Why Acquisitions Fail Before They Even Happen
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2016 by Michael Canic

You're committed to growing your business. While you see opportunities for organic growth, you realize that organic growth alone requires extensive time and effort. So your mind goes to the other option: acquisitions.

Stop. Recognize that many acquisitions fail before they even happen. Not because acquisitions are inherently a bad idea but because we make the wrong acquisitions for the wrong reasons. And don’t give sufficient thought to integrating them.

The first question to ask is: What do you want to acquire and why?

Are you acquiring revenue? Market share? Technology? Assets? Volume? Customers? IP?

A beachhead into a geographic market? Capabilities in a vertical market? A potentially harmful competitor?

Be clear on what, specifically, you want to acquire and why.

The second question to ask is: How do you best integrate the acquisition?

Should you let the acquisition run entirely independent of your existing business? Or should you fully integrate it into your business? Should you integrate the back end of the businesses and keep separate the customer-facing ends?

Give sufficient forethought to answering these questions. Or what you might end up acquiring is grief. And being consumed by what you consume.

Your thoughts?


How to Deal With Pressure
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2016 by Michael Canic

This past weekend Max Verstappen became the youngest ever winner of a Formula 1 auto race. Max is 18. The previous “youngest ever” was 21. Wow.

Racing a 900+ horsepower car on a winding circuit at speeds of over 210 mph seems mighty impressive on its own. But to beat the best drivers in the world, many world champions among them! So how did this young phenom deal with the pressure of holding off drivers who were hot on his heels for the last 20 laps of the race?

“You have pressure to deliver, but it’s positive pressure,” Verstappen coolly answered.

Positive pressure. It’s not just the inherent pressure of a situation; it’s how you deal with that pressure. If you allow anxiety and discomfort to overcome you then pressure will eat you alive. If you embrace pressure as a trigger to perform at your best, then you can win.

Intense competition brings intense pressure. In auto racing, in business, in entertainment, in any field that demands absolute top performance.

The next time you feel pressure … stop. This is your opportunity to excel. To stand out from those who are merely mediocre. Embrace the feeling. Ignite the spark.

Your thoughts?


The #1 Thing That Kills Focus
Posted on Monday, May 9, 2016 by Michael Canic

Sometimes it’s external factors. Sometimes it’s self-created. Yet every time, it keeps you from pursuing your goals.

Distractibility. Your susceptibility to getting distracted.

Staying focused is just as much about what you should avoid as what you should do. So what should you avoid that causes distraction?

1. Clutter
Nothing provides more opportunity for distraction than a work environment that is cluttered. Clutter is a function of the volume of stuff and how disorganized that stuff is.

2. Connection Obsession
Let’s be honest: Constant monitoring and responding to electronic notifications isn’t a necessity. It’s an obsession. Responding to every buzz, beep and flash doesn’t make you productive. It makes you Pavlov’s dog.

3. Multi-tasking
It’s now clear that the supposed benefits of multitasking are an illusion. Multitasking is half-assing. Mono-tasking allows you to process at a deeper level with richer results.

4. Excess Access
Sure, you want to be a leader who is accessible, who people feel comfortable coming to at any time. All well-intended. And the reality is you can’t be a strategic leader and be on a leash 24/7. You need dedicated time to think and act. Sometimes, you need a closed door.

To be clear, by distractibility I’m not referring to rest breaks, blowing off steam, or punctuating the day with some fun. Those can be intentional. I’m referring to the times we intend to be working yet still get distracted.

So take charge. Wage war against the enemies of focus. They’re coming for you every day.

Your thoughts?


3 Strange Thoughts Every Leader Should Think
Posted on Monday, May 2, 2016 by Michael Canic

There’s no shortage of conventional wisdom about what leaders should do. Here’s some unconventional wisdom:

1) Encourage People to Disagree

Every team is subject to “groupthink” – the tendency to discourage divergent thinking and to make decisions that are mutually reinforcing. Why? Everyone wants to be seen as a “team player”, as supportive.

