16 April 2006

The Oxford Picture Dictionary

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The Oxford Picture Dictionary is an extremely useful tool for all beginning students of English. Its colorful pictures and scenes can help anyone learn English, and is perfect as an ESL reference for classroom or home study. It can be used alone as a self-study tool or with a certified ESL instructor.

When students begin to learn a new language there is a crucial need to develop a basic core vocabulary. Without this basic vocabulary, even day-to-day survival is very difficult. The Oxford Picture Dictionary is perhaps the best means to bring a student this core vocabulary. Thousands of everyday words and corresponding scenes and pictures are included in this book. If you are teaching in an ESL situation, this book will save you many hours of fumbling around trying to explain vocabulary to students who can't understand you.

The Oxford Picture Dictionary is a comprehensive reference to everyday vocabulary. It contains 3,600 words divided into 12 broad and thematically-grouped units that are further subdivided into 140 subject topics. The 12 topic areas in the dictionary include Everyday Language, People, Housing, Food, Clothing, Health, Community, Transportation, Areas of Study, Plants and Animals, Work, and Recreation.

Features of the Oxford Picture Dictionary:
•The dictionary provides 168 pages of dynamic, detailed color scenes and individual illustrations clearly depicting over 3,600 words.
•Twelve thematically-grouped units cover vocabulary which students can use at home, in the workplace, in the community, and in their academic studies.
•140 key topics correspond to the curriculum of beginning and intermediate level coursework.
•Exercises, related vocabulary, and grammar points are all included on the page.
•Numerous verbs and adjectives are presented in phrases which provide additional contexts for vocabulary and demonstrate realistic language.
•There is a complete index with a Pronunciation Guide, Geographical Index, and Verb Guide.
•Eleven bilingual editions are also available, with more planned for the future.

Oxford Talking Dictionary

Oxford Talking Dictionary

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Product Information

-Choose from over 500,000 defns
-Instantly look up a Word anywhere & locate words within the text of a defn or thesaurus entry
-Partial Word Find locates words when you only know some of the letters
-Link the Dictionary to your word processor

-Alternate Spellings helps you find the word
-Select the Language of your interface!
-Integrated Thesaurus provides comprehensive selection of 300,000 synonyms.
-Rich Multimedia content
-Over 9,000 Encyclopedic entries & 83,000 Citations

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Updated 4th Edition

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The only Full Colour Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

Your link to living language
• 155,000 natural examples bring English to life
• British and American pronunciations of headwords, including people and place names
• NEW 88,000 spoken example sentences pronounced on the CD-ROM
• 1 million additional sentences from books and newspapers
• 3000 most frequent words in spoken and written English highlighted
• 4000 new words and meanings

Reading and Writing solutions
• 207,000 words, phrases and meanings – including free encyclopedia on CD-ROM
• NEW Longman Writing Assistant – write correct English first time, every time
• Choose the right word with Longman Language Activator® free on the CD-ROM
• Longman Phrase Bank – 220,000 word combinations – free on CD-ROM
• NEW Collocation and Word Focus boxes
• NEW Over 1000 listening exercises as well as extensive exam practice for FCE, CAE, CPE, IELTS & TOEIC

Quick and easy to use
• Clear definitions written using only 2000 common words
• Signposts guide you to the right meaning, fast!
• Instant pop-up dictionary for the web or email
• PC, Mac and Linux compatible

The new Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English CD-ROM
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English is far more than just the book! The revolutionary CD-ROM includes over a million extra real sentences from books and newspapers, over 6,000 cultural references, interactive exam practice, the complete Longman Language Activator® - the world's first writing dictionary, and much, much more.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Trong các loại từ điển tiếng Anh (gốc) được dùng trong ngành giáo dục Anh Quốc thì từ điển của Longman được đánh giá khá cao về chất lượng từ vựng,số lượng câu mẫu dồi dào,và có thêm một số tính năng khác - khi mua một quyển từ điển loại này thường có gắn một CD kèm theo. Hiện tại Longman cũng được dùng trong các lớp học, thậm chí là trong các kỳ thi....

Bộ từ điển mới The LONGMAN DICTIONARY OF CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH sẽ giúp bạn có thể tăng cường khả năng đọc,viết và phát âm của mình một cách tốt nhất .

Với 155,000 ví dụ trong cuộc sống của người Anh, cách phát âm trong ngôn ngữ Anh - Anh và Anh - Mỹ với các chữ cái bao gồm cả tên người và tên địa danh.

Bên cạnh đó trong Bộ này có kèm thêm 88.000 mẫu về các câu nói thông dụng trong giao tiếp, có hướng dẫn cách phát âm, đọc nhanh, đọc lướt....

Hơn 1 triệu các câu nói được rút ra từ các loại sách báo.

Hơn 3000 từ thường xuyên có trong giao tiếp và văn phạm tiếng Anh.

4000 từ mới được tìm ra và tất nhiên cả ý nghĩa của nó.

Hướng dẫn về khả năng Đọc Hiểu và Viết

Có thể nói trong 4 skill: nghe,nói,đọc và viết thì đọc và viết tương đối quan trọng vì nó liên quan tới cấu trúc câu - ngôn ngữ từ vựng phải dồi dào, còn nghe và nói thì phụ thuộc vào sự giao tiếp bình thường...hơn là chú trọng đến ngữ pháp.

Bộ từ điển này có khoảng 207.000 từ, nhóm từ và cách giải nghĩa - tất cả chúng đều miễn phí và có sẵn trong phần mềm này.

Bộ Longman này sẽ giúp bạn tìm ra cách viết chính xác trong ngôn ngữ tiếng Anh có thể đó là lần đầu tiên bạn làm được nhưng nếu ôn luyện nhiều bạn sẽ tự làm tốt trong các lần kế tiếp.

Ngoài ra còn phần trò chơi đoán từ với các ký hiệu Hóa Học...hơn 22 nghìn nhóm các từ..hơn 1 nghìn các bài tập nghe - tương đương với các test dành cho FCE, CAE, CPE, IELTS & TOEIC.

Nhanh chóng và dễ dàng trong sử dụng

-Hơn 2000 từ phổ thông được viết dưới dạng đơn giản giúp cho bạn hiểu các kiểu diễn đạt một cách nhanh nhất.
-Gíup bạn tìm ra cách đoán nghĩa các từ.
-Bộ Từ điển này còn có thể dùng trực tiếp để tra các từ bạn ko biết trong Mail hoặc Web.
-PC, Mac và Linux đều có thể dùng...

American Idioms Dictionary

American Idioms Dictionary-
The Most Practical Reference for the Everyday Expressions of Contemporary American English


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary - 7th Ed

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
Seventh Edition

Upper-Intermediate to Advanced







The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the world’s bestselling advanced learner’s dictionary, recommended by learners of English and their teachers, and used by 30 million people. It has more words and wider coverage than any other advanced learner’s dictionary: new words, words from World Englishes, study words used in the sciences, maths, computing, literature, and business. It is the only advanced learner’s dictionary to list the most important words you need to know in English: the Oxford 3000™ .

Key features:
•183,500 British and American words, phrases, and meanings, plus 85,000 examples showing how words are used.
•20,000 word origins explained on the COMPASS CD-ROM.
•Over 200,000 extra example sentences on the COMPASS CD-ROM.
•2,000 new words and meanings from British and American English, such as offshoring, life coach, sex up, wi-fi.
•5,000 study words used in the sciences, maths, computing, literature, and business.
•700 entries for words from Australia, Canada, East Africa, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and West Africa.
•Oxford 3000™: the only reliable list in a dictionary to identify the 3,000 keywords students need to know.
•Special entries for words on the Oxford 3000 list, with extra information on synonyms, collocations, and extra examples to extend vocabulary.
•7,000 synonyms and opposites shown.
•200 special synonym notes covering 1,200 synonyms.
•Illustrations and photographs explain 2000+ words.
•Labelled illustrations show related vocabulary.
•32 colour pages illustrate groups of words such as extreme sports, music, etc.
•Colour maps - much appreciated by teachers and students.
•2,600 encyclopedic entries to explain references such as Walter Mitty, Fort Knox, Marie Celeste, Peter Pan, Beacon Hill.
•Over 10,000 entries on every aspect of British and American culture on the COMPASS CD-ROM.

The Compass CD-ROM has:
•Everything that’s in the 7th edition
•Everything in the Oxford Learner’s Wordfinder Dictionary and the
•Oxford Guide to British and American Culture.
•Information on 20,000 word origins.

