DIRECTIONS - Architecture for revenue growth

June 2015


Richard (Dick) Van BelzenThe Bermuda Triangle of Business is regularly on display, and unavoidable, unless certain mechanisms are in place. My definition of this phenomenon is the three venues of input engaged by most executives: 1. their own experience and success, 2. input from their direct team and within the organization, and 3. input from key players and/or peers in the same industry. While all these insights are valuable, they often drive a predictive path of assumptions and ideas. And while they may work most of the time, they can leave room for significant blind spots that can affect company performance, individual careers and income.

Here’s how. Potential dangers come up in various situations, but aren’t recognized and/or acted upon effectively. These situations often appear small and insignificant at the time but can cause serious impairments in areas such as organization changes, economic impacts, acquisitions, competitor moves, innovation/new products, etc.

And here’s an example of an organizational impact. A CEO spoke with me about his experience combining the sales and marketing functions of a more than one billion dollar company. The change was a consequence of the CFO wanting to cut SG&A, and the VP of marketing pressing hard to get both responsibilities. As a result of this action, sales in the following year took a significant hit. Much of the impact was due to changes made to the sales organization by the new VP of Sales and Marketing. So after a year, the board asked the CEO to remove the VP. And a month later, the CEO himself was removed. This one change, and I realize there could have been other factors, was unrecoverable by many involved.

To avoid these dangers, we recommend engaging a trusted third-party advisor to review changes before implementation. Solely clinging to the triangle, for all its benefits, will leave some blind spots. Even the best leaders need reinforcements, and at least one of those back stops had better be free of bias for both the company and industry.

So, who do you turn to for objective and skilled feedback? .

Richard Van Belzen
Managing Director

Northpoint Advisors, LLC
1173 Pittsford-Victor Road, Suite 250
Pittsford, NY 14534
Phone: 585.233.6707


Five Top Venture Capitalists Name The Top 10 Tech Trends Of The Next 5 Years

Written by Robert Hof. Reprinted.
View the original article on

  1. On-demand ambient computing: Pishevar calls this “invisible computing,” driven by artificial intelligence. Example: You can move a car in China right now via Uber. But he thinks this kind of activity will be automated by AI-powered machines, not proactively done by people. All his fellow panelists wave green paddles, as well as most of the audience, so he must be wrong. Seriously, though, this one seems to break rule No. 1.

  2. Traditional banks will continue losing share to startups even as bitcoin fades: Lynn doesn’t think banks will go away, but startups will build lots of services on top of their infrastructure (the financial version of telecom’s dumb pipes). Lending Club is one example, the largest tech IPO of 2014. It allied with Citi. As for bitcoin, she sees it as attractive for the “free real-time rails” it can provide for financial and other contracts, but she doesn’t think it will be the winner as a currency. Three green paddles and a red one by Gurley, who is skeptical that what he calls a very corrupt system, politically speaking, will lose any support by the government.

  3. The virtual me: Lee thinks advances in hardware and sensors will create an explosion of data that will be aggregated into personal profiles that will know more about you than you do. Lots of detractors on the panel (and the audience is split). Gurley says humans don’t want to be tracked that much, especially if the devices keep telling you what to do. Likewise, Jurvetson thinks these data-driven systems will be assistants more than taskmasters. And Pishevar suggests this data will work best if it’s made entertaining or gamified. Lee politely implies they’re all old.

  4. The Skynet economy: Jurvetson sees universal broadband, via very low satellites, bringing untold amounts of talent into the global economy. Every part of the Earth would be equally covered with 16 GB a second Internet access by these now affordable satellites. This will profoundly change the lives of these people. Gurley is the main doubter, partly because he thinks it’s too big to invest in. Lynn waffles too, mostly because these people have bigger fish to fry, like, oh, keeping their babies alive. But Lee says wishing it comes true is part of making it come true. Most of the audience seems to agree with her.

  5. The end of the auto nation: Individual ownership of cars is nearing the end of its usefulness, says Gurley, who’s an investor in Uber. Parking lots, idling or parked cars, pollution, 1.25 million auto-related deaths annually worldwide—all big negatives that are becoming more obvious and untenable. Millennials increasingly don’t want to own a car. Mostly doubters on the panel, as well as in the audience. Jurvetson has one word for his skepticism: LA. Maybe China, though. But even there, says Lee, the first thing people with a good job want is a car. It’s a form of freedom, Pishevar adds. Gurley responds that smartphones are now more of a social status signal than a car.

  6. Fifth mode of transportation: Technologies like the Hyperloop or even fleets of massive drones will skip over current transportation methods in developing countries especially, according to Pishevar. (Not coincidentally, he’s an investor in, and chairman and cofounder of, Hyperloop Technologies.) Mixed reaction: Jurvetson likes the idea but doesn’t think it will get through the regulatory minefield in the next five years, and even if it did, it’s mainly for medium-length travel, between relatively nearby cities. Some 80% of the audience doesn’t think this will happen in five years either.

