Monday, March 24, 2014

Mentoring - finding authenticity and mutual benefit for however long it lasts

Mentoring - finding authenticity and mutual benefit for however long it lasts

I have been both a mentor and a mentee and I have had varying degrees of success in both capacities.  As a mentee, I need and as a mentor, I provide support.  This is a simple breakdown but in longterm mentoring relationships there is more blurring of the lines and a weaving in and out of powershifts and support dynamics.  In my preparation for a role as a formal mentor in the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and through expansion of the Invest for the Future Network's own mentoring agenda, I am feeling reflective.

Short-term mentoring relationships - efficient or incompatible

I believe that short-term mentoring relationships can fall into two categories.  The positive ones which exhaust themselves because of their efficiency and the neutral or negative ones due to incompatitibility.  In an efficient scenario, the mentee and the mentor are united to help the mentee through hurdle, obstacle, challenge or general shift in direction.  Once the mentee has found the path, they may feel sufficiently confident in going it alone and do so.  Therefore, the relationship ends not due to any drama but simply because the relationship has run its course.

When I was a teenager and thought about going to college for hospitality my dad found me a mentor.  He owned his own mexican restaurant in NYC and sat with me to discuss the career path and showed me around his own facility and the different departments and staff roles. I could see myself going in this direction and applied to universities that would give me a foundation in business with the opportunity to learn more about service businesses like restaurants.  He helped me make this decision and it was an important step for me but then the relationship served its purpose and was complete.  In other scenarios, as a mentor, I have had thousands of students who I have mentored for projects in courses and when the course has ended so did the relationship.

Long-term relationships - weaving into each others lives

On the other hand, I do count hundreds of former students as my mentees that weave in and out of my life. When they need me they reach out and LinkedIn and Facebook make this all possible.  I get short questions that I need to answer or invitations for casual coffee conversations to full inclusion in life events like wedddings, birth of first child, new job alerts and so on.  Sometimes a mentor is needed to be a witness to validate the mentees choices and direction in life and/or career.

Its not always a conscious decision to choose a mentor/mentee pairing for life but its the interweaving over time that proves the longevity of the relationship.  I met my long-term mentor, LeRoy Neiman at an event.  He was there to sign his book and I wanted to publish a book and told him about it.  He then invited me to his art studio to support my dream.  This occurred in 1992.  We continued to have meetings throughout our lives.  He took an interest in my personal and professional growth.  At the time of our meeting, I was in my 20's and he was in his 70's.  Throughout my career that took me to international destinations, he would be there for me with words of wisdom in person, through letters, phone conversations and each time it would be more special then the last.  Our mentoring relationship lasted until his death in 2012.  The memories of our time together continue to fuel my ambition,drive and the kind of value I want to bring to a mentoring relationship.

Tina Lee Odinsky-Zec and LeRoy Neiman in his studio, 1996.

Tina Lee Odinsky-Zec and Ivan Zec bring Team Eko-Mavrovic to Meet LeRoy in his studio, 2008.

 LeRoy and his magic shoes and wonderous paint covered studio floor, 2008.

Recognition of the value of multiple and multi-faceted mentoring relationships
A successful mentoring relationship benefits both the mentor and the mentee.  When value is exchanged there is mutual respect, collaboration and trust.  I have been able to learn by both being a mentor and a mentee.  When both parties are prepared for the experience and enter it with open minds it can be extremely meaningful for a specific stage in life or business or it can surpass expectations and become a lifelong bond offering support and guidance at regular intervals.  Even in scenarios when the mentoring relationship becomes incompatible due to conflicts in direction or one of the parties simply outgrows the other, there are valuable lessons.  The lessons can be an immediate recognition and an opening of a new relationship with another mentor/mentee or the lesson can emerge overtime.  I am thankful for all the mentors/mentees that have come in and will come into my life as it is richer for those exchanges.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reflecting and Preparing...

From 2013 to 2014 - Turning the Page

Measuring the passage of time can add meaning.  When moving from one year to the next, we look back into what has transpired and what lies ahead.  It seems that there was so much activity in the month of December 2013 and October 2013 that I could hardly find the time to document it here.  I am hoping to be more regular on this blog and launch another one devoted to photography which is one of my favorite past times.

