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ROAR: Strengthening Business Performance through Speed, Predictability, Flexibility and Leverage

ROAR: Strengthening Business Performance through Speed, Predictability, Flexibility and Leverage

Chris LaVictoire Mahai

Author’s bio: Chris LaVictoire Mahai is co‐owner and managing partner at St. Paul‐based global strategy and operational change firm Aveus. Her career includes more than 25 years of experience in leading, developing, and implementing business and marketplace strategies. Through Aveus, Mahai has worked with over 100 organizations from large global enterprises to family owned businesses and startups, non‐profits and other service organizations. She has served on the board of several businesses and non‐profit organizations, and is an active investor in women‐owned and led businesses.

During her corporate career, Mahai held several executive roles at Cowles Media/Star Tribune. She also spent nearly fifteen years in the financial services industry, including several executive positions at First Bank (now US Bank).

Synopsis: “ROAR” uses the animal kingdom as a metaphor for building peak performance, and features interviews with senior executives at organizations including US Bank, Red Mango, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, the San Diego Zoo and others to explore what drives peak performance against the customer problem an organization has chosen to solve.

The approach outlined in “ROAR” – seeing the whole performance chain through the lenses of speed, flexibility, predictability and leverage, and tying better operating performance to better customer outcomes – has been instrumental in helping organizations of all sizes from global giants to family‐owned businesses and start‐ups drive world‐class performance.

Why I wrote this book: A cheetah, elephant, coyote and ant serve as your guides through ROAR. My company, Aveus, has hosted a live simulation, Taming the Performance Chain, across the country over the past few years that uses a similar animal theme to demonstrate performance chain problems and solutions. Because it is often difficult to get stakeholders together in one room, I wanted to write ROAR to share with people who may never be participants in a one of these events. Plus, it gave me a great excuse to combine three loves of mine: animals, adventure and solving business challenges.

What you’ll get out of this book: “ROAR” is a fast-paced read, and intended to get you thinking. This book is really intended to help you think about your business, your performance chain, your opportunities for improvement and the experiences you deliver to your customers in new ways through the lenses of speed, predictability, flexibility, and leverage.

Seven Essential Startup Books

By Chris LaVictoire Mahai

It was never on my list to own my own business. Yet, 13 years in, here I am: a business owner. Early in my career, I saw myself as a corporate type, and actually in my corporate roles I had the good fortune to do a wide variety of things: lead major change initiatives, run large operations, learn and develop. Some of that experience translated well to a startup business, some not at all.

My company, Aveus, was born out of a joint venture. I was recruited to be the CEO 10 months into the company’s existence. That’s a whole different story but I often summarize the early experience this way: I cleaned up their mess. I took over the ownership of the company and promptly made my own mess (because I had never run a startup small business!). I cleaned up my own mess. And, best thing I ever did was find amazing partners that now own and lead the company with me.

Along this journey I started looking for books to help me. Many of the most well-known books were or are written with larger, more established businesses in mind. They are not all that helpful when you are just starting out. So here’s my list of seven books that actually can help you if you’re in startup mode:

S = “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” (2009) by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

“Sway” is one of those books that returns to mind time and again. I recommend it to everyone whenever we are talking books. If you’re in startup mode – trust me you will have many days that pull you to places you don’t want to go. At those moments you need grounding more than ever. Read “Sway” and save yourself the next time you’re about to do that irrational thing. And if you just did something that in hindsight makes no sense, “Sway” can help you think through where to go from here.

T = “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (2011) by Daniel Kahneman

A board member recommended this book written by this Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences (don’t let that scare you away!). As an entrepreneur you will make a million both strategic and tactical decisions, often with no council but your own. This book really elegantly helps unravel the mysteries of judgment and decisions. I wish I had had this book 13 years ago. If you are just starting out, you need this book.

A = “The Accidental Entrepreneur: The 50 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Starting a Business” by Susan Urquhart-Brown

I already told you the Cliff Notes version of my story. If you find yourself in ‘accidental’ entrepreneurship—or even if you took the leap deliberately, you’ll relate to these 50 things instantly. I have only one disagreement with this book. In the description at Amazon it says, “Starting one’s own business should be exciting, not scary.” No, business is scary—and exciting, which is exactly why you need help from books like this!

R = “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries

Does this sound like your situation? Eric Ries defines a startup as “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Whether you feel in extreme uncertainty—or just a little bit of uncertainty, you’ll find this book helpful. And, as your startup grows and matures, the Lean concepts will continue to help.

T = “Ted Levitt on Marketing” (2006) by Ted Levitt

Many ‘marketers’ have come and gone but Ted Levitt is still the one to carry with you throughout your business adventure. This, his last book, brings decades of wisdom and insight together for us. If you’re in startup mode, you are a marketer—whether you see yourself as that or not. If you haven’t read any of his earlier work, start here and then work back. It will be worth your effort.

U = “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries” (2011) by Peter Sims

Okay – no obvious U in the title or author name, but I ‘unearthed’ this book just recently and it really belongs on the list. As an entrepreneur, innovation is likely your middle name. This book helps you think about big ideas on a doable scale.

P = “The Phantom Tollbooth” – now in its 50th anniversary edition! (1961) by Norton Juster (author) and Jules Feiffer (illustrator)

And to wrap up with something completely different: a children’s book. At a simplistic level this is a book about the awakening of one bored kid, Milo. For any entrepreneur, starting a business is an adventure, quite like Milo’s. To grow a business from an idea takes a lot of imagination. A cool phantom tollbooth in our offices would be helpful too!



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