Friday, June 29, 2012

Intrapreneurs: The New Entrepreneurs?

By Nelson Davis

Recently, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company invited me to lunch at a very nice private club in Los Angeles to pose a rather interesting business question. After hearing me give a speech on the subject of small and big businesses helping each other, he wanted to explore how that entrepreneurial energy could be harnessed inside a multi-billion dollar company. That question was a thought provoking challenge to which lunch became the side dish! I've long felt that companies of all sizes need to have that can-do spirit at every level to survive, adapt and grow. Founders of businesses usually have it, but I say that reaching the peak and staying there requires employees that can show that sparkling and spunky side of themselves as well. The word I've adopted to describe this phenomenon is "intrapreneur."

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Simple is Hard: Create Your Rally Cry

By David Casullo

Simple is hard. That’s the great irony of communication. The most powerful messages are the simplest . . . and the most difficult to construct. 

Too often, leaders get lost in language. Good leaders know their business and are passionate about their goals and vision, this can make them quick to launch into a rapid-fire outburst of words. They are teeming with energy; they just don’t know how to focus it like a laser. Meanwhile, listeners become glassy eyed…their impatience turns to disengagement. 

Your goal is to construct a simple message that speaks to the heart of the recipient. 

You can’t do this if your message is packed with words, concepts, and details that overwhelm the mind and numb the emotions of the recipient. In today’s digital age, people don’t have time for elaborate explanations. 

Your message must be simple. It needs to answer the question, “So what is different about you?” Your message also has to answer this question in the receiver’s mind by tying the strategic heartbeat of your company to her own heartbeat. Your powerful message will marshal action from those who hear or read it, prompting them to act to drive the business forward. And this goes for people outside the company as well as inside. 

The best messages are the ones that stick with us:

“The happiest place on earth.” Disneyland

“Think Different.” Apple

“There’s always room for Jell-O” Jell-O

“Just Do It.” Nike

These aren’t just messages, they’re rally cries. 

There is a great deal of power packed into these little phrases—and many are more clever than you might think at first glance. For instance, Apple’s “Think Different” telegraphs the idea that the company is defining itself as an alternative to IBM, whose motto was “Think.” 

The Jell-O Rally Cry sounds like child’s play, but it actually has a double meaning. To the average consumer, it captures the idea that Jell-O is a light dessert that you’ll have room for after any meal . . . and yet it also was devised as a direct message to supermarkets: There’s always room to fit those little boxes of Jell-O into whatever shelf space you have available. The phrase served Kraft as a powerful merchandising tool. 

But what do the most powerful messages do to serve their companies? 

Whenever I hear or read “Just Do It,” my competitive nature is energized. As a former athlete, I find that the phrase conjures up the powerful emotions that I felt when competing. Somehow, my mind makes the transition to Nike, and I am compelled to consider the company’s merchandise for whatever I may be doing in the realm of exercise and sports. I associate the brand with my own desire to win. Those three simple words speak to my emotions. They penetrate my heart and soul and serve to associate what’s inside me with the essence of the Nike brand. 

The Rally Cry

These simple Rally Cries capture the heartbeats of their companies while serving as cries for everyone who hears or reads them. Now step back and reflect. To be similarly powerful, your Rally Cry must capture the special nature of what makes your company unique.  
The Three Rules of the Rally Cry
There are three rules that are essential and must be followed when crafting a simple, powerful Rally Cry: 

Rule #1. It must be your own. Your Rally Cry has to be genuine, when people hear it, they must feel like it’s coming from a real person. 

Rule #2. It must be laser accurate. Your Rally Cry needs to ring true in the ears of your employees, customers, vendors, and investors. 

Rule #3. It must answer the question, “What is different about your company?” Your Rally Cry has to speak to the single most defining and differentiating truth about your company. It must tie directly to the strategic heartbeat of your company.

Make no mistake. This is not a gimmick, nor is it primarily a marketing or PR tool—although when it’s right, it has great value for both those purposes. This is a communication tool first, and a very powerful one because it is charged with the energy of your personal truths. This is the core message that everything else you will communicate builds on. It will remind everyone of the purpose and core truth of the company as embodied by you, the leader.

David Casullo is president at Bates Communications, a national consulting firm specializing in leadership communication skills and strategy. His passion is developing leaders who have the courage and capability to change the world. His most recent book, “Leading the High-Energy Culture,” has just been published by McGraw-Hill. Dave can be reached at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Communication: So What?

By David Casullo

Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, is one of the hottest CEOs on the planet. He turned around the floundering Ford Motor Company and led his company out of the recession faster, better, and more successfully than either GM or Chrysler did. Under his leadership, Ford was able to avoid government bailout capital, refocus on the core Ford brands, and reengineer production to manufacture its Eco-Boost high-performance engines. 

Mulally is also a skillful communicator, and he used his open communication style to marshal the actions of his employees. In just five years, Ford turned from near insolvency to a profit of $6.6 billion in 2010. 

Mulally is an engineer, and his communication style by nature is technical.  So what?   Well, for one thing, he has mastered speaking to his audience’s minds and hearts using the art of storytelling. In fact, Mulally is a student of persuasive communication since childhood, when he sat up front in church because he admired his minister and sought to understand what made him such an effective speaker.

At the Detroit Athletic Club, where he accepted the Automotive Executive of the Year award, he told the story of his first day at Ford. He was walking through the executive parking lot and noticed there were only Jaguars, Land Rovers, and Aston Martins in the parking spots. All foreign brands owned by Ford, but no Fords were anywhere to be seen. “The case seemed clear,” he said to the audience. “If Ford brass won’t drive Fords, who will?” This endeared him to the audience, which was located in the heart and soul of America’s auto manufacturing industry. Mulally gets the power of communication and uses his competence to drive business results. 

To connect what is inside us to what is inside others, we are limited to one means—the art of communication.

Become the Master
Let’s dissect this and study it more deeply. Fundamentally, a business, communication is the means by which two or more parties connect. Think of the art of communication in this setting as you would with learning any other skill. 

Just like with skiing, or painting, or perfecting your tennis serve, take it one step at a time. My wife is a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do. When she was just beginning to learn the art, she was taught the most basic elements that are essential to master first: how to make a fist, how to punch and kick properly, and how to protect herself from injury. Mastering these fundamentals was the goal of the first belt level. Of course, before even beginning to learn these fundamentals, there was a level of commitment as well as a set of basic physical and mental requirements that she must demonstrate as the price of entry. 

Similarly, communication skills at the leadership level involve specific capabilities at each level of expertise. At the lowest level are skills and behaviors that are the price of entry for leaders. For instance, leaders must have excellent written and oral skills. I am always taken aback by the way some leaders choose to express themselves, just a few carelessly written or ill-spoken words  can devalue your leadership brand to anyone on the receiving end. Poor written and oral communication skills will definitely keep you out of the top echelon of the best leaders. So if that is where you strive to reside, then start here. Isn’t it interesting how often we see the imperative “excellent written and verbal skills” in recruiting ads for executive-level candidates? 

Assuming you have these entry-level skills, then the next step would be learning presentation skills: the basics of understanding the members of your audience, connecting with what’s on their mind, and identifying your Big Idea. Creating a presentation that engages the audience, hitting the key points accurately and succinctly, and delivering it consistent with your personal leadership brand is a “first-level” skill for leaders intent on mastering communication. From there you can continue to work, honing new skills like projecting authenticity and passion, winning trust from your audience, telling a great story, and inspiring people to action. 

Bottom line—and I do mean quite literally the bottom line—it’s your ability to communicate that has the greatest impact on engagement. In the organizational symphony, your voice is a powerful instrument that can inspire energy and emotion in your listeners. So what?  So, communicate meaning, not just information, and see what power your words truly have to create the economic results you seek. 

David Casullo is president at Bates Communications, a national consulting firm specializing in leadership communication skills and strategy. His passion is developing leaders who have the courage and capability to change the world. His most recent book, “Leading the High-Energy Culture,” has just been published by McGraw-Hill. Dave can be reached at

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting Ahead of the Game Federal Market Intelligence

You don’t know what you don’t know, and the learning curve can be a killer when you need and want federal business now. Here are a few things you may wish to know before you get started down that road of federal contracting.

