All posts by Angela Spang

Swedish born entrepreneur and business leader with an exceptional talent to form strong and winning teams.

I’ve been on Holiday!!!!! My oh my…

Time out of the office

I am on an airplane, and next to me is a man in a suit. He just hung up the phone as we were pushing back, mid argument with what I am assuming was his partner. Apparently he works too much, isn’t focusing on the kids enough and hasn’t been with them on holiday for the last 5 years. I didn’t meant to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to hear – they were sort of agitated.

On my other side is my nine year old daughter. She is building something in Minecraft, her hair is tousled and her freckles are sparkling like stardust on her golden cheeks. She is in a grumpy mood, but I know it is just because she has absolutely loved our holiday, and doesn’t want it to be over, so I forgive her.

We have just spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and I haven’t worked a single minute. For the first time since I started company 1 (I have 3), I have taken a whole week off, and I have absolutely loved it …..once I figured it out, which took me about 24h. Turns out I forgot how to relax.

Interestingly enough, I always go on about work-life balance, and I am very good at it at home, I think. I spend a lot of time with my family, and I manage my work so that it doesn’t impact our daily lives too much. But…this whole holiday thing I have completely overlooked in the last 4 years.

So I have learnt two things this last week:
– Nothing fell apart while I was gone.
– I like holidays.

I think I will have to book another one. Who knew. (And how silly is it that I am actually slightly surprised by that?!)

(And You, Guy in suit next to me:
Hi. I am hoping you are reading this over my shoulder. (Or that youre already following my blog — then you’ll see it anyway)

I just wanted to remind you to make sure you are happy with your choices. I get that it is not always easy, and I don’t know your story. But I DO know that family and love ALWAYS comes first.
Happy to chat about it if you want to. Just ask about my vacation, and we can get started. ‘
key?)

 

Nobody* likes to feel naked in public

The professor in the back of the room is leaning back in her chair, arms crossed. She is tilting her head, eyes narrowing. I know I am in for a challenge, I can see it. The tension in the room is palpable.

I am 26 years old, and have been in the job for a couple of months. I represent a medical device company, and my customers and doctors, highly educated, are experts in their field. Decisions are made on facts, statistics and clinical data.

The professor asks me if I think the product I am talking about has better clinical trial results that the leading product on the market. 6 months ago I had never read a clinical trial. She is the lead author for over 250 publications in major journal across the world. There is only one thing to do: openly say that I don’t know.

This is a frequent occasion in my business, and rightly so. Medical device reps is on high turnover, often young, inexperienced, polished and smart, in for the career opportunities. In the good cases, there to make a difference, in the bad cases they are there to make a quick sale and move on.

Two things are imperative to do a good job in one of my companies;

Technical skills, and a humble approach to the knowledge of our customers. There is no way we can catch up with the 8 years of medical school. But we CAN be experts on one thing: our product.

I tell my team 2 things: don’t EVER try to diagnose and treat a patient. You will be asked to, and sometimes even pushed to. Stay away, and do not be flattered and dragged in, no matter how good your relationship with the doctor is. You are NOT trained and equipped to make such judgement.

Know everything there is to know about the product. Features, benefits, technical specs, clinical data, user experience, manufacturing process, origin, improvement history. Watch it being used. Listen, learn. Ask questions  of the users. My favourite one: Ask the user why she/he is using it. They will tell you better reasons than your marketing department can, with a lot more credibility. Know how it is used, in what applications. For us, anatomy is key, and I send my team on the same anatomy trainings that doctors attend. They need ton be extremely knowledgeable, so they can add value to the customer.

After all, it boils down to this: you need to earn the trust of your customer, and they will appreciate your dedicated. Few things can replace passion and dedication, no matter what field you’re in. And trust me…you can’t fake that.

And of my professor? I asked her to mentor me. We spent a couple of years with me tagging along every chance I got. Her patience and support benefits me yet to this day, and I thank her by paying it forward.

*Well, MOST people don’t like it.

