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About Philippa Kennealy

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
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Thursday
Jan112007

How to make powerful pitches for your entrepreneurial ideas

1-11-07communication.jpgI received a thought-provoking email this week from an aspiring physician intrapreneur (someone who seeks to undertake entrepreneurial activities inside an organization or larger business), that read:

"I’m looking to start a new business line in my existing organization. The start-up costs are nominal (less than $200k), but the line is specific to my specialty. Since I’m the only one in the organization with the specialty, I have to convince the “powers that be” of the worthiness of the endeavor. I’m fairly certain I will be successful at it, but I’m always in the market for salesmanship tips to help my presentation."

This inquiry got my marketing juices going, because I now understand that an idea gets traction NOT necessarily because of its inherent worthiness, but because it is presented in such a way as to conclusively answer the basic question of "What's In It For Me/Us?" (also called the WIIFM/U question)

In the Fast Company online magazine issue of June 2004, Seth Godin (one of my delightfully contrarian marketing heroes) wrote an article called The Best Things in Life are Free in which he says the following, on the topic of persuading the higher-ups about the merits of your idea or product (I've excerpted one main point and added my own emphasis):

My Boss Won't Let Me! (How To Make Something Happen)

If you decide you want to make something great, more often than not your organization will follow you. And if it doesn't, there are a hundred organizations waiting for you that will. I call the person who makes an innovation happen a champion. And without a champion, nothing happens.

My goal is to sell you on your ability to champion an innovation in your organization. And then to do it again. No free prize lasts forever, which is why it's essential that we get better at making new ones.

Guess what? There's no correlation between how good your idea is and how likely your organization will be to embrace it. None. It's not about good ideas. It's about selling those ideas and making them happen. If you're failing to get things done, it's not because your ideas suck. It's because you don't know how to sell them.......

Without a champion navigating these obstacles, most projects will slow down and eventually stop. Someone who cares too little won't put in the effort to overcome the obstacles; she'll give up and walk away. The forces of mediocrity will band together to water down your innovation. They'll try to make it more popular, easier to understand, easier to build, easier to fit within the existing retail/factory/media business model. Well-meaning folks will water down your edgy idea into something safer, without realizing that their contribution makes the idea riskier. (Riskier? Yes, because now it's less remarkable.)

Champions turn "no" into "yes." Champions understand that the internal sales process is at least as important as the idea itself. Champions are able to bring together all of the elements they need to turn a soft innovation into a free prize, creating a remarkable product that reaches the market and potentially transforms an industry......

To get leverage from your organization, you'll need its willing help. Regardless of what you do and whom you do it with, the steps to generating leverage remain the same. As people consider your idea, they will ask themselves three questions:

Is it going to be successful?
Is it worth doing?
Is this person able to champion the project?

If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding no, it's unlikely your project will happen. Understanding how the three pieces fit together and what to do about them is a big part of choosing the right project and getting it done. Remember, these people don't care one bit about what your answers to these three questions might be. What matters is what they think the answers are, based on the evidence you give them.

If you think you're stuck because "my boss won't let me," what's really happening is that she has decided that the answer to at least one of these three questions is no.

The goal is to go through the steps necessary for your colleagues to believe (because they want to believe). It's an emotional ticket you need stamped, not an intellectual one. Here's a partial grab bag of tactics that will work some of the time for some champions:

Ask questions, don't give answers. Please don't think you have to know all the answers. You don't. You just need the posture of a champion and the guts to ask hard questions. My first real job involved informally managing 40 world-class software engineers in a bet-the-company launch of five major new software products. Everyone knew that I couldn't possibly have a point of view when it came to engineering issues, so they were happy to have me kibitz. I spent my entire day going from one team to another, asking questions.

Ask obligating questions. Generally, it's a bad idea to answer objections. If you spend all your time answering one objection after another, sooner or later the people you're selling to will find an objection you can't answer. Better to answer the objection with a question. Keep working your way backward until you uncover the actual problem--not the symptom of the problem.

Then, before you try to answer the objection associated with the real problem, take two more shots. First ask, "If we can solve this problem, can you see any other reason not to move ahead?" This obligates the person to speak up or put up. It means that the objection you're going to tackle is the real problem, not a stalling tactic. Second, work to get them on your side. "If I could convince you that solving this problem was really important, how would YOU do it?" (get the potential objectors to become co-conspirators instead - part of the solution!)

Build a prototype. The first time you see Reebok Travel Trainers, or the Segway, or the iPod, or the Nokia music phone, you "get it." But until you see it and hold it, it's merely a concept, a flaky idea, something that may (or may not) happen. A prototype makes it concrete. To hold it makes it possible, makes it likely, and reinforces your role as the champion, the owner of the vision.

