Thoughts

Wall Street sign, downtown Manhattan, New York City

The unicorn that wants to slay Bloomberg

Unicorn Symphony is disrupting Wall Street and has its sights set firmly on Bloomberg, writes Fi Bendall.

The newest member of the ‘unicorn’ club, Symphony, is disrupting the way Wall Street traders work and it has financial data giant Bloomberg in its sights after another funding round edged it above the US$1 billion valuation mark.

In the same week as the WannaCry ransomware attack wreaked havoc on computers across the world, finance enterprise software start-up Symphony joined the likes of Facebook, Uber and Airbnb in the Unicorn club, which consists of private companies valued at more than US$1 billion.

French bank BNP Paribas led the latest funding round to the tune of US$63 million. It is one more sign that Symphony is shaping up as a major competitor to the likes of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters in the financial data market.

Driven by a need for security, Symphony has become the darling of Wall Street traders, who have taken to the app in droves as an alternative messaging and chat forum. With backing from Google and some of the world’s biggest financial institutions, Symphony is fast becoming a player in the lucrative financial markets sector and it has designs on moving into other areas like the legal and accounting sectors.

As founder and CEO David Gurle wrote in a on the launch of Symphony in 2015: “The content of every Symphony message will be encrypted locally at the client, using a key shared only by the members of the conversation. We can never access our customer’s data, as it is protected at all times by encryption keys known only by them.”

Driven by a need for security, Symphony has become the darling of Wall Street traders, who have taken to the app in droves as an alternative messaging and chat forum.

 

The key term here for many is “We can never access our customer’s data…” Known as the “Bloomberg killer”, Symphony has been likened to work messaging and communications platform Slack, but with very specific functions and features tailored to the finance and markets industry. What it says it’s offering workers in these sectors is a cheaper, more flexible and more secure product than the likes of Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters.

In 2013, Wall Street traders and bankers were miffed when it was revealed that many of their communications through the almost universally utilised Bloomberg terminals could in fact be read by Bloomberg employees, including the finance journalists who work for Bloomberg Media.

This breach of trust was especially galling for Goldman Sachs, with the highly influential investment bank lodging formal complaints with Bloomberg. Only a year later, Goldman Sachs led a 14-bank consortium acquisition of Perzo, which soon changed its name to Symphony. Under the leadership of its founder Michael Bloomberg, who would go on to become the Mayor of New York, the Bloomberg company pioneered the adoption of computer technology on Wall Street.

To this day, a significant amount of the company’s earnings come from the subscription fees share traders and firms pay for access to Bloomberg’s financial data products, including the Bloomberg terminal, which costs around US$25,000 per year per terminal for users.

In comparison, Symphony is looking to provide similar services, with what it says is better security, at a starting price of US$15 a month, along with a pared down ‘freemium’ offering. With data privacy and security uppermost in everyone’s minds, Symphony might be well-placed to exploit the legacy issues of incumbents like Bloomberg, especially when it is being backed by big hitters in the finance industry as well as Google

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What you need to know about LinkedIn’s new targeting tools

LinkedIn has become an important tool for not only professional networking and recruitment, but also as a means to target potential customers for your business. Smart users of LinkedIn know that if utilised properly, the network can be an excellent way to find, qualify and progress potential customers into your sales funnel.

The trick here is that you need to be careful about not using your personal LinkedIn account for hard sales, which could turn off and alienate some of your contacts, while establishing a way to communicate your offering to potential customers.

The fact is that many businesses are involved in business-to-business (B2B) sales rather than business-to-consumer (B2C), so it makes sense that LinkedIn would provide a better pool of customers for B2B than any other social network.

There are plenty of ways you can focus your personal LinkedIn account on what your business does, and that’s a good start to making LinkedIn work for both you and your business.

The next step though is to start using LinkedIn’s suite of advertising programs, including Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, and Text Ads. This will help extend your reach and expose your name and business to a lot more people than just your 1st degree connections. LinkedIn has lots of help available to walk you through the process.

On top of its existing programs, LinkedIn has just introduced three new targeting tools that could help you get more from your LinkedIn presence than likes and connections. The tools are part of Matched Audiences, which “gives you the unique ability to combine LinkedIn’s powerful professional data with your own first-party data”:

“With Matched Audiences you can use LinkedIn to retarget your website visitors, market to your contacts from your customer databases and marketing automation platforms, and reach decision makers at target companies for your account-based marketing programs. Matched Audiences helps increase ROI by enabling you to focus your efforts on the audiences and accounts that are most likely to drive revenue.”

