WHOEVER WISHES

“Whoever wishes to live in sanctity, may he live according to the true laws of commerce and finance.”

Babylonian Talmud

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THE LETTER

I have read Buffett’s books as well as several books about/with/sponsored by Buffet, including The Intelligent Investor. Which I have in my personal business and consulting library.

I do not consider Buffett either that brilliant, or that great of a man, except when it comes to investing. When it comes to investing and how to maximize the inherent capacities of any given business he supports he can be, and is indeed, far more often than not, quite incredibly brilliant.

Therefore I found the letter Bill Gates spoke about in the article quite interesting. I downloaded a .pdf copy to study.

Bill Gates recommends you read this specific part of Warren Buffett’s letter

warren buffett bill gates ping pongREUTERS/Rick Wilking Buffett and Gates.

Bill Gates is a big Warren Buffett fan.

Gates’ charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was gifted shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, worth almost $30 billion back in 2006, and Buffett serves as a trustee of the foundation.

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Gates highlighted what he thought was the most important section of Buffett’s latest letter to shareholders, the 50th edition of the widely circulated missive.

Gates links to page 23 of the letter, where Buffett walks through the earliest days of Berkshire (as well as the “monumentally stupid” decision Buffett made over $0.125 back in 1964).

In a YouTube video posted Sunday, Gates talked a bit about why he liked this passage from the letter so much — it’s about the history of Buffett the investor and Berkshire the company.

In the video, Gates says what works about what he calls the “Berkshire system” is that it maximizes the potential of businesses by giving them autonomy as well as the explicit support of the whole Berkshire organization, even if mistakes are made.

Gates added: “What really struck me this time about the letter was the value of experience. [Buffett] is better today than ever because he’s seen so many businesses and he understands business profitability so incredibly well.” Gates says this is the most important annual letter Buffett has ever written.

Read Buffett’s full letter here »

A VALIANT EFFORT

I have to admit that if I were Valiant comics, and given Valiant’s roster of characters, having a Chinese entertainment company as a capital and marketing/production partner would probably seem like a near ideal arrangement.

 

Valiant Comics Plans to Launch Its Own ‘Cinematic Universe’

By

Fear not: There will be no shortage of comic-book movies in years to come, even if DC and Marvel give up on constantly rebooting Batman and Spider-Man. The independent comic-book publisher Valiant Entertainment has secured an eight-figure equity investment from Beijing-based DMG Entertainment, plus an additional nine figures for the production of film and TV projects. The publisher has a library of 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar and Harbinger, and films based on the titles Bloodshot, Shadowman, and Archer & Armstrong were already in the works. Valiant says its partnership with DMG — which co-produced and co-financed Iron Man 3 — will allow it to “begin to establish its cinematic universe in the United States, China and beyond.”

The two companies plan to develop more superhero films for simultaneous release in the U.S. and China, and to expand Valiant’s Asian audience via Chinese-language publishing, animation, online games, merchandise, and theme parks.

“Audiences in China and the rest of the world are hungry for heroic stories that they can more easily relate to … and with the international box office accounting for the biggest piece of the total gross, the time is right for a truly international superhero franchise,” said DMG President Wu Bing in a press release. “DMG will bring its unique global perspective to the task of transforming the Valiant Universe into the first international comic-movie universe.”

 

THE BIG LIST

Adding to my list of Venture Capital and Investment firms that I need to contact to fund some of my business ideas, inventions, and projects.

THE NOVEL START UP

He’s absolutely right. You shouldn’t just market and “get on people’s radar” after you fund and start operations, you should do that to get funded and to start operations. As a matter of fact you should market continuously and at all times.

Richard Branson on How to Raise Money When You’re Just Starting Out

December 15, 2014

Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.

Q.: G’day Richard. I am a young engineering student with little to no practical experience as an entrepreneur. I think I’ve got a great idea, a ready and capable team, but have little money to pursue commercializing my novel product. I fear that potential investors will not take me seriously because of my age (21) and inexperience. How can I convince seasoned investors to believe in my team and invest in my idea? — Jordan Gruber, Australia

My friends and I came up with the name “Virgin” one day when we were 15 years old, sitting around in a basement. I was keen on the name “Slipped Disc” for our new music venture, but then one of my friends pointed out that when it came to business, “we’re all virgins; why don’t we call it that?” In our case, inexperience proved to be a huge asset — if we’d gone with the safer option, I’m not sure that many people would be working out at Slipped Disc Health Clubs or banking at Slipped Disc Money!