HBR- Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker- Best of HBR 1999

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us



Thành công trong nền kinh tế tri thức đến với những ai biết rõ bản thân mình, những điểm mạnh, những giá trị và cách thức mình thể hiện tốt nhất.
Peter Drucker

Có lần Bill Gates, Chủ tịch Microsoft được hỏi thích đọc sách quản lý của tác giả nào, ông trả lời ngay: “ Dĩ nhiên là sách của Peter Drucker”

Khi tìm được bài viết này của Peter Drucker, mình đã bị cuốn hút ngay bởi tiêu đề của nó. Khi nói đến quản lý, chúng ta thường hình dung đến các nhà lãnh đạo, các nhà quản lý, coi việc quản lý là của họ. Điều này chẳng có gì là sai cả, nhưng không đủ. Peter Drucker đã chỉ cho chúng ta thấy rằng đối tượng cần quản lý đầu tiên là chính chúng ta.

“Managing Oneself” được trao giải thưởng “Best of HBR”, bài báo hay nhất trong năm của tạp chí HBR- Harvard Business Review, tờ tạp chí kinh doanh hay nhất thế giới hiện nay.

Trong bài viết này Peter Drucker đề cập đến những vấn đề cốt lõi nhất để quản trị bản thân và cách thức thực hiện: từ hiểu biết chính mình, những ưu điểm, cách thức chúng ta học tập tốt nhất, hệ thống giá trị bản thân, cách chúng ta quan hệ với thế giới bên ngoài.

Hi vọng bài viết này sẽ giúp cho các bạn có được những định hướng mới để phát triển mình.


Abstract:
Throughout history, people had little need to manage their careers--they were born into their stations in life or, in the recent past, relied on their companies to chart their career paths. But times have drastically changed. Today we must all learn to manage ourselves. What does that mean? As Peter Drucker tells us in this seminal article first published in 1999, it means we have to learn to develop ourselves. We have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do. It may seem obvious that people achieve results by doing what they are good at and by working in ways that fit their abilities. But, Drucker says, very few people actually know--let alone take advantage of--their fundamental strengths. He challenges each of us to ask ourselves: What are my strengths? How do I perform? What are my values? Where do I belong? What should my contribution be? Don't try to change yourself, Drucker cautions. Instead, concentrate on improving the skills you have and accepting assignments that are tailored to your individual way of working. If you do that, you can transform yourself from an ordinary worker into an outstanding performer. Today's successful careers are not planned out in advance. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they have asked themselves those questions and rigorously assessed their unique characteristics. This article challenges readers to take responsibility for managing their futures, both in and out of the office.
.........

BEST OF HBR 1999
Managing Oneself
by Peter F. Drucker


Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know
themselves—their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.


We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity: If you’ve got ambition and smarts, you can rise to the top of your chosen profession, regardless of where you started out.

But with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren’t managing their employees’ careers; knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers. It’s up to you to carve out your place, to know when to change course, and to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years. To do those things well, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself— not only what your strengths and weaknesses are but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution. Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.

History’s great achievers—a Napoléon, a da Vinci, a Mozart—have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers. But they are rare exceptions, so unusual both in their talents and their accomplishments as to be considered outside the boundaries of ordinary human existence. Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution. And we will have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

What Are My Strengths?
Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at—and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

Throughout history, people had little need to know their strengths. A person was born into a position and a line of work: The peasant’s son would also be a peasant; the artisan’s daughter, an artisan’s wife; and so on. But now people have choices. We need to know our strengths in order to know where we belong.

The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practicing this method for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, I am surprised. The feedback analysis showed me, for instance—and to my great surprise— that I have an intuitive understanding of technical people, whether they are engineers or accountants or market researchers. It also showed me that I don’t really resonate with generalists.

Feedback analysis is by no means new. It was invented sometime in the fourteenth century by an otherwise totally obscure German theologian and picked up quite independently, some 150 years later, by John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola, each of whom incorporated it into the practice of his followers. In fact, the steadfast focus on performance and results that this habit produces explains why the institutions these two men founded, the Calvinist church and the Jesuit order, came to dominate Europe within 30 years.

Practiced consistently, this simple method will show you within a fairly short period of time, maybe two or three years, where your strengths lie—and this is the most important thing to know. The method will show you what you are doing or failing to do that deprives you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you are not particularly competent. And finally, it will show you where you have no strengths and cannot perform.

Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis. First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results. Second, work on improving your strengths. Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also show the gaps in your knowledge—and those can usually be filled. Mathematicians are born, but everyone can learn trigonometry.

Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. Far too many people—especially people with great expertise in one area—are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge. First-rate engineers, for instance, tend to take pride in not knowing anything about people. Human beings, they believe, are much too disorderly for the good engineering mind. Human resources professionals, by contrast, often pride themselves on their ignorance of elementary accounting or of quantitative methods altogether. But taking pride in such ignorance is self-defeating. Go to work on acquiring the skills and knowledge you need to fully realize your strengths.

It is equally essential to remedy your bad habits—the things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance. Such habits will quickly show up in the feedback. For example, a planner may find that his beautiful plans fail because he does not follow through on them. Like so many brilliant people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work. This planner will have to learn that the work does not stop when the plan is completed. He must find people to carry out the plan and explain it to them. He must adapt and change it as he puts it into action. And finally, he must decide when to stop pushing the plan.

At the same time, feedback will also reveal when the problem is a lack of manners. Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction. This is as true for human beings as it is for inanimate objects. Manners—simple things like saying “please” and “thank you” and knowing a person’s name or asking after her family—enable two people to work together whether they like each other or not. Bright people, especially bright young people, often do not understand this. If analysis shows that someone’s brilliant work fails again and again assoon as cooperation from others is required, it probably indicates a lack of courtesy—that is, a lack of manners.

Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what not to do. We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a person— and especially a knowledge worker—should not take on work, jobs, and assignments. One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. And yet most people—especially most teachers and most organizations—concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones. Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer.

How Do I Perform?

Amazingly few people know how they get things done. Indeed, most of us do not even know that different people work and perform differently. Too many people work in ways that are not their ways, and that almost guarantees nonperformance. For knowledge workers, How do I perform? may be an even more important question than What are my strengths?

Like one’s strengths, how one performs is unique. It is a matter of personality. Whether personality be a matter of nature or nurture, it surely is formed long before a person goes to work. And how a person performs is a given, just as what a person is good at or not good at is a given. A person’s way of performing can be slightly modified, but it is unlikely to be completely changed—and certainly not easily. Just as people achieve results by doing what they are good at, they also achieve results by working in ways that they best perform. A few common personality traits usually determine how a person performs.

Am I a reader or a listener?
The first thing to know is whether you are a reader or a listener. Far too few people even know that there are readers and listeners and that people are rarely both. Even fewer know which of the two they themselves are. But some examples will show how damaging such ignorance can be.

When Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, he was the darling of the press. His press conferences were famous for their style—General Eisenhower showed total command of whatever question he was asked, and he was able to describe a situation and explain a policy in two or three beautifully polished and elegant sentences. Ten years later, the same journalists who had been his admirers held President Eisenhower in open contempt. He never addressed the questions, they complained, but rambled on endlessly about something else. And they constantly ridiculed him for butchering the King’s English in incoherent and ungrammatical answers.

Eisenhower apparently did not know that he was a reader, not a listener. When he was Supreme Commander in Europe, his aides made sure that every question from the press was presented in writing at least half an hour before a conference was to begin. And then Eisenhower was in total command. When he became president, he succeeded two listeners, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Both men knew themselves to be listeners and both enjoyed free-for-all press conferences. Eisenhower may have felt that he had to do what his two predecessors had done. As a result, he never even heard the questions journalists asked. And Eisenhower is not even an extreme case of a nonlistener.

A few years later, Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency, in large measure, by not knowing that he was a listener. His predecessor, John Kennedy, was a reader who had assembled a brilliant group of writers as his assistants, making sure that they wrote to him before discussing their memos in person. Johnson kept these people on his staff—and they kept on writing. He never, apparently, understood one word of what they wrote. Yet as a senator, Johnson had been superb; for parliamentarians have to be, above all, listeners.

Few listeners can be made, or can make themselves, into competent readers—and vice versa. The listener who tries to be a reader will, therefore, suffer the fate of Lyndon Johnson, whereas the reader who tries to be a listener will suffer the fate of Dwight Eisenhower. They will not perform or achieve.

