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Does being a celebrity CEO help or hurt your start-up?

It seems today that the quest for many executives is to become a public figure, a celebrity CEO if you will. Is this good or bad for the company in the long run?

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Executives becoming public figures

I was recently asked about the current trend of Founders and CEOs trying to turn themselves into public figures. It often appears that their full time job has become conference keynotes and panels, guest hosting or blogging on Huffington Post, making YouTube videos promoting their ethos, doing media interviews, and more. Is this good for their company – or just for their own egos?

I believe that the impact of a CEO who works to position himself as a celebrity has both positive and negative impacts on his or her business. Before I reveal my final verdict at the end of this article, here are a few of my pros and cons.

1. Pros of a celebrity CEO

A famous CEO means lots of exposure, and therefore free PR. When done well, this will help with customer acquisition, investor acquisition, and/or partner acquisition. These are very good things. Additionally the “fame” will come with invitations to conferences and events around the world. Companies can save money with the free attendance for starters, and get access to people and events that otherwise might be off limits.

Notoriety will pave the way to get meetings with other leaders and companies that otherwise might be very difficult to secure. It should help with recruiting. It will likely help an eventual public offering and may even help facilitate an acquisition. These also are very good things.

2. Cons of a celebrity CEO

A CEO in the spotlight puts focus squarely at the top of the organization and takes credit away from employees and other management. This is dangerous.

Additionally, all the effort to “get famous” certainly distracts a leader from really important issues of strategy, tactics, coaching and team building, and may distract him from customers, the customer experience and the product. This is also very dangerous. Whenever a leader shifts time and resources away from customer efforts, it makes me nervous.

A final word of caution is that building up the notoriety of one leader can often result in jealousy and resentment for others in senior management, on the board and in the employee ranks. I’ve always found far more business success in promoting the accomplishments of others, and crediting my team, rather than building myself up.

The final verdict:

The platform provided by a CEO in the public eye also provides a platform for identity building – for both employees and to the outside world. My belief is that good leaders will pursue publicity in a measured way as an extension of their company’s identity. The good ones do so with the company goals in mind all the time, and the not-as-good ones do it because they crave the personal spotlight (and wish they were Brad Pitt but it turned out they aren’t as good looking).

If done correctly, pursuing a modest amount of celebrity for a CEO is a good thing. Just don’t let the trappings get in the way. Don’t let yourself start to believe the hype. Don’t forget what is important (hint: your customers and your employees). And use your spotlight to share the credit with your team.

Looking good, Brad.

Hoyt David Morgan is an entrepreneur, angel investor and business strategy leader. He is an investor and/or adviser to a handful of exciting and high growth companies, and has been a part of several high-value exits. He is passionate about customer experience, smart business and helping innovative companies grow... and sailing.

Business Entrepreneur

Amazon on a collision course with politicians as they strengthen their monopoly

(BUSINESS) E-commerce has come a long way in the last decade, specifically led by Amazon, but are their controlling ways putting them on a collision course with regulators?

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In March, Amazon stopped replenishing weekly purchase orders for tens of thousands of vendors in a move that has stirred up some trouble. The tech giant has once flexed its power over first-party sellers over their platform. And it’s not the first time.

Amazon originally sent out to vendors as an automated message citing the hold up in orders as a technical glitch. The following day, vendors were told the change was permanent. The affected vendors were categorized as making $10 million or less in sales volume per year and not having managers at Amazon. Vendors selling specialized goods that were difficult to ship were also a factor.

The effects can have remarkable effects on the market as Amazon’s algorithms decide who is able to sell what to whom via their near-ubiquitous platform. According to John Ghiorso, the CEO of Orca Pacific, an Amazon agency for consultation and manufacturers representatives, the decision is driven by financial data such as total revenue, profitability, and catalog size.

In a response from an Amazon spokesperson, the change was made in order to improve value, convenience, and selection for customers. The mass termination of purchase orders and the delayed response from Amazon herald the transition to the One Vendor system, putting vendors in an exclusive relationship with Amazon. This system will merge the current Seller Central and Vendor Central.

Amazon’s message is loud and clear: they will do what’s in their best interest to mitigate the market for their convenience. One may be reminded of the anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft in 2001.

The lack of warning didn’t do them any favors either.

While smaller businesses need to change for Amazon’s program, first-party business will revolve around larger brands like Nike with whom Amazon is maintaining a relationship.