In essence, Matched Audiences draws together the potential customer data available to you from sources like your website and other databases and matches that with people and companies on LinkedIn who may be most interested in your offerings.

The three tools it uses for this are:

• Website retargeting

• Account targeting

• Contact targeting

These tools work to integrate the customer data you might have lying dormant on an enterprise marketing platform like Marketo or Oracle Eloqua and then match that data to potential audiences on LinkedIn through Sponsored Content or Sponsored InMail.

It’s definitely worth thinking about LinkedIn as more than just an online portal for job hunting, networking and recruitment. It is the number one place for professionals and business people to connect online, so it stands to reason that people will be far more receptive to your offering than they may be on networks like Facebook or Twitter.

Amazon_Prime_logo

How can your business possibly compete with Amazon?

Specialisation and high level attention to customer relationships and engagement could be the key for businesses looking to compete in an e-commerce world dominated by Amazon.

Just as Google dominates internet search, Amazon is now the undisputed giant of online retail. This has understandably made plenty of retailers extremely worried about their place in a world seemingly dominated by Jeff Bezos’s hydra-headed juggernaut.

If you’re going to take on Amazon, how exactly do you do it? Is it smarter to accept Amazon will dominate certain categories and look to exploit the niches and sectors Amazon ignores or overlooks? Or do you simply roll over and go to the great shopping mall in the sky filled with all those other failed retailers?

Read more: Aussie retailers weigh in on Amazon’s arrival

Amazon’s pending entry to the Australian marketplace has certainly shaken things up. The responses from incumbents have been varied, with some expressing scepticism that Amazon will have that big an impact on Australian shoppers, while others say Amazon’s entry will be a game changer of epic proportions.

Other just plainly think Amazon will destroy any competition.

Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey has brandished fighting words in the face of the Amazon threat, insisting his company could match Amazon on price, service, and even delivery.

“If they come into our store and Amazon’s got a cheaper price, we will match that price. We will be competitive come hell or high water. We are not going to lie down for Amazon,” Harvey said in February.

Someone who has had his share of stoushes with Gerry Harvey over the years, outspoken online retail maverick Ruslan Kogan, says Amazon coming to Australia can only be good for consumers and, perhaps remarkably, retailers.

Some analysts have already identified Kogan.com as one of the first possible victims of Amazon’s entry, so it might be surprising to hear positive words about its impending arrival from Kogan.

“We’d greet them with open arms,” Kogan told Bloomberg.

Rather than seeing Amazon as a direct competitor, Kogan says smart retailers (including his own business) will take advantage of a lift in the percentage of consumers spending retail dollars online and even use Amazon as an additional channel to market.

“What the data shows is that when Amazon comes to a market they change the way consumers shop. Online retail penetration grows significantly and Amazon takes a small chunk of that. So for us as an online retailer with a compelling offering to the consumer, we are embracing it,” he said.

“It would be a good thing for all retailers in general who have a unique and compelling proposition.”

One thing almost everyone agrees upon is that matching Amazon on price and delivery will be extremely tough for Australian retailers.

But as Ruslan Kogan alluded to with his comments, smart retailers might just find a way to sidestep that contest in favour of doing something unique, which might mean a niche or highly specialised offering, and offering something compelling, which augurs well for brands that have a strong relationship with their customers and are continuously working to maintain that relationship.

Australian retailers are in for interesting times. Those that can define and refine what they do, and communicate that well to customers, might stand a chance in the age of Amazon.

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How business owners and startups can get angel investment

You’ve got what you think is the type of disruptive business idea that is set to make your startup the next Uber, Atlassian or Snapchat, but you don’t have the funds to take it from beta to launch.

Where do you go, what do you do?

If only an angel would answer your prayers …

That’s when someone like Philip Argy might come in. Argy is a very experienced intellectual property lawyer who has been involved in the tech scene now for decades. In fact, Argy became interested in computers more than 40 years ago and is himself an experienced programmer. 

