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Month December 2012

Some Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon…

“Jargon masks real meaning,” says Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

That said, here is a glossary of some of the most annoying business jargon:

  1. Core Competency
  2. Buy-In
  3. S.W.A.T. Team
  4. Swim Lane
  5. Empower
  6. Drinking the Kool-Aid
  7. Move the Needle
  8. Open the Kimono
  9. Bleeding Edge
  10. Tiger Teams
  11. Burning Platform
  12. Lots of Moving Parts
  13. Corporate Values
  14. Make Hay
  15. Scaleable
  16. Best Practice
  17. Think Outside the Box
  18. Ducks in a Row
  19. Ecosystem
  20. Solution
  21. Leverage
  22. Vertical
  23. Over the Wall
  24. Full Service
  25. Drill Down
  26. It is What it Is
  27. Robust
  28. Take Offline
  29. Synergize
  30. Learnings
  31. Boil the Ocean
  32. Reach Out
  33. Hard Stop
  34. Punt
  35. Impact
  36. Giving 110%
  37. Body of Work
  38. Let’s Talk That
  39. Price Point
  40. Take it to the Next Level
  41. Cut and Dry
  42. Out of Pocket
  43. Window of Opportunity
  44. Low-Hanging Fruit
  45. Peel the Onion

 

15 Tips for Writing in the Twitter Age

A stocking-stuffer for the Twitter-and-texting crowd (bloggers too)…

Adapted from Forbes Magazine, and Brett Nelson

Tip #1:  A Point

Like any worthwhile pursuit, all good writing begins with a goal. If you don’t know yours, rest assured readers won’t, either. Before you begin, ask: “What do I aim to accomplish? What specific service am I providing?” That simple exercise will save a lot of time and thousands of wasted words.

Tip # 2:  Logical Structure

Many readers have short attention spans. That’s why having a logical structure is so important. The backbone of anything longer than a Tweet or short blog entry consists of three parts: intro, body, conclusion. In other words: 1) say what you’re going to say, 2) say it, 3) summarize what you said. Boring, perhaps, but effective.

Tip #3:  Clarity

If you think what you’ve written is remotely vague or unclear, it’s probably incomprehensible. Keep things simple by breaking complex concepts into logical steps. Four short, clear sentences are better than one long, convoluted one.

Tip #4:  Reading Aloud

This trick helps with clarity and rhythm. Read your words aloud and the rough patches will stand out.

Tip #5:  Context

A fact without context is useless. Numbers help a lot, if used correctly. Example: The federal debt is $16 trillion. Is that big or small? The reader has no idea without context. Better to say the debt is nearly as big as America’s annual GDP—and better still to say the debt, as a percentage of GDP, is the highest it’s been since World War II.

When using numbers to make your point, ask these basic questions:

—Is the number remotely plausible?

—Is it (like any other fact) adding meaningful value to the story, or just slowing down the proceedings?

—Is it critical to building your case?

—Does it conflict with, or even refute, a previous number or conclusion?

—Is it helping explain a complicated concept?

—Is the source of the number credible, or does he/she have an obvious agenda?

Tip #6:  Audience Alignment

Know your reader and gear the material accordingly. When in doubt, a little extra hand-holding is always appreciated.

Tip #7:  Tangible Examples

The mantra “Show, don’t tell” has been around awhile but folks still have trouble with it. Here’s some turgid copy pulled directly from the homepage of a top 100 [best] tech firm:

“[Company name] provides a broad range of IT consulting, systems implementation and application outsourcing services through an optimized global delivery model. Through our industry leading platforming process, [Company name] focuses on delivering business results by modernizing, rationalizing and consolidating the critical applications that support our clients’ core business processes. We employ advanced processes like Agile to insure the right system is delivered the first time. This approach enables [Company name] to serve industry leaders as they seek to improve their customers’ experience, expand market reach, improve time to market and lower costs.”

Need some Excedrin? Delve further into the site and the torture continues, with some excruciating flow charts to boot.

Whatever you’re writing, don’t fall into this trap. If you offer “technology solutions” or “advisory services”—and thousands of companies do—strut your stuff by providing specific, tangible examples that potential customers can understand in a hurry. Same goes if you’re preparing a Power Point presentation, sharing instructions with your team, or writing an editorial for a publication. One more time: “Show, don’t tell.” 

