In the HBR article “Managing the Whitespace” Mark C. Maletz and Nitin Nohria defined the whitespace as
the large but mostly unoccupied territory in every company where rules are vague, authority is fuzzy, budgets are nonexistent, and strategy is unclear — and where, as a consequence, entrepreneurial activity that helps reinvent and renew an organization takes place.
And the blackspace
encompasses all the business opportunities that a company has formally targeted and organized itself to capture.
Taking this whitespace, blackspace, metaphor to our personal life I can think about those short hours sometimes only minutes when we are not focused on our well defined daily tasks and chores. This is the place where we are not our job, dad or mom. It is the place where we take some risk, open new possibilities for growth, and create new social networks. For some of us it is blogging, for others it is developing a second career, maybe experimenting with the stock market, or trying to write a novel. I see friends taking sports coaching training, building a web site, developing expertise in energy efficient home constructions (and blogging about it too).
Similar reasons drives people to operate in the whitespace as in corporates: great uncertainly, can’t take on such projects at work, and when their main career seems going well and there is no justification for making drastic changes.
Although navigating in the whitespace requires a new compass, the rewards from successful voyages can be great
So how to manage your whitespace project?
The authors suggest setting several conditions for successful completion of whitespace projects in the corporate world, most are relevant to individuals as well:
- Establish Legitimacy – we usually get support for our blackspace activities automatically, but when it comes to whitespace project things could be trickier. Legitimacy can be established in multiple ways, the first is by drawing lines connecting skills used in blackspace activities to the ones needed for the whitespace project. The second way is to demonstrate what you are willing to sacrifice in order to meet your new whitespace goals, e.g. sleep, not going out, cutting your spending, and etc. Once legitimacy established, support could come in the forms of getting the free time or motivating at or close to your point of burnout. Since we are talking here about other family members the key elements here are trust and visibility
- Mobilizing Resources – beg, borrow, and steal(time) to get what you need! Taking little time every day adds up, asking for little help from many people becomes a lot – like fund raising – use your social network on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+
- Show Quick Results to build momentum – find the least path of resistance, create prototype, go for the low hanging fruits first. Once you have an accomplishment at your disposal, it is easier to ask for more resources and harder to kill the initiative. It also help to prevent burnout (happens when little or no progress is made despite a lot of effort)
- Have Fun – it does not have to be done for the sake of earning more money or developing a second career. Whitespace projects can be very fulfilling, enhance your social life, and contribute to your personal growth.
In some cases a whitespace project can lead you onto a whole new path and it worth considering moving it to the blackspace.
If you are looking to learn from the best how to focus your effort in 2013, just google “three words for 2013“.
My three words for 2013 are: connect, story, and service.
Connect: I would like to learn ways to connect better with my family, co-workers, classmate, friends, and prospects.
Story: This goes both ways, to listen openly to other’s stories as well as to invest in developing my storytelling skills. Both can help to support the goals wrapped in the first word(connect).
Service: To be of a service delivering value to the people I connect with.
For me the “soft skills” are the hardest!
On the physical side consider cleansing your body from all the processed food consumed in 2012 – I plan to try this method.
I’m now two and half years into the part-time MBA program with Boston University with a little less than one year to go. One thing that surprises me the most is the lack of Sales Management class in the core program. I was educated about managerial accounting, finance, operation management, organizational behavior, marketing, economics and corporate strategy, but not a word about sales. When I got to the time to select my electives I knew that something was missing, so I found only one class called Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy (that I later heard was offered only every other year) and signed up for it. Only one class in the whole program that talks about sales. When I checked with my friends who went to other universities for their MBAs I was even more surprised to hear that this is the common case. Sales is not part of the MBA program!
The irony is that Sales (as I was reminded by my Sales Management professor during our very first class) is the only activity that contribute to the positive side of the income statement.
