Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 41: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 21

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 24, 2019

This is my 41st posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-40.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I have been discussing three specific possible early stage growth scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture (see Part 33):

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public and with all of the organizational change and all of the transparency and reporting requirements that this entails as they begin offering stock shares. (See Part 33 and Part 34.)
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if following an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists. (See Part 35.)
3. And a new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system. (See Part 36 through Part 39.)

And I continued that overall narrative in Part 40 with a set of more general comments, and by raising some generally framed questions of a type that at least categorically would apply to most any next-step business development scenario that might be considered, and certainly early on. Then I concluded that posting with a set of three issues that would have to be addressed and for most any business that would operate in a business-to-consumer context: issues that would enter into their core decision making and its execution as effort is made to build that business to be as competitively effective as possible:

A. Fine tuning their products and/or services offered,
B. Business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, and certainly in that context, and
C. Branding and how it would be both centrally defined and locally expressed through all of this.

There are two basic approaches that I could pursue here as I seek to parse out and analytically identify and discuss the issues just raised in that list. I could discuss all three of those points in order as a group, and successively so for each of the three development scenarios listed towards the top of this posting and under consideration here. That would mean my addressing each of those business development scenarios in turn and with them serving as my primary focus of attention here. Or I could more fully discuss each of these issue points, one at a time as they would arise and play out for each of the scenarios under consideration, and with them serving as my primary focus of attention. I have decided to follow the second of those organizing approaches here, and proceed as follows starting with Point A and products and services offered, or still just under consideration for that to round out this topics point.

Point A: At least in principle, the founders of a business can and do decide on their own what products and/or services they might pursue offering through their own business venture. But in reality, they always face at least some shaping influences there, and even in a simplest case organic growth oriented business model where all funding available or sought out, comes from the cash flow and positive revenue generation of the business itself, as supplemented by funding that they themselves would bring to the table, and with their not having to answer to others as equity holders in this. In that case, outside influences would still arise and have to be accommodated, as coming from their intended markets and from their understanding as to what would effectively, and profitably sell there. And more such pressures would come from their likely and current competition, as they seek to gain and retain a maximum possible market share in the face of their offerings. Both the above-stated Scenarios 1 and 2 are based on the founders and owners of a venture securing outside funding, with any additional shaping constraints added that those funding sources would attach to the support that they offer. And while Scenario 3 as stated towards the top of this posting might be centered around organic growth and arise free of the types of outside equity ownership voices that Scenarios 1 and 2 would invoke, building with a goal of expandability into what might become an open-ended range of local markets and market types can easily place at least some product and service restraints on what they could effectively offer too, and certainly if they seek to benefit from economies of scale across their entire growing business empire and if they seek to remain consistent enough across their overall system for how they develop and support unified consistent branding. Pressures towards uniformity as arising from these considerations can limit this type of business in its ability to meet more locally community-based product and service needs and certainly where such diversity would impact on any business-wide brand-specific product designs supported, as an important case in point example here.

Focusing on Scenario 1 for the moment in this Point A context: when a new or still young business seeks out initial public offering (IPO) funding, it has to be able to argue a case for its receiving such support from both:

• Prospective shareholders who would actually invest in it,
• And from stock market analysts who those prospective investors would turn to as a key part of their due diligence when deciding where to invest and with what levels of their available funds.

This means the founders and owners of such a business, would have to be able to effectively argue a case that they seek to bring profitably attractive products and/or services to market, and in ways that would at least maintain value in this enterprise as benchmarked against the price these investors would pay per share and put into it, and with at least some additional value added for them, as coming from profits generated too. And they would have to be able to market and present themselves for being likely to accomplish this, in ways and according to timeframes that those market analysts would see as meeting their reporting needs.

Dividends: those additional profits as doled out to investors on a per-share basis, might not be as important for successfully arguing that a business is a good investment if that business and its leadership can present themselves as a growth company with long-term investment value, rather than a more strictly income generating one that would primarily offer short-term and ongoing cash returns on investment. But that calls for a demonstrable focus on innovation and on this business setting out to grow and evolve and effectively so. And even then, most shareholders still expect at least modest regularly offered dividends too. And those dividends and a business’ capability to reliably and consistently offer them, becomes even more important when and as a business is positioned more as a profit-oriented venture.

• Either way, all of the stock market analysis that shareholders and prospective shareholders would turn to when making their investment decisions, would be developed on a short timeframe, and generally largely on the basis of just the most recent business quarter or half year. That would put pressures on this business to develop and offer their products and any New that they could bring to them, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Now let’s consider this same issue point from the perspective of the above Scenario 2, and with the guidance and the pressures exerted by venture capitalists added into a basic organic growth, default business model here. Some venture capitalists selectively make at least some longer term investments and commitments to the ventures that they buy equity in through their funding. But all venture capitalists, as such, invest in what their due diligence effort would show to be likely up and coming business successes, and with a goal of gaining profits and large ones from those investments that do develop that way to cover their losses from those that do not – while still leaving a significant profit margin for the investor.

Most of the time that means their seeking out quick returns on the investments that they enter into, so they can keep their investment funds moving and working for them and not tied up in any single client business. This puts pressures on the businesses that they do chose to invest in, to develop and capture as large and profitable a market share, and as quickly as possible and with corners cut if necessary in longer-term business development preparation where that might compete for funds with this market-facing effort. All of this, of necessity, has an impact on what is going to be brought to market and how and how quickly it would be updated and tuned for greater market impact.

Scenario 3 obviously has its expected forms of impact in this issue too. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will complete my discussion for here, of this Point A issue. Then I am going to move on from there to address the above Points B and C next, also doing so in terms of the three scenarios under direct consideration here, with commentary added as needed regarding a fourth: organic growth scenario too, as called for. And then, and with this overall narrative thread in place, I am going to discuss a core point of consideration that readily emerges from it:

• How a new, young business begins, determines if and how it can accommodate and support flexible adaptability and resiliency as it moves forward,
• With the details of that determined and shaped by what type of basic organizing path that venture seeks to follow in its business plan and its execution (where I have been discussing a set of such determinative options here in these postings.)
• Think of this as a matter of looking for longer-term consequences as they would more, or less likely arise depending on how some key early decisions are made.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 13

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 9, 2019

This is my 13th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-12.)

I began discussing a set of issues that would arise for well established businesses that have become set in their ways, in the context of this type of series, in Part 2. And I then switched directions in Part 11 to at least begin to consider a newly forming startup example in contrast to that, which I have cartoonishly summarized for its basic form as:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up and grow from.

And as an orienting starting point for what is to follow, in fleshing out and examining that type of case study example, I offered a to-address topics list that can be considered startup-oriented in its basic tenor and orientation, which I repeat here for its first three entries for purposes of this posting:

1. What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context the issues of baseline, and of what would be changed from become crucially important. I assume here that change in this context means at least pressure to change on the part of business founders, from the assumptions and presumptions and business practices of their past experience: positive and negative that they might individually bring with them to this new venture, and their thoughts as to how a business should be organized and run as shaped by all of their prior workplace experience. So I will consider change as arises in how the business is planned and run, at least as much as I do when considering what would be developed there and brought to market as product or service. I will mostly just cite and discuss the later for its contextual significance in all of this.
2. Focusing on the business planning and development side to that, and more specifically on high priority, first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying out (in light of the above bullet point considerations here), and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
3. Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.

Note: I also outlined some of the essentially axiomatic assumptions in Part 11, that I would bring to my analyses and discussions of all of the topics points and their issues as listed there: the above-repeated first three included. And I recommend that you review them as discussed there. That noted, I began addressing the above restated Point 1 in Part 12, focusing there on a need for effective negotiations as involved stakeholders air and argue the case for their respective understandings of the goals and priorities faced, for developing and building this new business venture. And my goal here is to finish addressing that Point 1 and its issues, at least for purposes of this series, and to at least begin addressing Points 2 and 3 as well.

To be more specific here, I approached Point 1 and its issues in Part 12 of this series, by primarily focusing on the fundamental need for informed and mutually agreed to consensus, among key stakeholders:

• As to what type of business a startup is to grow into, as it realizes its business model,
• And what its goals and priorities should be, at least in a more immediate here-and-now context, and for next steps that would be taken moving forward beyond that.
• And to add one more detail to that summary: the earlier that any really significant points of disagreement can be identified and worked through among the key stakeholders of a business, at least to the level of their arriving at basic workable functional agreement, the better. Problems of that sort that are set aside for later consideration, only fester and grow.