Federal Market Intelligence:
Understanding which agencies use your products and services is helpful, but knowing who does the buying and the vendors they are currently using gives you the competitive edge.
  • Who your potential “best agency” customers are and where they are located
  • How much those customers spend and the number of solicitations they issue
  • What their procurement method of choice is
  • What the total potential federal market is for your products and services
  • In-depth agency analysis including mission overview, organization structure, and contact information
Competitive Analysis:
Who are your closest contracting competitors, and how do you stack up against them? Which buying offices are they visiting, and who are they calling? Which contracts are they bidding on and, more importantly, which are they winning? Full competitive analysis requires that you know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses as well as their business growth patterns and selling strategies.

SWOT Analysis:
Knowing yourself is the key to knowing your competitors. You can reduce or eliminate your competition with a better understanding of what you do well and what opportunities suit your unique capabilities. By conducting a SWOT analysis, the current position of your organization’s infrastructure will be examined and recommendations in the form of a action plan is developed to enhance strengths and minimize weaknesses. A threats and opportunities inventory allows for situational awareness and quick decision-making within the broad context of your government activities rather than case-by-case or bid-by-bid.

Marketing Material Analysis:
You’ve heard it said that the government speaks a language all its own. That’s true, But it also responds to marketing messages written in that language. If you have government-targeted marketing materials make sure your Government-focused image and brand will resonate with your customer, build credibility, and help differentiate you from your competitors.

Government Procurement Business Plan:
Full spectrum research on all government contracting aspects is vital to not only map, but support your procurement activities. A comprehensive 12- month goal - oriented plan for targeting and winning government bids should be established to ensure successful market entry .

Bid Analysis Tool:
The cost of bidding on unwinnable proposals can cripple any organization. Before dedicating precious time, money, and man-hours you should have in place a bid/no bid decision tree. The result is a systematic, replicable, and effective approach to bid analysis that decreases proposal costs, increases revenue, and improves win ratios.

Proposal Generation:
Just remember the government wants to work with contractors who solve problems and fulfill missions. There are a lot of things you'll need to do and everyone's path is different, built on the knowledge, and resources you already have. The one thing that you can be sure of is that if you have'nt done this before, you're going to succeed faster and ultimately more cost effective with the right mix of good help.

You may contact Sean at 201-916-9799 or at or

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What the Transportation Investment Act could do for Black Community Economic Development

The Transportation Investment Act (TIA) is the perfect opportunity for Black businesses to reposition themselves from being seen as "wards of the city" and/or worse enterprises that take from the system--to businesses that make an economic contribution and support community development.

The Black community deserves community development over the life of this tax not just transportation because we got transportation that is not the need of the Black community!! We need individual and collective opportunities and community improvements. Black businesses are the tools to execute that opportunity and help to make those improvements.

To describe this new position is simple--Black businesses are economic assets and chief proponents for Black community economic development. As Dr. Danny Boston, president of EuQuant most recently said: "One of the most effective strategies for reducing Black unemployment is to support black-owned businesses. This is because two out of every three workers employed by those businesses are Black. In fact, Black businesses can achieve employment outcomes that economic growth policy cannot."

Black-owned businesses operate in neighborhoods that are 44% Black and 35% of them operate in high poverty areas. Currently, Black-owned businesses in Metro Atlanta employ more than 52,000 persons and stimulate the employment of an additional 166,000 persons.

These businesses are necessary to provide for and continue the development of the Black community. Black businesses bring a Community Return on Investment through job creation, taxes, benefits, etc. We are in fact, the employer of last resort for some in our communities because we do hire people, for assorted reasons, with less than perfect credentials and support organizations that do not measure up to United Way standards.

It is in the best interests of those who profess to be the leaders of the community, to incorporate and utilize the Black business community to help overcome a number of the other community issues related to the transportation concerns, namely: housing, good salaries, public safety, education, and community pride!

Therefore, we all need to stop asking for and referring to contracts as a hand out to overcome past discrimination practices and form a partnership with both sides being recognized and valued. Let's lose it's the right thing to do and other references to the benevolence of social conscience. Local Black communities need its enterprises to be successful in order for TIA to reach its full potential! Therefore, TIA needs to utilize Black businesses "by design".