How do I learn?
The second thing to know about how one performs is to know how one learns. Many first-class writers—Winston Churchill is but one example—do poorly in school. They tend to remember their schooling as pure torture. Yet few of their classmates remember it the same way. They may not have enjoyed the school very much, but the worst they suffered was boredom. The explanation is that writers do not, as a rule, learn by listening and reading. They learn by writing. Because schools do not allow them to learn this way, they get poor grades.

Schools everywhere are organized on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for everybody. But to be forced to learn the way a school teaches is sheer hell for students who learn differently. Indeed, there are probably half a dozen different ways to learn.

There are people, like Churchill, who learn by writing. Some people learn by taking copious notes. Beethoven, for example, left behind an enormous number of sketchbooks, yet he said he never actually looked at them when he composed. Asked why he kept them, he is reported to have replied, “If I don’t write it down immediately, I forget it right away. If I put it into a sketchbook, I never forget it and I never have to look it up again.” Some people learn by doing. Others learn by hearing themselves talk.

A chief executive I know who converted a small and mediocre family business into the leading company in its industry was one of those people who learn by talking. He was in the habit of calling his entire senior staff into his office once a week and then talking at them for two or three hours. He would raise policy issues and argue three different positions on each one. He rarely asked his associates for comments or questions; he simply needed an audience to hear himself talk. That’s how he learned. And although he is a fairly extreme case, learning through talking is by no means an unusual method. Successful trial lawyers learn the same way, as do many medical diagnosticians (and so do I).

Of all the important pieces of self-knowledge, understanding how you learn is the easiest to acquire. When I ask people, “How do you learn?” most of them know the answer. But when I ask, “Do you act on this knowledge?” few answer yes. And yet, acting on this knowledge is the key to performance; or rather, not acting on this knowledge condemns one to nonperformance.

Am I a reader or a listener? and How do I learn? are the first questions to ask. But they are by no means the only ones. To manage yourself effectively, you also have to ask, Do I work well with people, or am I a loner? And if you do work well with people, you then must ask, In what relationship?

Some people work best as subordinates. General George Patton, the great American military hero of World War II, is a prime example. Patton was America’s top troop commander. Yet when he was proposed for an independent command, General George Marshall, the U.S. chief of staff—and probably the most successful picker of men in U.S. history—said, “Patton is the best subordinate the American army has ever produced, but he would be the worst commander.”

Some people work best as team members. Others work best alone. Some are exceptionally talented as coaches and mentors; others are simply incompetent as mentors.

Another crucial question is, Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an adviser? A great many people perform best as advisers but cannot take the burden and pressure of making the decision. A good many other people, by contrast, need an adviser to force themselves to think; then they can make decisions and act on them with speed, self-confidence, and courage.

This is a reason, by the way, that the number two person in an organization often fails when promoted to the number one position. The top spot requires a decision maker. Strong decision makers often put somebody they trust into the number two spot as their adviser— and in that position the person is outstanding. But in the number one spot, the same personfails. He or she knows what the decision should be but cannot accept the responsibility of actually making it.

Other important questions to ask include, Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment? Do I work best in a big organization or a small one? Few people work well in all kinds of environments. Again and again, I have seen people who were very successful in large organizations flounder miserably when they moved into smaller ones. And the reverse is equally true.

The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself—you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform. And try not to take on work you cannot perform or will only perform poorly.

What Are My Values?

To be able to manage yourself, you finally have to ask, What are my values? This is not a question of ethics. With respect to ethics, the rules are the same for everybody, and the test is a simple one. I call it the “mirror test.” In the early years of this century, the most highly respected diplomat of all the great powers was the German ambassador in London. He was clearly destined for great things—to become his country’s foreign minister, at least, if not its federal chancellor. Yet in 1906 he abruptly resigned rather than preside over a dinner given by the diplomatic corps for Edward VII. The king was a notorious womanizer and made it clear what kind of dinner he wanted. The ambassador is reported to have said, “I refuse to see a pimp in the mirror in the morning when I shave.”

That is the mirror test. Ethics requires that you ask yourself, What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning? What is ethical behavior in one kind of organization or situation is ethical behavior in another. But ethics is only part of a value system— especially of an organization’s value system.

To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with one’s own condemns a person both to frustration and to nonperformance.

Consider the experience of a highly successful human resources executive whose company was acquired by a bigger organization. After the acquisition, she was promoted to do the kind of work she did best, which included selecting people for important positions. The executive deeply believed that a company should hire people for such positions from the outside only after exhausting all the inside possibilities. But her new company believed in first looking outside “to bring in fresh blood.” There is something to be said for both approaches— in my experience, the proper one is to do some of both. They are, however, fundamentally incompatible—not as policies but as values. They bespeak different views of the relationship between organizations and people; different views of the responsibility of an organization to its people and their development; and different views of a person’s most important contribution to an enterprise. After several years of frustration, the executive quit—at considerable financial loss. Her values and the values of the organization simply were not compatible.

Similarly, whether a pharmaceutical company tries to obtain results by making constant, small improvements or by achieving occasional, highly expensive, and risky “breakthroughs” is not primarily an economic question. The results of either strategy may be pretty much the same. At bottom, there is a conflict between a value system that sees the company’s contribution in terms of helping physicians do better what they already do and a value system that is oriented toward making scientific discoveries.

Whether a business should be run for shortterm results or with a focus on the long term is likewise a question of values. Financial analysts believe that businesses can be run for both simultaneously. Successful businesspeople know better. To be sure, every company has to produce short-term results. But in any conflict between short-term results and longterm growth, each company will determine its own priority. This is not primarily a disagreement about economics. It is fundamentally a value conflict regarding the function of a business and the responsibility of management.

Value conflicts are not limited to business organizations. One of the fastest-growing pastoral churches in the United States measures success by the number of new parishioners. Its leadership believes that what matters is how many newcomers join the congregation. The Good Lord will then minister to their spiritual needs or at least to the needs of a sufficient percentage. Another pastoral, evangelicalchurch believes that what matters is people’s spiritual growth. The church eases out newcomers who join but do not enter into its spiritual life.

Again, this is not a matter of numbers. At first glance, it appears that the second church grows more slowly. But it retains a far larger proportion of newcomers than the first one does. Its growth, in other words, is more solid. This is also not a theological problem, or only secondarily so. It is a problem about values. In a public debate, one pastor argued, “Unless you first come to church, you will never find the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven.” “No,” answered the other. “Until you first look for the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, you don’t belong in church.”

Organizations, like people, have values. To be effective in an organization, a person’s values must be compatible with the organization’s values. They do not need to be the same,but they must be close enough to coexist. Otherwise, the person will not only be frustrated but also will not produce results.

A person’s strengths and the way that per son performs rarely conflict; the two are complementary. But there is sometimes a conflict between a person’s values and his or her strengths. What one does well—even very well and successfully—may not fit with one’s value system. In that case, the work may not appear to be worth devoting one’s life to (or even a substantial portion thereof).

If I may, allow me to interject a personal note. Many years ago, I too had to decide between my values and what I was doing successfully. I was doing very well as a young investment banker in London in the mid-1930s, and the work clearly fit my strengths. Yet I did not see myself making a contribution as an asset manager. People, I realized, were what I valued, and I saw no point in being the richest man in the cemetery. I had no money and no other job prospects. Despite the continuing Depression, I quit—and it was the right thing to do. Values, in other words, are and should be the ultimate test.

Where Do I Belong?

A small number of people know very early where they belong. Mathematicians, musicians, and cooks, for instance, are usually mathematicians, musicians, and cooks by the time they are four or five years old. Physicians usually decide on their careers in their teens, if not earlier. But most people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties. By that time, however, they should know the answers to the three questions: What are my strengths? How do I perform? and, What are my values? And then they can and should decide where they belong.

Or rather, they should be able to decide where they do not belong. The person who has learned that he or she does not perform well in a big organization should have learned to say no to a position in one. The person who has learned that he or she is not a decision maker should have learned to say no to a decision- making assignment. A General Patton (who probably never learned this himself) should have learned to say no to an independent command.

Equally important, knowing the answer to these questions enables a person to say to an opportunity, an offer, or an assignment, “Yes, I will do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way the relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am.”

Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person—hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre—into an outstanding performer.

What Should I Contribute?

Throughout history, the great majority of people never had to ask the question, What should I contribute? They were told what to contribute, and their tasks were dictated either by the work itself—as it was for the peasant or artisan—or by a master or a mistress— as it was for domestic servants. And until very recently, it was taken for granted that most people were subordinates who did as they were told. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, the new knowledge workers (the so-called organization men) looked to their company’s personnel department to plan their careers. Then in the late 1960s, no one wanted to be told what to do any longer. Young men and women began to ask, What do I want to do?