  7. The reemergence of women in tech: Half of computer science students will be women in five years, up from 10% now and a peak of 36% in 1984, argues Lynn. She blames the personal computer, which was targeted at males. Lots of pressure to change the situation. And more positive stories are being told, says Gurley (by the way, the second season of Halt and Catch Fire, which has not one but two strong female characters, premieres May 31 on AMC). All greens on the panel (no one’s stupid enough to vote against this hot-button issue) and two-thirds of the audience votes thumbs up.

  8. The economy of me: Mobile devices and services will bring the next 2 billion people online and make the online economy more powerful than the offline economy, Lee contends, and will result in a “personal economy” of global products delivered to you from your smartphone. Middlemen and brick and mortar commerce will die. Only Jurvetson raises a red paddle. The trend has been true for a couple decades, but it will be steady, not sudden. Physical commerce will continue to dominate in five years. Gurley, though, completely agrees with Lee. Audience: Maybe, maybe not.

  9. Rise of the robocars: By 2020 we will no longer debate the inevitability of autonomous cars, Jurvetson predicts. They’re already safer than my parents and I trust them for my kids, he adds. There could be a 10 times reduction of vehicles, parking, etc. as well as a 10X reduction in traffic deaths. Mostly sideways paddles as the panelists waffle, mostly because they think the trend will take longer. Some 75% of the audience, however, think Jurvetson is right. After all, the trend is not that robocars will be here in five years but that they will be widely seen by then as the way to go.

  10. The native mobile application will continue to dominate the mobile Web: Gurley says consumers have voted and that’s not going to change anytime soon. You can’t deliver one-click services on the desktop. Also, the phone is the only computer platform in most of the developing world. The browser and search platform is finally maturing, and Google knows it, so they’re moving up the stack. As a result, the whole area of apps will become more dangerous for startups. The panel largely agrees with him, though Lee isn’t completely sure. She’s tending more in the last couple of years to pull up the mobile Web because she has too damn many apps. Still, most of the audience agrees.

Swim Lanes vs. Dial Movers

Whether you are new to a company or role, or a veteran in both, your past experience provides a template for thought and action. This template—the way you look at and handle situations, your experience, skills and abilities—is why you’ve been so successful. But we all have blind spots that, in key situations, can limit our full thinking on important matters. Getting stuck in the swim lane is about being so focused on what you know that other factors or potential new knowledge is avoided or ruled out. An example of a swim lane could be the strategic planning process you’ve been using for years. A simpler example is your drive home, the one you’ve made hundreds of times. How much do you know about each house on the way? Would you know how to get home if you came upon a roadblock? Ok, so you don’t have the same hyper-sensitivity that you had on your first few drives. It probably won’t be an issue. But getting into the swim lane at work can have a much more damaging effect.

Having a trusted advisor to discuss options with doesn’t have to slow down the decision-making process. And if it does, it may be a good thing that allows you to discover a better solution. At Northpoint, we believe getting stuck in the swim lane can prevent you from looking at “dial mover” actions that could make huge impact. (In our past few newsletters, we’ve added Peter Drucker quotes as his views can serve to help drive dial-making actions. Go back and read the quotes. Then find the ways you can act to bring about significant performance.)

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5 Tips for Unleashing Innovation Among Your Team
Technology has heightened the speed in which companies need to constantly adapt their current strategy.
Written by: Neill Wallace
Read the article in Chief Executive.

The Trouble With Focusing on Time-to-Market
Racing past red flags to introduce a new product or service invariably backfires. Here’s how to get the launch process right.
Written by: Tom Pettibone. Reprinted in part.

Launching a new product or service typically involves many moving parts—including information technology (IT)—that must all come together simultaneously. Often, the long lead times that complex IT components involve become a drag on time-to-market. Yet, as the examples to follow illustrate, efforts to speed the process by buying or building workaround systems frequently backfire.

Launched on October 1, 2013 with great fanfare, promptly crashed. Applicants struggled to access the website and, when they finally did, computations were wrong, accounts were not recognized, insurance links didn’t function and live chat didn’t work. The site improved over time, but only after copious delays, frustration, manual workarounds, bad data, confusion, security problems and great expense.

Read the complete article in Chief Executive.


Points to Ponder

Here are a few of our favorite quotes from Peter F. Drucker, who was hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management.” Click here to learn more about Peter Drucker.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

“Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”

“Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”

"Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things"

“Business has only two basic functions—marketing and innovation”

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision”


planning process

Planning for what’s next when what’s next isn’t obvious.

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