Tip #8:  Well-Defined Assumptions

Credibility is crucial. Whatever case you’re making, clearly state the assumptions and the logic behind them.

Tip #9:  Charts That Pay Off

Charts and graphs are powerful tools—again, if used correctly. Do your best to tell a story within the chart itself by writing meaningful labels, titles and captions.

This subject deserves considerably more attention, but the bottom line is this: If readers have to spend more than 5 seconds understanding the point of a chart or graph, you’ve made them work too hard.

Tip #10:  Active Verbs

Passive verbs are the province of dissemblers. (That’s why lawyers love them!) Stick with the active variety. Example: Joe hit Bob with a stick.

Tip #11:  Straight Talk

Jargon and clichés are poison. For a reminder see the next post on markkirkwood.com.

Tip #12:  New Start

If you’re stuck, it’s for good reason. (See Tip #1 and recall the point you wanted to make.) Don’t “write around” roadblocks—it never works. Instead, go back and take a different route.

Tip #13:  Fresh Eyes

Anything worth printing is worth an extra look in the morning—or at least in an hour or two after you think you’re done.

Tip #14:  Practice

Good writing comes with practice, and practice includes reading good writing—any good writing, from short stories to research reports.

If you want to learn more about topics that touch your wallet—and become a better writer in the process—start here:

—Jill Lepore, The New Yorker
—James Surowiecki, The New Yorker
—Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair
—Roger Lowenstein, BloombergBusinessweek (and others)
—Allan Sloan, Fortune
—Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times
—William Baldwin, former editor of Forbes

Tip #15:  Patience

Writing is a process. Let it happen.