And what they heard was that the way to contribute was to “do your own thing.” But this solution was as wrong as the organization men’s had been. Very few of the people who believed that doing one’s own thing would lead to contribution, self-fulfillment, and success achieved any of the three.

But still, there is no return to the old answer of doing what you are told or assigned to do. Knowledge workers in particular have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

Consider the experience of a newly appointed hospital administrator. The hospital was big and prestigious, but it had been coasting on its reputation for 30 years. The new administrator decided that his contribution should be to establish a standard of excellence in one important area within two years. He chose to focus on the emergency room, which was big, visible, and sloppy. He decided that every patient who came into the ER had to be seen by a qualified nurse within 60 seconds. Within 12 months, the hospital’s emergency room had become a model for all hospitals in the United States, and within another two years, the whole hospital had been transformed.

As this example suggests, it is rarely possible— or even particularly fruitful—to look too far ahead. A plan can usually cover no more than 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific. So the question in most cases should be, Where and how can I achieve results that will make a difference within the next year and a half? The answer must balance several things. First, the results should be hard to achieve—they should require “stretching,” to use the current buzzword. But also, they should be within reach. To aim at results that cannot be achieved—or that can be only under the most unlikely circumstances— is not being ambitious; it is being foolish. Second, the results should be meaningful. They should make a difference. Finally,results should be visible and, if at all possible, measurable. From this will come a course of action: what to do, where and how to start, and what goals and deadlines to set.

Responsibility for Relationships

Very few people work by themselves and achieve results by themselves—a few great artists, a few great scientists, a few great athletes. Most people work with others and are effective with other people. That is true whether they are members of an organization or independently employed. Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. This has two parts.

The first is to accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are. They perversely insist on behaving like human beings. This means that they too have their strengths; they too have their ways of getting things done; they too have their values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths, the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers.

That sounds obvious, but few people pay attention to it. Typical is the person who was trained to write reports in his or her first assignment because that boss was a reader. Even if the next boss is a listener, the person goes on writing reports that, invariably, produce no results. Invariably the boss will think the employee is stupid, incompetent, and lazy, and he or she will fail. But that could have been avoided if the employee had only looked at the new boss and analyzed how this boss performs.

Bosses are neither a title on the organization chart nor a “function.” They are individuals and are entitled to do their work in the way they do it best. It is incumbent on the people who work with them to observe them, to find out how they work, and to adapt themselves to what makes their bosses most effective. This, in fact, is the secret of “managing” the boss.

The same holds true for all your coworkers. Each works his or her way, not your way. And each is entitled to work in his or her way. What matters is whether they perform and what their values are. As for how they perform— each is likely to do it differently. The first secret of effectiveness is to understand the people you work with and depend on so that you can make use of their strengths, their ways of working, and their values. Working relationships are as much based on the people as they are on the work.

The second part of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication. Whenever I, or any other consultant, start to work with an organization, the first thing I hear about are all the personality conflicts. Most of these arise from the fact that people do not know what other people are doing and how they do their work, or what contribution the other people are concentrating on and what results they expect. And the reason they do not know is that they have not asked and therefore have not been told.

This failure to ask reflects human stupidity less than it reflects human history. Until recently, it was unnecessary to tell any of these things to anybody. In the medieval city, everyone in a district plied the same trade. In the countryside, everyone in a valley planted the same crop as soon as the frost was out of the ground. Even those few people who did things that were not “common” worked alone, so they did not have to tell anyone what they were doing.

Today the great majority of people work with others who have different tasks and responsibilities. The marketing vice president may have come out of sales and know everything about sales, but she knows nothing about the things she has never done—pricing, advertising, packaging, and the like. So the people who do these things must make sure that the marketing vice president understands what they are trying to do, why they are trying to do it, how they are going to do it, and what results to expect.

If the marketing vice president does not understand what these high-grade knowledge specialists are doing, it is primarily their fault, not hers. They have not educated her. Conversely, it is the marketing vice president’s responsibility to make sure that all of her coworkers understand how she looks at marketing: what her goals are, how she works, and what she expects of herself and of each one of them.

Even people who understand the importance of taking responsibility for relationships often do not communicate sufficiently with their associates. They are afraid of being thought presumptuous or inquisitive or stupid. They are wrong. Whenever someone goes to his or her associates and says, “This is what I am good at. This is how I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to concentrate on and the results I should be expected to deliver,” the response is always, “This is most helpful. But why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

And one gets the same reaction—without exception, in my experience—if one continues by asking, “And what do I need to know about your strengths, how you perform, your values, and your proposed contribution?” In fact, knowledge workers should request this of everyone with whom they work, whether as subordinate, superior, colleague, or team member. And again, whenever this is done, the reaction is always, “Thanks for asking me. But why didn’t you ask me earlier?”

Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust. The existence of trust between people does not necessarily mean that they like one another. It means that they understand one another. Taking responsibility for relationships is therefore an absolute necessity. It is a duty. Whether one is a member of the organization, a consultant to it, a supplier, or a distributor, one owes that responsibility to all one’s coworkers: those whose work one depends on as well as those who depend on one’s own work.

The Second Half of Your Life

When work for most people meant manual labor, there was no need to worry about the second half of your life. You simply kept on doing what you had always done. And if you were lucky enough to survive 40 years of hard work in the mill or on the railroad, you were quite happy to spend the rest of your life doing nothing. Today, however, most work is knowledge work, and knowledge workers are not “finished” after 40 years on the job, they are merely bored.

We hear a great deal of talk about the midlife crisis of the executive. It is mostly boredom. At 45, most executives have reached the peak of their business careers, and they know it. After 20 years of doing very much the same kind of work, they are very good at their jobs. But they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job. And yet they are still likely to face another 20 if not 25 years of work. That is why managing oneself increasingly leads one to begin a second career.

There are three ways to develop a second career. The first is actually to start one. Often this takes nothing more than moving from one kind of organization to another: the divisional controller in a large corporation, for instance, becomes the controller of a medium-sized hospital. But there are also growing numbers of people who move into different lines of work altogether: the business executive or government official who enters the ministry at 45, for instance; or the midlevel manager who leaves corporate life after 20 years to attend law school and become a small-town attorney.

We will see many more second careers undertaken by people who have achieved modest success in their first jobs. Such people have substantial skills, and they know how to work. They need a community—the house isempty with the children gone—and they need income as well. But above all, they need challenge.

The second way to prepare for the second half of your life is to develop a parallel career. Many people who are very successful in their first careers stay in the work they have been doing, either on a full-time or part-time or consulting basis. But in addition, they create a parallel job, usually in a nonprofit organization, that takes another ten hours of work a week. They might take over the administration of their church, for instance, or the presidency of the local Girl Scouts council. They might run the battered women’s shelter, work as a children’s librarian for the local public library, sit on the school board, and so on.

Finally, there are the social entrepreneurs. These are usually people who have been very successful in their first careers. They love their work, but it no longer challenges them. In many cases they keep on doing what they have been doing all along but spend less and less of their time on it. They also start another activity, usually a nonprofit. My friend Bob Buford, for example, built a very successful television company that he still runs. But he has also founded and built a successful nonprofit organization that works with Protestant churches, and he is building another to teach social entrepreneurs how to manage their own nonprofit ventures while still running their original businesses.

People who manage the second half of their lives may always be a minority. The majority may “retire on the job” and count the years until their actual retirement. But it is this minority, the men and women who see a long working-life expectancy as an opportunity both for themselves and for society, who will become leaders and models.

There is one prerequisite for managing the second half of your life: You must begin long before you enter it. When it first became clear 30 years ago that working-life expectancies were lengthening very fast, many observers (including myself) believed that retired people would increasingly become volunteers for nonprofit institutions. That has not happened. If one does not begin to volunteer before one is 40 or so, one will not volunteer once past 60.

Similarly, all the social entrepreneurs I know began to work in their chosen second enterprise long before they reached their peak in their original business. Consider the example of a successful lawyer, the legal counsel to a large corporation, who has started a venture to establish model schools in his state. He began to do volunteer legal work for the schools when he was around 35. He was elected to the school board at age 40. At age 50, when he had amassed a fortune, he started his own enterprise to build and to run model schools. He is,however, still working nearly full-time as the lead counsel in the company he helped found as a young lawyer.

