Performance Management: A Measuring Tool For Business Success

In America, the demand for things to be done faster, better and simpler is constantly on the rise; making it tough for any business to survive.  Whether it’s a new gluten-free food product, a multi-purpose electronic device, a new energy-efficient car or an action-packed Hollywood film, all products are designed to meet the needs and desires of consumers in order to gain prosperity.  Nonetheless, meeting production deadlines is not a company’s only concern.  With the development of today’s global market, organizations are incessantly seeking ways to grow and maintain high rankings.

Every day, top companies are faced with fierce competitors seeking to rise above them and/or take them out of business all together.  Thus, it is imperative, for the sake of the company, to stay ahead of the game by constantly evaluating production and management procedures and the means by which they are implemented into the organization. Performance Management is an essential tool to measure your company’s productivity and success. I am Ready to Manage subscriber and they recently posted a blog about Performance Management that I found to be very helpful in my own workplace. It’s a simple read and with great resources. Check it out and see for yourself:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Unreasonable (And Why I Started U.R. Media.TV)

by Marc Blackbird, Antioch University Los Angeles Student + Founder of U.R. Media.TV

Whenever you encounter one you feel like you were hit by a force of nature. They’re mostly unusual outside-the-lines types, people who just have to do what they do because they couldn’t do things any other way…

They are an amalgam, part artist, part philosopher, part master of the universe, and always believing that there is a new way to solve anything. They live to see the possibilities beyond the constraints of ideology or discipline. They are the entrepreneurs, the people who take big risks to build businesses.

When we think about entrepreneurs we usually think about guys like Henry Ford or Bill Gates — people who saw a deficiency in the marketplace and the next step in technology, so they built companies to take their vision to market and made themselves extremely wealthy. The same attributes that led Ford and Gates to build cars and operating systems are also leading to ventures that combine financial and social returns. These social entrepreneurs are more than just business people or do-gooders; they seek a triple bottom line of profits and people and planet. Making money while helping people and the planet is not a new idea, but the time has come to highlight those who have broken the molds of business person and charity organization and recombined them as social business ventures.

Enter the book The Power of Unreasonable People, How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. Not only does this book highlight social entrepreneurs and the businesses they have started, it is also serves as a guide, giving the reader an understanding of emerging markets and their potential for profitable business while lifting the standard of living for some of the world’s poorest people.

A great example of what the social entrepreneur can do is the story of KickStart in East Africa, where Nick Moon and Martin Fisher were looking to make small-scale profitable industries that could help the local population. What became a big seller and was identified as one of “ten inventions that will change the world” by Newsweek magazine was KickStart’s foot-operated micro-irrigation pump. Now the authors could have told us just the numbers: it cost x to make and made x plus in profit and helped x farmers in the region. All important facts, but by telling the story of Samuel Ndungu Mburu, they take us right into the “on the ground” truth of what a social entrepreneur can accomplish. Samuel was a farmer who made about one hundred dollars a year from his crops. But after getting the micro-irrigation pump he started growing more valuable crops and now has sent his oldest son to college as well as having the rest of his children in school.

The Unreasonable Becomes Personal

This story inspired me more so then just the impressive facts. That is what a good book is supposed to do: give you the story but also deliver a feeling, and stories like this one throughout the book definitely gave me the real picture of what the social entrepreneur can paint in the world.

Starting a business is not for the fainthearted, and a business that has a mission beyond just profit with all those obstacles to entry is even more daunting. In fact it might be easier to juggle knives blindfolded, on one leg, while dodging killer bees. But by showing how it was done, the cases in the book transform some of the mystery into solid facts of good businesses, no bee dodging manual needed.

My big epiphany was to be true to your vision. Be flexible and willing but with the vision as a guide, and mostly be unreasonable. That doesn’t mean be a horrible person or act out like a spoiled toddler. It means do whatever you have to make your business succeed, even if you have to change course do it, but make sure you arrive at your destination with integrity and intentions intact.

So I now feel like I have to do something even bigger then what I’m doing now. While I’m not helping third-world farmers yield more crops, I am trying to help stories get told. I started U.R. Media.TV to promote what I call “citizen media”: media for us by us, where anyone can learn how to make effective media or share their expertise with the community. It’s a new social network for ideas, journalism and art. It’s YouTube meets Facebook meets blogs, where you can create original media or share your findings from around the web and store it all on your U.R. Media.TV channel. I hope you come and make U TV.

I’m a totally unreasonable person in the best sense of the word, and now armed with real world insights on how to make real quantitative good happen, I’m hopefully much better equipped to be the change I want to see in the world.

Guest Blogger Marc Blackbird is a longtime entrepreneur whose company, The Blackbird Group, provides consulting in new media and experiential marketing. He recently launched U.R. Media.TV while studying at Antioch.

Moral Impulse: Rebel with a Cause

by Kimberly Hollingsworth, AULA BA Student & Founder of Humanity Is Us

When will genocide matter? Does it have to be at our front door or happen to our families before we care enough to do something? That’s my tough question. I used to believe that if the Holocaust happened today, there would have been such a tumultuous uproar that we would have stopped it before six million people were collected and murdered within a span of six years. Today, I’m not so sure.