Yet secure leaders don’t want to be surrounded by “yes-men” and “yes-women”. They want to be challenged by people who can think.

Attacking ideas can make them stronger. Present an idea and then encourage your team to poke holes in it. What am I missing? How could this fail? In what situations wouldn’t this apply? Position your idea simply as a draft. Better to identify flaws sooner than later.

2) Don’t Focus on Employee Retention

Top performers will leave your organization and for good reasons – family, health, personal ambition. Those are beyond your control. Sure, you want to retain top performers. But that’s not where your focus should be.

Focus on selecting, engaging and developing the right talent – the process of talent management. Not only will you build a motivated and high-performing workforce, but the people who do leave will become your promoters (which is when your Alumni Program should kick in … but that’s a topic for another blog).

3) Don’t Try to Get Everyone On-Board

I’ve heard the question asked time and time again when companies implement strategic change initiatives. How do we get the naysayers on-board?

Don’t focus on the naysayers! When you devote your energy to them you neglect the passionate proponents who need your support. Focus on supporting those proponents. Celebrate and promote their successes. That will create the pull for those who were on the fence. And the naysayers? Now they need to get with the program. Or be encouraged to explore their career options.

Your thoughts?


Why Every Leader Should Suffer
Posted on Monday, Apr 25, 2016 by Michael Canic

Excellence. In any field of endeavor, excellence requires intense commitment. To go beyond the comfortable, go beyond the convenient. To sacrifice, to push one’s limits.

To suffer.

For a distance runner, it’s the legs and lungs screaming pain. For a mountaineer, it’s the shattering cold and crushing fatigue. For an entrepreneur, it’s the endless hours, constant financial pressure, and maddening uncertainty.

Oddly, many who excel don’t simply endure the suffering, they are drawn to it. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, first to the South Pole, referring to the explorers who had gone before him said, “A strange ambition burned within me to endure those same sufferings.”

Why suffer? Because it takes us to the far reaches of self-definition. It reinforces our image of who we are or who we want to be. It sets us apart from the pack. It makes us stronger. It allows us that rare opportunity to seize the prize.

You say you are committed. But are you willing to pay the price of commitment? People with lesser capabilities and fewer opportunities have achieved greater things than you. Why? Commitment.

How hard are you willing to push? How much are you willing to suffer?

Your thoughts?


Why Winning Teams (and Businesses) Play Offense and Defense
Posted on Monday, Apr 18, 2016 by Michael Canic

It’s the same in every team sport. If you effectively attack but can’t defend, you won’t win. And if you vigorously defend but can’t attack, you won’t win.

It’s just as true in business. Either-or won’t do it. You have to be able to attack and defend.

What does that look like?

Ask “How do we succeed?” and “How could we fail?” Be sensitive to market opportunities and be alert to competitive threats. Identify and institute best practices. And seek out and eliminate worst practices. For the things you can’t control, ask, “How do we exploit the positives?” and “How do we mitigate the negatives?”

Achieving success is not the same as avoiding failure. There are two sides to the game of business: offense and defense. If you want to win, you need to play both.

Your thoughts?


Why Business Will Become More Like Athletics
Posted on Monday, Apr 11, 2016 by Michael Canic

There are few environments as intensely focused on performance, and the factors that drive performance, as the world of athletics.

The unforgiving spotlight on winning and losing, extraordinary pay, and powerful psychological rewards all feed the drive to attain faster, higher, stronger … better.

Invariably, there is a trickle-down to business. The statistical analysis of performance – think of average call times in a call center operation – has been part of baseball for well over 100 years. Video analysis, used for sales and communications training, has been a standard practice in football for over 60 years. And many technology innovations, such as anti-lock breaking and traction control in cars, had their origins in Formula 1 auto racing.

If you want to see the future of performance in business, you might look at athletic practices today.