Innovation and entrepreneurship thrive on the energy of people who are dipping their toes into the water for the first time. Budding entrepreneurs with fresh outlooks have the freedom to think quite differently, which is tremendously exciting to potential collaborators. However, as you’re finding out, Jordan, translating a new concept into a product can be very daunting.

While you might not yet have the right connections or an “in” with major investors, other people out there do — experienced businesspeople, in your sector or in others, who were once in your shoes and went on to be successful. These people are potential mentors who can help you on your way.

Mentoring is a subject that is very close to our hearts at Virgin; I myself have benefited from many mentors throughout my life. However, don’t consider mentoring as a quick way to gain useful contacts. A good mentoring relationship is based on more than that — it’s a way to learn valuable lessons from the mistakes someone else has made.

Additionally, I noticed in your message an emphasis on convincing “seasoned investors” to back your idea. While securing huge sums of money from major business figures might seem like the ideal way to propel a business forward, the reality is that very few ventures win this kind of funding. A better alternative might be an online crowdfunding platform. Websites such as Indiegogo not only have the potential to fund the creation of a prototype to get your business up and running, but they also can result in significant publicity.

Another option is taking out a small business loan. In the U.K. we launched Virgin StartUp, a program that provides loans of up to 25,000 pounds to companies trying to get their ideas off the ground. It is well worth your time to look into similar initiatives in your area, and decide whether a loan is the right step for you. As an added benefit, both crowdfunding and small business loans will mean that you can retain full ownership of your business — you won’t have to give any equity away to investors.

Here are three steps that can help you discover which approach is best for you:

1. EVALUATE AND RESEARCH.

Always be honest with yourself about your abilities, the work you’ll have to put in to get your company up and running, and the amount of money you’re hoping to raise. Research all the options that are available, and evaluate how they would affect your end goal.

Ask yourself: Is your crowdfunding target realistic? How much of a stake in your business are you willing to give to potential investors?

And if you want to find a mentor who can help give you direction and guidance, make sure you find a suitable one. Find out what they do, whether they’ve mentored others before and which sectors they are interested in.

2. GET ON PEOPLE’S RADAR.

Attend industry events such as seminars and conferences. Talk to as many people as possible, and do not immediately launch into a pitch of your product. Be sure to listen and learn from what people have to say.

Networking doesn’t stop at face-to-face contact, either; interact on social media, join LinkedIn groups and keep the relationships going online. When you do approach potential mentors or investors, or if you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll have a degree of visibility.

In fact, the more proactive you are in building your profile, the more likely it is that potential investors will feel confident enough to put their faith in you — and their money in your company. Remember that the more relationships you build, the better the chances that your network will put you in touch with the people who can help your business.

3. KEEP AN OPEN MIND.

Remember to be flexible. While winning investment might look like the best option now, don’t discount any other opportunities that come your way. For example, crowdfunding might not have the prestige of an investment from a big-time entrepreneur, but it will connect you directly with future customers, and you will have more control over the process.

Keeping an open mind is especially important when it comes to mentoring. Don’t see mentorship as a quick fix for problems, and do not brush off advice. Consider your connection with a mentor as a long-lasting business relationship that can teach you lessons and reduce the potential for failure. But also remember that, as with anything else, you’ll get out of mentoring what you put in.

Making sure that your potential business is a success is not contingent upon gaining a large investment. Many successful companies — including Virgin — started with modest funds. Right now, investors might seem like they are the gatekeepers between you and your dream, but the one person who can make your business succeed is not an investor, or even a mentor. It is you.