Notes from Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done

Notes. 1. Capture all the things that need to get done into a logical and trusted system [outside of your head, and off of your mind] 2. Discipline yourself to make decisions about all of the inputs you let into your life, so that you will always have a plan [for next actions] that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment ▼ Outcomes & Actions • Describe in a single sentence the intended successful outcome for the problem or situation • Write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward ▼ Horizontal & Vertical Control Get Things Off Your Mind and Get Them Done • Horizontal maintains coherence across all activities in which you are involved • Vertical manages thinking up and down the track of individual topics and projects ▼ Five Stages of Workflow (Horizontal) 1. Collect things that command your attention Anything personal or professional, big or little, that you think should be different than it currently is…, and that you have any level of internal commitment to changing a. Get it all out of your head b. Minimize your collection buckets i. Physical “in-basket” ii. Writing paper and pads iii. Electronic note taking iv. Auditory capture (answering machines, voicemail, dictating equipment, etc.) v. E-mail c. Empty the buckets regularly 2. Process what the items mean and what to do about them a. What is it? b. Is it actionable? YES or NO i. No 1. Trash 2. Incubate a. Someday/maybe list b. Tickler file (suspend or follow-un file; a 3D calendar) 3. Reference (reference should be information that can be easily referred to when needed) ii. Yes 1. What is the next action? a. Do it b. Delegate it c. Defer it d. Project (anything requiring more than one step to accomplish the desired outcome) 2. Actionable Tracking a. List of Projects b. Storage or files for project plans and materials c. Calendar (time specific actions [appointments], day specific actions, day specific information) d. List of reminders of next actions e. A list of reminders of things you’re waiting for (only review as often as they have to be dealt with in order to stop wondering about them) 3. Organize the results 4. Review the options 5. Do a. Choosing actions in the moment ▼ Weekly Review 1. Loose Papers a. Business cards, receipts, etc. – put in the in-basket for processing 2. Process Your Notes 3. Previous Calendar Data a. Review for remaining action items, reference information, etc. 4. Upcoming Calendar 5. Empty Your Head a. Write down any new projects, action items, etc. 6. Review “Projects” (and Larger Outcome) Lists a. Ensure that at least one kick-start action is in your system for each 7. Review “Next Actions” Lists a. Mark off completed actions & review for reminders of further action steps to capture 8. Review “Waiting For” List a. Records appropriate actions for any needed follow-up & check off received items 9. Review Any Relevant Checklists 10. Review “Someday/Maybe” List a. Check for any projects that may have become active and transfer them to “Projects” & delete items no longer of interest 11. Review “Pending” and Support Files a. Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new actions, completions, and waiting-for items ▼ Models for Making Action Choices Three types of work 1. Predefined work 2. Work as it shows up 3. Defining work ▼ Six Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work Projects: clearly defined outcomes and the next actions to move them towards closure; Horizontal Focus: reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly; Vertical Focus: informal, back of the envelope planning 1. Current actions 2. Current projects 3. Areas of responsibility 4. 1-2 year goals 5. 3-5 year vision 6. Big picture view ▼ Five Steps to Accomplish Any Task Project Planning 1. Defining purpose and principles 2. Outcome visioning 3. Brainstorming 4. Organizing 5. Identifying next actions ▼ Five Phases of Natural Planning Techniques “If the project is off your mind, your planning is sufficient. If it’s still on your mind, keep applying the model until it’s clear.” 1. Purpose / Guiding Principles Why are we doing this? 2. Mission / Vision / Goals / Successful outcome What would wild success look, sound, or feel like? 3. Brainstorming How would we accomplish it?Critical Factor of Filing System 1. Filing has to be instantaneous and easy: a. One Alpha System i. Consider A-Z organizing unless you need more specific filing ii. Reduces number of place something “isn’t” iii. Organize by topic, project, person, or company b. Specialized filing may be necessary if amount of reference material on one topic or project exceeds one file drawer. 2. Get high quality mechanics and avoid hanging files a. If you must use hanging files: b. Label the files, not the hangers c. Use only one file folder per hanger 3. Keep a big supply of plain hangers and new file folder in the front of the drawer 4. Purge files once a year 5. Encourage a dumpster day at work ▼ Dealing with un-met agreements: 1. Lower standards 2. Do it 3. Renegotiate agreement a. “What is the next action?” b. “The better you get, the better you’d better get.” ▼ SUMMARY 1. Keep everything out of your head 2. Decide actions and outcomes when things first emerge on your radar, instead of later 3. Regularly review and update the complete inventory of open loops of your life and work ▼ Wondering what to do with something? Apply a simple set of formulae to it: • I don’t need or want it = trash • I still need to decide what this means to me = IN-basket item • I might need to know this information = reference • I use it = equipment and supplies • I like to see it = decoration • When I could possibly move on it, I want to see the action as an option = next action reminder, reviewed when and where it could be done • I need to be reminded of this short-term outcome I’ve committed to = project list item, reviewed weekly • I need to have this when I focus on a project = support material • I might want to commit to this at any time in the future = Someday/maybe list item • I might want to commit to this on or after a specific time in the future = calendared or “tickled” item incubated for review on a specific future date • I want to achieve this “bigger” outcome = goals, objectives, visions that you review on some longer interval • It’s something someone else is doing that I care about = item on Waiting-For list, reviewed at least weekly • I need to consider it when I do certain recurring activities = item on a checklist

 

 

bifurcate…

bi*fur*cate

verb |ˈbīfərˌkāt|

divide into two branches or forks: [ no obj. ] : just below Cairo the river bifurcates | [ with obj. ] : the trail was bifurcated by a mountain stream.

adjective |bīˈfərkāt, ˈbīfərkit|

forked; branched: a bifurcate tree.

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from medieval Latin bifurcat- ‘divided into two forks,’ from the verb bifurcare, from Latin bifurcus ‘two-forked,’ from bi- ‘having two’ + furca ‘a fork.’

A real-world EXAMPLE: The modern workday is oftentimes a ceaseless tide of meetings and internal emails, which often means that workers increasingly scramble to get their “real work” done on the margins, early in the morning or late in the evening.

The M&A Process Summarized

The Standard M & A Process that Axis Follows

• Source the Deal
• Execute Non-Disclosure Agreement [NDA]
• Information Exchange
• Evaluate Investment
• Submit a Letter of Intent [LOI]
• Conduct Due Diligence [with “109 Questions”]
• Legal Documentation of Transaction
• Closing and Transfer of Funds

Deal Fees [DFs] (i.e., 2%-5% of the total deal price; however, our fees may be more or less depending on certain characteristics (e.g., nature of the deal, complexity, etc.))