There is another reason to develop a second major interest, and to develop it early. No one can expect to live very long without experiencing a serious setback in his or her life or work. There is the competent engineer who is passed over for promotion at age 45. There is the competent college professor who realizes at age 42 that she will never get a professorship at a big university, even though she may be fully qualified for it. There are tragedies in one’s family life: the breakup of one’s marriage or the loss of a child. At such times, a second major interest— not just a hobby—may make all the difference. The engineer, for example, now knows that he has not been very successful in his job. But in his outside activity—as church treasurer, for example—he is a success. One’s family may break up, but in that outside activity there is still a community.

In a society in which success has become so terribly important, having options will become increasingly vital. Historically, there was no such thing as “success.” The overwhelming majority of people did not expect anything but to stay in their “proper station,” as an old English prayer has it. The only mobility was downward mobility.

In a knowledge society, however, we expect everyone to be a success. This is clearly an impossibility. For a great many people, there is at best an absence of failure. Wherever there is success, there has to be failure. And then it is vitally important for the individual, and equally for the individual’s family, to have an area in which he or she can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody . That means finding a second area—whether in a second career, a parallel career, or a social venture— that offers an opportunity for being a leader, for being respected, for being a success.

The challenges of managing oneself may seem obvious, if not elementary. And the answers may seem self-evident to the point of appearing naïve. But managing oneself requires new and unprecedented things from the individual, and especially from the knowledge worker. In effect, managing oneself demands that each knowledge worker think and behave like a chief executive officer. Further, the shift from manual workers who do as they are told to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves profoundly challenges social structure. Every existing society, even the most individualistic one, takes two things for granted, if only subconsciously: that organizations outlive workers, and that most people stay put.

But today the opposite is true. Knowledge workers outlive organizations, and they are mobile. The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.

HBR- How to Play to Your Strengths

How to Play to Your Strengths
Laura Morgan Roberts, Gretchen Spreitzer, Jane Dutton, Robert Quinn, Emily Heaphy, Brianna Barker
January 2005 Issue


Cho đến nay việc hoàn thiện & phát triển bản thân vẫn dựa trên phát hiện những điểm yếu của mình và tìm cách khắc phục chúng. Cách làm này đã cho thấy nhiều kết quả tích cực. Nhưng hàng loạt nghiên cứu gần đây trong những lĩnh vực quản trị, tâm lý học… cho thấy rằng đây thực ra không phải là cách làm tốt nhất. Bởi ngay cả khi biết được nhược điểm của mình rồi thì để khắc phục được nó còn rất khó khăn và rất ít người có thể làm được .

Các nhà nghiên cứu chỉ ra rằng cách tốt nhất để phát triển cá nhân là tập trung vào những điểm mạnh, chứ không phải là những điểm yếu của mình cố gắng phát huy tối đa chúng.

Hy vọng bài viết này sẽ giúp bạn có được A systematic way to discover who you are at your best


Abstract:
Most feedback accentuates the negative. During formal employee evaluations, discussions invariably focus on "opportunities for improvement," even if the overall evaluation is laudatory. No wonder most executives--and their direct reports--dread them. Traditional, corrective feedback has its place, of course; every organization must filter out failing employees and ensure that everyone performs at an expected level of competence. But too much emphasis on problem areas prevents companies from reaping the best from their people. After all, it's a rare baseball player who is equally good at every position. Why should a natural third baseman labor to develop his skills as a right fielder? This article presents a tool to help you understand and leverage your strengths. Called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise, it offers a unique feedback experience that counterbalances negative input. It allows you to tap into talents you may or may not be aware of and, so, increase your career potential. To begin the RBS exercise, you first need to solicit comments from family, friends, colleagues, and teachers, asking them to give specific examples of times in which those strengths were particularly beneficial. Next, you need to search for common themes in the feedback, organizing them in a table to develop a clear picture of your strong suits. Third, you must write a self-portrait--a description of yourself that summarizes and distills the accumulated information. And, finally, you need to redesign your personal job description to build on what you're good at. The RBS exercise helps you discover who you are at the top of your game. Once you're aware of your best self, you can shape the positions you choose to play--both now and in the next phase of your career.

HBR- How to write a Winning Business Plan





How to Write a Great Business Plan
William A. Sahlman
July 1997 Issue


Abstract:
Every seasoned investor knows that detailed financial projections for a new company are an act of imagination. Nevertheless, most business plans pour far too much ink on the numbers--and far too little on the information that really matters. Why? William Sahlman suggests that a great business plan is one that focuses on a series of questions. These questions relate to the four factors critical to the success of every new venture: the people, the opportunity, the context, and the possibilities for both risk and reward. A great business plan is not easy to compose, Sahlman acknowledges, largely because most entrepreneurs are wild-eyed optimists. But one that asks the right questions is a powerful tool. A better deal, not to mention a better shot at success, awaits entrepreneurs who use it.

How to Write a Great Business Plan

by William A. Sahlman

Which information belongs-and which doesn't-may surprise you.

William A. Sahlman is Dimitri V. d'Arbeloff Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. He has been closely connected with more than 50 entrepreneurial ventures as an adviser, investor, or director. He teaches a second-year course at the Harvard Business School called "En¬trepreneurial Finance," for which he has developed more than 100 cases and notes.

Few areas of business attract as much attention as new ventures, and few aspects of new-venture creation attract as much attention as the business plan. Countless books and articles in the popular press dissect the topic. A growing number of annual business-plan contests are springing up across the United States and, increasingly, in other countries. Both graduate and undergraduate schools devote entire courses to the subject. Indeed, judging by all the hoopla surrounding business plans, you would think that the only things standing between a would-be entrepreneur and spectacular success are glossy five-color charts, a bundle of meticulous-looking spreadsheets, and a decade of month-by-month financial projections.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience with hundreds of entrepreneurial start¬ups, business plans rank no higher than 2-on a scale from 1 to 10-as a predictor of a new venture's suc¬cess. And sometimes, in fact, the more elaborately crafted the document, the more likely the venture is to, well, flop, for lack of a more euphemistic word.

What's wrong with most business plans? The an¬swer is relatively straightforward. Most waste too much ink on numbers and devote too little to the information that really matters to intelligent in¬vestors. As every seasoned investor knows, finan¬cial projections for a new company - especially de¬tailed, month-by-month projections that stretch out for more than a year-are an act of imagination. An entrepreneurial venture faces far too many unknowns to predict revenues, let alone profits. Moreover, few if any entrepreneurs correctly antici¬pate how much capital and time will be required to accomplish their objectives. Typically, they are wildly optimistic, padding their projections. In¬vestors know about the padding effect and therefore discount the figures in business plans. These maneuvers create a vicious circle of inaccuracy that benefits no one.

Don't misunderstand me: business plans should include some numbers. But those numbers should appear mainly in the form of a business model that shows the entrepreneurial team has thought through the key drivers of the venture's success or failure. In manufacturing, such a driver might be the yield on a production process; in magazine pub¬lishing, the anticipated renewal rate; or in software, the impact of using various distribution channels. The model should also address the break-even issue: At what level of sales does the business begin to make a profit? And even more important, When does cash flow turn positive? Without a doubt, these questions deserve a few pages in any business plan. Near the back.

What goes at the front? What information does a good business plan contain?

If you want to speak the language of investors -and also make sure you have asked yourself the right questions before setting out on the most daunting journey of a businessperson's career-I recommend basing your business plan on the frame¬work that follows. It does not provide the kind of "winning" formula touted by some current how-to books and software programs for entrepreneurs. Nor is it a guide to brain surgery. Rather, the frame¬work systematically assesses the four interdependent factors critical to every new venture:

The People. The men and women starting and running the venture, as well as the outside parties providing key services or important resources for it, such as its lawyers, accountants, and suppliers.
The Opportunity. A profile of the business itself— what it will sell and to whom, whether the business can grow and how fast, what its economics are, who and what stand in the way of success.
The Context. The big picture - the regulatory environment, interest rates, demographic trends, inflation, and the like - basically, factors that in¬evitably change but cannot be controlled by the entrepreneur.
Risk and Reward. An assessment of everything that can go wrong and right, and a discussion of how the entrepreneurial team can respond.

BUSINESS PLANS: FOR ENTREPRENEURS ONLY?

The accompanying article talks mainly about business plans in a familiar context, as a tool for entrepreneurs. But quite often, start-ups are launched within established companies. Do those new ventures require business plans? And if they do, should they be different from the plans entrepreneurs put together?
The answer to the first question is an emphatic yes; the answer to the second, an equally emphatic no. All new ventures-whether they are funded by venture capitalists or, as is the case with intrapreneurial busi¬nesses, by shareholders-need to pass the same acid tests. After all, the market¬place does not differentiate between products or ser¬vices based on who is pouring money into them behind the scenes.

