Category Archives: Markets

Companies, products and consumers.

Banish the Holiday Blues! Three Tips From the Happiness Professor

“I think you ought to be happy. It’s a gift to others.”

Let’s depart from the normal ID University editorial flavor for a bit of light-hearted advice from a very talented marketing professor who also happens to be an expert on feeling happy.

Raj Raghunathan of McCombs School of Business
Raghunathan’s research on consumer behavior spurred his interest in the elements of human happiness.

As most everyone knows, the holiday season is often filled with pressure, unrealistic expectations, and complicated personal feelings involving family and friends (either their presence or absence). In short, a recipe for sadness rather than joy.

Professor Raj Raghunathan of McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, creator of the blog Happy Smarts and author of the upcoming book If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Happy? has spent several years studying the true determinants of leading a happy and fulfilling life.

He has three recommendations for relaxing, enjoying the moment, and facing down negativity during the holidays, and throughout the rest of the year.

1. Employ positive role play

Holiday Blues PuppyHumans are social creatures, and the holidays bring families and friends together (sometimes too close together). That may mean face time with negative people who can bring your mood down with their non-stop pessimism, anxiety or distrust.

When walking away is not an option, Raghunathan believes the best alternative is to purposely assume the mindset of a happy, fully secure person. “Act like someone who is respected and loved by others, even if you struggle to feel that way at first,” he suggests.

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Three Hints for Funding Clean Energy Startups

“Clean energy is a hot topic right now, but innovators and entrepreneurs shouldn’t get cocky.”

Where is the money in startups these days? Here is a clue: Look at the student-led startup teams finding favor on college campuses during investor competition season. At the Super Bowl of such competitions, held last May at the McCombs School of Business, nothing was trending faster than funding clean energy startups.

I spoke with the founders of the competition’s winning clean energy startup to identify three essential moves that will help clean energy projects find investor support.

1. Ride the clean energy momentum

Panos Adamopoulos has 11 years of consulting and strategy development experience in Hong Kong and China, but last May his attentions were focused on a team of judges sitting in a ballroom at the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition in Austin. He had reason to feel confident; his pitch team had already won the top clean energy prizes at Rice, Berkeley, and Greenville Tech, and they were about to garner one more.

Seismos Team PitchAdamopoulos, Devin Bedwell, and Stevan Slusher, all students in the Master of Science in Technology Commercialization program at McCombs, teamed up to launch Seismos, a company that promises to free up previously unreachable oil reserves while lowering carbon dioxide loss during production.

Seismos added one more notch to their belt that day, with a win of the Wells Fargo Clean Energy prize, bringing their earnings to $45,000 cash and about $100,000 in incubation and consulting services.

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Tips for Entrepreneurs – Focus on Execution Intelligence

“Every time I’m asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement I see a huge red flag pop out that says Warning!”

A Good Hard Kick in the AssRob Adams has likely listened to as many new business ideas as anyone on the  planet, and one of his first tips for entrepreneurs is to never tell a potential investor you’ve got an original idea.

“Wake up,” he says, “Good ideas are not scarce, they are a dime a dozen.” If you don’t believe so, Adams suggests an online search of key words describing your idea. “You’ll find ten companies doing it, or thinking of doing it. You can drive yourself nuts searching for a unique idea, but that is not the point.”

The point, as he describes in his book A Good Hard Kick in the Ass, is execution intelligence, the ability to compose a team that can operationally execute a business plan with sustainability, flexibility and resilience, to dominate rather than define a market space.

Why Investors Hate the Nondisclosure

“Every time I’m asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement I see a huge red flag pop out that says Warning!” Adams asserts. “It screams out, ‘I’m stuck on my idea,’ it means you’ve spent too much energy obsessing about the idea and probably haven’t thought enough about the team, which is what the investor is really interested in. It implies you haven’t given much thought to your customers, or to the market.”

Getting to market first with a new idea doesn’t mean anything in Adams’ experience. “Netscape’s browser was out long before Microsoft Explorer,” he recalls. “Creating a new category does not necessarily spell success, but I can think of plenty of businesses that entered an existing category and proceeded to stomp all those roaches to pieces.”

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Ethical Behavior Unwrapped by New Video Series

Jack Abramoff went to jail to learn the importance of business ethics. You can just watch a video.

EULogoIn 2000, I was running a small brand consulting firm when I landed a choice piece of business in Houston. The client was a promising startup in the new sector of online energy trading, Altra Energy. At the time there was an 800-pound gorilla in the market, Enron Online, and we all knew that beating them at their own game would be challenging. This TV commercial at the time perfectly expressed Enron’s presumed dominance in the energy trading world.

Unbeknownst to this lowly Don Quixote, as Altra and I polished our spears for battle, a self-inflicted disease was already killing the beast from within. On August 22, 2001, Enron Vice President Sherron Watkins delivered a letter to chief executive Ken Lay sharing her concerns that the company might be an “elaborate hoax.” The ugly train wreck that followed has become a case study on unethical business conduct, and Enron became an exclamation point for the call to do a better job teaching ethics and corporate social responsibility in our schools.

Ethics Unwrapped: Beyond Business Ethics

Fast forward a dozen years and McCombs School of Business has just launched Ethics Unwrapped, a charmingly effective free video teaching tool designed to stimulate thought and discussion about ethics and corporate social responsibility in university and high school classrooms. Director Cara Biasucci says she hopes the series will make teaching ethics more attractive to professors.

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Joe Paterno Fired for Absence of Courage

 “We give ourselves license to play a little faster and looser than we normally would.”

Paterno in Happier Days

College football fans always wondered when Joe Paterno’s football career would begin to slow down. The answer came this week with a sudden, whiplash-inducing crash. From USA Today:

A little more than a week after legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno got his record-setting 409th win, the view of his storied, 46-year career suddenly is undergoing a stark revision — tarnished by a child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State involving a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno initially announced his decision to retire at the end of the year, but that was not soon enough for the school’s board of trustees, who announced late yesterday that college football’s winningest coach was fired, along with Penn State President Graham Spanier.

The following morning brought news of nightime riots, as thousands of Penn State students took to the streets to protest the firing. “Joe Paterno broke no law,” said one rioter. (Curiously, the students decided to smash street lamps and turn over a television news van in order to make the righteous case that no laws were broken.)

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