Prototypes also help us get over our desire to make it perfect before we start. If it's easy to make one prototype, it's easy to make a hundred. Each prototype gets better, more useful, more real.

Walk into a meeting with a key power broker. Announce you have a prototype in your case. That's all she wants to see. Now you have her. Take your time. Lay out the vision. Then let her hold it. Put it on her desk. Leave it on her desk!

As the days go by, people will pass by her desk, see the prototype, and ask about it. As each person gets more and more excited about this cool innovation, word spreads. It becomes a reality. All that's left is to actually make it.

  • What questions should this physician be asking PRIOR to making the convincing case for the new service?
  • What might a "prototype" of a new service line or business look like in a healthcare setting? In what creative ways could he "represent" the new idea?

One great resource I turn to for the specifics of creating top-notch compelling and cool presentations (the actual events that are designed to illustrate and back-up your argument and claims) is the blog Presentation Zen written by the ever so stylish Garr Reynolds. He writes blog posts such as Presentations and The Law of Simplicity and From Design to Meaning: A Whole New Way of Presenting.

Finally, I'm in the middle of a new book by Dan and Chip Heath, called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, which is rich in ideas and techniques for making your ideas and concepts unforgettable (the six key principles are Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions and Stories). I'll blog about what I've discovered once I've finished reading the book. I am also convinced that this book will develop the stature of The Tipping Point, Blink and A Whole New Mind!! I know it's THAT kind of book when I have it at my bedside, instead of a novel, and I can't wait to get to it for some fun pre-snooze reading.

Tuesday
Jan092007

Ten Entrepreneurial Adventures for Physicians for 2007

1-9-07safari.jpg

One of my personal core values is Adventure/"the wilds"/unraveling mystery. This means that I thrive on not knowing what each day has in store for me, imagining all kinds of possibilities, and of feeling both stimulated and slightly apprehensive.

As most of us tend to do, I reflected on the good, the bad and the indifferent events of last year. I also spent time thinking about each coaching client I am currently working with - what he or she is engaged in. And it struck me that each one is willingly undertaking an adventure! 

In my January newsletter article, I have listed ten of the adventures that they're either in the midst of or are embarking upon this year.

They are not engaging in their first triathlon, going back to school for an MBA, or taking an African safari. At least as far as we yet know!

In place of pith helmets, cameras and binoculars, they are equipping themselves with curiosity, the desire to learn, and the willingness to break routines. 

Here is the list of their top ten adventures. They are:

  1. No longer tolerating the nonsense. Instead they're speaking up for what they want.
  2. Discovering what the people they serve REALLY want.
  3. Loosening up on that old identity
  4. Getting to know their own value.
  5. Getting serious about their hobby.
  6. Getting uncomfortable
  7. Getting tech savvy
  8. Discovering a treasure box of resources to support them out there.
  9. Thinking MUCH bigger.
  10. Thinking smaller but don’t lose sight of the prize.

Read the full article here.

What adventures are you planning for yourself this year? I'd love to hear more about them!

Sunday
Jan072007

What lessons did your newpaper route teach you about entrepreneurship?

10-31-06helpinghand.jpg

Business Intelligence Lowdown has browsed the childhood experiences of a number of successful entrepreneurs and extrapolated from their stories some common themes about the lessons they learned as young children "from the lemonade stand". Even though most of the lessons are common sense, they bear repeating. After all, it IS the season for starting afresh with the best intentions.

The 101 lessons are categorized as:

  • Self before service is the key here – Manage yourself first…
  • Time and tide wait for no man – Manage each moment …
  • The human side of resources - Master the art of managing men…
  • Make every penny count - Managing money pays…
  • Just do it – Managing tasks takes talent…
  • Sourcing sources – Manage resources resourcefully…
  • They are the reason your business exists – Manage customers confidently…
  • Change is inevitable - Manage critical and chaotic crises…
  • Aims and aspirations - Manage objectives objectively…

Here are a few of my favorites:

3. Ignore the naysayers. Remember the story of the frogs in the well? If you don’t…Two frogs fell into a dry well and the other frogs took it for granted that they would die in there. When both attempted to jump their way out, the frogs outside discouraged from expending their energy on a hopeless task. Listening to them, one frog gave up his attempts. But the other made it out through his determination and single-mindedness. When asked how he made it in spite of the negative attitude of his fellow frogs, the survivor replied that he was deaf, and that he had thought the other frogs were cheering him on as he tried to get out of the well. Shows what a profound effect a positive outlook can have.

34. Keep your eyes and ears attuned to the sight and sound of creative and innovative ideas; you never know when the mail-room boy might have a brainwave that could revolutionize the way you conduct your business.

57. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish – save costs where they matter the most. Look at the far horizon rather than just the immediate savings realized. When you compromise on the quality of tools and resources used, you end up paying more in the long run. 

58. A dollar saved is a dollar earned – spend only when it’s really necessary.

63. Make quality a top priority, even in the smallest and most insignificant operations. You don’t want to be faced with the snowball effect. Remember the "For the want of a nail" lesson? A whole country is lost because a simple nail was not available in the right place at the right time.

74. Invest in technology, not the latest and most innovative, but the applications and machinery that suit your organization’s needs.

75. Update your tools as and when needed; don’t get stuck with obsolete stuff that’s good only for the junk pile.

77. Impress them (your customers) not just with goods and services, but with value added to your offerings. Differentiate your products from those of your competitors and watch your customers coming back for more.

93. Dream big, think mountains, only then can you achieve at least molehill success.

94. Dreams alone are not enough, you have to work to make them come true. Chart out a course of action that will get you closer to your goal each day.

95. And it’s not sufficient to just plan and strategize, you have to implement your designs. Put that plan into action, it’s the daily grind that matters in the realization of the dream.

96. Know who matters and who does not, and what matters and what does not. Acquaint yourself with the right people who can assist you in achieving your target faster and more effectively.

101. Put in place an R&D plan, encourage innovation and creativity to stay ahead of the demand for newer and better products and services.

Thursday
Jan042007

The Best of "Health Affairs" 2006

HACvrNew.gifBack in my MPH student and then hospital CEO days, I loved reading articles from Health Affairs - I always considered it a thoughtful and intelligent journal, not too erudite or stuffy! Some of the foremost thinkers in healthcare have been published over the years, and have grappled with the apparently insoluble problems of healthcare access, quality and affordability.

I was delighted to discover the Health Affairs Blog recently and signed up right away to receive posts. I don't always have time to read them, but when I do, my thoughts usually go to the place of "Which bright mind will be sparked sufficiently by these articles to use his or her creativity and energy to get us out of our healthcare mess?" 

To celebrate the start of their 25th year of publication, Health Affairs is offering readers the opportunity to read the top 25 articles of 2006 - or at least the most read - for the next two weeks.

I bring this to your attention in the desperate hope that someone out there reading the articles will be hit with a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious) or an idea so innovative and uncomplicated that they will be forced to drop what they are doing right away, and launch a hugely successful entrepreneurial venture to save us from our own ridiculously complex and broken healthcare system!

Any takers?

Wednesday
Jan032007

Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions any more

1-3-07mountainstream.jpgI have found myself unusually resistant to the idea of creating New Year's "resolutions" this year, and it took a conversation with a coaching client today for me to understand my opposition.

There was something dutiful and firm and ...well, resolute .... in her voice as she outlined her resolutions for 2007. The work sounded onerous!

And suddenly it hit me.

A Resolution springs from a place of being at war - of having to conquer and overcome the Self with its inherent "laziness", "ignorance" or inertia. Kind of like expecting a running stream to magically divert itself from a low-resistant course carved over years, and hew a new path against gravity over the top of a rock!

So what word would be a better substitute?

The one I landed on was "intention" with a particular Webster's definition of "clearer formulation or greater deliberateness". I love the idea of greater clarity and of deliberation. What immediately sprang to mind was the image of an intention gently but firmly inserting itself into the flow of my being and my mind and slowly wearing away at the rock of my resistance, allowing change to become an organic process from the inside out. No longer an rough and rigorous intruder, but a welcome light-hearted companion.

It may seem somewhat semantic to be playing with these words, but it's the different sensibility that really appealed to me. Instead of trying to force ourselves into new behaviors, how much more palatable would it be to create mental images of ourselves achieving our desired results, thereby "reprogramming" our brains to develop a higher awareness of how we make choices, or a better recognition of opportunities that might arise to help us succeed? This is what champion athletes do, with their pre-game or pre-event mental rehearsals.

Here then are my intentions for 2007 (and I'm busy rehearsing my experience of getting the desired results while I write!):

  • I intend to help make your path to entrepreneurship as well-informed as I am able.
  • I intend to keep my eyes and ears attuned to your needs, as my physician audience that is hungry to feel engaged, appreciated and creative at work.
  • I intend to continue having a much fun as I can building my business and enjoying my work.
  • I intend to find ways to leverage my use of time, to reach and impact the lives of more people with less effort.
  • I intend to learn as much as I learned in 2006 (which was a LOT), because I love how I feel when I have mastered a new skill.
  • I intend to take even more risks, and act with boldness. 

I'd love to hear your take on Resolutions, and if you have any special Intentions!