He’s also a committee member of Sydney Angels, which is an organisation that brings together high net worth individuals who invest their money, expertise and time in helping entrepreneurs achieve their startup dreams. It’s Australia’s largest network of startup angel investors with around 115 members on its books.

Along with Sydney Angels, there are other groups such as theAustralian Angel Investment Network, Melbourne Angels, Business Angels, and Capital Angels. Each of these groups has its own rules and protocols but they all essentially do the same thing, which is to match investor capital to startups and entrepreneurs for early stage funding.

This kind of funding provides a fledgling business with the capital it needs to go from bootstrapped funding (friends, family, credit cards, small loans, savings, etc) to the next stage before venture capital funding rounds might be considered.

Sydney Angels was founded in 2008 and since then has facilitated investments by its members in a diverse range of startups, including the likes of Ingogo, Venuemob and Jayride through its successfulSidecar Fund, which matches funds to private deals made by members.

But angel investing is not for the risk averse, says Argy. You need to be in “robust” financial health and also realise that many of the enterprises you invest in may not end up as ‘unicorns’ or even make any money.

“It’s not a sit-back, passive investment. Otherwise, you’d just put money in the sharemarket,” says Argy.

“It does have its risks.”

He says angel investors, on a global average, might only expect a really strong return on one in 10 of their investments, but that might be anything up to 40 times return on investment.

So what do angel investors like Argy look for in a startup?

Argy says the Sydney Angels investor education program gives angel investors a “de-risking methodology and an approach to due diligence which significantly changed my approach. It gave me a discipline I’d never had [in relation to investing]”.

He broadly looks for three key things: smart founders; defensible and scalable idea; and evidence of market traction.

“You’re definitely investing in the people. There’s no angel investment that’s ever been successful with a moron at the helm!” he says.

“They have to be what we call coachable. If you have someone who thinks they know everything that’s a predictor of failure in business, because they won’t listen. If you get someone who is passionate about their product; can market it; can show that it works; can show there’s genuine interest in the product in the marketplace; and can show that they are willing to learn and absorb the wisdom of the investors and take advice; they are your ideal candidates.”

With a strong interest and background in computing and software, coupled with his expertise in intellectual property law, Argy has a preference for startups dealing in business software solutions.

“I tend to like non-physical products, so software and business methodologies that can scale quickly. So if the marketplace takes to it, it can go viral and go global. Physical products where you need a distribution channel can be hard to grow very quickly,” he says.

If you’re a startup looking for angel funding, Sydney Angels — and most other reputable angel investors — generally want you want to hit these targets:

  • Demonstrated traction in your marketplace;
  • Seeking investment of $200,000 to $500,000;
  • Strong founders and team; and
  • Offer investors the potential for 10 times return on investment.

For an angel investor and tech buff like Argy, it’s about more than just the potential windfall from a canny investment in a smart startup.

“What I love about it is we get the first look at things that are virtually off the drawing board or prototype that the world hasn’t seen yet. The risk is you don’t know how the world will receive it, but the reward is you’re seeing something no one has seen,” he says.

utopia-dystopia

Utopia or dystopia: who are we to believe?

Alibaba chief Jack Ma said recently we could be in for “decades of pain” as the new tech economy creates displacement and discontent.

Speaking at an entrepreneurship conference in Zhengzhou, China, Ma warned technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics could deepen already apparent social divides between the rich and poor globally.

“In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness,” Ma said. “Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life.”

A lot of Ma’s angst, shared by many, is about the impact AI in particular will have on employment and social stability: “Machines should only do what humans cannot. Only in this way can we have the opportunities to keep machines as working partners with humans, rather than as replacements.”

This is mild, however, compared to the apocalyptic predictions of Shane Legg, one of the co-founders of DeepMind, the AI research firm acquired by Google for US$500 million in 2014.

“I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this,” Legg has said.

That’s cheerful news.

But not everyone is as pessimistic about the future.

For Elon Musk, the potential for mass unemployment once AI fully kicks in has led him to advocate for a universal basic income as a way to ease some of the pain. He doesn’t think poverty will be the problem, but rather that we’ll become aimless without jobs.

“Ultimately we will have to have some kind of universal basic income,” Musk told the World Government Summit in Dubai. “The output of goods and services will be extremely high. So with automation there will come abundance. Almost everything will get very cheap.”