The genocide in Rwanda never should have happened in 1994. While the international community closed their eyes, 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in 100 days. A member of the nonpermanent United Nations Security Counsel, the Czech representative, declared at one point, “Rwanda is not a priority for the Czech government, but as a human being I cannot sit here and do nothing.”

I launched my anti-genocide organization Humanity Is Us on November 29, 2010. (See my previous article, “Conflict of Ethics: What Does Genocide Have to Do with Business?”) While drowning in website designs, templates, hosting, domains, hyperlinks and other web hosting lingo, I also struggled with state and federal requirements for the protection of my embryonic entity. A simple idea was turning into a complicated responsibility. An AULA faculty member introduced me to a social entrepreneur who emotes action and possesses the same fire in the belly against genocide and rape camps that I do.

Andrew McGregor and the Tiziano Project

In May 2007, while a student in the master’s program for journalism at the University of Southern California, Andrew McGregor found himself frustrated with the co-existence of global video-sharing and genocide: “How can there be a world with YouTube and undocumented atrocities at the same time?”

If the mainstream news had kept the acts of genocide on the nightly news, instead of allowing public interest or lack of comfort guide the headlines, the international public community of responsible citizens might have demanded immediate actions from their governments. Today, journalists have to worry about corporate responsibilities, self-preservation, media trends, competition, and universal bureaucracy. Accountability for the success of the business enterprise has created detachment from the original purpose of journalism. With a rush for headlines that grab viewers, journalists rush to report headlines without checking sources. As Andrew puts it, today’s news has become a “propaganda whore.” Sensationalism has replaced news that can make a difference in saving people’s lives.

With moral impulse, he took leave from USC, hired a lawyer, and organized a nonprofit public-benefit corporation, the Tiziano Project. The mission: “The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with the equipment, training, and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives.” With limited funds, a few contacts, cameras, camcorders and a new idea for exposing crimes against humanity, Andrew left for Rwanda and commenced his quest to spread journalism.

Teaching Journalism to Change the World

photo by Andrew McGregor

Andrew joined forces with a friend, Thomas Rippe, to teach journalistic techniques at a local orphanage. An issue came up: since the Canadian government had already made arrangements to provide for these orphans for life, the orphans, ranging in age from twelve to thirty, lacked motivation to learn journalism.

Undaunted, the Tiziano Project then formed a collaboration with The German Development Company (DED), teaching radio techniques at a local youth house. It did not take long before the weekly radio program about genocide reconciliation aired on Voice of America, providing a trusted resource for updates and local information.

Andrew and Tom continued their traveling school of journalism between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At refugee camps they shared writing, photo and video techniques, which empowered the locals and enabled collaborative efforts with the international community of professional journalists. Until that time, stifled voices were forced to wait for an outsider to speak on their behalf.

A week after Andrew left the DRC in 1998, violence broke out again. Within an hour, the refugees trained by Andrew and Tom were able to communicate with journalists, and CNN broke the story. “It was a turning point for us. When the story broke, it proved that the concept worked – it all worked. We had proof of the potential of the Tiziano Project.”

Today, the Tiziano Project is supported by a community of journalists, and the Tiziano Project team itself consists of journalists who have other jobs. It’s the calling, the purpose that keeps this team together. Eventually, the business plan requires funds for salaries so all participants can focus on their goal of keeping stories of atrocities in the mainstream news. I asked Andrew, “Why do you believe the Tiziano Project can help end genocide?” He explained, “It has to do with economics. Journalism can be helpful in creating jobs. Look at the child soldiers. The choices are limited: either you’re a slave or a soldier.”

Chessboxing and Advice for Students

Andrew "The Fightin' Philanthropist" McGregor (media credit: Jesse Reid)

Andrew, who stands six feet and almost ten inches tall and weighs 280 pounds, founded the L.A. Chessboxing club. The idea came from a poster he saw in Europe. Basically, chessboxing consists of eleven rounds (four minutes of chess, followed by three minutes of boxing), and starts and ends at the chessboard. First one to win by checkmate or a knockout is the winner. On February 27, 2010, Andrew claimed the title of U.S. Heavyweight Chessboxing Champion by checkmate in the fifth round.

Ironically, chessboxing helped Andrew build up his strength and his resolve to continue with his vocation. He also learned a valuable lesson about being there for others. It’s important to maintain a balance between personal life and causes, “Without investing in yourself first, you have nothing to give — to anyone.”

I asked Andrew for words of wisdom for the novice social entrepreneur. “Start as a student. Everyone helps students. They help because they know where you’re coming from and that you’re learning. If you’re Joe from a business/organization that no one knows, they don’t have a reference point.” Andrew also suggested having a long-term corporate strategy, “Start focused and with obtainable goals.” The last thing that he suggested, “Visually explain what you’re doing and make a chronological record of it. We were so focused on the work and mission that initially, we missed the opportunity for the potential business development.” It has been remedied.

Recently, the Tiziano Project won a $25,000 grant from a competition on Facebook and utilized it to showcase its product. It’s easier to gain funding when funders can see what their money is buying. After all, today everything is related to business.

Guest Blogger Kimberly Hollingsworth is in the BA Business & Social Entrepreneurship program and Creative Writing program at AULA. She holds an associate’s degree from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and an ABA-approved certificate from UCLA Extension as a legal assistant in litigation. She is currently a senior legal assistant at an international law firm, a member of SAG, and a voting member of LAPA.