 

Beware. Frustrated Entrepreneur.

….you KNOW IT WILL GET UGLY.

We work hard. I have hired the best I could find, and I have coached and refined their skills. They are like racehorses: competitive, well trained, prepared and with a winning attitude. They are GOOD. We run circles around most competitors, thanks to the internal dedication and alignment.

So you can imagine how VERY frustrating it is to me when we have to collaborate with companies who don’t have that kind of ethos. Companies who don’t focus on their staff, which means the staff don’t focus on their employer. While my gang would go through fire for our company and our colleagues, we sometimes run into companies who….just don’t. And boy do we get pissed off. We raise hell on earth. Rarely makes a difference though.

Reasons:
–If we promised a customer something, we WILL get it to them… on time.
–We try our VERY best, always. You better do the same if you want to supply us.
–Our CUSTOMER FOCUS is relentless. Yours should be too.

Doesn’t that sound simple!?

So why isn’t that the primary objective of EVERY organisation?!

5 things you can do for your team TODAY

1) Make sure you can hire the best talent, so make sure they have FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS and that they can WORK PART TIME.
2) If you can, pay them BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
3) Give them their BIRTHDAY OFF, as a present.
4) Take every chance to BUILD UP INTERNAL RESPECT for individuals and roles in the company.
5) Hand over ownership to areas, topics or projects. Build leaders.

Do one of these, or which ever one you can. You will be repaid in multiples.

My second application was rejected too! WTF.

So I have now submitted two rounds of the same applications for funding from Horizon 2020 to prove how surgical confidence has an impact on outcome.

Both got rejected.

And interestingly enough, the SECOND application was deemed WORSE than the first one!!

The rating was much worse specifically in the area of proving the market potential for the final product despite me adding further detail and markets. I believe (from the notes in the feedback) that they simply thought the numbers are too good, versus what I was asking for. And that, exactly that, is an entrepreneurs weakness. You see, we are consistently asking for less money than others, if my theory is true.

Entrepreneurs ask for less money because we are used to doing more with less.

When Shaking The Rabbit is The Only Rescue

“He is shaking the rabbit.” (About Mr Hammond from my live comments on Autumn Statement)

As I was Live Blogging (stressful for a Swedish native btw) for Enterprise Nation commenting on the Autumn Statement earlier this week, I pointed out that Mr Hammond was “Shaking the rabbit”.

It is safe to say that none of the suggestions on my twitter feed following that was a correct description, hence this clarification. (This happens frequently for those who have the unfortunate of working with me on a regular basis).

I regularly use Swedish expressions to explain myself, with limited success of translating them into an English equivalent.

Shaking the Rabbit

Let’s say that you have a 3 hour presentation to Senior Management. You and your team have worked hard on your presentation, and it is as solid as it can get, with one or two exceptions where there just isn’t as robust and solid info as you would like, or an area of contention between board members.

That’s when you shake the rabbit.

Image result for bunny on in a car

By creating a focus area somewhere else that attracts everyone’s attention, you increase your chances of getting through your presentation while maintaining focus on the parts that you would want to emphasise. There are of course many clever ways to do this.

Next time you review someone else’s presentation, see if they have one. If so, chose if you want to call it out, or if you just want to use it as a landmark….what was it taking the focus OFF?

 

 

 

Me and Gollum: My Precious. My Precious.

Office manager with a slightly concerned look on her face, trying to act casual, handing me a letter and says apologetically: “This came for you today. Sorry I opened it, but it didn’t say Confidential…”

As I scan the letter, she turns and walks away to her desk. I can sense her concern when my face breaks into a broad grin. I jump off my chair and stroll into the open-space office with a cocky smile and swaggering steps, fanning myself with the letter.

“Everyone, I’ve got something I want to share with you!”

(I know. A bit evil. But funny, as I watch the concerned look on OM’s face couple with tentative curiosity.)

The room stops, and everyone’s attention is on me and my little dance as I dramatically hold up the letter and make a grand gesture towards it.