“The much harder challenge will be how will people then have meaning?”

A voice of moderation comes from Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who has faith in technology and the power of people to control it for the good of humankind.

“As I look toward the future, I’m excited by what I see: technology that has the potential to answer some of our biggest questions, solve some of our toughest challenges and help us better understand the world around us,” Whitman says.

So are we facing a dystopia or a utopia?

There are so many big technological advances in the offing that it’s awfully hard to work out what impact any one of them will singularly have on the world, let alone what the unintended consequences will be, or how these technologies will interact with each other to produce an overall outcome.

Right now we are on the cusp of major advances in the adoption of the IoT, VR and AR, AI and machine learning, drones and driverless cars – and that’s before we even start talking about other areas like nanotechnology, genetics, space travel… the list goes on.

Factor into all this the idea of the exponential development of technology, what’s referred to as Moore’s Law, and the mind boggles pondering how we could be living 30 years from now.

There is little doubt the world will be a very different place in the next few decades. We can make educated guesses, as so many are doing now, and we can probably even run simulations testing various scenarios, but it’s impossible to really know how things will turn out.

(Unless we’re all just living in a Matrix-style simulation from which we need to break out. Tech billionaires are apparently working on that thesis too.)

Mark Zuckerberg addressed quite a few of these questions and issues in a lengthy letter he posted to Facebook earlier this year. He was optimistic about the role Facebook could play in bringing people and communities together and where the world was headed.

“We may not have the power to create the world we want immediately, but we can all start working on the long term today,” he said.

Of course, that’s as long as we haven’t been made extinct as a species by AI in the meantime…

5 ways to Stand out on Social Media

5 WAYS TO STAND OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Whether it is professional networking on LinkedIn, or keeping in touch with friends and family on Facebook, social media has become a huge part of most people’s lives over the past five years.

There are different codes of behaviour for each social media platform and it’s important to have a basic grasp of these if you want to have an effective and worthwhile presence on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

That makes it sound a bit like rocket science, which it’s not, but getting the hang of social lingo and protocol can help you avoid standing out for the wrong reasons on social media.

Here are five guaranteed ways to stand out on social media. I recommend you only pursue one of them though!

1. Say something utterly inappropriate

Journalists used to have to hang out patiently at press conferences or hope for a slip up in an interview to get that ‘gotcha’ moment. Now, all they have to do is set up Hootsuite and wait for notifications when someone even barely in the public eye has said something stupid or grossly inappropriate.

Take, for instance, the tweet from fashion designer Kenneth Cole’s account that said: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…”. This was at the time of the 2011 uprising in Egypt. Not the best social media move ever.

However tweets deemed inappropriate by many people on Twitter didn’t seem to really end up harming the appeal of US President, Donald Trump. So there’s hope for us all yet.

2. Be exceedingly rude

The next level up from plain inappropriate comments are outright rude comments. There’s something about the ‘keyboard warrior’ mentality some people approach social media interactions with, that has led to a serious spike in this kind of thing.

Safely tucked away from real-world repercussions, like an actual punch in the nose, some people seem to have given up on civility altogether, opting for a Lord of the Flies/UFC-style approach to their social media interactions.

This is most often seen in the hordes of anonymous or pseudonymous trolls out there, especially on Twitter, but it’s something that can also afflict people who are probably genuinely nice when they’re not spewing vicious bile via their smartphone. A bit like road rage, social media can really unleash the beast inside if you’re not careful.

3. Embarrass yourself

That selfie you posted to Instagram. You know, the one where you’ve had that wardrobe malfunction?

In the heat of the moment, you might be out on the town and looking fabulous and decide to post or tweet a pic only to find out a few hours later that you’ve exposed a little more of yourself than was maybe wise. Before you know it, a certain body part of yours has gone viral. You delete the offending post but the damage has been done.

Social media is easy and instantaneous, which is why it’s great but so dangerous. There are so many ways to embarrass yourself and a whole world of social media vultures ready to laugh at your expense. Think before you post. And check that your outfit is free of malfunctions.

4. Bully or stalk people

Unfortunately, social media has brought out some of the nastier qualities in human beings, like bullying, harassment and stalking. The ease with which people can connect and become ‘friends’ on social media has led to the types of barriers we once had between us being diminished. Again, this can be good or bad, depending on the person and circumstance.