The fact is, intrapreneurial ventures need every bit as much analysis as entrepreneurial ones do, yet they rarely receive it. Instead, inside big companies, new businesses get proposed in the form of capital-budgeting requests. These faceless documents are subject to detailed financial scrutiny and a consensus-building process, as the project wends its way through the chain of command, what I call the "neutron bomb" model of project governance. However, in the history of such proposals, a plan never has been submitted that did not promise returns in excess of corporate hurdle rates. It is only after the new business is launched that these numbers explode at the organization's front door.

That problem could be avoided in large part if intrapreneurial ventures followed the guidelines set out in the accompanying article. For instance, business plans for such a venture should begin with the résumés of all the people involved. What has the team done in the past that would suggest it would be successful in the future, and so on? In addition, the new venture's product or service should be fully ana¬lyzed in terms of its opportunity and context. Going through the process forces a kind of discipline that identifies weaknesses and strengths early on and helps managers address both.

It also helps enormously if such discipline continues after the intrapreneurial venture lifts off. When professional venture capitalists invest in new com¬panies, they track performance as a matter of course. But in large companies, scrutiny of a new venture is often inconsistent. That shouldn't or needn't be the case. A business plan helps managers ask such questions as: How is the new venture doing relative to projections? What decisions has the team made in response to new information? Have changes in the context made additional funding necessary? How could the team have predicted those changes? Such questions not only keep a new venture running smoothly but also help an organization learn from its mistakes and triumphs.

Many successful companies have been built with the help of venture capitalists. Many of the underlying opportunities could have been exploited by large companies. Why weren't they? Perhaps useful lessons can be learned by studying the world of independent ven¬tures, one lesson being: Write a great business plan.

The assumption behind the framework is that great businesses have attributes that are easy to identify but hard to assemble. They have an experi¬enced, energetic managerial team from the top to the bottom. The team's members have skills and experiences directly relevant to the opportunity they are pursuing. Ideally, they will have worked successfully together in the past. The opportunity has an attractive, sustainable business model; it is possible to create a competitive edge and defend it. Many options exist for expanding the scale and scope of the business, and these options are unique to the enterprise and its team. Value can be extract¬ed from the business in a number of ways either through a positive harvest event-a sale-or by scal¬ing down or liquidating. The context is favorable with respect to both the regulatory and the macro-economic environments. Risk is understood, and the team has considered ways to mitigate the im¬pact of difficult events. In short, great businesses have the four parts of the framework completely covered. If only reality were so neat.

The People
When I receive a business plan, I always read the résumé section first. Not because the people part of the new venture is the most important, but because without the right team, none of the other parts real¬ly matters.

I read the résumés of the venture's team with a list of questions in mind. (See the insert "Who Are These People, Anyway?") All these questions get at the same three issues about the venture's team members: What do they know? Whom do they know? and How well are they known?

What and whom they know are matters of insight and experience. How familiar are the team mem¬bers with industry players and dynamics? Inves¬tors, not surprisingly, value managers who have been around the block a few times. A business plan should candidly describe each team member's knowledge of the new venture's type of product or service; its production processes; and the market it¬self, from competitors to customers. It also helps to indicate whether the team members have worked together before. Not played-as in roomed together in college-but worked.

Investors also look favorably on a team that is known because the real world often prefers not to deal with start-ups. They're too unpredictable. That changes, however, when the new company is run by people well known to suppliers, customers, and employees. Their enterprise may be brand new, but they aren't. The surprise element of working with a start-up is somewhat ameliorated.
Finally, the people part of a business plan should receive special care because, simply stated, that's where most intelligent investors focus their atten¬tion. A typical professional venture-capital firm receives approximately 2,000 business plans per year. These plans are filled with tantalizing ideas for new products and services that will change the world and reap billions in the process - or so they say. But the fact is, most venture capitalists believe that ideas are a dime a dozen: only execution skills count. As Arthur Rock, a venture capital legend as¬sociated with the formation of such companies as Apple, Intel, and Teledyne, states, "I invest in peo¬ple, not ideas." Rock also has said, "If you can find good people, if they're wrong about the product, they'll make a switch, so what good is it to under¬stand the product that they're talking about in the first place?"

Business plan writers should keep this admoni¬tion in mind as they craft their proposal. Talk about the people - exhaustively. And if there is nothing solid about their experience and abilities to herald, then the entrepreneurial team should think again about launching the venture.

Who Are These People, Anyway?
Fourteen "Personal" Questions Every Business Plan Should Answer

-Where are the founders from?
-Where have they been educated?
-Where have they worked-and for whom?
-What have they accomplished-professionally and personally-in the past?
-What is their reputation within the business community?
-What experience do they have that is directly relevant to the opportunity they are pursuing?
-What skills, abilities, and knowledge do they have?
-How realistic are they about the venture's chances for success and the tribulations it will face?
-Who else needs to be on the team?
-Are they prepared to recruit high-quality people?
-How will they respond to adversity?
-Do they have the mettle to make the inevitable hard choices that have to be made?
-How committed are they to this venture?
-What are their motivations?


The Opportunity

When it comes to the opportunity itself, a good business plan begins by focusing on two questions: Is the total market for the venture's product or ser¬vice large, rapidly growing, or both? Is the industry now, or can it become, structurally attractive? En¬trepreneurs and investors look for large or rapidly growing markets mainly because it is often easier to obtain a share of a growing market than to fight with entrenched competitors for a share of a mature or stagnant market. Smart investors, in fact, try hard to identify high-growth-potential markets ear¬ly in their evolution: that's where the big payoffs are. And, indeed, many will not invest in a com¬pany that cannot reach a significant scale (that is, $50 million in annual revenues) within five years.

As for attractiveness, investors are obviously looking for markets that actually allow businesses to make some money. But that's not the no-brainer it seems. In the late 1970s, the computer disk-drive business looked very attractive. The technology was new and exciting. Dozens of companies jumped into the fray, aided by an army of professional investors. Twenty years later, however, the thrill is gone for managers and investors alike. Disk drive companies must design products to meet the per¬ceived needs of original equipment manufactur¬ers (OEMs) and end users. Selling a product to OEMs is complicated. The customers are large rela¬tive to most of their suppliers. There are lots of competitors, each with similar high-quality offer¬ings. Moreover, product life cycles are short and on¬going technology investments high. The industry is subject to major shifts in technology and customer needs. Intense rivalry leads to lower prices and, hence, lower margins. In short, the disk drive in¬dustry is simply not set up to make people a lot of money; it's a structural disaster area.

The information services industry, by contrast, is paradise. Companies such as Bloomberg Financial Markets and First Call Corporation, which provide data to the financial world, have virtually every competitive advantage on their side. First, they can assemble or create proprietary content - content that, by the way, is like life's blood to thousands of money managers and stock analysts around the world. And although it is often expensive to de¬velop the service and to acquire initial customers, once up and running, these companies can deliver content to customers very cheaply. Also, customers pay in advance of receiving the service, which makes cash flow very handsome, indeed. In short, the structure of the information services industry is beyond attractive: it's gorgeous. The profit mar¬gins of Bloomberg and First Call put the disk drive business to shame.

The market is as fickle as it is unpredictable. Who would have guessed that plug-in room deodorizers would sell?

Thus, the first step for entrepreneurs is to make sure they are entering an industry that is large and/or growing, and one that's structurally attrac¬tive. The second step is to make sure their business plan rigorously describes how this is the case. And if it isn't the case, their business plan needs to spec¬ify how the venture will still manage to make enough of a profit that investors (or potential em¬ployees or suppliers, for that matter) will want to participate.

Once it examines the new venture's industry, a business plan must describe in detail how the com¬pany will build and launch its product or service into the marketplace. Again, a series of questions should guide the discussion. (See the insert "The Opportunity of a Lifetime-or Is It?")

Often the answers to these questions reveal a fatal flaw in the business. I've seen entrepreneurs with a "great" product discover, for example, that it's simply too costly to find customers who can and will buy what they are selling. Economically viable access to customers is the key to business, yet many entrepreneurs take the Field of Dreams approach to this notion: build it, and they will come. That strategy works in the movies but is not very sensible in the real world.