I turn here to consider a What and How counterpart to that Why. And I begin addressing this half of my response to Point 1 by dividing this approach to its issues, into two areas of consideration:

• What specific tasks would be agreed to and for type and priority? And what specific tasks act more as focus points of disagreement?
• And Who arrives at the determination in any finalized sense of how these discussion point decisions would be resolved and by whom, at least for immediate and next step purposes as the business proceeds forward? I simply note here in generic, generally stated response to that question, that there are circumstances where stakeholder priority in arriving at and phrasing such resolutions would best be based on equity ownership in this venture and on position and title held, and some would best be based on specific relevant expertise and certainly for more technical issues and their tasks. The details as to how this would and should play out, would of necessity be business, and business-model specific and depend on the nature of, and the decision making influence of the emerging corporate culture coming into place.
• Who would make these relevant binding decisions as far as the second of those points is concerned, when determining how specific business decisions would be parsed out according to those decision maker options? And how would their decisions and conclusions, or their recommendations if so identified, be supported and moved forward on?

The first of those points is explicitly What oriented. And together, the second and third points of that set, at least begin addressing the How (and the by whom) side of the issues raised in Point 1, above. The rest of any such answer to the question as raised there, becomes a matter of personality, and of leadership and followership, as can be found or encouraged among the key decision making stakeholders of a business. And the patterns that arise from this process, lay the foundations of the overall corporate culture to come at this new business as it becomes established and begins to grow beyond the initial founding team.

And with that, I offer a word of explicit warning:

• I have seen startups and early stage businesses succeed and even to spectacular degrees. And I have seen them flounder and fail too. And one of the core, fundamental differences between these two outcomes-defined groups can be found in how well the decision makers there, and those who can influence and shape the consequences of their decisions, can come to agreement and achieve alignment in what they do there, or fail to do so.

Abraham Lincoln’s so relevant words come to mind for me as I ponder what for me, is a repeatedly validated point of observation that they compel: “a house divided cannot stand.” Lincoln had a very different and I add more societally impactful context in mind when offering this advice, but it applies in the smaller scale of individual businesses too.

This, as experience shows, can be an even more important metric of overall likelihood of success for a business, long term, than the challenge of arriving at an effective way to profitably monetize what a business would offer to market as its primary product or service. Google, to cite a well known example there, and its founders, knew that they were building a business that would offer a best of breed online search engine as the core element of its overall market facing offerings. And they were effectively aligned in this and in how to proceed in developing their business for this. But they did not in fact work out the details as to precisely how they could best create a profitable service that would enrich the business (and themselves) from this, and even until after they initially went IPO for this venture.

They knew basically what they wanted to do and they were able to effectively capture the imagination of the public that they were trying to reach with this business, and with their online search tools. And they were able to come to sufficient agreement on all of the key business development issues that they faced as they organized and launched and began to grow this new business. And they captured a very significant market share for what they would do. Then, they figured out in more fully working details, precisely how they would earn money from all of this productive effort. Were some of those steps carried out in a very contrarian order, and one that other new businesses would best avoid trying to emulate? Yes. But they did get the most important of their basic business development decisions and steps worked out early, and even from the beginning – and at least effectively enough to make it possible to move forward in achieving all of the rest. They were at least working together in all of this, and certainly for all of the really important issues and decisions that they faced.

And with that offered here, I will turn next to more directly and fully consider Points 2 and 3 from the above list, which I just touched upon in the above narrative. Then after completing my discussions of those topic points and their issues, I will proceed through the rest of the Part 11 to-address list points, as offered in detail there. And I will connect this overall narrative as I have been developing it here, to a more strictly Marketing and Communications context, noting in advance of that, that

• While it is not possible to effectively discuss that area of business activity, or its more social media-based forms without considering the business and its markets that would enter into that,
• It is still necessary to tie any such contextual narrative back to Marketing and Communications again too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Building a startup for what you want it to become 35: moving past the initial startup phase 21

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on December 1, 2018

This is my 35th installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-34.)

I have been working my way through a briefly stated to-address list of topics points in recent installments to this series, that I repeat here as I continue to discuss them (with parenthetical notes added as to where I have discussed what of this so far):

1. An at least brief discussion of businesses that gather in, aggregate and organize information for other businesses, as their marketable product and in accordance with the business models of those client enterprises. (See Part 31, Part 32 and Part 33.)
2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it. (I began addressing this point in Part 34.)
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

My goal for this posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 2 and its issues, at least for purposes of this series and this phase of it. And I begin doing so by making note of a two part news and information series that is currently running on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television stations in the United States as I write this, as part of their Frontline series: The Facebook Dilemma. I wrote in Part 35 of this series that we have only seen the tip of an iceberg so far, that threatens Facebook to its core for how it gathers and organizes, and then sells user information, while proclaiming that it safeguards it. This televised news piece with its on-air insider interviews, and its in-depth research and reporting put a live-action face to that news story and its emerging consequences. More will come out about that unfolding news story too; it is not going to end any time soon and either for Facebook or the businesses and other organizations that have been purchasing use of its members’ personal data, or for those member users.

I begin this posting on that note to illustrate real-time as of this writing, how pressingly important the issues of Point 2 are, and for all concerned:

• Businesses that gather and sell access to user or customer data,
• Businesses that acquire access to it for their own use,
• And the people who this data is gathered in from who might in effect be marketed and sold through this business practice, and to their direct detriment,
• And even to the detriment of society as a whole, too.

I would argue that the issues that are included in the above Points 1-3 are going to prove to be among the most important and impactful issues that we will face societally, and certainly through the coming decades. They in fact already are, and certainly insofar as misuse of massive volumes of individually sourced data has already been weaponized to skew and even throw national elections, and as a tool for advancing ethnic conflict and international aggression.

• When big data reaches a threshold scale of comprehensive reach and of fineness of detail and granularity, its growing utility and range of utility and its cost-effectiveness in providing such value create undeniable pressures to expand it out even more.
• When big date gets big enough, its own inner dynamics and its value to those who would develop and use it, compel its becoming even bigger, and as a seemingly open-ended positive feedback response.

I have at least briefly touched on the issues of where this data would come from, and the issues of its use and misuse in this discussion up to here. And that brings me to the issues of data quality and the challenges of keeping it up to date and relevant (e.g. valuable) and at least potentially to both the organization that holds it and to the people and organizations that it seeks to describe.

• The bigger a big data store is, the more of a challenge it becomes to keep the data in it cleansed of error and up to date. And this challenge expands in both the context of increasing numbers of individually sourced records, and in the context of increasingly complex records with more and more data and types of data gathered and held in them, regarding any given individual source so captured.
• But sources of increase in the potential value inherent in bigger and bigger big data: more data source records describing more individual data sources and more comprehensive records that would be tapped into there, at least in principle should drive holders of such data resources to expend the financial and other resources needed to both expand and maintain these systems more carefully, and to keep them up to date and accurate for that.

I cited utility as flowing to the original source of this data accumulation just now, and after discussing big data in a Facebook context see a need to justify that presumption. Utility and positive value can run just one way, only accruing to data collectors and users. But in stable systems, value and utility can flow in many and even in all possible directions.

Consider, by way of example, a massive emergency services database that first responders would turn to when responding to emergency calls such as building fires or health crises. And more specifically, consider fire department personnel who need to be able to access up to date building plans for structures that they might have to enter, and both to save lives and to limit damage. In principle, every building in their catchment area: their geographic area of responsibility has been inspected by fire safety and other inspectors, including building inspectors, if and when any structural changes are made there. And they would make note of and report in any changes made and certainly insofar as they would affect building accessibility. And in principle all of these presumably up to date building blueprints can be, and for more up to date systems are, available through wireless online access by first responders when needed. Now what happens when first responder firemen enter a burning building, such as an apartment building to find that entrance and egress routes that show on their screens as available have been closed off through illegal and unreported construction, partitioning larger apartments into larger numbers of smaller ones? This endangers the lives of those firemen and the lives of anyone who might be trapped in these buildings.