As a quick rundown here are a few lessons related to ideas by month based on where I was and what was taking up my thoughts:

January 2013 - Who knew a mall could be such a great place for an aquarium adventure

Visiting the bathroom can actually be a fun/funny experience 
(one of the deluxe features in a mall WC - Bangkok, Thailand)
Demonstrating how things work always makes it more exciting and draws a crowd 
(weaving scarves in Siem Reap,Cambodia)
February 2013 - Sometimes when you try so hard not to follow the rules and fight against being average, the substance of the course can inspire a song (Entrepreneurship@ZSEM, Zagreb)
Working with the right mentor can move from chaos to cohesiveness very rapidly
(with Paul Stubbs, EIZG, Zagreb)
March 2013 - Kids with parents behave very differently when their parents are not watching, have had sugar, watched a movie and are surrounded by their peers in a non-school setting 
(my sons birthday party @9....note to self: "how did I ever host 3 hour parties in our home?" LOL)

April 2013 - Eggs and all the things you can do with them eating wise and decorating wise are absolutely fascinating.

 Wine enthusiasts and experts have such an extended and nuanced vocabulary...this is not a wine cellar but a wine chapel.

May 2013 - Sketching out someone else's story can reduce it in such a way as to help its core ideas spread in such meaningful and magical ways (Original story: Nino Zambakhidze (Tblisi, Georgia), Retold by me and Illustrated by Helena Habdija = legendary collaboration).

May 2013 - Girls scounts teach some very practical life skills like first aid, basic sewing, preparing for camping and making your own net bags for washing utensils:) (with Troop #8001, AISZ)

June 2013 - Amazing how lighting and plants can add to the ambience and decor and transport a dining experience into a cultural immersion.

This tranquil river scene at night hides the mosquitos that require scifi level citywide spraying to maintain post sunset balance between bugs and human beings. (Osijek, Croatia)


July 2013 - I have been teaching summer school since 2006 and its just a great 3 weeks each summer that I look forward to students having 3 hours each day to devote to one subject and make lifelong friends. (Entrepreneurship and/or CRM at ZSEM, Zagreb)



August 2013 - One person's storage space is another's Ralph Lauren-style setting for a high end fashion shoot. (Sutivan, Brac, Croatia)


September 2013 - The Croatian ritual of sharing conversation and coffee is so therapuetic, I so appreciate enjoying both with eclectic friends like Irena Sophia.



October 2013 - Being a mom, I have had my share of stuffed animals and what to do with them when they have completed their usefulness as toys.  I was always amazed at the furniture I saw people make of them so I tried it myself. (Zagreb, Croatia for Animingles)

November 2013

November 2013 - This year marked the first required prototype for Entrepreneurship class which at once gave a new dimension to students pitching ideas as well as being the inspiration for leaders to rise along with opportunities. (Entrepreneurship@ZSEM)


December 2013 - A student brought me a creative idea they saw on the street...a priest handing out crosses inspired by the pharmaceutical industry packed in neat little boxes with prescription style directions.  Liked the student identifying enteprising examples, but not so sure how to feel about the faith being inspired by drugs to reach youth????
















Thursday, November 28, 2013

Customer for the Pitch Presentation




Typically when someone listens to a performance they are referred to as the audience.  But if you are in the preparation stages of an idea pitch, its good understand the pool of potential audiences at any given moment.  The core foundation of the pitch is knowing your story. Having a clear handle on your own assumptions versus facts so you can easily adapt your script to those before you.  Those potentially making up the audience include judges, mentors, target consumers, would-be employees, competitors, investors and even mystery guests whose role may not be known immediately but emerge.  Here are some insights into what they may be searching for during your presentation and further reading links and references to learn more.

Judge/s - A person who attends the pitch with the intention of using set criteria to evaluate both the style and substance of the presentation.  Each judge usually has an area of expertise (management, marketing, technology, etc.) which may have them view projects from a certain vantage point.  With so many business plan competitions, the pitch plays a critical step in evaluating the teams ability to define their concept and communicate it to others.  Feedback from judges in the form of comments and questions can help teams refine their ideas and improve upon delivery.