It is not always easy to answer questions about the likely consumer response to new products or services. The market is as fickle as it is unpre¬dictable. (Who would have guessed that plug-in room deodorizers would sell?) One entrepreneur I know proposed to introduce an electronic news-clipping service. He made his pitch to a prospective venture-capital investor who rejected the plan, stat¬ing, "I just don't think the dogs will eat the dog food." Later, when the entrepreneur's company went public, he sent the venture capitalist an anony¬mous package containing an empty can of dog food and a copy of his prospectus. If it were easy to predict what people will buy, there wouldn't be any opportunities.

Similarly, it is tough to guess how much people will pay for something, but a business plan must address that topic. Sometimes, the dogs will eat the dog food, but only at a price less than cost. Investors always look for opportunities for value pricing-that is, markets in which the costs to produce the product are low, but consumers will still pay a lot for it. No one is dying to invest in a company when margins are skinny. Still, there is money to be made in inexpen¬sive products and services-even in commodities. A business plan must demonstrate that careful consideration has been given to the new venture's pric¬ing scheme.

The list of questions about the new venture's op¬portunity focuses on the direct revenues and the costs of producing and marketing a product. That's fine, as far as it goes. A sensible proposal, however, also involves assessing the business model from a perspective that takes into account the investment required-that is, the balance sheet side of the equa¬tion. The following questions should also be ad¬dressed so that investors can understand the cash flow implications of pursuing an opportunity:
-When does the business have to buy resources, such as supplies, raw materials, and people?
-When does the business have to pay for them?
-How long does it take to acquire a customer?
-How long before the customer sends the business a check?
-How much capital equipment is required to support a dollar of sales?



Investors, of course, are looking for businesses in which management can buy low, sell high, collect early, and pay late. The business plan needs to spell out how close to that ideal the new venture is expected to come. Even if the answer is "not very"-and it usually is-at least the truth is out there to discuss.

The opportunity section of a business plan must also bring a few other issues to the surface. First, it must demonstrate and analyze how an opportunity can grow-in other words, how the new venture can expand its range of products or services, customer base, or geographic scope. Often, companies are able to create virtual pipelines that support the eco¬nomically viable creation of new revenue streams. In the publishing business, for example, Inc. maga¬zine has expanded its product line to include semi¬nars, books, and videos about entrepreneurship. Similarly, building on the success of its personal-finance software program Quicken, Intuit now sells software for electronic banking, small-business ac¬counting, and tax preparation, as well as personal-printing supplies and on-line information services-to name just a few of its highly profitable ancillary spin-offs.

Whatever the reason, better-mousetrap businesses have an uncanny way of malfunctioning.

Now, lots of business plans runneth over on the subject of the new venture's potential for growth and expansion. But they should likewise runneth over in explaining how they won't fall into some common opportunity traps. One of those has al¬ready been mentioned: industries that are at their core structurally unattractive. But there are others. The world of invention, for example, is fraught with danger. Over the past 15 years, I have seen scores of individuals who have devised a better mousetrap - newfangled creations from inflatable pillows for use on airplanes to automated car-park¬ing systems. Few of these idea-driven companies have really taken off, however. I'm not entirely sure why. Sometimes, the inventor refuses to spend the money required by or share the rewards sufficiently with the business side of the company. Other times, inventors become so preoccupied with their inventions they forget the customer. Whatever the reason, better-mousetrap businesses have an un¬canny way of malfunctioning.

Another opportunity trap that business plans -and entrepreneurs in general-need to pay attention to is the tricky business of arbitrage. Basically, arbi¬trage ventures are created to take advantage of some pricing disparity in the marketplace. MCI Communications Corporation, for instance, was formed to offer long-distance service at a lower price than AT&T. Some of the industry consolida¬tions going on today reflect a different kind of arbi¬trage - the ability to buy small businesses at a wholesale price, roll them up together into a larger package, and take them public at a retail price, all without necessarily adding value in the process.

Taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities is a viable and potentially profitable way to enter a business. In the final analysis, however, all arbi¬trage opportunities evaporate. It is not a question of whether, only when. The trick in these businesses is to use the arbitrage profits to build a more endur¬ing business model, and business plans must ex¬plain how and when that will occur.
As for competition, it probably goes without say¬ing that all business plans should carefully and thoroughly cover this territory, yet some don't. That is a glaring omission. For starters, every busi¬ness plan should answer the following questions about the competition:
-Who are the new venture's current competitors?
-What resources do they control? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
-How will they respond to the new venture's deci¬sion to enter the business?
-How can the new venture respond to its competi¬tors' response?
-Who else might be able to observe and exploit the same opportunity?
-Are there ways to co-opt potential or actual com¬petitors by forming alliances?

Business is like chess: to be successful, you must anticipate several moves in advance. A business plan that describes an insuperable lead or a propri¬etary market position is by definition written by naïve people. That goes not just for the competition section of the business plan but for the entire dis¬cussion of the opportunity. All opportunities have promise; all have vulnerabilities. A good business plan doesn't whitewash the latter. Rather, it proves that the entrepreneurial team knows the good, the bad, and the ugly that the venture faces ahead.

The Context

Opportunities exist in a context. At one level is the macroeconomic environment, including the level of economic activity, inflation, exchange rates, and interest rates. At another level are the wide range of government rules and regulations that affect the opportunity and how resources are marshaled to exploit it. Examples extend from tax policy to the rules about raising capital for a private or public company. And at yet another level are fac¬tors like technology that define the limits of what a business or its competitors can accomplish.

Context often has a tremendous impact on every aspect of the entrepreneurial process, from identifi¬cation of opportunity to harvest. In some cases, changes in some contextual factor create opportu¬nity. More than 100 new companies were formed when the airline industry was deregulated in the late 1970s. The context for financing was also fa¬vorable, enabling new entrants like People Express to go to the public market for capital even before starting operations.

Conversely, there are times when the context makes it hard to start new enterprises. The reces¬sion of the early 1990s combined with a difficult fi¬nancing environment for new companies: venture capital disbursements were low, as was the amount of capital raised in the public markets. (Paradoxi¬cally, those relatively tight conditions, which made it harder for new entrants to get going, were associ¬ated with very high investment returns later in the 1990s, as capital markets heated up.)

Sometimes, a shift in context turns an unattrac¬tive business into an attractive one, and vice versa. Consider the case of a packaging company some years ago that was performing so poorly it was about to be put on the block. Then came the Tylenol-tampering incident, result¬ing in multiple deaths. The packag¬ing company happened to have an efficient mechanism for installing tamper-proof seals, and in a matter of weeks its financial performance could have been called spectacular. Conversely, U.S. tax reforms enacted in 1986 created havoc for companies in the real estate business, eliminat¬ing almost every positive incentive to invest. Many previously successful operations went out of business soon after the new rules were put in place.

Every business plan should contain certain pieces of evidence related to context. First, the en¬trepreneurs should show a heightened awareness of the new venture's context and how it helps or hin¬ders their specific proposal. Second, and more im¬portant, they should demonstrate that they know the venture's context will inevitably change and de¬scribe how those changes might affect the business. Further, the business plan should spell out what management can (and will) do in the event the con¬text grows unfavorable. Finally, the business plan should explain the ways (if any) in which manage¬ment can affect context in a positive way. For ex¬ample, management might be able to have an im¬pact on regulations or on industry standards through lobbying efforts.

Risk and Reward

The concept that context is fluid leads directly to the fourth leg of the framework I propose: a discus¬sion of risk and how to manage it. I've come to think of a good business plan as a snapshot of an event in the future. That's quite a feat to begin with-taking a picture of the unknown. But the best business plans go beyond that; they are like movies of the future. They show the people, the opportu¬nity, and the context from multiple angles. They offer a plausible, coherent story of what lies ahead. They unfold possibilities of action and reaction.

Good business plans, in other words, discuss people, opportunity, and context as a moving tar¬get. All three factors (and the relationship among them) are likely to change over time as a company evolves from start-up to ongoing enterprise. There¬fore, any business plan worth the time it takes to write or read needs to focus attention on the dy¬namic aspects of the entrepreneurial process.

Of course, the future is hard to predict. Still, it is possible to give potential investors a sense of the kind and class of risk and reward they are assuming with a new venture. All it takes is a pencil and two simple drawings. (See the insert "Visualizing Risk and Reward.") But even with these drawings, risk is, well, risky. In reality, there are no immutable distributions of outcomes. It is ultimately the re¬sponsibility of management to change the distribu¬tion, to increase the likelihood and consequences of success, and to decrease the likelihood and implica¬tions of problems.