• The same challenges would arise if this was in fact legally reported construction but the access route and related changes that were carried out, were not added into this system yet.
• My point in this example is that negative impact from faulty and out of date information in big data stores, can and does flow in all possible directions – including ones that might not always be appreciated in advance. And accurate and up to date data can create positive value that flows in all directions too.

I am going to turn to Point 3 of the above topics list in my next series installment, and the issues and challenges of how anonymous seemingly anonymized data really is, and certainly in an ever-expanding big data context where new raw data and new knowledge derived from it, is added into its already stored raw data records and files and into the processed knowledge base already developed from all of this, and used real-time to analyze and understand both old data already held, and new data as it comes in too. Then after at least preliminarily addressing that complex of issues, I will circle back to reconsider the impact that all of this has on:

• Businesses that provide big data as a marketable commodity,
• Businesses that buy access to it (startups included), and
• The ultimate sources of all of this data, with consumers and other individuals prominently included there.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 40: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 20

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 13, 2018

This is my 40th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-39.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I have been discussing three specific possible scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture since Part 33:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public and with all of the organizational change and all of the transparency and reporting requirements that this entails as they begin offering stock shares. (See Part 33 and Part 34.)
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if pursuing an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists. (See Part 35.)
3. A new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system. And there, licensing fees and ongoing franchise-sourced income going back to the parent company, would provide funds that could be used for further capital development, among other things, to keep a fiscal systems focus here on what I include in this list. (See Part 36, Part 37, Part 38 and Part 39.)

And one of my goals there has been to use these more specific scenarios as a springboard for discussing the more general issues of early business transition-stage decisions, and particularly for when young enterprises and their founders and owners enter their first real growth phase. My goal here is to go beyond the specifics of the three scenarios that I have been discussing to consider transition point decisions in general, as they arise when a business first exits its early development, startup stages.

I begin doing so by noting that everything that I will address here involves making decisions that involve tradeoffs, and ones that have to be addressed in the face of incomplete and even potentially faulty information. The three scenarios that I have been addressing here and others that I could have explored here instead, all involve making choices that can become binding and essentially irrevocable as decisions, at least if costs for moving forward with the business are to be kept within acceptable bounds. And they are all approached in the presence of business systems friction and uncertainty.

What do the above three scenario options hold in common and both with each other and with other similar-stage scenarios that I could have delved into here? Let’s at least begin to address that abstractly framed question with a briefly stated initial cut issues list of more specific questions and accompanying comments, beginning with:

• What are the respective costs and benefits that pursuing each of whatever set of alternative scenarios under consideration, might bring with them?

That question is still so generally stated so as to offer little if any real value as a planning tool. The value that can be found in it arises as it is restated in more specific and focused form and with a more precise awareness of the actionable issues in place, that are glossed over in it. To start out with, costs and benefits may begin with and end with cash flow and reserves considerations. But most entrepreneurs who seek to build their own businesses do not simply want to find a means for themselves of bringing in some measure of income but without their necessarily having a voice in how. “Middle ground” issues of decision making authority and voice enter into this too. And timeframe tradeoffs are crucially important here too, and they do not explicitly enter into the above question at all, at least as initially stated.

• Who gets to decide what, and with what outside constraints in place that would shape and even limit the decision making powers and authority of the owners and founders who are in fact taking any real overall risk from entering into this new venture?
• And turning back to consider financial costs and benefits, all three of the above scenarios and others that I could have raised instead involve costs and risks, and benefits and profitability. But they do not all play out in simple lock step and along a same simple timeline. Scenarios 1 and 2, above, both involve what can be large early-arriving cash infusions: with the risks and debt obligations that they carry with them. And to be realistic, looking beyond the strictly cash-flow of that, both also place constraints on what decisions can be made by the business’ founding owners too. This cash influx might arrive early and even essentially all at once, or at least according to a settled and agreed to funding payment schedule and with agreed to benchmarks for that (for Scenario 2.) But the debts due, and both in specific terms for Scenario 2 and in principle if investors were to lose faith in the business and sell and sell, are longer-term. What is the best way to plan out and build and run this new venture so as to minimize costs and risks, and maximize at least the likelihood of benefits and profits, when the first more general question that I am building this line of discussion from is expanded out to explicitly address these issues?

And this brings me very specifically to the issues of uncertainty and of having to build and decide and continue building in the presence of incomplete and at times faulty information.

• How can the founders of this enterprise build for resiliency and flexibility and adaptability, so as to be able to weather challenges and capture unexpected opportunity too?

I briefly noted in Part 39, a set of related issues that would logically enter into this narrative at this point and then set it aside, at least there. I will turn to consider those issues in light of this posting, in the next installment to this series:

• Fine tuning products and/or services offered,
• Business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, and
• Branding and how it is both centrally defined and locally expressed.

I will at least begin discussing these three specific topic points there, and will continue from that to discuss how a new, young business begins to build for flexible adaptability. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 12

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 29, 2018

This is my 12th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-11.)

I have been developing this series, since Part 2 in terms of case study examples, primarily focusing up to here on what might be a less intuitive example of how disintermediation can play out in an enterprise, and certainly when a Marketing and Communications context is considered for it.

The basic example that I refer to there, and that I have primarily focused upon in this series, at least up through Part 10 is, as briefly summarized in single bullet point format:

• A larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

I would argue that this is a less intuitive example than my other, startup-oriented example, because businesses that are so solidly and I have to add inflexibly established so as to fit the pattern of that bullet point, are more likely to resist change than they are to embrace it – and particularly where that would challenge the power and authority of entrenched managers and their more individual fiefdoms, as any organizational simplification and of any type would compel.

I raised my other working example in Part 2 when first posing the above one. But I did not begin to actively consider and discuss it until Part 11, when I offered an at least somewhat detailed to-address list of topics points that I will successively delve into for it: starting here and in following series installments. That case study example as also outlined in single bullet point, simplified format is:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up and grow from.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin a discussion of the issues raised by the first point of my Part 11 to-address list, and I will do that here. But before I begin that, I want to at least briefly explain a point of at least seemingly presumptive conclusion that I offered in that posting. I stated without reference or explanation that it is intuitively more obvious and certainly in broad brush stroke outline that the simplifying disintermediation approaches that I address in this series, and options such as gorilla and viral marketing that they would enable, would more readily apply in a startup setting. An at least brief analysis of that statement and of how I arrived at it, would serve as an effective starting point for considering the more specific-detail oriented topics points listed in Part 11, that I offered there as a means of fleshing out its above-stated single bullet point description.

Startup founding entrepreneurs are often all but automatically presumed to be people who are driven, and for whatever combination of reasons, to break out on their own and build their own businesses – where they would make all of the key decisions and where they would live with the consequences of them, while garnering an owner’s and founder’s share of any cash profits and any other sources of value created from that effort. And startups begin small and simple, and both for resources available and for organizational structure. Critical resources definitely include both available cash liquidity and available personnel in this context, and both for headcount and for range of expertise available where personnel limitations are considered. And simple and direct organizational structure of necessity also includes simpler and more direct communications too, and certainly when the headcount of a new enterprise is still small enough so that everyone involved could meet together around a member’s dining room table.

Startup founders are also often, if not usually viewed as being more break-away mavericks by nature than they are complacent followers of standard processes and understandings in place. Couple that presumption with limited resources and of all types, and disintermediated communications patterns, and I have to add disintermediated lines of authority and oversight in this descriptive mix too, and a basic stereotypical pattern begins to more fully emerge.

Disintermediated lines of authority and oversight, to pick up on one point of detail in that last sentence, can even become largely inevitable in this type of context. Note that I did not include a word such as “egalitarian” there and I did not write of participants holding anything like equal say or equal authority there either. I have worked with startup founders who take a very top-down approach to working with others and to leadership at their new ventures, and even when their overall teams are still very small and all included in them are essentially certain to become C level officers there if this new business really takes off. And this can hold with equal force when all of the core founding team members that a founding owner brings in, are people who they personally know and trust too. But setting that set of considerations aside, and certainly as a source of within-the-business issues, startups and even top-down organized and run ones, can be seen as naturals for seeking out resource use-magnifying options such as gorilla and viral marketing to get the word out and even actively help drive early business success.