Documents & Terms [Some examples]

• Engagement Letter
• Non-Disclosure Agreements [NDAs]
• Indication of Interest [IOI]
• Term Sheet
• Letter of Intent {LOI]
• Stock Purchase Agreement [SPA]
• Asset Purchase Agreement [APA]
• Escrow Agreement
• Senior Management Agreements [SMAs]
• Stock Option Plans
• Price
• Timing of Payments
• Conditional Payments (e.g., Earnouts)
• Management Roles/Retention

Documents & Terms [Described/Defined]

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) – a confidentiality agreement between two parties. The NDA prevents one of the parties from disclosing the information specified in the agreement. This helps to ensure proprietary and sensitive material is kept confidential.

Engagement Letter – outlines the scope of work that a service provider / vendor will provide to the client, including the type of work that will be performed, how much work will be performed, the payment method for the work (e.g., hourly vs. fixed fee), and the timing of the payments. In addition, an engagement letter defines the deliverables that the client will receive.

Indication of Interest (IOI) – this is a letter that the Buyer sends to a purchaser. It basically provides an offer range for the business, as well as the ownership percentage that the buyer is seeking.

Term Sheet – this is a one or two-page document that provides a little more detail to supplement an Indication of Interest (IOI).

Letter of Intent (LOI) – a letter of intent is the preliminary agreement entered into between a buyer and a seller. This document summarizes the transaction terms and conditions that have [in principle] been agreed to by both parties.

Stock Purchase Agreement (SPA) – an agreement by which the owners of a company sell their shares of stock to a buyer. Basically, a SPA details the terms of the transaction (who receives what, how much, and when; plus legal conditions and/or other issues).

Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) – an agreement by which the assets of a company are sold to a buyer. Basically, an APA details the terms of the transaction – who receives what, how much and when; legal conditions and/or issues.

Escrow Agreement – which ensures parties fulfill contractual obligations and helps to mitigate disagreements. For example, a buyer typically escrows part of the purchase price to protect itself in a transaction. The escrow is typically released after one and/or two audit cycles. Basically, a buyer wants to make sure it is buying a sound business…

Senior Management Agreements (SMAs) – an employment contract between a company and its key executives. This agreement formalizes a Company’s relationship with its senior managers. SMAs outline such things as base and incentive compensation [both short-term & long-term], employees’ roles, and severance terms, etc.

Stock Option Plans – stock option plans govern employees receiving ownership (or right to exercise an option for ownership) in a company. Business owners use stock option plans to retain and motivate workers since they share in any upside. In addition, business owners receive tax savings, which improves/helps cash flow. There are two types (i) incentive stock option pans, and (ii) non-qualified stock option plans.

Some Common Terms

Deal Fees – generally related to an advisor, where an “Engagement Letter” outlines the scope of work that an advisor will perform for the client, and further specifies how said advisor will be compensated. For example, financial advisors typically earn a fee that is equal to 2%-5% of the total deal price. This fee may be more or less…, depending on certain characteristics (e.g., the nature of the deal, complexity, etc).

Earnouts – conditional payment(s). For example, a buyer may agree to pay the owner of a business an additional $5 million in the year following an acquisition provided that that year’s  earnings grow by at least 20%.

Some Common Deal Terms

Price – how much are you paying / receiving?

Timing of Payments – when are payments paid or received?

Conditional Payments – are any payments contingent (e.g., contingent on some future financial or measurable target) [commonly referred to has “Earnout” payments]. For example, is part of the compensation based on company achieving a certain amount of revenue by the end of next year? Two years from now, etc.?

Management Roles / Retention – is the transaction contingent on the an individual being given certain duties or being retained prior to the closing?

 

An Axis insight…

Key reasons for new product and/or company success:

  1. Realistic expectations, timing & plan
  2. Plan is based on investigation of facts
  3. Proper product & company positioning
  4. Avoid acting on personal belief(s) only
  5. Align with those “who don’t drink the Kool-Aid”
  6. Statements & claims are made based on proof
  7. Experienced management
  8. Good alliance management

Note: This assumes: Adequate funding and resources are available.