One of the great myths about entrepreneurs is that they are risk seekers. All sane people want to avoid risk. As Harvard Business School professor (and venture capitalist) Howard Stevenson says, true entrepreneurs want to capture all the reward and give all the risk to others. The best business is a post office box to which people send cashier's checks. Yet risk is unavoidable. So what does that mean for a business plan?

It means that the plan must unflinchingly con¬front the risks ahead-in terms of people, opportu¬nity, and context. What happens if one of the new venture's leaders leaves? What happens if a com¬petitor responds with more ferocity than expected? What happens if there is a revolution in Namibia, the source of a key raw material? What will man¬agement actually do?

Those are hard questions for an entrepreneur to pose, especially when seeking capital. But a better deal awaits those who do pose them and then pro¬vide solid answers. A new venture, for example, might be highly leveraged and therefore very sensi¬tive to interest rates. Its business plan would bene¬fit enormously by stating that management intends to hedge its exposure through the financial-futures market by purchasing a contract that does well when interest rates go up. That is the equivalent of offering investors insurance. (It also makes sense for the business itself.)

Finally, one important area in the realm of risk/ reward management relates to harvesting. Venture capitalists often ask if a company is "IPOable," by which they mean, Can the company be taken pub¬lic at some point in the future? Some businesses are inherently difficult to take public because doing so would reveal information that might harm its competitive position (for example, it would reveal profitability, thereby encouraging entry or anger¬ing customers or suppliers). Some ventures are not companies, but rather products -they are not sustainable as indepen¬dent businesses.

Therefore, the business plan should talk candidly about the end of the process. How will the investor eventually get money out of the business, assuming it is successful, even if only marginally so? When professionals invest, they particularly like com¬panies with a wide range of exit options. They like companies that work hard to preserve and enhance those options along the way, companies that don't, for example, unthinkingly form alliances with big corporations that could someday actually buy them. Investors feel a lot better about risk if the venture's endgame is discussed up front. There is an old saying, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." In crafting sensible en¬trepreneurial strategies, just the opposite is true: you had better know where you might end up and have a map for getting there. A business plan should be the place where that map is drawn, for, as every traveler knows, a journey is a lot less risky when you have directions.

The Deal and Beyond

The best business is a post office box to which people send cashier's checks.

Once a business plan is written, of course, the goal is to land a deal. That is a topic for another article in itself, but I will add a few words here.

When I talk to young (and old) entrepreneurs looking to finance their ventures, they obsess about the valuation and terms of the deal they will re¬ceive. Their explicit goal seems to be to minimize the dilution they will suffer in raising capital. Im¬plicitly, they are also looking for investors who will remain as passive as a tree while they go about building their business. On the food chain of in¬vestors, it seems, doctors and dentists are best and venture capitalists are worst because of the degree to which the latter group demands control and a large share of the returns.

That notion-like the idea that excruciatingly de¬tailed financial projections are useful-is nonsense. From whom you raise capital is often more impor¬tant than the terms. New ventures are inherently risky, as I've noted; what can go wrong will. When that happens, unsophisticated investors panic, get angry, and often refuse to advance the company more money. Sophisticated investors, by contrast, roll up their sleeves and help the company solve its problems. Often, they've had lots of experience sav¬ing sinking ships. They are typically process liter¬ate. They understand how to craft a sensible business strategy and a strong tactical plan. They know how to recruit, compensate, and motivate team members. They are also familiar with the Byzan¬tine ins and outs of going public-an event most en¬trepreneurs face but once in a lifetime. This kind of know-how is worth the money needed to buy it.

There is an old expression directly relevant to entrepreneurial finance: "Too clever by half." Often, deal makers get very creative, crafting all sorts of payoff and option schemes. That usually backfires. My experience has proven again and again that sen¬sible deals have the following six characteristics:
-They are simple.
-They are fair.
-They emphasize trust rather than legal ties.
-They do not blow apart if actual differs slightly from plan.
-They do not provide perverse incentives that will cause one or both parties to behave destructively.
-They are written on a pile of papers no greater than one-quarter inch thick.

But even these six simple rules miss an impor¬tant point. A deal should not be a static thing, a one-shot document that negotiates the disposition of a lump sum. Instead, it is incumbent upon entre¬preneurs, before they go searching for funding, to think about capital acquisition as a dynamic process - to figure out how much money they will need and when they will need it.

How is that accomplished? The trick is for the entrepreneurial team to treat the new venture as a series of experiments. Before launching the whole show, launch a little piece of it. Convene a focus group to test the product, build a prototype and watch it perform, conduct a regional or local rollout of a service. Such an exercise reveals the true economics of the business and can help enormously in determining how much money the new venture actually requires and in what stages. Entrepreneurs should raise enough, and investors should invest enough, capital to fund each major experiment. Ex¬periments, of course, can feel expensive and risky. But I've seen them prevent disasters and help create successes. I consider it a prerequisite of putting to¬gether a winning deal.

Beware the Albatross
Among the many sins committed by business plan writers is arrogance. In today's economy, few ideas are truly proprietary. Moreover, there has never been a time in recorded history when the sup¬ply of capital did not outrace the supply of opportu¬nity. The true half-life of opportunity is decreasing with the passage of time.

A business plan must not be an albatross that hangs around the neck of the entrepreneurial team, dragging it into oblivion. Instead, a business plan must be a call for action, one that recognizes man¬agement's responsibility to fix what is broken proactively and in real time. Risk is inevitable, avoiding risk impossible. Risk management is the key, always tilting the venture in favor of reward and away from risk.

A plan must demonstrate mastery of the entire entrepreneurial process, from identification of op¬portunity to harvest. It is not a way to separate un¬suspecting investors from their money by hiding the fatal flaw. For in the final analysis, the only one being fooled is the entrepreneur.

We live today in the golden age of entrepreneur-ship. Although Fortune 500 companies have shed 5 million jobs in the past 20 years, the overall econ¬omy has added almost 30 million. Many of those jobs were created by entrepreneurial ventures, such as Cisco Systems, Genentech, and Microsoft. Each of those companies started with a business plan. Is that why they succeeded? There is no knowing for sure. But there is little doubt that crafting a busi¬ness plan so that it thoroughly and candidly ad¬dresses the ingredients of success-people, opportu¬nity, context, and the risk/reward picture-is vitally important. In the absence of a crystal ball, in fact, a business plan built of the right information and analysis can only be called indispensable.

Visualizing Risk and Reward

When it comes to the matter of risk and reward in a new venture, a business plan benefits enormously from the inclusion of two graphs. Perhaps graphs is the wrong word; these are really just schematic pictures that illustrate the most likely relationship between risk and reward, that is, the relationship between the opportunity and its economics. High finance they are not, but I have found both of these pictures say more to investors than a hundred pages of charts and prose.

The first picture depicts the amount of money need¬ed to launch the new venture, time to positive cash flow, and the expected magnitude of the payoff.


This image helps the investor understand the depth and duration of negative cash flow, as well as the rela¬tionship between the investment and the possible re¬turn. The ideal, needless to say, is to have cash flow early and often. But most investors are intrigued by the picture even when the cash outflow is high and long-as long as the cash inflow is more so.

Of course, since the world of new ventures is popu¬lated by wild-eyed optimists, you might expect the picture to display a shallower hole and a steeper re¬ward slope than it should. It usually does. But to be honest, even that kind of picture belongs in the busi¬ness plan because it is a fair warning to investors that the new venture's team is completely out of touch with reality and should be avoided at all costs.



The second picture complements the first. It shows investors the range of possible returns and the likelihood of achieving them. The following example shows investors that there is a 15% chance they would have been better off using their money as wall¬paper. The flat section reveals that there is a negligible chance of losing only a small amount of money; com¬panies either fail big or create enough value to achieve a positive return. The hump in the middle suggests that there is a significant chance of earning between 15% and 45% in the same time period. And finally, there is a small chance that the initial outlay of cash will spawn a 200% internal rate of return, which might have occurred if you had happened to invest in Microsoft when it was a private company.

Basically, this picture helps investors determine what class of investment the business plan is pre¬senting. Is the new venture drilling for North Sea oil-highly risky with potentially big payoffs - or is it digging development wells in Texas, which happens to be less of a geological gamble and probably less lucrative, too? This image answers that kind of ques¬tion. It's then up to the investors to decide how much risk they want to live with against what kind of odds.

Again, the people who write business plans might be inclined to skew the picture to make it look as if the probability of a significant return is downright huge and the possibility of loss is negligible. And, again, I would say therein lies the picture's beauty. What it claims, checked against the investor's sense of reality and experience, should serve as a simple pictorial caveat emptor.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us