I offer the above as an intentionally simplistic cartoon depiction of what in reality tends to more complex and nuanced realities. And one of my goals in addressing the list of topics points offered in Part 11 will be to identify and consider areas where real world startups cannot be contained within the constraints of that type of depiction.

The above noted, I turn to consider the first topics point of my Part 11 startups example topics list, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

• What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context, the issues of baseline and of what would be changed from, become crucially important. I assume here that change in this context means at least pressure to change on the part of business founders, from the assumptions and presumptions: positive and negative that they might individually bring with them to this new venture, as to how a business should be organized and run. So I will consider change as arises here in how the business is planned and run, at least as much as I do in what would be developed there and brought to market. I will in fact mostly just cite and discuss the later for its contextual significance in all of this.

I begin addressing that complex of issues by explicitly advising that anyone reading this, stop and read Part 11 first. This may the first time that I have recommended that type of preparation in this blog, and certainly so strongly and directly as I do here. But I do so here, and even given my intention to write postings that can stand alone for offering value to a reader, because of one other narrative element that I wrote into that installment: a set of what turned into seven basic assumptions bullet points that I offered there, that can be viewed as laying out what I axiomatically presume when writing and offering this case study example. If you read through and at least understand them as I offer them, you will at least understand what I more fully mean here and how I arrived at that. And that review of perspective taken will probably help you bring any points of disagreement with me that you arrive at, into clearer, sharper focus too.

One of the keys to understanding the first to-address topics point of this now-unfolding startup-oriented case study example, can be summarized in three clarifying bullet points:

• I wrote in that topics point of individually arrived at perception of change and its necessity. Whatever is arrived at there, arises as what amounts to a conclusive summary that might still remain at least somewhat fluid, as the people involved think through what they would preserve and continue from their professional past, and what they would change from that if given a deciding voice. Prioritization becomes crucially important there, where an individual might see it as worthwhile for example, to put up with a more minor irritant of a problem from how things have been done in their prior work experience, if that is a necessary cost to reaching consensus on what for them is a more important change-driven issue.
• And I have just oversimplified the overall point that I would raise here with that bullet pointed statement. It is complete and fully considered individuals who have lives outside of work, as well as professional lives, who make these nuanced decisions. The decisions and the choices that arise from them do not and cannot take place in a work life only vacuum. Outside, non-work issues and considerations can and do shape workplace decisions too, and certainly where desirability and importance evaluations enter this narrative. This can also mean making workplace decisions and pushing for workplace approaches and resolutions that meet larger family needs too. Such needs in fact can become the most powerful drivers in this type of decision making process, and certainly when workplace decisions can impact on all else in a founding team member’s life.
• And finally: I have written the above two bullet points in terms of the individual and their decision making processes, without and with consideration of larger family contexts. And I have already at least posited the prospect that individuals involved in this, would think and act in negotiating terms when developing and presenting their case and arguing their preferences and priorities for how things are to be done in this new venture. Team participation always means negotiating. I made passing note of top-down managing, authoritarian leadership a bit earlier in this posting as a possible working example approach. Even then and even when a single owner business leader would make any final binding decision, that does not or at least should not mean that they cannot and will not listen to others and gather in feedback and insight that might inform or even shape their own decision making processes. This last point goes directly to the seven assumptions points that I offered in Part 11, as to what I mean and assume in the above-repeated startup case study. I assume here that everyone involved is actively and effectively communicating and that they are all at least listened to. Founding team members who are not listened to and consistently so, simply leave and fairly quickly as a general rule, so that can be a fair and valid assumption.

Bottom line, the first topics point of this to-address list, hinges upon participants arriving at their own particular balance points, juggling what they do and do not want and prefer according to all of the possible prioritization combinations that can arise for them. And it is all about who can most convincingly negotiate their perspectives on what, as an overall working consensus is developed and arrived at for the founding group and for the newly forming business as a whole.

I am going to continue this discussion of this first to-address point in a next series installment. And then I will proceed from there by addressing the rest of the topics points of the Part 11 list in what follows it. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Building a startup for what you want it to become 34: moving past the initial startup phase 20

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on September 17, 2018

This is my 34th installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been discussing some of the core issues that arise when considering where business intelligence comes from in this series, since Part 31. And I have focused in this, primarily on third party raw data and processed business intelligence providers. I initially offered a brief to-address list of topics points that I would frame this line of discussion around, and certainly for purposes of this series, that I repeat here as I continue working my way through its issues:

1. An at least brief discussion of businesses that gather in, aggregate and organize information for other businesses, as their marketable product and in accordance with the business models of those client enterprises. (I began addressing this point in Part 31, Part 32 and Part 33.)
2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it.
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

My goal for this series installment is to complete my discussion of Point 1 of the above list, and to at least begin to address Point 2 as well while doing so. To be more specific, and certainly with regard to how I will continue addressing Point 1 here, I will:

• At least briefly discuss Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica, and the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
• I will cite at least a brief and select set of in the news links related to how Facebook sells access to user data in general too, and as a matter of explicit intent on their part.
• Then I will turn to consider the third business that I have promised to discuss in this Point 1 context: Amazon and how it leverages the data that it collects through its web site as a major source of incoming revenue.

I begin all of this with the still as of this writing, raw wound that we have all come to know as the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. First some recent background context to put that into perspective: Facebook has been facing a tremendous amount of scandal and censure for its long-standing failure to in any way limit the flood of fake news and disinformation, and of cyber-weaponized troll behavior on its site. The company has made something of an effort to rein this problem in: recently by blocking and even banning disinformation sources such as InfoWars: one of the largest and most influential sources of alt-right conspiracy creating and sustaining stories, and alt-right spun genuinely fake news that has been available online. And they have finally started to take down content from white supremacist and other overtly bigoted sources too. But at the same time, their founder and CEO, and leader: Mark Zuckerberg, has repeatedly put his foot in his mouth from how he has explained both the delays in his business making these necessary moves, and in explaining what they are doing to address those issues and why. And this has included his offering self-damaging testimony before publically open US Congressional hearings when testifying under oath, as well as in news-oriented public statements. All of this has perhaps served to push the older news story of Cambridge Analytica and its Facebook activities aside and out of public awareness. But in a real sense it was that story, and certainly when it became exposed in the news, that started all of the rest that has followed, as that scandal helped to bring all of the rest of this into raw, open public awareness.

Cambridge Analytica was a data mining and brokerage business: a third party gatherer, organizer and provider for fee, of business and related intelligence as product. And it turned out that its primary, best paying clients were political campaigns and their leading operatives, and other agencies that have sought to sway elections through use of their often illegally obtained data. And it now appears that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and agencies that sought to influence that election, were among their best, most lucrative customers in particular. Facebook became involved in this business when they allowed a researcher to collect personal data through their site from some 87 million of their service’s users without their knowing what they were providing, which he then sold to Cambridge Analytica, which they then sold to the Trump election campaign and others. Ted Cruz also purchased access to this largely illegally obtained and sold data and used it in his 2016 election campaign, and it was used to help sway the results of the Brexit referendum vote in the United Kingdom too. And it was also used in 2018 by Mexico’s dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party to help them sway their general election of that year when they found themselves facing real competition. But that is only part of this story

• Cambridge Analytica gathered all of this Facebook user data by offering a “game app” called “This Is Your Digital Life”, that they could use to vacuum up user information through, including personally identifiable, sensitive information as those users “played.”
• Alexander Nix, the CEO of that company publically bragged that his company provided surreptitiously gained personal information about millions of people to influence the outcomes of 44 political races in the United States alone, and just in 2014. And that was just a starting point for what would follow.

I am not entirely sure what of this is worse: that Facebook stood by while all of this data was being gathered after giving the provider of this app permission to place it on user pages all over their web site, or that their information management security system was (and still is) so limited and flawed that they were literally unable to see what was being done with this app as the torrent of raw personal data that it was gathering, was collected and then put into active use – and from their own website. Why …, How is it that no red flags were raised out of all of this? Ensuing Facebook scandals that have largely pushed this story into the background, have recurringly illustrated the undeniable fact that Facebook was not in fact doing any meaningful due diligence or information security management at all, on what was being posted or done on and through their web site. And that included their not even being aware of the existence of tens of millions of fake, robo-accounts that were used to post well-orchestrated disinformation (much coming from Russian sources) to help sway (throw) to the 2016 US presidential election and install Donald Trump in office, as well as influencing the outcome of numerous US congressional races that year.