Good luck!
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Isuama Kennedy
Isuama Kennedy from Facebook8 hours ago

the one person who will make your business to succeed is not an investor or your mentor but YOU
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Meg Columbia Walsh
Meg Columbia Walsh from Facebook9 hours ago

Great Mr. Branson, then tell me a time to pitch my business that is doing well!!! Woman and gay owned…
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Silvia Khouzame
Silvia Khouzame from Facebook12 hours ago

Natalie Khouzame
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Samantha Binetter
Samantha Binetter from Facebook17 hours ago

Robbie Binetter
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Chandé Dusina
Chandé Dusina from Facebook20 hours ago

Nick Timmer
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Maria Petromanolakis
Maria Petromanolakis21 hours ago

Thank you very much Sir Branson!
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Alexandra Ferrer
Alexandra Ferrer from Facebook2 days ago

Thomas Caldwell
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Ryan Poh
Ryan Poh from Facebook2 days ago

Nitin Ahuja
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Duc Hoang
Duc Hoang from Facebook2 days ago

one story for strategy 😀
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Peachy Keen
Peachy Keen from Facebook2 days ago

Wont work in the south. These old geezers aren’t giving up their money unless its for an oil well!
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Kiều Công Bình
Kiều Công Bình from Facebook2 days ago

Duc Hoang Nguyễn Trung Kiên 😀
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Jason Lobo Sedillo
Jason Lobo Sedillo from Facebook2 days ago

Great insight
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stephen hardacre
stephen hardacre 2 days ago

O.K. THE RICHSTER DID YOU EVER WATCH JERRY MCGUIRE WELL RUMOUR HAS IT THAT IT WAS FICTIONAL CERTAIN GUYS ARE SAYING THAT IT IS ABOUT THEM BUT WHAT I AM ABOUT TO ACHIEVE IS REAL TIME AND WHILE I AM AT IT THE PLAN IS TO BRING THE CRIME RATE DOWN IN MY ALREADY ROUGH AS TOAST AREA YOU SEE IT IS NOT BRAINS I NEED IT IS BRAWN AND A FIGHTING HEART BASICALLY I WONT THE KIDS WHO THE TEACHERS SAY HAVE NO HOPE AND I WAS AND LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY ALL MY LIFE I KNOW THE KIDS THAT ARE DESTINED FOR A LIFE OF CRIME AS I WAS BROUGHT UP WITH THEIR PARENTS THE ONLY REASON THEY GO TO CRIME IS BECAUSE THEY ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL JUST BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS ARE A WEE TAD ROTTEN BUT THAT COMES HAND IN HAND WITH BEING POOR IT DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO STEER CLEAR OF THESE FUTURE CRIMINALS AND THATS THE WAY IT IS I HAVE NOT “THROWN A BEVVY ON IT ” THAT IS HOW IT IS THE PLAN IS TO PAY THEM WHAT I CALL A ” WOW WAGE ” BEYOND THEIR WILDEST DREAMS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN LOOK AFTER THERE WAYWARD PARENTS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN CHANNEL THEIR KNOWLEDGE FOR ME THIS IS WHERE THE DIAMONDS ARE IN THE DIRT PEOPLE SAY I AM CRAZY BUT AS IT SO HAPPENS IT WOULD BE A SIN NOT TO PUSH FOR IT WITH THE FORWARD MOMENTUM I FEEL AROUND ME last but not least i must say it when i was a kid”I USED TO WANT TO BE YOU BUT I DON’T NO MORE I WANNA BE ME “IF YOU GET TO THIS WEE MESSAGE THINK OF US AND YOU WILL GET INTO HEAVEN THANKS

THE GAMECHANGER
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JDGO
JDGO 2 days ago

Great advise sir,
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RadoslavVujaklija
RadoslavVujaklija 2 days ago

Yeah kick it sir Branson!!!
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THE MARRIAGE OF OUR BETTER INTERESTS

Why Choosing A VC Is Like Choosing A Spouse

What to consider before you put a ring on it

Committing to a relationship with a VC is committing to the long-term. In romantic terms, it’s a marriage, not a casual drink or weekend getaway. In fact, venture capital/startup relationships last just as long as most marriages — around 7 or 8 years — and can be just as emotionally taxing.

Entrepreneurs often struggle to feel confident when they are presenting to VCs. Pitching your startup can be as nerve-wracking as waiting at the bar for a blind date, and what VCs want can seem as mysterious as members of the opposite sex. Entrepreneurs are reluctant to ask important questions because they are afraid of scaring the potential partner away, but the answers to those questions could seriously impact the happiness and fruitfulness of your “life” together. Startup life means there are a lot of ups and downs, but the downs don’t mean you should settle for a ‘safe’ VC choice. Everybody deserves somebody. As with significant others, you want someone who sees the unique positives in you, not the generic negatives.

What VCs care most about is how much their investment will be worth, or equity value. This leads to the question facing all entrepreneurs — how do you build equity value? Revenue is a metric (and an important one), but not the metric. Other factors include market leadership, unique IP/capabilities, disruption in a big market, and an A+ technology team. The right “fit” isn’t the same for everyone. What works for one person or startup may not work for another. Here are 5 things to consider before entering the bonds of venture capital funding.

1. Know your value as a partner

As the philosopher Beyonce says, “If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it.” A great start to a marriage or partnership of any kind is when both sides feel they lucked out and are excited about the commitment. Find someone who appreciates the potential of your business and what you have to offer. As a founder, you are giving away your most prized asset — your equity. The VCs are buying a piece of a company that they believe has value. It is important to remember your self-worth and your company’s value before you embark upon a relationship . This is a much more compelling approach than “I hope someone gives me money,” because desperation doesn’t look good on anybody.

It is also important not to have baggage walking into the partnership. Plenty of entrepreneurs play hard to get in the beginning, but as soon as you commit, the games should be over. You don’t want to spend years explaining or justifying yourself. A strong relationship means being honest and appreciative of each other. This also means it is important to be on the same page about terms, so everyone feels they got a fair deal. For example, Carbonite really loved working with us at Menlo Ventures because the investment was fair on both sides and we said ‘I do’ with a clean slate. In a strong VC-startup relationship, both parties want the other to succeed. Mutual respect and excitement should come before a ring.

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MONEY AND POWER 101

As a child my parents taught me almost nothing at all about money. (Other than earn and save it.) Despite the fact that my father was a successful tool and die maker, an inventor, and had owned and sold his business (at a nice profit) I nevertheless received a very scant education in money matters.

I remember many times, seeing my parents doing their taxes and asking them, “teach me about taxes, teach me about money, and how this works.”

They always basically told me, “You’re a child, you don’t need to worry about this right now, you’ll learn about this when you grow up – on your own.”

I guess that was simply the Weltanschauung of their generation and age. It is, however, not mine.

Because of that when I entered college, and for the rest of my life, I have been learning about business, capital, Capitalism, economics, finance, investment, money, and all other related money-matters. Money is a big part of my Personal-Education Plan (PEP Program), and my self developed IEA (Individual Education Account).

When I first got married I realized pretty quickly that my wife had no idea about money, how it operated, or why it worked as it did. She, likewise, had little to no real education on money matters from her parents either.

Determined not to let financial ignorance and bad money management work against her, me, our marriage, or in the lives of my children I have developed Economic and Monetary Educational Materials to use for their instructional benefit. Since I homeschooled my children for their entire primary educational period (pre-college) I made sure to incorporate both basic and advanced course materials on budgeting, business, Capitalism, career, economics, entrepreneurship, finances, investment, profit, etc. I also make sure they practice what they learn. Both are far better at money matters than I was at their age.

I am to the point now that regardless of what happens to me I feel confident that they are in possession of enough useful materials, and have been trained and habituated in such a way as to assure they will be successful in their own businesses, careers, and with money.

Below you will find a very basic summary of the most fundamental things I have taught them concerning money. They are well advanced beyond these simple ideas, but, in starting any venture it is always necessary to begin with the fundamentals. Often, over the course of time, it is necessary to return to the fundamentals as well.

Beneath the section on Money and Power 101 is a short document I developed regarding the Hoards I believe each person should develop over their lifetimes and how to employ and use these Hoards.

This “List of Hoards” is hardly exhaustive, but it does include most of the Hoards I consider most basic, except for the Word Hoard. Which technically could be a part of your Charisma Hoard, but really I consider a person’s language, linguistic, and vocabulary (Word) hoards to be an entirely separate set of treasures.