“We have received the first letter of what I suspect will be many….from someone who wants to buy JUNE MEDICAL!”

The room cheers, but I can also tell that there are those who are looking at me tentatively and really want me to reconfirm what i have said in the past when we have discussed this possibility. I drag it out slightly. With a masterful (if I may say so myself) pause, I proceed to reiterate my stance.

“OBVIOUSLY…I am not selling! “

The relief amongst the group is visible, and louder cheering happens. We celebrate with a fika and chat merrily over the fact that we are so awesome.

It must be a horrible feeling to work in a company if you don’t know if you’ll be sold at any time. If you are running that company or leading that team, take that into account. You may not be able to change that, but you do need to understand how it affects your team.

And perhaps take a slightly more mature approach than I did… (but it was very funny!).

7 considerations for aborting mission

When you’re working on a project, it is sometimes easy to get emotionally attached. From time to time, that means that decisions are taken differently during than they would have been before the start of the project.

Usually when I ask people about their exit strategy, they think I mean how they will sell their company and retire. Not at all: I am talking about how to know when to abandon the plan.

Let me give you an example.

Marianne had been working with her Dance school for years, and she had made it a second home for her three girls who had spent pretty much every day after school in the studio. As a leak in the building made her financial situation strained, the smart move would have been to cut it lose, and to relocate to a different venue.

But, because her day to day business and personal life was entangled with emotional ties, she endured 5 really difficult years in the same location, before she finally gave up, having lost most her savings. Had she been making the same decision if this was identified as a risk and had a mitigation plan before she started? Probably not.

An exit strategy should contain the following considerations (…as a start. There will be more that are specific to your business):

Ask yourself this:

  1. TIME: How long am I willing to go before I say this isn’t working? 1 year? 3 years?
  2. MONEY: What is the maximum financial figure I can commit to putting into the business, and when do I cut my losses?
  3. OWNERSHIP: What are the areas of the business that I would be willing to give up to take in financial support (if any) if I needed to? What’s the maximum shares I am willing to sell?
  4. ILLNESS: What do I do if I or someone who depends on me get really ill? What is my contingency plan?
  5. RISKS: What are the top 10 risks in my company and current set up, and how do I mitigate that?
  6. TRADE OFFS: At what point do I decide the risks are not worth the (potential) rewards?
  7. COMMITMENTS: Are there commitments that I am not prepared to sign? Long term contracts, legal obligations, other?

The above is tremendously useful things to consider and have a plan for. Discuss them with your business partner if you have one – more often than not we have very different views on things like this, and it is good to be VERY specific. And make a plan for what happens if you disagree. Write it down. It may all change, but at least you have a starting point when things get rocky.

Also discuss this with your family. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you, and after all, he or she is one of your most important stakeholders as you embark on a new venture.

Good luck. You have taken a whole list of unknowns and turned them into something tangible. Of course there can be surprises you haven’t planned for, but you have narrowed that down tremendously.

And hopefully you will never have to use any of this!

The Dark Side of Delegation

There is a short list of things that I am really, really good at:

  • Parallel parking
  • Hiring good people and seeing their talents
  • Delegation
  • Play with kids

Can’t cook for the life of me and would happily survive on bread for the rest of my life. Luckily my kids are getting nutritious and varying meals from both their father and our excellent nanny.

Delegation is one of those things that are usually hailed as a cornerstone of good leadership. People are usually not keen on micromanagement, and universally we hate when someone stands over our shoulder checking our work. As an entrepreneur in a startup, this is a challenging one. Coming from a background where there is just you, and your brilliant idea, all by your very self, getting to where you have to let other people into that sacred relationship is tough!