TIA will most likely recognize some type of plan to include minority contracting and employment training. However, without an agreement for the long range benefit for our community and a method to achieve it we will be in the same position we were before the tax. If there is a dependency factor it is that the Black community has, and still does, rely heavily on external funds for support. If the current "leaders" hold true to historical paths, they will enthusiastically accommodate --external funds through contracting and employment training. With these external funds, from contracts, Black businesses can in-turn increase their involvements and support for the economic improvement of their communities. Additionally, through this economic imperative partnership with the larger community the businesses will grow and hire more people. In effect, this partnership would "charge-the-pump" for designing a strategy for a more sustainable Black community over time and for bringing benefit to the entire metro area.

Using the simple economic theory that every dollar spent with Black business has greater potential for circulation within the Black community than whose businesses lie outside of it. It becomes obvious that what we need to cause with a TIA partnership are the economic actions that occur when the dollar changes from hand to hand in the Black community. That circulation offers the potential for other aspects of the Black community to create jobs not just the businesses. Research has shown that every $1M spent with Black businesses creates 10 jobs with 6 going to Blacks. If, for example, 5% more were spent with Black businesses within the region they would create approx. 24,000 jobs with approximately 16,000 of the employees being Black. Also, Black people give proportionately more of their resources to charity than other groups. And Black non-profits, in-turn, also employ people while sharing their gifts and graces. These two efforts alone turn the dollar over more than once in the Black community and cause the stimulation of other economic activities. Now that is community economic development!

"Uncle Joe" Hudson
Your unabased supporter of Black business.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Keeping Your Customers Safe on Your Site

Is your web environment secure? All of it?
By David Maman, CTO of GreenSQL

Many people believe that if they’ve installed a network firewall, they’ve done their duty. They think that a firewall is like a strong barrier or moat protecting their information assets and that no more is needed.Wrong!

Just as in times of old, tunnels can be dug under the moat, ladders can be used to scale the wall, and secret passageways can be found into the castle.

Here are a few facts for you to consider:
1. Identity theft affects more than 11.4 million Americans annually, according to a report from Javelin Strategy & Research.
2. Many of the largest companies worldwide have been exposed to SQL injection attacks, such as Sony, Citibank, and Amazon.
3. Internet commerce is more secure than the average mall store.
4. Chances are that your home computers have already been compromised by some sort of malware, says Dasient.

The Web Environment
A web environment has four layers that need protection: The network level, the application level, the operating system level and the database level. Most people think of these layers as being one within the other, like concentric circles. They reason that if they protect the outermost level, the inner levels are automatically protected.

However, hackers can attack a Web environment at each level independently, and security issues at each level need to be addressed.At the network level, a simple network level firewall does protect the infrastructure (access to which IP addresses, using which ports, and sometime using which protocols) but provides very limited protection, if any, to stop attacks at the application and database level.

You may have heard of bank websites having their links or text or pictures changed. Website defacement and other application level attacks take place because someone, at some point in time, wrote sloppy software with security holes. Hackers specialize in using exploits, XSS attacks, SQL injection, and other techniques to attack these vulnerabilities at the code level.

One approach to prevent vulnerabilities is to have a professional code review of the software in use in the Web environment to identify and address coding security issues. Many times, legacy applications are being used, so it’s almost impossible to change anything. Of course, reviews are only as good as the reviewers, and no one should ever review their own code. It’s much too easy to overlook one’s own mistakes.An additional and important approach is to update all the applications in use and to harden your web and database servers. For example, one Oracle update release included 78(!!) security updates.Another option is to use a signature-based approach to spot and then quarantine this kind of attacks. Each application level attack has a “signature” or typical way of operating that identifies it. A comparison of web application firewalls (WAF) shows that some are more effective than others, but none is perfect.

The database level, the fourth essential layer in a web environment, needs protection from attacks directed at the database. In the end, most of today’s common attacks are aimed at retrieving sensitive information from the database via website attacks exploiting database vulnerabilities. This makes the fourth layer the most crucial one.

So, for security, check all four: Network, application, operating system and database. To make sure your information assets are protected, your best bet is to use an integrated database security solution that is non-disruptive to existing software and databases, is easy to install and use, and provides extensive management reporting and audit trails, all without degrading responsiveness to users.

You can find effective security protection at a reasonable price. Just make sure you do your homework. You need network, application, operating system and database security.

David Maman is CTO & Founder of GreenSQL, which offers a unified database security solution (