I offer these posts in the hopes that they may assist you, especially if you are just starting out in the world, to master your own Money and to develop the Hoards that you will find most useful.

I do not insist you necessarily agree with my definitions, but I do urge you to make your own studies of Money and the Power it engenders, I do urge you to master Money (rather than be mastered by it, wither as a poverty-stricken person or as a wealthy person), and I do urge you to develop and grow your own Hoards.

You will thank yourself for such efforts later on in life, and very likely the world will thank you for having made such efforts.

Comments are welcome.

____________________

MONEY AND POWER 101

MONEY is the financial power to do as you need and wish in the world. The more money your have the more power you have, the less money you have the less power you have.

SURPLUS is the amount of anything you have in excess to your actual or current needs. Your surplus should always be as great as possible of imperishable items.

PROFIT is the amount of money earned or generated in excess of expenditures.

INSURANCE is a money pool set aside for emergencies. If possible it is best to self-insure.

TAXES are the amount of money lost or exhausted to an individual by being seized by the government.

EARNINGS are the amount of money you generate for yourself through various actions of Work. Earnings are divided into three separate subcategories.

Income is the total amount of earnings one generates through all earnings sources. Originally it was that income (come-in) generated by investments.

Investments is the amount of earnings generated by whatever vehicles one is invested (vested) in. Investments are earnings or income vehicles generated by Risk.

Salaries or Wages is the amount of earnings generated by working for or laboring for others paid in the form of salary or wages. (Time or Work for money.)

SAVINGS – the amount of money already earned but not invested or spent but retained for long term goals or for emergencies.

EXPENDITURES – all monies spent to buy or pay for non-income producing items or services

Bills and Living Expenses – those monies paid to creditors or service providers for goods and services purchased. Bills and Living Expenses are monies lost to others.

Necessities – those monies expended for all goods and services of a necessary nature: food, shelter, power, necessary maintenance, etc.

Emergencies – those monies expended for emergencies and immediately unforeseen expenses, such as medical bills and repairs.

Entertainment – those mines expended for entertainment, recreation, etc.

GIVING – all monies given to the care and well-being of others to service their needs, also any resources given to others for their support.

Charity – giving to Church and/or Charitable causes with the intention of supporting the long term needs of an individual or an organization.

Philanthropy – giving to humane and other causes with the intent of addressing or solving specific needs or problems or projects. For instance one might found or support a philanthropic enterprise to support literacy, to build a hospital, to fund a scholarship, etc.

PREPARATION – always keep your money growing, in motion, invested, and in use for worthwhile things. Always plan as far ahead as possible regarding expenditures to be made. Always have accurate and complete information about all aspect s of your money and how it will be used.

RISK – all enterprises require risk. Risk is the amount of danger required to service a worthwhile enterprise or investment relative to the potential reward or Return on Investment (ROI) the enterprise or investment will generate (in the case of business, financial, and monetary activity). Generally speaking the higher the risk the greater the return or reward, and the lower the risk the lower the return or reward. However measures should always be taken to favorably mitigate risk as much as possible.

REWARD – is the amount of gain generated by the successful conclusion or progress of a worthwhile Risk. Another term that is synonymous with reward in financial and monetary matters is Return on Investment, which is a measure of gain generated by risk relative to the danger of initial loss of the initial loss of the investment.

MONEY – having more than enough money needed to meet all of your needs and the needs of others should make you happy. Making money should make you happy, and having a large surplus of money should be associated with pleasant thoughts and feelings and with security. Money is a personal, physical, financial, economic, psychological, social, and spiritual force, or power, and should be treated and employed as such. Money should not master a man, either by having too little, or by being consumed and over-powered by it. Money is a servant, not a Lord.

CAPITALISM – is that form of economic activity, or that system of economics, that seeks to build and generate Capital Pools, or reserves of money, that can thereafter be employed to build businesses, funneled into investments, grow and expand enterprises, etc. and thereby generate even more Capital and ever larger reserves of Profits. Capitalism depends on the fact that money is constantly invested and employed and that new ventures and enterprises are continually started and grown so as to continually create New Wealth. Capitalism also depends heavily upon Free and Unfettered Markets.