There’s also a mob mentality that can sometimes take hold on platforms like Twitter and Facebook that will see people pile on the misery for a targeted individual. We see this far too often, especially with young people. At least the social networks are now trying to do a bit more to protect people from such behaviour.

5. Engage people in a charming, intelligent and personable manner

After all that, it’s probably refreshing to know that the very best way to stand out on social media is to be charming, intelligent and personable — just like you are in real life!

Social media mirrors (yes, occasionally in a very distorted fashion) our ‘real’ physical interactions. It extends and amplifies them as well. What most people want when they go online is to interact with someone who is warm and authentic. This goes for corporate and brand accounts as well.

Be authentic and you’ll connect with the right audience of people for you, which is the best way to stand out on social media.

Angel Investor

What you don’t know about being an angel investor

Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake and Jared Leto have brought Hollywood star power to the Silicon Valley tech-investment scene, with Kutcher in particular being very active as an angel investor and as the founder of his own firm, A-Grade Investments.

The publicity surrounding these types of investments is partly down to the people involved, but it’s also about the recognition that there is serious money to be made with the right kind of investment.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of angel investing, it’s basically about matching the capital of high net worth individuals (HNWI) to start-ups. In some cases, these start-ups are not much more than a savvy elevator pitch, which is what can make angel investing so rewarding, but also seriously risky if you don’t know what you’re doing.

While most of the hype is reserved for Silicon Valley, there’s a very vibrant angel investment community in Australia as well, with organisations like Sydney Angelsleading the charge.

Philip Argy

Philip Argy

Intellectual property lawyer Philip Argy is a member of Sydney Angels and specialises in commercial mediation of IP disputes in the science and tech fields as the CEO of his company ArgyStar.

Argy says he started dabbling in angel investing in the late 1970s (though, he says, that’s not what it was called back then) but probity constraints meant he was only really able to become more engaged in the pursuit when he retired from full-time legal practice as a partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques almost 10 years ago.

Beyond the prospect of financial reward, Argy says angel investing allowed him to marry his vast experience in IP law with his interest in computing and digital technologies.

“I developed a passion for Aussie innovation and used to get quite upset seeing terrific stuff going offshore because they couldn’t get funded here,” Argy says.

Argy joined Sydney Angels in 2007 and says the organisation’s education program, which focuses on a “de-risking methodology and an approach to due diligence”, gave him the knowledge to confidently pursue this area.

He says angel investors need to have a “pretty robust bank balance” and not be too risk averse. He says it’s important for anyone who wants to invest in this way to match their expertise to the types of start-ups in which they would invest. For him, that’s meant focusing primarily on business software ventures.

“In addition to putting in your cash, you put in your expertise. So you sit around the table with the entrepreneur, who generally is a smart person but maybe not really commercially savvy, so you’re able to contribute a little bit of wisdom and a little bit of ‘seen that, been there before’ experience,” he says.

With around 115 members, Sydney Angels have invested in a diverse group of start-ups, including everything from Big Data cloud integration software Instaclustr through to pet products marketing firm ModaUnica.

Argy says the Australian approach to angel investing is certainly different to the high-stakes go-around that characterises Silicon Valley, but that can be a good thing.

“Funnily enough, when you talk to the experts in Silicon Valley they think what we do is actually better than what they do. We tend to find that businesses that have been through Sydney Angels that are ready for more cash will raise it immediately in Silicon Valley based on the fact they’ve been through the Sydney Angels due diligence,” he says.

Argy says the policies and initiatives introduced by the Turnbull government, including even more attractive early stage investment tax offsets, have also helped to bolster angel investment scene.

We often decry the lack of investment in start-ups and innovation in Australia, but the opportunities are definitely there for smart, experienced business people and professionals to back exciting start-ups through groups like Sydney Angels, Melbourne Angels and other groups.

It’s not only a potentially rewarding financial investment, but also provides excellent networking potential for savvy executives.

 

Founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson speaking at the World Business Forum in Sydney, Thursday, May 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING

5 Things successful business leaders do each day

What makes successful CEOs tick? What’s the secret to their success?

Well, there’s nothing magical or especially mysterious about most of the qualities successful people possess, like intelligence, a strong work ethic and resilience, but some of the most successful CEOs of our time have particular daily habits that push them ahead of the pack.

