Prohibition & Entrepreneurialism

Ersilia Conjoli CecconiThis is Ersilia Conjoli Cecconi. In this picture (circa 1900) she was 22. I believe it to be her wedding photo. Ersilia is my great grandmother, and my hero. In fact, I made Ersilia my confirmation name (for all you Catholics you can appreciate the grief I took for not picking a Saints name—the Nuns were not happy). I did it anyway–because I wanted to honor the strength of this woman.  I didn’t realize how prophetic that would be and how much I’d need to find that kind of strength myself in the not too distant future.

Up until two days ago I’d never seen a picture of my great-grandmother. I’d been to Italy, and stood in the church where she married Onorato Cecconi, in a small town just north of Florence, but, I assumed that any pictures were lost to time and the poverty of immigrants who rarely could afford such luxuries. After watching a documentary about Prohibition, I shared with my husband Ersilia’s story beginning with the loss of her husband in a mining accident in 1926, in a rough little town outside Pittsburgh called Whiskey Run. With six children, no income and unable to speak English, her situation was dire. But like many women in my family, she figured it out, she got it done and she kept her family together. Continue reading



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Vision Without Execution is Hallucination

Factors to Close the Execution Gap

Thomas Edison’s quote, uttered more than 100 years ago, rings true across organizations of all sizes in the year 2013. In fact, in a wobbly economy where entrepreneurial activity is on the rise, execution is even more critical for success and survival.

There was a time when strategic planning was a leader’s primary focus and concern. That is no longer the case, strategic planning is important, but as a sole focus of leadership it’s a luxury.  In the start-up realm the analogy would be a founder fixated on creating the perfect business plan but finding themselves crippled when it comes to turning that plan into action. Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different skils sets that leadership must possess in order to take an idea from concept to reality.

In the current business climate, a well-implemented mediocre idea is far better than a great idea that can’t get off the ground. A great idea is a starting point—execution is what differentiates a winner from a loser creating barriers to entry and long-term viability.

So, what can start-up or even growth stage companies do to support execution? Here are five thoughts based on what I’ve personally observed in more than 15 start-ups during my career.
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Your Story Is Your Brand

I wish I’d written that but Liz Ryan, Career Commentator (Huffington Post) beat me to it. In an economy where so many are looking for new positions or reinventing themselves, it’s always a good time to really think about how you want to present yourself in the new economy. When you sell a product the goal is differentiation. When you sell your personal brand the objective is the same. As Liz points out, using lame, beat business jargon is not the way to go. There are far too many people out there who are saying the same thing.

A friend who is in the “Mulligan” season of her life has been looking for a way to present who she is and what she wants to do for the remainder of her career. She and I have done more than few start-ups and together have been “fire-women” trying to salvage businesses that were on the verge of self-implosion. She brought up the term “Smoking Hole”, what we would say to describe those “verge of failure” investments. So, “Smoking Hole Prevention Services” started as a joke and has morphed into a story…

When I created my brand and built the web site, it was all about my story–not my credentials or business skills. I know I’m quirky but no one ever forgets the name Punching Nun Group. I don’t want to hide that under a bunch of BS that doesn’t have meaning to me or the power of differentiation. I’m not an intellectual. I’m a fireman (ok fire-women) with a sense of humor–no apologies.

Be you, be kind, be interesting and have fun. Life is far too short…



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