 

____________________

THE HOARDS

ACTIVE HOARDS

Always make ongoing use of and constantly develop your hoards for an unused hoard is useless and an undeveloped hoard has no value.

 

ABILITY HOARD – every ability, capability, skill, and talent that a person possesses and develops in life

ACHIEVEMENT HOARD – every good and worthwhile achievement or enterprise that a person ever accomplishes

CHARISMA HOARD – all beneficial influence and powers of persuasion an individual possesses to sway others to participate in worthwhile endeavors

CHARITY AND PHILANTHROPY HOARD – all charitable and philanthropic works that one engages in to assist others

CREATION AND WORK HOARD – everything of value that a person creates, and all of the valuable Work that one ever does over the course of life.

ESTATE AND LAND HOARD – all estates, lands, and real properties that one owns or controls

INVESTMENT HOARD – all good and profitable investments that a person is engaged in or is participating in

RELATIONSHIP HOARD – all beneficial relationships which an individual may rely upon for advancement, comfort, friendship, and support

TREASURE HOARD – all objects, things, or possessions that are of economic, monetary, and physical value

VIRTUE HOARD – all of the Virtues that a person possesses and can command within his person

BLESSINGS, HEIRLOOMS, LEGACIES, AND INHERITANCE – all of the blessings, heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances passed down by one individual or one generation to another

THE WAY OF SUCCESS

Here Are The Epiphanies That Made Panera A $4.5 Billion Restaurant Chain

In 1980, Ron Shaich was just a 20-something kid looking for a way to draw customers into his single cookie store in downtown Boston.

Today, he is the founder and CEO of Panera Bread Co., which has nearly 2,000 locations in the US and Canada, 80,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.

Through a series of ah-ha moments and happy accidents, Shaich took a simple idea — sandwiches, soups, and salads that people feel good about eating — and built it into a dominant American brand.

It wasn’t always easy. The company started as Au Bon Pain, and Panera was just one of its divisions. In 1998, Shaich made the difficult decision to sell off most of the business and bet on the little-sister brand Panera. He also stepped back from his role as CEO four years ago. The time away made him realize all the ways the company was vulnerable, and he wrote a 20-page memo about how he would destroy Panera if he was a competitor.

Shaich sat down with Business Insider to talk about how he got here, the single most important strategy in Panera’s success, and what’s next for the business.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Business Insider: When did you first want to be an entrepreneur? 

Ron Shaich: In college, I was the treasurer of the student body and came up with the idea of launching our own nonprofit convenience store. We ended up building it, and for a kid who couldn’t dance or sing, I found the creation of this store the most creative thing I ever did in my entire life. I loved it. I began to realize that business was creative and a way to make a difference in the world.

BI: How did Panera get its start?

RS: I went to business school. I tried to figure out my life. I ended up in D.C., running a chain of cookie stores for a large company. I established that this is the food I want to eat and created a single cookie store in downtown Boston in 1980. By late ’80, I had 50,000 people a day coming in, but no one bought cookies before noon. So I decided to put in French baked goods, and I became a licensee of a classic French bakery called Au Bon Pain.

They were the most screwed up vendor I ever dealt with — sometimes they delivered, sometimes they didn’t. I went to them with a proposal to merge the businesses. In February of ’81, I took on their debt, their three stores, and my one. And, after a number of iterations, that became Panera today.

BI: What was the moment when everything clicked for Panera?

RS: In 1984 I had an epiphany. I’d been working in the bakery, and people would walk in and say, “I want that baguette. Slice it from top to bottom.” So I do and hand them the loaf, and they pulled out a bag of deli meat and some cheese and made a sandwich out of it. You didn’t have to be a marketing whiz to recognize it was an opportunity in sandwiches.

panera bread tomato soupPanera Bread In the early ’90s, Shaich decided to shift to serving soup, salad, and sandwiches.

We said, “Let’s be the platform to sell soup, salad, and sandwiches.” It took off from Day 1. In 1991, we took it public, and by 1996, we had evolved to a thesis that I call “decomodification,” today called “fast casual.” Then, the contemporary paradigm of fast food was a lot of food for not a lot of money. We recognized that there was a large niche, say 30% to 40% of the market, that wanted something more special. It was not simply how much food they got for the money, but the quality of the food and how they felt about themselves eating there.

Then I had another epiphany. I was sitting on the beach in 1999 and thought, “Wow, for every 100 guys who talk about having a dominant brand, one makes it. Maybe one out of 1,000.” It’s so hard. Panera was one of four divisions. Somebody said to me: “What would you do if Panera owned Au Bon Pain and not the other way around?” I said, “This thing is a gem. If I had any guts, I’d take myself and the very best people we had, and I’d let it fulfill its destiny.” So I did it.

BI: Just like that? How did it feel to say goodbye to most of what you’d built? 

RS: The next few years of selling everything else off but Panera were the most horrible years of my life. Au Bon Pain was my first child. It’s only in retrospect that these decisions feel OK. When you’re going through them, if you’re honest, they’re horrible and difficult. Bottom line, I did it. We made the bet on Panera.

BI: If you could pinpoint one strategy, what do you think made Panera so successful? 

RS: What sustains a company over the long term is how it thinks, not what it does. Because what is does is a byproduct of how it thinks. Panera in its core comes from a view that competitive advantage is everything. If we don’t have a reason for people to walk past competitors and come to Panera, then we don’t exist. Losing competitive advantage is the greatest risk in business, and that’s where our focus is.

Ron Shaich servingPanera/David ElmesRon Shaich serves a customer in a Panera Cares cafe, the nonprofit arm of Panera offering pay-what-you-can prices.

BI: How do you stay ahead of the curve?

RS: I view my role as CEO as protecting those that discover ways to build competitive advantage. Often, when businesses first start up, they’re driven by people who discover new ways of doing things. They’re able to best the competition because they’re clearly disruptive and better. Then they get larger, and behind Discovery People come Delivery People, and they speak a different language.

Discovery is the language of what could be, of where the world is going. Delivery is the language of what happened yesterday, of limited risk. And in most companies that scale, you eventually wake up and realize you have tremendous delivery muscle and no discovery muscle, no ability to regenerate competitive advantage.

Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith, making sure the company is there when the future arrives.

BI: After being CEO for decades, you stepped down from the role about four years ago. Why did you come back?

panera bread customers Reuters“Competitive advantage is everything,” Shaich says.

RS: I didn’t step down; I stepped back. I became executive chairman. Instead of six days a week, I spent three days a week on Panera.

My mind started racing one weekend, and I sat down at the typewriter and wrote a 20-page memo about how I would compete with Panera if I weren’t Panera. I undertook this vision and, after a year, found myself working 60 to 70 hours per week on it!

Panera has 80,000 employees and serves 10 million people a week. I’m back as CEO because I ultimately concluded it’s the most powerful platform I have to make a difference in the world.

BI: A lot of leaders talk about the need to carve out time to think about the big picture. How do you do it?

RS: I go to the beach every Christmas, and every year I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there.

BI: What’s an example of one?

RS: In my 50s, having never really exercised, I realized if I don’t do it now, I never will. I committed to it and hired a trainer to help me. I’ve been at it for over eight years, and I’m in better shape today than I was 20 years ago.

BI: Is that how you approach business strategy? You have annual think sessions?

RS: That’s exactly how it works! We sit down every year and try to figure out where we want to be in five years. How do we stay competitive? What do we have to do to ensure we feed the growth monster that goes with being a public company? And then we literally draft on paper what we want to achieve in the next 12 months.

Ron Shaich 2Panera/David Elmes“Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith,” says Shaich.

Good strategy is continually changing. Strategy begins with where we think the world is going. Innovation begins with understanding what job you’re trying to complete for whom, and then determining what matters to that audience, looking for patterns, and trying to understand it. That’s hard work; that’s in the details.

BI: Tell me about the Panera 2.0 initiative.

RS: We’ve been working on it for four years. It brings together a range of technologies, and it’s meant to change the guest experience. If you’re coming to eat in, you simply walk in, sit down at a table, and use your phone to place an order. That order goes up into the cloud and comes back down to our kitchen, goes to our production systems, and the food is delivered directly to you.

Alternatively, if you want the order to go, you can place it from your office, from a kiosk in the café — anywhere you like — you just walk in and that food is waiting for you at a designated time. We’ve made this major commitment to technology.