I offered above, to share some links to news stories related to how Facebook in effect sells its user members as commodities to businesses and other organizations. Here are four recent news pieces of this sort that at least begin to map out what is involved here, with the fourth and most recent of them having just gone live today as I write this:

Facebook’s Data Crisis Deepens as Questions Mount (as came out on March 20, 2018),
Facebook: Your Personal Info for Sale (as came out on March 21, 2018),
Let’s Talk About Mark Zuckerberg’s Claim that Facebook ‘Doesn’t Sell Data’ (as came out on April 11, 2018), and
‘Weaponized Ad Technology’: Facebook’s Moneymaker Gets a Critical Eye (as first came out on August 16, 2018).

News stories of this type have continued to appear and both in print and through television and other electronic forums for many months now and at a steady rate, and will likely continue to do so too for quite a while to come too.

I would not even try to estimate the odds of this outcome from all of that coming true, but ultimately this unfolding public relations disaster for Facebook, might very well force Mark Zuckerberg to step down from his position as CEO there. Cambridge Analytica has fallen and so have its founders and executives. Facebook and its leadership will pay a price that has not yet fully come into focus yet, but that will come due too. (Yes, I remember that Zuckerberg founded Facebook, and that he holds vast numbers of its voting stock shares. And I remember that this company is still the largest and most powerfully positioned business in the social media sector. But when repeated publically visible failures of decision and action, and of judgment keep bringing a business into question, that eventually has to have an impact upon it and its leadership, and even for one of the largest corporations.)

And with that all noted, I turn back to considering a business that has actively sought to avoid problems and scandal in how it gathers, stores and uses, and shares data that ultimately has come from its user customers: Amazon. I began this line of discussion by citing and at least briefly discussing one responsible company: Google. Then I turned to consider a second company that is arguably out of control and rudderless for these issues and challenges: Facebook. And I complete the circle, at least for here by turning to consider a more responsible company again.

Amazon is primarily an online retail business, and an online storefront but it also generates income from a wider range of services that includes targeted ad placement and work with partner businesses that sell through its systems, tapping into the strength of its brand name and its product inventory and its purchasing user data: its vast data accumulations on what millions of individuals have ordered and purchased through its web site, that they can use to predict what they might chose to buy there next. Those third party partner businesses pay to sell their products and services online through the Amazon platform, and pay to have their ads positioned on key word defined and selected search results pages that Amazon visitors call up when shopping there.

Like Google, this primarily means offering access to anonymized and demographic level data, or rather access to sales value scoring results derived from that data, and the further sales value potential that can be developed from that. But in anticipation of further discussion to come, this is also one of the places were Point 3 of my above-repeated to-address list enters this narrative, and the problem of how individually anonymous, anonymized data really is and can be, in a big data context. So firewalling from visibility to those third party providers, anything like the raw data that would go into determining which individual customers get to see which third party business provider ads, is an important part of their business model there. That is a very important point of difference that separates how Amazon and I add Google handle and seek to develop profitable value from the consumer information that they have come to hold, from what Facebook has been doing with their site user, member data. And for Amazon, to focus on that business example again, that primarily if not exclusively means partner businesses just purchasing opportunity to link their sales efforts to Amazon customer product searches as a marketable business-to-business product, and as anonymized purchasing request data at that – at least until a customer agrees to actually make such a purchase from them.

All of this raises two crucially important questions that holds import and significance for both the businesses that provide third party sourced business intelligence, and any businesses that buy this data and processed knowledge as marketable product:

• What data can safely and effectively be offered and used, and by whom and for what purposes?
• And who in this system of information development and exchange holds what levels and types of responsibility if and when information security and confidentiality problems arise?

I am going to offer at least a broadly stated response to those questions when addressing Points 2 and 3 of my above-stated to-address points that I began this posting with, and that I repeat here:

2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it.
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

As a key part of that I will flip around the line of discussion that I have been developing here, to discuss third party data sourcing from the perspective of businesses that would buy access to it, and how that would fit into their own more internally developed business intelligence data flows. And I will discuss this from the perspective of their due diligence and risk management needs and responsibilities too.

And with all of this offered here in this posting, I briefly turn back to reconsider my first third party provider example again: Google, to at least briefly highlight how difficult it can be for a major corporation to remain clean on all of the issues I have been addressing here and on information systems management risk in general. Google’s formally noted and publically known motto is “Don’t Be Evil.” But where and how should they draw what lines that they should not cross there, and how can they best abide by the terms and limitations of such decisions? I offer three news story links from the past few months that suggest that line approaching and crossing have arisen as real problems for Google at times, and even with dissent and criticism of the company coming from within their own ranks:

‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon,
Google Will Not Renew Pentagon Contract That Upset Employees, and
Google Employees Protest Secret Work on Censored Search Engine for China.

Google quite arguably, addresses line crossing problems and challenges very differently than Facebook has. But the types of challenges faced by any business that acquires and uses business intelligence, or that offers data processing tools or resources for that matter, keep disruptively emerging de novo, and morphing into new forms once they have arisen. So avoiding falling into pits from all of this has to be an ongoing strategic and operational goal.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 39: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 19

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 30, 2018

This is my 39th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-38.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I began addressing three specific possible scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture, in Part 33, that I have been successively discussing since then for how they illustrate more general issues and principles that any business has to face when transitioning from startup phase into their first real growth stage:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public and with all of the organizational change and all of the transparency and reporting requirements that this entails as they begin offering stock shares.
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if pursuing an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists.
3. A new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system. And there, licensing fees and ongoing franchise-sourced income going back to the parent company, would provide funds that could be used for further capital development, among other things, to keep a fiscal systems focus here on what I include in this list.

I have been discussing the third and last of these possibilities here since Part 37 and from both the franchise system parent company perspective, and from the perspective of the local franchise holder who buys into and invests their future in such a system. And one of the core areas of that line of discussion, as sketched out in Part 38 was that of how a balance might be arrived at, or not, between meeting the sometimes aligned and sometimes competing needs and priorities of the franchisee and the parent company that they report to and that owns the brand that they work under. And that line of analysis and discussion led me to a fundamental question that I posed at the end of that installment, and that I turn to address here:

• How can a franchise system parent company and their perhaps very widely dispersed franchisees with their local storefronts, reach and maintain a more optimized balance between what is systematically standardized across the entire system and in its overall branding and brand value, while also allowing for local diversity to address local community and related marketplace preferences and needs?

I began pointing towards at least an approach for resolving the issues raised in this type of question at the end of Part 38, where I stated that I would turn here to:

• Consider the issues of business-wide consistency, as well as storefront-level flexibility, and both in prototyping new product or service possibilities and in addressing local-to-store opportunities and challenges. What is and is not supported and even encouraged and rewarded in this?

And I add to that: how are those decisions made? And what types and sources of input are brought into that process when arriving at what would at least ideally be both locally and more generally applicable answers? And how are the results of these decision-making processes shared throughout the overall franchise company system?

I have posed these issues and questions in both franchise parent company and local franchise outlet contexts. But in reality these same issues, at least when more generally stated, can and do apply to any widely geographically dispersed business and certainly when it operates offices, manufacturing facilities, distribution or call centers or other locally staffed facilities in several or even many locals with each situated in its own distinct local cultural milieu and with each having to meet its own particular local and national legal system requirements – that can vary significantly for transnational corporations.

I am going to start to address the above-stated issues and questions with a specific case in point focus on franchise systems and on how they apply and play out there. Then I will step back to reframe those same questions and issues in a wider and more comprehensive context – and one that would apply to the first two business scenarios that I have been discussing here too. And I begin addressing the case in point example of franchise systems in this context by posing a set of thought piece questions of a type that would enter into essentially any effective due diligence review and analysis that would be entered into here:

• What are the key issues that have already risen to a level of prioritized significance for the parent company, at least some subset of their franchise license holders, or both as points of friction between them?

This is the fundamental starting point question, here posed in reactive response form. If there is discontent coming from the parent company, their franchise holders in the field or both, what are the basic issues that drive this? And the more precise and detailed the answer there, the more focused a response can be in addressing and resolving these issues, and with specific and hopefully effective longer-term solutions arrived at.

• How do the points of difference and disagreement, as identified while dealing with the above questions, impact on overall brand consistency for this business system and its key stakeholder participants?
• How do those friction points and their alternative approaches for running a business and providing products and services, impact on the quality of overall performance that these franchises or their overall parent company system can provide?
• And how would members of their collective customer base and of their potential customer base see this? What would be more likely to bring these people to these franchise outlets and bring them to make purchases there?
• And underlying all of this, how would pursuing one or the other of the divergent approaches at least initially preferred by franchise holders, and the parent company impact on the overall finances and profitability for them and on both organizational levels?

Picking up on the last of those questions at least to start here, I note that both the parent company and the local franchise holders who work with them and as participants in their system, seek to maximize their own bottom lines and their own net profits achieved. And while this dual perspective can lead to alignment and agreement, with one side benefiting if the other does too, this can also lead to conflicts and disagreement too.

I have already cited a hot button conflict issue that would lead to conflicts of interest in earlier series when I cited examples of parent companies that insist that their franchise holders only purchase their cleaning and other storefront maintenance supplies from them – and even as local franchise holders see that as avoidably adding to their expenses in order to pad the profits of the parent company. From a parent company perspective, this can mean quality control and it can be understandable, and certainly if they have a history of having had to deal with franchise holders cutting corners for this and in ways that would reflect badly on the brand itself. Still, most franchise holders do seek to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and appearance in their own local businesses. So how and where do you draw a line, as a parent company executive, in determining which franchise holders can and cannot be left to take care of details of this type for themselves? One answer would be to insist on a more centrally managed and overseen approach to carrying out onsite inspections and reviews from the parent company – or from local governmental agencies if they have found a problem with a local franchise. I cite the New York City Department of Health restaurant grading system as an example there. A fast food franchise operation that consistently scores A (the highest grade for quality of cleanliness) in such a system might be given a lot more autonomous leeway as to how they keep to those standards than a parent company would, or should afford to a franchise outlet that keeps being cited for at least minor health code violations and in sufficient numbers so as to recurringly have to post a B or lower grade by their front door. That affects that one franchise outlet; that also reflects badly and impacts badly upon the brand as a whole.

A more ham handed approach of forcing every franchise holder to buy these supplies centrally and to submit to ongoing supervision for basic storefront cleanliness and maintenance will, on the other hand just generate what should be completely avoidable resentment, while adding what should be avoidable costs to all participant sides in this.

Ultimately, the answers arrived at for all of the above check list questions should involve and include words such as “reasoned” and “nuanced.” And that applies where a single approach would be universally applied throughout a franchise system, as much as it does where local case in point and context-specific resolutions might make the most sense.

I could have cited the challenge of better meeting local marketplace and consumer taste here and that of prototyping new possible products in specific local markets too. The same questions that I have briefly sketched out and addressed here, and variations and elaborations to them apply to essentially any area of products or services offered, business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, branding and how it is both centrally defined and locally expressed and more: essentially any area that would impact upon business strength and presence, or business finances. To cite one more example there, when McDonald’s opened its first storefront in Russia, in Moscow during the waning days of the Soviet Union, they insisted that all potatoes that would be used in their products sold there, had to be imported. And most if not all of them came from Poland. Yes, in principle the franchise holder of this outlet and the franchisees who ran others McDonald’s restaurants that followed, could have sourced their potatoes locally and at lower costs. But the parent company came to realize when planning and preparing for their entry into this new market, that it would have been impossible to secure locally sourced potatoes in Russia at that time, of sufficient quality, and in sufficient quantity and with sufficient supply chain reliability to meet their needs. It was a big deal when a business of this global stature did finally begin sourcing its key raw materials supplies such as the potatoes they used, from local Russian sources, as that offered a global corporate due diligence based imprimatur on Russian agricultural and food shipment systems as now meeting their standards of quality and reliability (see for example: McDonald’s in Russia to Phase Out Polish Potatoes.)

• And ultimately, as briefly noted above, comparable if more generally framed questions, and what amounts to the same reasoning as outlined above in a franchise system-specific context,
• Apply to wider business contexts too and essentially whenever a business grows into a geographically dispersed but still strongly interconnected whole, where local versus centralized perspectives can come to collide.

I am going to revisit the issues raised here in that much more general form, as promised above, in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 11

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2018

This is my 11th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.)

I have been developing the narrative offered in this series since its Part 2, in large part in terms of two specific case study business examples, that I repeat here in their single bullet point description forms for smoother continuity of discussion:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up and grow from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

In actual fact, I have up to here primarily just focused on the second more established business example as offered there, and have primarily just cited the startup example in preceding installments to indicate that the issues under discussion in them are more widely applicable than the second example alone might suggest. Quite simply, it is intuitively more obvious and certainly in broad brush stroke outline, how the issues that I have been discussing here would apply in a first scenario, startup context.

My goal here is to turn to and at least begin to more explicitly explore the above-restated startup example for its details too. And in anticipation of that and for purposes of that line of discussion to come, I posit that a startup that would meet the criteria implicit in the above scenario bullet point, would also hold the following organizing characteristics:

• Its owner founders and any other early founding team members brought in, in support of their effort are all willing and able to plan ahead and with at least a goal of developing and following a single overall strategically planned out and executed business model.
• And I assume that they can and do communicate together at least sufficiently effectively enough and on at least the essential core details and issues that they face, to be able to coordinately pursue their business and its development in a manner that tracks with their underlying plans and intent. So I assume a basic coordinated consistency in what is done and how.
• Note that I am not necessarily assuming easy or automatic agreement there: just a willingness to communicate and work together in an effort to build a consensus that the business can be developed from.
• If accomplishing the above three bullet points means bringing in occasional outside consulting or similar help for specialized expertise (or for mediation assistance), I assume that fits into their ongoing business development program smoothly and cost-effectively enough so as not to be disruptive of this venture.
• And I set aside as moot, for purposes of this discussion and certainly here in it, any issues of outside funding and the impact that can have on strategic and operational decision making and their execution. For purposes of simplicity and focus of discussion here if nothing else, I assume that the people who have to live with decisions made at a higher level in this business, get to make them and without anything like outside interference.
• And I of course, start out assuming that these people are comfortable with new approaches and with trying them out. Note that this does not necessarily mean disruptively new and game changing, as gorilla marketing and viral marketing to cite the two “nonstandard” marketing options raised in my starter paragraph to this posting, are not all that new anymore at least as general approaches. Specific new and innovative ways to implement and apply them in the particular instance might be new and even game changingly so, but the basic approaches themselves are not. Nevertheless, I can also state that I also assume here that the founders of this new venture are not overly conservative in what they do; they are not going to be late or even just mid-stage adaptors when you characterize that type of business approach determination in terms of the rate and manner in which new innovation diffuses out into the marketplace and into eventual use there.

With that list of working parameters noted and with one more still to be added to them, I offer, with some context-appropriate modifications, a set of variations on the basic to-address topics list that I delved into in an established but somewhat sclerotic business context as discussed in installments leading up to this. My goal for the next installment and the next several to follow that, is to more systematically discuss those comparable, but more startup-oriented retakes on my earlier to-address points and in an explicitly young business and startup context.

• What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context, the issues of baseline and of what would be changed from become crucially important. I assume here that change in this context means at least pressure to change on the part of business founders, from the assumptions and presumptions, positive and negative that they might individually bring to this new venture with them as to how a business should be organized and run. So I will consider change as arises here, in how the business is planned and run, at least as much as I do in what would be developed there and brought to market. I will mostly just cite and discuss the later for its contextual significance in all of this.
• Focusing on the business planning and development side to that again, and more specifically on the high priority first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying that out (in light of the above bullet point considerations here), and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
• Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out, for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing, or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.
• Turning back to the main, overall business-wide thrust of this progression of topics points, what costs and risks of cost would accrue, if the higher-of-necessity priorities as arrived at in this exercise were not followed through upon, and what would be saved or enabled in increased business viability and revenue generation potential if they were addressed and on a high priority basis?
• Now what costs would arise and both directly and consequentially if these goals and tasks were set aside for future resolution, where a decision might be made to address them but only as if they hold what amounts to a de facto lower priority? Looking back to the first of these here-reframed bullet points, I note in this context, the ease and the peril of seeking to achieve consensus by kicking awkward or difficult decisions down the road to make easier a current (and probably transient) here and now.
• What would the costs of actively pursuing these goals be, and of pursuing them in the face of possible conflict that their resolution might hold with at least one of the founder’s more individual a priori comfort zones for how the business would be run? This, I add is a question that of necessity cannot be fully contained in a more routine bookkeeping ledger manner, any more than its counterpart for the second business scenario can be in its context. Costs in this, critically include human impact as well as directly calculable monetary finances, and the costs of resistance to change, and the cost of adaptation and learning curve participation have to be included here too and even if a change involved there is fully and even eagerly endorsed and widely so.
• Now let’s consider the key stakeholders to all of this activity, and particularly those whose actions could stymie or enable them, and whose resistance or positive participation would influence overall costs faced, and of all types. That obviously includes founders and owners as they might agree or come into conflict with each other over policy or implementation. But in anticipation of discussion to come on this, that also includes the potential to facilitate or effectively slow down or even block timely action, as can arise from the decisions and actions of key founding team members brought in as non-owners too. And as a business begins to grow and build out a headcount, this type of influential impact and its range of sources can scale out with that too. Who is significantly going to be involved in this at an influencing if not outright controlling level, and on a critical needs implementation, by critical needs implementation basis? Once again, I am particularly focusing on critically important business development issues here, though “pet projects” have to be considered here too and as potential resource drains if nothing else. The goal here is to find better ways for arriving at as realistic an overall assessment of what can and should be done as possible, framed in terms that would lead to and facilitate better, more effective overall execution. Once again, Marketing and Communications offers useful case in point examples of how this can play out, and precisely because that is a functional area that is often carried out as a more separate area of expertise and without the same type of operations-connections considerations that you would expect to see considered for departments such as Information Technology or Manufacturing Production.
• And I will be blunt here. If there are crucially positioned gatekeepers of the type noted above, who would actively work against and resist changes that any prudent business systems analysis would show to be essentially necessary, are they the right people for the positions that they hold in the business? Here, the challenge faced definitely includes the fact that business founders who hold equity can at least potentially come to fundamental disagreement with each other, with all of the peril for this new venture that that can lead to. But to complicate matters, others who are brought in for support of this new venture are likely to have been chosen on the basis of preexisting interpersonal relationships and even overt friendships with those in authority there, and certainly early on when hiring can be so networking and prior relationship driven. So challenging the decision making and follow through of these people and certainly for critically positioned early-on employees can be just as stressful to the business as a conflict between founder owners. And the issues that might come to demand action here can be just as consequential. I write this on the basis of personal experience arrived at when working with at least some of my business clients.

And with that offered as my new to-address list for this startup context, I turn back to my basic assumptions list to add the last of them to it, at least for purposes of this posting:

• I assume that any disagreements arrived at, as for example noted in my above to-address notes, can be resolved. This might be done strictly in-house or it might call for outside consultant assistance: that is actually a moot point of distinction here. I will simply assume that one way or other, workable resolutions can be arrived at that will preserve and even strengthen the business involved.

I am going to start delving into the questions and issues of the above to-address list, doing so in light of my assumptions list as offered here, in the next installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Building a startup for what you want it to become 33: moving past the initial startup phase 19

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on July 10, 2018

This is my 33rd installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-32.)

I began discussing big data as a driver of competitive success for businesses, at least in the context of this series, in Part 28. And more specifically, I have focused on the issues of in-house developed, and third party provider sourced data that would be included and used there, since Part 31.

I offered a to-address list of topics points that are related to data sourcing in Part 31 as a core part of this discussion, that I repeat here as I continue addressing their issues, with:

1. An at least brief discussion of businesses that gather in, aggregate and organize information for other businesses, as their marketable product and in accordance with the business models of those client enterprises. (I began addressing this point in Part 31 and Part 32.)
2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it.
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

And I continue delving into Point 1 of that list here, from where I left off at the end of Part 32. To briefly recap this line of discussion, for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative, I have categorically divided all third party data gathering, organizing and bundling, and selling businesses into two general categories:

• The big players in this emerging industry, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook that tend to gather in organize and sell essentially open-ended ranges and varieties of largely individual consumer-based data, and to all types of business intelligence purchasing organizations (much of which is offered as anonymized demographic-level findings, though not all),
• And smaller niche market-oriented big data providers that tend to focus in on and specialize in meeting the needs of single target business-to-business markets.

I discussed data providers in Part 32 that specifically focus on gathering, vetting, bundling and selling retail auto and small truck sales leads to retail automotive dealerships as a working example of the second of those two categorical data provider types. And my key goal for this posting is to turn to and consider the bigger players in this field that have come to fundamentally shape, and I add drive this industry: the much fewer, much larger and more powerfully placed businesses that collectively dominate third party business intelligence providing as a business model, and both for demographics level detail and for offering individualized, personally identifiable data.

I want to very clear here, focusing for the moment on Google and Facebook in what immediately follows. I am going to discuss those two companies as they are, and as they are more commonly understood to be, at the level of their basic underlying business models and the level of what the public, by and large understands of them to be. As the evidence that underlies both views of these two businesses has been freely available for a long time now, I posit the differences observed between them: actually followed and publically assumed, are ones of interpretation and not of intentional deception. Both of these businesses are what they are, and they have in fact never sought to hide that for anyone who has really looked into them and how they generate their revenue streams. And in anticipation of further discussion to follow, this same disclaimer applies to Amazon too for when I discuss that business in the context of this series.

I will begin this narrative thread with Google. It is a large enterprise that comprises just one division of a still larger umbrella organization: Alphabet Inc.. And it was in fact the first business to have been developed that now currently resides within the Alphabet Inc. system, and it is still by far the largest, best known, and most powerfully placed entity in the overall Alphabet group. That said, it is a search engine providing social media business, with its email and other social media oriented services added onto an already powerfully placed, market dominating search engine capability. And crucially importantly for this discussion, most all of the services that it provides, and to the vast majority of its users, are provided for free to them.

True, Google also generates significant levels of incoming revenue from business customers that purchase labeled advertising space on search engine results screens, with their placement in them determined by what key search words those customer businesses have paid for, and how much they have paid for them through a bidding system. And if you look to their social media-oriented tools, they also sell licensing rights to a wide range of them for use by client businesses, for use within those businesses’ own IT systems. They also license use of search tool applications that client businesses would use, for example in their own intranets. But most of what they provide as products and services, and certainly when considered on the basis of usage levels achieved with their systems, are provided gratis to end users of their offerings.

Facebook is more of a pure play social media company that offers a communications and sharing oriented networking site that is so well known that most of its users think of the name Facebook as a basic word in their vocabulary: they see the name of that business as the name for this type of social media-oriented web site per se. And this business offers their social media services for free to any and all who would like to sign up and use their site.

All of the details just noted in the above paragraphs are true: on the face of things. Much of what I have just said there is at least crucially incomplete and certainly for Facebook, if not accompanied by some there-unstated caveats too.

While Google offers software and service as profitably marketed and sold product as a part of its basic business model, it is also at least in large part a data aggregator and organizer and a data seller, organizing and packaging and selling use of the user data that they accumulate through their free services. That is how they generate the majority of their incoming revenue. But at least to my understanding, this is at least primarily if not entirely sold for access, as anonymized data as for example when meeting the targeted marketing requirements of businesses that seek more effective advertizing placement.

Gathering, aggregating and organizing, packaging and selling user-based and user-derived data is essentially the complete real, underlying business model in place for Facebook. That at least appears to underlie essentially their entire business model, and with that only starting with their offering targeted ad placement services on their users’ Facebook pages.

What does this mean, as to the level of impact and reach that Facebook can leverage through its business offerings, and when marketing itself to its business and other organizational clients?