Read the Do's and Don't list of an experienced business plan pitch judge :

Ronick, D. (2011, April 27). 10 business plan dos and don'ts Inc., Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/articles/201104/business-plan-dos-and-donts.html/1

Mentor/s - A person who listens to your pitch as a process of improvement.  They may hear both formal and informal versions at different lengths.  They offer a critical eye and help you tweak your messages as you try out different versions incorporating more or less emphasis on a variety of aspects of your story. Mentors can help you to prioritize.  They will ask the questions that may lead you to provide the answers other groups may be seeking.  They try to evoke the best out of you.

Read an example of a Mentor's role as described by SVP - Social Venture Partners'  :

Social Venture Partners Seattle. (2011). For mentors. Retrieved from http://sifp.net/for-mentors

Target Consumer/s - A person who may make up the actual or potential consumer of your product/service.  By pitching your idea, you may show them the benefits of your idea and they can react by showing you if you created demand or not.  Some may want to be your first customers, are you ready for them?  Do you have a real product/service ready for sales?  How long would it take you to fill their orders?

Read a harsh criticism of the sales pitch that states why they fail and see if you can carve out key take-aways :

Matt, J. (2013, June 18). Why most sales pitches/presentations suck. Retrieved from http://whattheythink.com/articles/64078-why-most-sales-pitchespresentations-suck/

Competitor/s - A person representing an alternative solution to the problem your product/service aims to resolve or alleviate.  There are always those lurking to spot potential opportunities.  While you conduct your own research for the pitch you will also gather information about your competitors to better understand what differentiates your proposed solution in comparison to theirs.  However, when you cover the differences in your presentation be careful of word choice and juxtaposition. If a competitor was in the room would you really want to insult or offend them.  While certainly you want to illustrate the differences and highlight the benefits your product/service offers it may be best to use some competitive analysis tools to aid in your discussion.

Read why you have competition even if you think you don't :

Shen, D. (2012, December 30). "I have no competition". Retrieved from http://www.dshen.com/blogs/business/archives/i_have_no_competition.shtml"

Employee/s - A person in the room who has a talent you indicate is needed on your team and who you can connect with immediately or via a follow-up discussion.  When an idea is forming it develops and grows because resources are provided.  Sometimes this is in the form of cash, space and especially people who can devote their time and energy to the current gaps and priorities.  Attracting potential employees or partners can be a by product of a good pitch presentation.  The ability of the presenters to convince and persuade others about their vision and a description of current and future talent needs can help attract the right employees to help implement plans.

Investor/s - A person who has the potential to fund your business idea. The way we look at funders is changed by the rise of crowd funding where almost anyone can be a source of capital and resources.  The criteria they have to judge whether or not they want to invest time and money into your idea varies.  You also need to discriminate of who you want to be your partner as their are always expectations to manage.  Rest assured, you must present something that illustrates your business model, how does your business make money so that investors can see how they can make a return on their investment.

Read what mistakes to avoid in pitching to investors:

Frasch, R. (2013, July 9). 8 mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching to investors. Forbes, Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2013/07/09/8-mistakes-entrepreneurs-make-when-pitching-to-investors/

++Read what investors are willing to fund right now:
Simov, I. (2013, October 3). Startups we would like to fund. Retrieved from: http://blog.eleven.bg/2013/10/03/startup-ideas-wed-like-to-fund/
Sim
Mystery Guest/s - A person who you do not recognize in the audience and whose role is unclear.  These members of the audience can go unseen, unnoticed or be a source of your greatest frustration.  Many presenters have to tackle the fear of the unknown whenever they put themselves in the central position in a public speaking situation.  Learning to accept the mystery of who will actually show up and how you can be your best under any conditions will serve you well towards your goal of successful presentations.