1. The Oracle of Omaha’s voracious reading habit

Most successful people keep up-to-date on world events and business news. They might even read a couple of books a month to feed and nurture their knowledge and curiosity.

But it’s hard to imagine many people matching the volume of reading super investor Warren Buffett gets through on a daily basis.

The chairman of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway says he reads up to a thousand solid book pages a day and spends about 80% of his work time reading. Buffett’s reading habit has given him incredible insight into how the business world works. He has applied that learning to become one of the richest people on the planet.

“Read 500 pages like this every day (Buffett points to a stack of books). That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it,” Buffett says.

2. Jeff Bezos and the power of sleep

We’re used to hearing stories about successful people who seem to survive on a measly amount of sleep each night. In fact, we had a Prime Minister a few years ago, Kevin Rudd, who was supremely confident that three hours a night was all he needed to run the country.

However, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has managed to build one of the biggest companies in the world without joining the ‘you snooze, you lose’ club. Instead, Bezos says getting a solid eight hours of sleep each night is vital for his functioning.

“I just feel so much better all day long if I’ve had eight hours,” Bezos once told the Wall Street Journal.

3. Branson’s always on the move

Richard Branson exudes passion and vitality. Branson is fit, taut and terrific at the age of 66 and he credits much of this to his daily exercise regime, which includes cycling and running.

“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit,” Branson tells FourHourBodyPress. “It keeps the brain functioning well.”

Branson always has a bounce in his step that tells people he is ready to go and passionate about what he’s doing. It’s a quality that radiates through his business ventures as well. 

4. Of course he would …

It really should come as no surprise the first thing Mark Zuckerberg does when he wakes up is checks his Facebook feed. Many of us now wake up, roll over, and check in to see what has been happening in our social media world overnight.

It makes sense for Zuckerberg to get his FB fix first thing in the morning, just like millions of others do. It keys him into the daily routine of his customers and is a surefire sign that he’s really living his product.

As he told Jerry Seinfeld on a Facebook Live Q&A, “I like at Facebook to see what’s going on in the world. Then I check my messages, I look at Messenger and WhatsApp.” 

5. Call your Mum!

Plenty of entrepreneurs and executives talk about the importance of making time for family. The CEO of medical imaging firm DICOM Grid, Morris Panner, does just that by calling his Mum for a chat once a day. 

Panner says that aside from keeping in touch with his Mum, the phone chat provides him with some grounding in his busy day.

He also says it helps him run a company that understands the work/life balance issues of its employees. “If you want to be a family-friendly company, you have to understand what an important priority family is,” he says.

Janine Garner

It’s who you know that really counts when it comes to networking

We’ve never been more networked than we are right now. LinkedIn has 467 million members, Twitter has 319 million active users, and more than 1 billion people are active on Facebook.

So why are so many of us so bad at networking?

Connection possibilities seem boundless, but we’ve become so obsessed with the metrics of it all that we’re losing sight of the real purpose of networking, according to networking and collaboration thought leader Janine Garner.

Her new book is called It’s Who You Know: How a network of 12 key people can fast-track your success and in it she puts forward a very persuasive case for why we should stop treating networking like a numbers game and think more about the quality of our connections rather than the quantity.

“We’re living in a world where the explosion of social media and access via technology has absolutely opened up significant opportunities to connect not just one to one but many to many,” Garner tells me.

“However, I think in this world of connection we are becoming increasingly disconnected. I think there’s definitely a role for things like social media. I think networking still matters, but it’s your network that matters more,” she says.

Garner understands why business people especially have become so focused on trying to grow their networks and leveraging those connections in order to drive things like exposure, brand awareness and sales.

But she thinks at an individual level, professionals and entrepreneurs should shift their focus away from amassing sheer numbers to cultivating a “critical board of advisors”.

“Okay, you’ve got the transactional quantity piece sorted, but now it’s about getting yourself smack bang in the middle of a key group of people that are going to help you achieve your personal, professional and business goals,” she says.

“And who are those people? I think that’s the piece people are missing. We’re getting carried away with just surface level connections and many of us have lost this important process of getting this critical board of advisors around us to help us achieve our goals.”

Garner outlines exactly who this board of advisors should be and she says it comes down to a magic group of 12.