I’ve learned a ton about running a business so far, but this class was the most transformative one in the MBA program for me. It does make sense to allocate this class later in the program after understanding key frameworks like DuPont analysis, Five Forces analysis, the time value of money, pricing, marketing positioning, among others, yet sales management can help to tie all these things together in a coherent manner with a very clear goal in mind.
Here are some of the key subjects from the Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy class:
- Business Models and Value Propositions
- Building a sales organization – hiring, compensation, organization, and management
- Direct, Indirect and Channel Sales Strategies
- Importance and development of strategic partners and alliances
- Understanding the Selling Process and Sales Cycles
- Implementing Pipeline Management Principles and Forecasting Techniques
- Repeatable Sales Models – what they are and why they are important
- Keys to successful selling including Solution (consultative) selling vs. product selling
- Sales Management, Positioning a sales force as a barrier to entry – differentiation and competitive advantage
- Major Account Selling, Team Selling, Global Sales Strategies
During the course we participated in two team sales activities:
- Sales Challenge – the objective of this activity was to engage in a complete sales process including building the value proposition and sales funnel, leads generation, leads qualification, cold calling, navigating the target organization, and closing. We had to convince a VP of Sales from a company with over 100MM annual revenue to participate in a panel with more VP of Sales from other industries at the university in one of the class evening.
- Sales Audit – each team was assigned a company(a real one), to execute a complete sales strategy and management auditing consulting project, and to come up with recommendations. We got the chance to meet with the CEO and VP of sales in the assigned company, to hear about the strategy and sales activities, and to gain access to real business data.
- The Sales Audit project was one of the highlight of my MBA program so far, I learned during this activity more than I could ever learn from case studies discussions in class. This company is a young SaaS company (Software as a Service), selling mainly through partners (MSP/VAR) and growing their booking more than 45% in 2012. We mapped their entire sales process, identified areas for improvements, and came up with two major recommendation plus other areas for further research. After delivering the presentation in class we also travel back to the company to report our findings.
The key outcomes from this projects were:
We made a difference – the company is actually revamping it sales process following some of the input from our recommendations.
We build great relationships with the CEO and VP of Sales
One of our team mate who graduated after this class was hired by this company
We earned a real consulting experience and learned how sales works in the real business world
We got an A
I know I did good choosing Boston University for my MBA program!!
In summary, the motivation for writing this post came as a result of a comment I heard during our second visit to the company that we audited, it came from both the CEO and the VP of Sales saying that this material was never taught in their MBA program(one of those was done at Stanford). I believe that Sales Strategy and Management are a core managerial skills, even if you end up working as a general manager, business or financial analyst, in operation, it is important to understand your value proposition to the organization and how your activities contribute to the sales activities. For the ones going for an MBA program with the aim working in Sales, Marketing, Strategy, or to start their own business, learning about sales is a must!!
Guest post: This is a guest post by my son Johnathan, he loves computer games.
You should play Tap Zoo the game for iPhone, iPad, iPod because it is a lot of fun. You have rankings, you buy animals, you can breed animals, you can visit neighbors zoo, you can cross breed and you can cure sick animals. You try to get three things: coins, stars, and experience.
You are able to get coins and experience from revenue. You need animals to get revenue. Let’s say that you have two monkeys and each monkey gives you 25 coins and 2 experience points every 5 minutes, so you end up with 50 coins and 4 experience every 5 minutes. The way to get to the next level is by getting amount of experience. for example, the way to get from level 7 to 8 is by getting from 10,000 to 13,000 experience points.
It also has ranking. The way to see your rank is to tap the bottom right square and then find “Other”, tap it, then you’ll see the word rank, tap on it and you can see your ranking. If you want to know ho to make your rank better, the way to do it is by looking at the bottom left and read what to do.
Note from Dad: I looked at this game and am very impressed by its level of complexity and sophistication. It enables the player to make many different decisions for improving the zoo quality, visitor experience, and business. Kudos to the team at Pocket Gems, Inc.