BI: Panera was among the first retailers to integrate Apple Pay into stores. Why did you decide this was something you wanted to be a part of?

RS: Anything that offers convenience to our guests would only be good. We already have a very significant digital presence, and we’re moving aggressively in that direction.

BI: Is this something your customers have shown an interest in?

apple payJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesPanera is aggressively incorporating new technologies into its service.

RS: What customers want are things that add joy and value to their lives. They don’t want another app; they don’t want more technology. What they want are things that make their lives easier.

Apple Pay offers the potential to be significantly easier for those carrying their iPhone 6s. All you have to do is tap it and you’ve paid. It also offers a very high level of security, since there is no transfer of the credit card number. On both of those fronts, it offers the potential for ease and joy and a reduction of friction, and those are positives for the guests. 

BI: What advice would you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?

RS: If you can do something to get somebody excited — not everybody — but if you can be the best for somebody, then you can win. What it’s all about is figuring out what you can do for somebody that nobody else can do better.

THE NEW START UP CLUB

  The $5 Billion Startup Club: The 9 Highest Valued Startups That You Should Definitely Keep An Eye On

dollar billsMark Wilson/Getty ImagesBillions of dollars are flowing into these startups.

There used to be a time when a $1 billion valuation was considered a massive success for tech startups.

But in recent years, there’s been so many of them that billion-dollar valuations are almost starting to feel routine in tech.

So we’ve raised the bar and narrowed down WSJ’s “The Billion-Dollar Startup Club” list to companies that are valued at more than $5 billion.

These startups are transforming our lives and they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

VISA CHECKS OUT

SAN FRANCISCO – Visa Inc. has launched its answer to online shopping woes for consumers and merchants alike – Visa Checkout, a new product that’s geared towards making e-commerce and mobile payments quicker and simpler.

On Tuesday, the payments processor and financial services giant announced Visa Checkout’s debut in the U.S. Right now, the biggest pain point for retailers is when consumers put items in their shopping cart but then abandon them, often because it’s tedious to enter their billing and shipping information. Visa Checkout is meant to tackle that problem, said Sam Shrauger, Visa’s senior vice president of digital solutions.

He demonstrated how consumers can quickly set up a username and password and instantly add Visa credit and debit cards to their accounts. When they go to pay for an item at an online store, they simply pick their card or use a default one, without being redirected away from the page they’re visiting…

http://www.itbusiness.ca/news/visa-checkout-to-simplify-e-commerce-and-mobile-payments/49999

THE BUSINESS OF CREATIVITY

My personal opinion is that not only should we seek out Creativity, but we should also seek ways to become more Creative, and ways to creatively bring Creativity under our own conscious control. That is true in art, literature, invention, science, business, finance, and even religion.

“Creativity does not rest on eureka moments — it is a process, designed to consistently bring abstract ideas into the tangible world.

For creatives, this emphasizes the importance of routines.

Random bits of profound inspiration are few and fleeting; consistent work in your craft requires a sustainable way to develop good ideas into great ones.

Recall the wise words from Chuck Close: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just show up and go to work.”

Perhaps one of the best ways to improve your own processes is to study the masters. Thanks to books like “Daily Rituals,” our desire to see what “go to work” means — by getting a peek into regular routines — has been thoroughly satiated.”

 

Full Article here: http://www.businessinsider.com/beethovens-creative-strategy-2014-7

Read more: http://www.sparringmind.com/creative-ideas/#ixzz37OFRx9DK

THE SILK ROAD TO ELSEWHERE

Where is this going?
Offshore apparently…

bitcoins-660x439

“The nearly 30,000 bitcoins auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service last week will be put to use building digital currency businesses outside of the United States.

The bitcoins are part of a massive cache of digital currency seized by the feds in connection with last year’s bust of the Silk Road online drug marketplace. In a first, they were auctioned by the Marshals Service last Friday, but until today, nobody knew who’d purchased them. It turns out that the auction’s winner was venture capitalist Tim Draper, and he’s going to store them with a company he has invested in called Vaurum. The startup sells software and services to international companies that want to set up their own bitcoin exchanges…”

article continued

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