• As of the first quarter of 2018, Facebook claims to have some 2.19 billion “active users.” In practice that number represents the total number of open accounts in place in their system, where some individual users have more than one account (e.g. a personal one and a professional one), some accounts are open but largely if not entirely unused by the person who set them up, and some account holders have actually died and any activity showing on them is coming from others posting there, with perhaps a level of family member or similar reply activity. Nevertheless, and even with those caveats added, Facebook has steady access to what can best be considered unimaginably vast amounts of personal information and from a number of actively involved individual users that has grown so large that it represents a significant percentage of the entire human population, globally. See Number of Facebook users worldwide 2008-2018 as can be found on the Statista portal.
• All Facebook users have to agree to that company’s terms of use, in order to set up and use a personal page on the Facebook.com web site. And they have to agree to any changes made there if they are to continue to use this service, when and as Facebook rolls out such changes to their offerings: which it has done on a regular, ongoing basis and certainly for how it can and does use and share its site users’ data.
• More specifically, Facebook usage agreements require that all users agree that they have seen these terms of usage requirements and that they understand precisely how Facebook as a company can and does use data that they post to their web site, or that they pin to and post upon the Facebook pages of others. And these agreements also allow the company to use and to sell usage of at least some of the personally identifiable information that its member users enter into their personal profiles too, that does not show live on the site for reasons of personal privacy.
• Note, and this is crucially important here: only Facebook users who have explicitly agreed to these terms of service and data usage can view content offered through the Facebook site, and only registered users can access a Facebook screen and view its contents – and for very specific legal reasons. That type and level of access restriction imposed, drives new people to join this service. They have to join there to be able to see what their friends and family are posting and sharing there. But at least as importantly and certainly from a legally framed risk liability perspective, this policy serves to keep participation limited to those who have formally, legally agreed to Facebook’s terms of service and particularly for matters such as data usage and data sharing or sale.

Google and others in this major player business category, sell targeted online ad placement insight and access to other businesses. Google’s paid advertisement search screen placement service has in fact added a significant revenue generating capability to their search engine site. Facebook profitably offers targeted advertising services to other businesses too, where those client businesses buy access to specific marketing demographics from Facebook, as identified through analysis of user data as carried out on a massive scale on an individualized member user by member user basis. But more than that, Facebook has has been highlighted in recent news stories, also sells access to its individual users’ data and of all types too, and for use in a vast and seemingly entirely open-ended manner.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will, among other things at least briefly discuss Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica, and its use of their data stores. I will cite at least a brief and select set of in the news links related to how Facebook sells access to user data in general too, and as a matter of explicit intent on their part. Then I will turn to consider the third business that I promised to discuss in this narrative: Amazon and how it leverages the data that it collects through its web site as a major source of incoming revenue. Amazon is primarily an online retail business, and an online store but it also generates income from a wider range of services that includes targeted ad placement and work with partner businesses that sell through its systems, tapping into the strength of its brand name and its product inventory and its purchasing user data. Like Google, this primarily means offering access to anonymized and demographic level data and the value that can be developed from that. But in anticipation of further discussion to come, this is also were Point 3 of my above-repeated to-address list enters this narrative, and the problem of how individually anonymous, anonymized data really is and can be, in a big data context.

After delving into those issues, and the issues of Point 2 from the above list as well, I will explain why I am looking so deeply into issues that are more about business intelligence providing businesses than they are about businesses that might acquire data and processed intelligence from them. I will simply add at this point in this series, that when a business purchases access to data from a third party provider they are buying into both the strengths and the weaknesses of those providing businesses, and in ways that might not be readily apparent and certainly up-front.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 38: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 18

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 25, 2018

This is my 38th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-37.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I focused in Part 37 of this, on franchise systems as an exit strategy that a young business’ founders and owners can build towards, as their new enterprise exits its earliest stages of business development and starts to become consistently profitable. That financial transition point serves as the starting point for a new business’ first real growth phase, and when viewed from the perspective of a franchise system-facing business model, that is when those business owners stabilize and effectively complete their first storefront that they began their business with, at least to the point where it can begin to serve as a prototype model for overall business systems expansion, through a replication process and through bringing in contractually licensed franchise holders to run these new outlets, as they are developed. (As a point of digression of some relevance here, that means in a would-be franchise systems context that this first storefront has reached a point in its development where it can begin to build brand strength that it can use in marketing its pattern as a viable franchise option, and first growth stage here means both further building out that storefront itself as a business in place, and developing marketing strength and reach from it too, as a basis for wider-ranging growth.)

I discussed founders, and those who would set out to build this type of business empire in Part 37. And I turn here to more directly consider the question of what types of people would seek out franchise opportunities as participants in this type of system. And I begin with the obvious – which I refer to as such because the points I will raise here, enter into essentially every pitch that franchise systems have ever offered as they seek to find and bring in, franchisee managers for their outlets:

• People who seek out, or who can be drawn into the possibilities and potentials of becoming a franchisee in this type of business, seek greater autonomy and independence and greater long-term growth opportunity than they have been able to achieve when working in-house for someone else and under their direct guiding management. Here, the guiding mantra that informs those recruitment pitches is “be your own boss and with a proven brand name and business support system to back you up, and increase your chances of success, and your speed to achieving that too. Come in and grow with this franchise system business, as a key participant in its success and as a key beneficiary of its success too.”

There are of course two sides to that bullet point and certainly to my more generically stated recounting of this basic sales pitch: independence, but in the context of a larger proven and established business and business model. And that means accepting trade-offs, and of a very particular type and blend.

Think of taking on a franchise license opportunity as fitting in between two other distinctive and commonly pursued alternative options:

• Continuing on as an in-house employee and manager, and
• Breaking away entirely from that career path pattern and seeking to build your own startup, and your own business future from it.

At least from my admittedly limited experience, most of the people who would find real appeal in becoming a franchise license holder have worked as managers, and generally lower level managers in more traditional businesses. And they have felt stymied there from a lack of opportunity for advancement, and from a lack of appreciation of what they can and in fact do contribute to the business they work for. And franchise opportunities also appeal to those who actively seek out opportunity to break into management and have more of a say in what they do professionally, and who seek to lead and manage larger efforts than just the work of their own hands. A driving need for the type of independence that I cited in the above bullet point enters into all of this.

And a desire to build towards success with a level of support that can ease the way towards that, and reduce the chances of failure in this, also holds real appeal here too. A well run, franchisee-friendly and supportive parent company does in fact provide stable and supportive structure and help while giving their individual franchisees a great deal of hands-on, day-to-day independence in running their own operations in their own storefront.

This type of career move can, and for many franchisees does serve as their last major career step transition in their work life. Well run and effective franchise businesses actively seek to recruit good people into their systems who can really succeed in this type of work environment as local franchise managers. And they seek to retain them, and their growing knowledge and skills sets for making their franchises thrive. So the approach to understanding these overall business systems and from both an overall business owner, and from a franchise holder perspective that I offered above is realistic, and certainly as an intended goal and for all stakeholder types in this type of venture.

Returning to the two career path alternatives to this franchise option that I noted above: a prospective franchise license holder, or a current one for that matter who might be questioning their decision here, needs to ask some basic questions as part of their own due diligence-based decision making process for their moving forward:

1. Would (or do) you have the level and types of support from the parent business that you need and want?
2. Would/do you actually have the independence that you seek, in being able to be your own boss and run your own storefront?
3. Or are you too hemmed in and in ways that are important to you, by the terms of the contractual agreements that have to be agreed to and signed in becoming a franchisee there, and from either a Point 1 or a Point 2 perspective?
4. In that, and as a specific case in point source of examples, are you required to use specific supportive services (such as, for example parent company provided cleaning supplies and only them) that you could acquire locally on your own and less expensively, improving your own bottom line and without cutting corners on maintenance and storefront appearance?
5. Are some of the centrally mandated and run quality control measures that the parent company provides and mandates, disruptive and in ways that they need not be, from a local franchise perspective?
6. And is the parent company too restrictive in what it allows their local franchisees to offer their customers, denying opportunity to them to effectively address local and regional tastes and preferences that they see real potential in meeting?
7. And this is where local autonomy or at least a measure of it in what is offered to the customer enters this picture too. And I close out this list of points with an open question that I have in effect been leading up to here. How can a franchise system parent company and their perhaps very widely dispersed franchisees with their local storefronts, reach and maintain a more optimized balance between what is systematically standardized across the entire system and in its overall branding and brand value, while also allowing for local diversity to address local community and related marketplace diversity?

And that last numbered point leads me directly to the issues that I will turn to in my next series installment where I will consider the issues of business-wide consistency, as well as storefront-level flexibility, and both in prototyping new product or service possibilities and in addressing local-to-store opportunities and challenges. What is and is not supported and even encouraged and rewarded in this? I will at least begin addressing this complex of issues in my next installment. And meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

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