Read more about grace under pressure and managing your own public speaking performance :

Furnham, A. (2013, November 17). On your head: Pace, pitch, pause. The Sunday Times. Retrieved from http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/Appointments/article1340796.ece



Monday, September 23, 2013

#10 - The Prototype Challenge

If you have vision and manifest a model, scaled down or scaled up that helps you physically demonstrate how it might work or be useful it can help you sell your idea.  Taking the dream to reality right before your target audience of potential employees, investors and customers, the prototype can show you are on the right track and ready to take the steps towards the versions to come.  If you have ever watched an episode of the reality show Shark Tank then you know that the pitch with prototypes or better yet real sales are the ones that get the sharks in a frenzy.

To help you understand better the process, here is an excellent example that walks through a prototype case of Pawfect Suds, a natural dog soap shaped as a paw.


The process from concept art, computer-aided design, model using 3d printing, making the mold in silicon and then filling the mold with product and removing with variations adding color and scent.  To make your own prototypes you can make a sample of the product or even dramatize the service or experience so that it is clear not on what the steps are but that it can be executed as planned.




#9 - Empty Spaces Near Student Places








All these images have a few things in common: I took them on the same day in May as I walked down the street from the JJ Strossmayer University of Osijek, Faculty of Economics campus.  A parade of empty storefronts that leave the imagination to decide what they were and what they could be.  From Cafe Bars, Bakeries, Casual Clothing Stores, Entertainment and Copy Shops to perhaps these student savvy concepts from College towns across the world:

  1. Car pool service to help students share rides
  2. Social media consultant for small businesses
  3. Starting a franchise
  4. All kinds of repair and resale shops
  5. Tutoring classes and group learning
  6. Roadtrips for getting discounts on group travel and entertainment
  7. Party Promotion and planning services
  8. Start a hostel with style
If you can think of some others, there might be an opportunity waiting for you.

#8 - Ehow - Learn how something works - New to You

One way to stay fresh is to keep learning new things.  I love the depository of new things to learn that is Ehow.com.  While they monetize the site and some sponsored links appear you can still find useful tips from real contributors who share their step by step guides on how to do just about anything.



Today, I wander on to learn "How to make a coffee table book".  I need this information as I have just pitched such a book to a local publisher.  We will start the call this month and collect images for the book over the next 2 months and I needed to compare what my expectations were of taking on such a project with what others may see as the logical flow.  This easy research can help me avoid skipping steps or underestimating any details.  My research has shown that many partners are interested in the project and I have someone to curate the submissions so those elements are on target. I have a theme I know well, trusted partners, a graphic designer who has the same vision as I do and a timeline that is realistic.  I just have to make sure the publisher I have chosen can help with proofreading the final texts, sales and promotion of the book and I hope to have all greenlights to go ahead at the end of the month.  There are also many resources to get estimates of how much such an undertaking would cost to DIY (do-it-yourself) as alternatives also need investigating.

#7 - Disrupting industries



The often quoted Creative Destruction essay by Joseph Schumpeter illustrates "...the same process of industrial mutation–if I may use that biological term–that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism." the notion of cycles of disruption which bring forth shifts in the way business is conducted.  Being able to spot a disruption in progress can help companies adapt to the changes faster and better to increase their chances of surviving and thriving in the new economies that emerge.

This idea challenge was for students to check out historical or present day trends that are predicted to disrupt industries in the future.  Accordingly, it can be seen that social enterprises those with blended missions are to me disruptive.  They are forcing government to adapt to their new models of doing business and social good intertwined.  As a case in point, Greyston Bakery started doing business in 1982 with their own focus on social employment, partnership and profit and the legal form of B corporation  (Benefit Corporation) that they have come to symbolize was only publicly recognized in New York State in 2012. Therefore it took 20 years for them to get formally recognized for their true mission, activities and achievements in the eyes of the law.

Greyston Bakery has given employment opportunities to many groups that normally get excluded because of their lack of work experience such as men and women who were previously homeless, in jail, and otherwise left out.  They provide shelter, training and medical assistance to their employees to give the an opportunity to change their circumstances.  The company has also been in partnership with Ben&Jerry's ice cream brand by preparing baked goods for their range of products.  With the profit the bakery continues to fuel new and improved outreach programs.  This is disruptive as it makes policy makers and those out for profit only rethink their business models for a sustainable future.