Practices such as equipping athletes with sensors to gauge work rate, energy expenditure, and movement efficiency (soccer). Designing athlete-specific programs for sleep, hydration and nutrition (track and field). Training cognitive skills to improve perception and decision-making (football).

What does it mean for business? Imagine, for example, a world in which technology tracks employees’ alertness, triggers breaks for nutrition and fluids, and automatically adjusts the work environment – light intensity, sound, table height, seat orientation – to maximize focus. What do you think that would do for performance?

The next time you kick back to watch your favorite team and the announcer starts talking about what the team is doing to improve performance, ask yourself: How can I apply this to my team, my business? How can I apply this to improve performance?

Your thoughts?


The Secret to How the Great Sustain Greatness
Posted on Monday, Apr 4, 2016 by Michael Canic

“Play ball!”

Yes, baseball season is now upon us and that familiar game-opening refrain will be heard in stadiums near and far.

Which got me thinking about great players, which got me thinking about how great players remain great, which got me thinking about Satchel Paige.

Paige, of course, was one of the outstanding pitchers of yesteryear, an icon of the old Negro Leagues who at the advanced age of 42 made his Major League debut. From which point he continued to throw smoke and embarrass batters for years.

And to what did Paige attribute his enduring success?

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

Which got me thinking about Lionel Messi – who may be the best soccer player ever – and what a reporter close to the Argentine phenomenon once said,

“Messi is so self-demanding. He has achieved everything but he never relaxes, he always looks ahead, never back.”

Which got me thinking about when Kobe Bryant, preparing for the 2012 Olympics, woke up a trainer at 3:30 in the morning to help condition him for two hours. After which Bryant continued practicing on his own, until the official team practice started at 11, just so he could make 800 jump shots!

It’s more than just talent. It’s more than simply wanting to be the best. It’s the insatiable drive, regardless of how good one is, to get stronger, to continually improve, and to find out just how good one can possibly be.

It’s forward focus and it’s commitment.

Your thoughts?


Andy Grove – In Praise of Paranoia
Posted on Monday, Mar 28, 2016 by Michael Canic

He may have started it. With the release of his 1999 book, Only the Paranoid Survive, Andy Grove may have triggered the now widespread view that paranoia is an essential part of a leader’s mindset. A paranoia that drives leaders to actively anticipate and rapidly respond to the strategic inflection points that characterize every industry.

The enduring legacy of the former Intel CEO, who passed away last week, is that this mindset is now reflected in leaders and businesses that endure.

When Fortune did a feature article on Goldman Sachs, the subtitle revealed, “The biggest surprise of all? The paranoia that keeps driving (them) to the top.” An HBR article noted that, “Toyota grows steadily, yet it is a paranoid company.” In their book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen wrote that a key trait of companies that produce dramatic results is their “productive paranoia.”

Cultivate paranoia. Not a paralyzing paranoia, or an irrational paranoia of everyone and everything. But a constantly scanning paranoia that senses change, evaluates implications, and triggers action.

Cultivate a healthy paranoia.

Your thoughts?


Why Mastering Your Business Isn’t Enough
Posted on Monday, Mar 21, 2016 by Michael Canic

If your goal is to outcompete the Hiltons and the Marriotts, offer more room-nights than anyone in the world, then you’d better be expert at buying and developing real estate. Common sense. Until Airbnb came along.

Who would be crazy enough to take on Walmart? When it comes to cost and supply chain management, they’ve got it nailed. Who would be crazy enough? Amazon.

If you want to become the world’s largest car service then you’d better have a fleet of vehicles that matches up with Hertz and Avis. Obviously. Or not, if you’re Uber.

In the game of business it’s no longer enough to simply think faster, better, cheaper. You need to think different. It’s not just about the business, it’s about the business model.

You’re expert in your industry. You know it as well as anyone. Your industry as it is. Not your industry as it will be. You could master the game but if someone else changes it then you’re playing the wrong game.

Don’t just think business. Think business model.

Your thoughts?



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Why Acquisitions Fail Before They Even Happen
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