“The starting point is working out exactly what you want. So in 12 months where do you see yourself? What do you want to achieve both professionally and personally? Then I would say to someone list 10-15 people who could help you do that. That is the freeze point for most people. Most of them say, ‘Oh gosh, I actually don’t know the right people to help me’.

“So the suggestion I have in the book is to start with a core of four and then evolve to 12. So think of it as the four elements: fire, earth, air and water.”

Garner says once you break down and assess your network you have to be able to identify the people who can fulfil the following roles for you. These are the four key people you have to have in your network to start with:

1. Promoters

“Promoters are the people who help you become more. They are your cheerleaders. They make noise about potential possibilities and they’re inspiring you to dream and to think bigger.”

2. Pit crew

“Pit crew are keeping you stable, keeping you true, on track and present. They are really making sure any untoward emotions are not getting in your way.”

3. Teachers

“Teachers are helping you know more, helping you develop your knowledge, wisdom and foresight. They are really challenging you intellectually and helping you become a master at whatever your craft is.”

4. Butt kickers

“Butt kickers are making you do what you say you’re going to do! They are accelerating your journey. They are pushing you to do more and holding you accountable.”

Garner says once you’ve found these people you can then go on to fill out your group of 12 that will make up your personal board of advisors. Imagine each of these as a quadrant:

  • Promoters: Cheerleader, explorer, inspirer
  • Pit crew: Lover, connector, balancer
  • Teachers: Influencer, professor, architect
  • Butt kickers: Truthsayer, accelerator, mentor

Garner’s approach is certainly a lot more strategic than just accepting countless random requests to connect on LinkedIn and it’s designed to accelerate your professional growth rather than just boost your metrics.

She says it’s also important to realise that networking is not just about take, take, take. If you’re going to nurture your network, you have to bring value to the table yourself as well.

So next time you’re looking at your network, start thinking more strategically about your goals, where you want to be, and who the core 12 people might be who can help you achieve your dreams.

amazon

Why every day is Day 1 for Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos’s philosophy is part hard-headed merchant realist and part Willy Wonka mad genius, writes Fi Bendall.

Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently released his annual shareholder letter and, as always, it is full of nuggets of wisdom and hints of what the future holds for Amazon, ecommerce and business more broadly.

Bezos’s annual letter to shareholders has become one of the must-read documents of reporting season and is now up there with the likes of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway letter for its insights and wisdom.

In this year’s letter, the Amazon mogul once again sets out a philosophy that is part hard-headed merchant realist and part Willy Wonka mad genius. Bezos is absolutely obsessed with perfecting the customer experience.

It’s all summed up in his concept of Day 1. For Bezos, Day 1 is that beautiful phase of accelerated growth, learning and innovation in the early stage of a company’s life. Day 2, well Day 2 strikes absolute dread in his heart.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1,” he writes.

Bezos and Amazon have been living Day 1 now for 23 years and 20 of them as a publicly listed company. The internet has matured (well somewhat), especially in terms of e-commerce, and it would be forgivable to think a company like Amazon might have donned a cardigan, slacks and comfortable shoes by now.

But that’s not for Bezos. Instead, if he’s not chasing a trillion dollar market opportunity in India, then he’s developing AI and drone technologies that will put Amazon ahead of the pack for years to come.

As he says in this year’s letter, big companies seem to find it hard to embrace big trends, but Amazon is not your regular big company.

“The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.”

The powerful trends he identifies are machine learning and artificial intelligence. And while these trends tap into an idea of perfection through algorithm, elsewhere Bezos makes a case for some very human qualities when it comes to being 100% customer-focused. He says things like beta-testing and surveys have their place, but these things can’t replace the single-minded passion and devotion of a great inventor or designer:

“Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.” (Bezos’s emphasis)

Bezos blurs the line between an old school street trader who knows just what his customer wants before the customer even does and the futurist entrepreneur who can spot exactly how technology will change the customer experience. It’s a very powerful combination.

PS Here’s a line from Amazon’s 1997 shareholder letter that will leave you misty-eyed with nostalgia and really gives you an idea of Amazon’s robustness and longevity compared to some of its internet contemporaries of the time: “We established long-term relationships with many important strategic partners, including America Online, Yahoo!, Excite, Netscape, GeoCities, AltaVista, @Home, and Prodigy.”