Despite the streamlined platform Amazon is going for, the company wields power over vendors and customers alike. Capitalism is one thing, but monopolies are a whole other ball game, and politicians are finally paying attention.

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Business Entrepreneur

Culture Codes is the guide you need for company culture questions

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) One of the biggest sellers of a company to a prospective employee or customer is their culture. Culture Codes has compiled some the biggest companies cultures in convenient decks for you to study and align with.

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Organizational culture is a hot button of conversation. While a variety of definitions exist, one way of defining Culture is the way businesses exist – a summary of values, rituals, and organizational mythology that helps employees make sense of the organization they work in.

Organizational cultures are often reflected in Mission, Vision, and Value statements of organizations.

What many entrepreneurs or new organization struggle with as well, is how to create a culture from the ground up. What kinds of statements and values do they advocate? What are areas of focus? Who are our competitors and what can we do to create a service, product, or quality advantage?

Building a strong culture can be challenging, but a good place to start is looking at the best cultures around.

A new resource by Tettra, Culture Codes, has everything you could want to know on different companies their cultures available for you to study up.

Over 40 companies employing over 280,000 employees have created culture decks and collected core values and mission statements. Companies like Spotify, Netflix, LinkedIn, and NASA have all contributed information.

This information is great for young companies or entrepreneurs to start building a schema about what kind of culture they want to create.

Or existing established companies can look towards peers and competitors and help decide what statements they want to engage culture change on.

For job seekers, Tettra can help potential employees gauge if they are a fit for an organization, or discover that maybe an organization they dream about working for has a culture they may not jive with. And perhaps most valuably, transparently showing off your culture and allowing it to be compared means that organizations can better compete in the talent market.

Recruiters should be obsessed with talking about culture – because it keeps people in the door.

The reasons why people leave employment: work/ life balance, poor treatment, lack of training, or relationship issues with a supervisor or boss; in many ways are a by-product of organizational culture. If you want to compete in the talent market, make culture a selling point and show it off in everything you do.

Even consumer’s benefit from learning about an organization’s culture – values that indicate a commitment to excellence in ethics make consumers feel good about supporting an organization.

It pays to have a good culture. I encourage you to head over to tetra.co/culture-codes and see how companies like Etsy are keeping it real, every day.

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Business Entrepreneur

Simple, inspiring growth hacks from successful startups

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Growth hacks – they’re not the end all be all of tech startup success, but they’ve certainly helped give a major boost to many companies that are thriving today.

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Growth hacks – they’re not the end all be all of tech startup success, but they’ve certainly helped give a major boost to many companies that are thriving today. If you don’t know, a “growth hack” refers to a strategy used, often by tech startups, to rapidly sell products or memberships, and gain lots of exposure and a big following right off the bat. Growth hacks are usually clever, creative ways to maximize social networks, digital or literal, to gain customers quickly.

Quora recently listed a round-up of the “most ingenious” growth hacks. Let’s review three killer examples of growth hacking success:

Groupon remains one of the most obvious growth hack success stories.

In order to unlock Groupon discounts, you have to share them with your friends to reach a minimum number of people buying in.

Merchants can afford to give massive discounts, even losing profits, in exchange for the huge amount of exposure their brand gets.

Groupon and the brands offering coupons both win.

Airbnb’s business model has a built-in growth hack – literally anyone can list their apartment or house, meaning that the growth of Airbnb’s user base knows no bounds.

What is even more ingenious is that when you list a property on AirBnB, you have the option of also posting it on Craigslist.

You’d think more companies would have tried this hack by now, but apparently it took some pretty crafty coding for AirBnB’s tech geeks to figure out how to piggyback onto Craigslist’s audience.

One fabulous growth hacking idea comes from Dropbox. Refer a friend on Dropbox and get free extra storage space.

The storage space is relatively cheap for Dropbox to provide, but the referral is valuable.

This is exactly how I myself got into Dropbox, and every time I want to share a file with a friend, I recommend that they download Dropbox. As a file sharing platform, it makes sense for me to want the friends I share files with to be using the same platform.  This model has worked out so well for Dropbox that other companies are now offerings freebies in exchange for referrals.

Growth hacks won’t save a company without a solid business plan and sound investments behind it – but they can be a great way to utilize social networks to boost growth and establish a broad audience right from the start.

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