Delegating certain aspects of that startup is even harder. Few entrepreneurs I know think they are the expert on every little bits of running a company, but there is a lot of comfort in knowing

  1. a) It has been done
  2. b) Knowing HOW it was done

It is not that we mistrust others, not at all. It is simply an emotional aspect of growth. Sort of like when your child thinks another mummy “is really cool” and “can even do the splits!” You think it is great that your daughter has another grown up role model, at the same time as your heart secretly bleed a little and you spend the next month stretching on the bedroom floor before you tear a muscle and decide that you can be cool in other ways.

Back to delegation.

What people rarely mention is that delegation travels with two unwanted cousins:

“Risk” and “Cost”.

Risk, because when you start letting go of control, there is a couple of things that have to happen before. You have to establish an understanding of Purpose, Vision, Ethics and Values. Otherwise your carefully created baby may be taking off in a direction that you didn’t intend. Or worse, someone you delegate to may do something that is unethical or even criminal.

And then there is Cost.

The perception is often that as a business owner you have a fat salary, a fancy car and always fly business class. I am sure that is true for some, but most of us actually surviving on peanuts, foregoing shopping and flying economy to Santiago Chile with an 8 hour stopover in Miami Airport to save money is more accurate, cash is a highly guarded asset. So to delegate, one has to have someone to delegate TO. Cost. And that someone needs training. Cost. And that someone must be allowed to learn and make mistakes. Cost. (Sometimes high.)

So the big question: is it worth it? Don’t know, but it is necessary.

Just make sure you do the prework well, and have a plan for contingency when it doesn’t work they way you hoped.

And Arnica works like a charm btw.

frontsplits

Lie to me. But do it with some EFFORT.

6 ways to impress me

There are a several people whom I have the utmost respect for, and then there are people who have impressed me. The difference is important. I have had the (debateable) pleasure of coming across people who have impressed me, but that I don’t respect at all. I still learned from them, and I wouldn’t want to be without the experience. Sometimes NOT learning from a situation is the best lesson of all. Here is how to impress me:

  1. Be true to who you are

Like the guy at Johnson & Johnson who didn’t give a rats about the fact that his spiky hair and colourful socks made him stand out from the rest of the ambitious crowd. Over 10 years ago, this was quite a talking point in corporate and conservative blue chip companies. He told me to never ever let work change what I liked about myself. Good advice that I wasn’t always strong enough to follow, but now something I won’t ever compromise on, and certainly never forget.

  1. Do good

If you can do good, you should. Simple as that. I don’t care in what format: give someone change for the supermarket trolley, compliment a stranger, build a children’s hospital, found a charity, give your time and knowledge. Pay it forward, and you’re my hero. Teach your children (or someone elses) the joy of giving.

  1. Work hard at what you have committed to

There are a LOT of things that will make you great at what you do, and talent is only one of them. Be on time, study your topics, be polite, be coachable, keep deadlines, look for solutions, help your colleagues. If you’re unhappy, get out.

  1. Be brave

Are you afraid? And still doing it? Then you rock. I am not saying that those who just do things without being worried about it aren’t brave – I am sure they have areas where they have to be courageous as well. I am just of the firm belief that true bravery is best proven by those who are terrified…and do it anyway. I met an inspiring woman called Marta on Thursday who told me her next meeting was to donate blood; her way of getting over her fear of needles!

5. Lie well
I can’t stand bad liars. I know this is a weird one…most people don’t being lied to, but I actually don’t mind. People lie for all sorts of reasons, and it would be arrogant of me to think that I deserve honesty that may be uncomfortable or painful for people to share. That’s fine. But I do have one request; if you’re going to lie to me, put some effort in. Half ass lies that are easy to spot, where the liar really has neither skill or finesse. See Point 3.
6. Find your element
When I see someone who is passionate, knowledgeable, engaged, excited and “in the flow”, I always need to take a deep breath. It is SO powerful to see someone who have found their place, their space in the universe. Nothing is as attractive as when you watch that magic happen, and the force coming from individuals like that is pure power. “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” How you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. See Point 4. Last time I saw someone do it was when I watched a candidate in an interview with me last week. I think I may have to hire her.
Thanks for reading.
Angela
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler