernity. Landing interviews, figuring out how to complete bureaucratic tasks, and getting accepted into grad school all require a certain kind of creativity. I don’t like being creative in this way but can I do it? If needed.

 

Key points include:

  • Expanding the boundaries of creativity 
  • Dealing with dissatisfaction
  • Undervaluing space

 

Access the article and podcast, Valuing Life & Work Options, on Boundless.com. 

In this podcast, Robbie Baxter interviews Ira Ehrenpreis of DBL Ventures where he explains how profit and purpose are combining to create new 21st century iconic D2C companies like Tesla, The RealReal and Bellwether Coffee.

There is no bigger topic when it comes to consumer sentiment than the rising demand and focus on Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance related issues. Today we’re looking at this challenge from the perspective of a leading VC who has invested in some of the most iconic consumer focused, mission driven businesses.

Ira Ehrenpreis has been investing in companies that are committed to making a positive impact on the world for more than 20 years. A double bottom line investor, even before impact investing was cool, Ira has helped build the category and the discipline in venture capital. He currently serves as president of the Western Association of Venture Capitalists and co-chair of the VC Network. He’s a founder at DBL Partners, which is perhaps the largest and most well-known impact investing and sustainability focused firm in the venture asset class. An early investor in companies like Tesla, The RealReal, SpaceX and Bellwether Coffee, Ira is a real visionary. He’s also a longtime friend, and always inspiring.

I recently interviewed Ira for the inaugural D2C Summit, a new conference I co created with Global Media Association FIPP, and want to share that conversation with you here on the podcast. In it, he talks about bold innovation across sectors and D2C business models, and shares several examples of how companies are using a focus on impact as a strategic advantage.

 

Key points include:

  • The enablers behind high risk innovation
  • Building 21st century economies
  • What the RealReal does

 

Access the podcast and transcript on RobbieKellmanBaxter.com.

Umbrex is pleased to welcome Ana Maricevic with Partners for Life. Ana is a research immunologist by training and still fascinated by all things medical. She started out at McKinsey and moved on to be an independent consultant, investor and board director in Life Science companies. She has expertise in innovation, new business development and oncology among others. Having recently arrived in Boston she is looking forward to potential collaboration.

This in-depth article from Boris Galonske explains how digitization helps improve resilience in commodity trading.

“Commodity trading suffers from shrinking margins and in some commodity classes also from low price volatility. At the same time operating environments struggle with manual routines, legacy processes and systems resulting in high cost income ratios (CIR).  

How can this challenge be addressed and how can the profitability and the resilience of trading businesses be increased?

Situation today

Commodity trading exhibits still several manual routines in its workflows, given the physical nature of the business and established processes in the industry. At the same time margin pressure increases as the inherent profitability of several trading businesses decreases. How can this be addressed?

Commodity trading business characteristics

Commodity trading businesses are typically lean by nature. Several years back, high performing businesses exhibited cost-income ratios (CIR) in the range of high 30% – medium 40%. These days these ratios are significantly higher. Large European commercial banks – as a comparison –  even exhibit cost income rations in the range of 70 % – 90% +.

 In order to tackle the profitability gap, analytics and middle office activities have been scaled down.

However parts of the trading process have remained untouched.”

Points covered in this article include:

  • How digitization can help
  • Reservations about digitization
  • How to approach trading digitization

Read the full article or download the PDF, Monetizing Digitization Levers, on the Silverberg Partners website.

Geoff Wilson explains why microeconomists were mostly right and what a business can do about it. 

We are in a world of opportunity and hurt.  Demand is high, spirits (and prices) are up, and supply is constrained.  What’s a leader to do?

When I was a young man I learned microeconomics on the back of a simple diagram with two lines…one for demand (always downward sloping) and one for supply (this one goes up).

Turns out, the microeconomists were right.  Mostly.

We are living in a fever dream at the moment.  It comes with the pleasure fog of rising demand for…well…everything as people regain the confidence that they can interact and transact with one another without threatening lives. It also comes with the tormenting nightmare of not being able to hire, source, or build the products and services that they need.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. The most plausible explanation is that we are simply mired in the midst of a massive supply chain bullwhip that is synchronized around the world for once. As positive and negative information trickles out across industry chains, individuals firms attempt to adjust…and they do so badly.

Add the labor-market distortions brought by extended unemployment benefits, extended school and family support organization closures, fear of the unknowns around coronavirus reoccurrence, and general inflation; and you have a multi-faceted political and commercial game that would make George R. R. Martin blush.

But all of this is couched, at least for the moment, within a massive environment of opportunity.  Demand is popping for most of the economy, and poised to pop for much of the rest.

So (as I’m often wont to ask), what’s a leader to do?

Here are a few ideas.

 

Key points include:

  • Prioritizing opportunity
  • Embracing innovation
  • Examine taboos

Read the full article, Revenge of the Microeconomist, on WilsonGrowthPartners.com.

Barry Horwitz explains how applying war games to business is a useful exercise and effective planning tool. 

“You’ve probably heard the term: ‘War games.’

Long used in a military context to plan for future conflicts, when applied in a business setting, the phrase refers to a group exercise in which participants try to anticipate the possible moves of a competitor by pretending to “play for the other side.”

I have used this technique many times, across a range of clients and industries and it is consistently effective as a planning and resource allocation tool. That’s because organizations don’t operate in a vacuum. If you make a change in your approach, pricing, product, service, etc., you can expect your competitors to react, leading you to react to their reaction, and so on.

Best of all, this can be done quite realistically without having to build sophisticated computer simulation models.

How Do Business War Games Work?

There are many possible variations, but typically, these exercises take place off-site over a few days and involve a select group of internal staff and leadership. Standard elements include…

External research.

This gives participants a basic grounding regarding competitors. For example, when working with a pharmaceutical company client to anticipate how a competitor might enter a specific drug category, we shared information with game participants about how that competitor behaved in the past when launching new drugs.”

 

Key points include:

  • Front-line players
  • Group presentations
  • Suggestions for doing this well

Read the full post, Business Simulations Can Map the Future, on HorwitzandCo.com.

David A. Fields offers practical scenarios to get a company foot in the door of a new client. 

A small project with a new client could pave the way to a long-term, lucrative relationship with your consulting firm. Alternatively, it could waste your time with a low-margin, low fee engagement.

Let’s say your consulting firm has forged a connection with Esther Bunnie, CEO of Cad’s Berries, a multi-national player in the chocolate novelties market. 

Cad’s Berries is completely missing the digital chocolate boom, and your consulting firm could help. If you play it right, Bunnie’s company could become a large portion of your consulting firm’s basket of clients.

Let’s look at four, common scenarios.

FOUR FOOT-IN-THE-DOOR SCENARIOS

Scenario #1:

You’d like to offer a Digital Cacao Transformation project; however, when you realize Bunnie doesn’t have the appetite for a full transformation, you offer a few variations of a Cacao Nib engagement to get your consulting firm’s foot in the door. Cacao Nib projects are quite small, but they preserve your premium fees and high profit margin. 

Scenario #2:

When it’s clear Bunnie would reject a Digital Cacao Transformation project, you propose a few flavors of a Cacao Shavings Remix engagement. The Shavings projects are small and you offer them at a substantial discount to get your consulting firm’s foot in the door.”

 

Key points include:

  • Long term results
  • Lifetime customer value
  • Don’t offer discounts

 

Read the full post, 3 Winning, Foot-In-The-Door Projects For Your Consulting Firm, on DavidAFields.com. 

Robyn Bolton shares a post on where innovation happens and why.

“Innovation happens in the gaps.”

It’s a statement so simple yet so profound that as soon as my client said it, I wrote it down.* 

It’s not sexy to innovate in the gaps. 

Most people and companies believe that innovation must be something entirely new for the world.  That innovation is all about filling a white space, thinking blue sky, or swimming in a blue ocean.  That innovation must be free of constraints, that it must be pure creation.

Most people will argue that CEOs rarely get on the front page of the Wall Street Journal because their company introduced something better than what exists today.  Innovators rarely win design awards for an improved version of an existing solution.  Scientists and engineers are rarely celebrated for receiving improvement patents.

Rarely.

Steve Jobs made the front page for the iPod, an MP3 player that offered better storage and user experience than the dozens of MP3 players that existed before it. 

Charles and Ray Eames were named “The Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century” by the Industrial Designers Society of America, and they’re best known for designing chairs.

Thomas Edison is hailed as the inventor of the electric lightbulb when, in truth, he significantly improved a decades-old product that was too expensive, too unreliable, and too short-lived to be commercially viable.

It’s necessary (and profitable) to innovate in the gaps.

Gaps exist because of real and perceived constraints.  Innovation thrives in constraints because it is the constraints that drive creativity.

In the gap between what is and what is good enough lies a problem that needs a solution.  That solution, something new that creates value, is innovation.

In the gap between what is and what is delightful lies an opportunity that wants a better solution.  Innovation can deliver that solution.”

 

Key points include:

  • Innovation through improvisation
  • Identifying the constraints
  • Customer engagement

 

Read the full article, Innovation Happens in the Gaps, on MileZero.io.

Over the past few weeks, two consultants told me that DocuSigns they receive always go to their spam folder, and they couldn’t figure out how prevent that from happening.

With most email providers, you can set a filter so that emails from a given sender always go to your inbox, never to spam.

Or if you want to get emails from a given sender out of your inbox but you don’t want to unsubscribe, you can set a filter to skip the inbox and apply a label.

Instructions for Gmail/G-Suite. And for Microsoft.

David Edelman shares an article that extols the benefits of video as an effective business communication tool.

 

“When you buy a new car, do you really want to learn about it from a 300-page manual, or would you rather have a curated curriculum of two-minute videos that you work through at your own pace, which are not only tied to your specific car, but also reflect learning about your own dealer’s services, the add-ons you personally purchased, and questions you could quickly answer about how you wanted to set up its dashboard-based capabilities.  And when you did that, wouldn’t it be useful to have contextual links to take care of actions related to the video?

It is already commonplace to swap around static content to make the experience more personalized, but words on a page are so boring. And there are still countless examples of key interactions where companies don’t even bother to personalize the verbiage, such as when they onboard a new customer, explain a bill, or try to cross-sell.

Most marketers are already struggling with massive amounts of content creation. An entire ecosystem of off-shoring has emerged to provide low cost, high volume production and management. If marketers want to use video more, which they should, the costs of this complexity would get prohibitively out of control.

Or does it? Let’s componentize video, as if it is data, into scenes made from templates where the scenes can be combined, and frames in the templates can be personalized, all based on real-time data.  And then, let’s connect these videos into their own micro-journeys where you can track viewing and click-throughs by scene, all enabling you to improve the content continuously.”

 

Key points include:

  • Managing information flow
  • Customer engagement
  • Expression of brand

 

Read the full post,  Accelerating Segment-of-one: Personalizing Video, on LinkedIn.

 

Dean Lindo shares a blog post from his company website that provides insight into the doability of sustainable operations in business.

“Retailers remain under ever-growing pressure from a younger, more socially conscious, and more vocal consumer and employee base to embed values deep into business strategy. A National Retail Federation survey in early 2020 found that consumers prioritize buying from brands that are sustainable and transparent. And despite the many imminent anxieties of COVID-19 in the year since, consumers have continued to be concerned about the environment and sustainability. In fact, the pandemic may have made consumers even more aware of the links between their health and the health of the planet, especially as the rise of online shopping landed the problem of excess packaging quite literally at their doorsteps.

Almost 80% of global consumers we surveyed in January to better understand their priorities and behaviors going forward indicated that the pandemic had caused them to become more concerned about the environment. In all, 38% said this had impacted their buying decisions, although there were some country differences, as detailed here.

The momentum around sustainability has been building, prompting many retailers to vocally set environmental and social responsibility goals. However, actions and results remain messy—both due to a lack of industry-wide benchmarks and deep-seated harmful practices within the industry that demand deliberate undoing. According to a Business of Fashion report, actions continue to lag public commitments even for the biggest names in the industry. For the majority of the industry, it’s now table stakes to make public pledges about sustainability goals, but there is still little to no pragmatic action on making lasting changes that do not compromise profits or quality.”

Read the full post, More Than Words: Authentic Sustainable Operations Are Not An Impossible Ask, on AlixPartners.com.

Umbrex is pleased to welcome Luke Secosky with Secosky Consulting Group.  Luke is the founder and owner of Secosky Consulting Group. Prior to starting his own independent consulting business, Luke spent 8 years at Bain & Company – 5 years as a Practice Manager for Bain’s Americas Consumer Products & Retail Practice, and 3 years as a generalist consultant. Luke has also worked in a variety of strategy, operations, and analysis roles for Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut) and Goldman Sachs. Luke has deep experience and expertise in the consumer products/consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail, and restaurants/foodservice industries across a wide range of topic areas.

He lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with his wife and enjoys cycling, chickenkeeping, and golf in his free time. Luke is open to collaborating on projects in the CPG and retail industries, regardless of geography.