Friday, January 27, 2017

What’s the secret to Switzerland’s success?

Switzerland: the most competitive country in the world. What exactly is Swiss made? What is Switzerland business model? Characteristics of Swissness: Self-reliance, strong work ethics, cautious attitude towards taking risks, reliability, trust, being adaptable, having a certain sense of modesty and being discreet about success.

Soledad Tanner


Switzerland is regularly ranked one of the most competitive countries in the world. So, what’s its secret?

That’s what author James Breiding wanted to find out in his book, “Swiss Made: the Untold Story Behind Switzerland’s Success”. Since it came out in 2013 his book has achieved bestselling status and has been translated into different languages. He spoke to Matthew Allen about the Swiss brand and new regulations over the ‘Swiss Made’ label in force since the start of 2017, the goal of which is to better protect the use of the ‘Swiss’ name in product packaging.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Make Learning a Lifelong Habit


I recently worked my way through Edmund Morris’s first two Teddy Roosevelt biographies, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex. Roosevelt wasn’t without flaws, but he was by nearly all accounts fascinating and intellectually voracious. He published his first book, The Naval War of 1812, at 23 and continued to write on everything from conservation to politics and biography. According to Morris, at certain periods he was rumored to read a book a day, and all this reading and writing arguably made him both charismatic and uniquely equipped to engage the host of topics he did as president: national conservation efforts, naval expansion, trust regulation, and a variety of others.

Roosevelt was what we might call a “lifetime learner.” Learning became, for him, a mode of personal enjoyment and a path to professional success. It’s a habit many of us would like to emulate. The Economist recently argued that with all the disruptions in the modern economy, particularly technology, ongoing skill acquisition is critical to persistent professional relevance. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment. And apart from its utility, learning is fun. It’s a joy to engage a new topic. Having an array of interesting topics at your disposal when speaking to colleagues or friends can boost your confidence. And it’s fulfilling to finally understand a difficult new subject.

But this type of continuous and persistent learning isn’t merely a decision. It must become a habit. And as such, it requires careful cultivation.

First, developing a learning habit requires you to articulate the outcomes you’d like to achieve. Would you like to reinvigorate your conversations and intellectual activity by reading a host of new topics? Are you looking to master a specific subject? Would you like to make sure you’re up-to-date on one or two topics outside your day-to-day work? In my own life, I like to maintain a reading program that exposes me to a variety of subjects and genres with the goal of general intellectual exploration, while also digging more deeply into a few areas, including education, foreign policy, and leadership. Picking one or two outcomes will allow you to set achievable goals to make the habit stick.

Based on those choices, set realistic goals. Like many people, each year, I set a series of goals for myself. These take the form of objectives I’d like to achieve over the course of the year (e.g., read 24 books in 2017) and daily or weekly habits I need to cultivate in accordance with those goals (e.g., read for more than 20 minutes five days per week). For me, long-term goals are tracked in a planner. Daily or weekly habits I monitor via an app called momentum, which allows me to quickly and simply enter completion of my habits on a daily basis and monitor adherence. These goals turn a vague desire to improve learning into a concrete set of actions.

With goals in hand, develop a learning community. I have a bimonthly book group that helps keep me on track for my reading goals and makes achieving them more fun. Similarly, many of my writer friends join writing groups where members read and edit each other’s work. For more specific goals, join an organization focused on the topics you’d like to learn — a foreign policy discussion group that meets monthly or a woodworking group that gathers regularly to trade notes. You might even consider a formal class or degree program to add depth to your exploration of a topic and the type of commitment that is inherently structured. These communities increase commitment and make learning more fun.

To focus on your objectives, ditch the distractions. Learning is fun, but it is also hard work. It’s so extraordinarily well documented as to be almost a truism at this point, but multitasking and particularly technology (e.g., cell phones, email) can make the deep concentration needed for real learning difficult or impossible. Set aside dedicated time for learning and minimize interruptions. When you read, find a quiet place, and leave your phone behind. If you’re taking a class or participating in a reading group, take handwritten notes, which improve retention and understanding, and leave laptops, mobiles devices, and other disrupting technologies in your car or bag far out of reach. And apart from physically eliminating distractions, consider training your mind to deal with them. I’ve found a pleasant impact of regular meditation, for example, has been an improvement in my intellectual focus which has helped my attentiveness in lectures and ability to read difficult books.

Finally, where appropriate, use technology to supplement learning. While technology can be a distraction, it can also be used to dramatically aid a learning regimen. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) allow remote students to participate in community and learn from some of the world’s most brilliant people with the added commitment of class participation. Podcasts, audiobooks, e-readers, and other tools make it possible to have a book on hand almost any time. I’ve found, for example, that by using audiobooks in what I think of as “ambient moments” — commuting or running, for example — I can nearly double the books I read in a year. Good podcasts or iTunes U courses can similarly deliver learning on the go. Combine these tools with apps that track your habits, and technology can be an essential component of a learning routine.

We’re all born with a natural curiosity. We want to learn. But the demands of work and personal life often diminish our time and will to engage that natural curiosity. Developing specific learning habits — consciously established and conscientiously cultivated — can be a route to both continued professional relevance and deep personal happiness. Maybe Roosevelt had it right: a lifetime of learning can be a success in itself.

Friday, January 20, 2017

When Powerful Women Meet the Results Speak Volume

Renaissance Women Summit took place this past Sunday, January 15, 2017, and the CEO of Project Z, Danelia Argueta, was there to experience first-hand the synergy that occurred at this event. Beginning with a lineup of some of the most empowering and accomplished speakers such as Jen Groover, Tamilee Webb, Amanda Russell, and many others who captivated the audience with their personal stories of perseverance and success, while providing insightful business and entrepreneurship advice.

Daniele with Tamelee Webb

Danielle with Jen Groover

Danielle with Amanda Russell

When it comes to creating a memorable brand that resonates with your consumers, Tamilee explained there’s certainly more that goes into having “Buns of Steel” and developing a brand that reaches millions. It’s about immersing yourself into every part of the process. She explains, “When you are building your brand, it is only as good as you are.” It begins with passion, people, listening, and the ability to take a step back during downtime to reflect, stay encouraged, reorganize, and prepare for the next climb. Today she’s a Hall of Fame Fitness instructor, Author, Empowered Speaker, and a “phenomenal woman to meet in person,” says Danelia.

This tied well with Jen’s story, coming from a childhood of abuse and neglect to tenaciously making choices to create a life of absolute success. Absolute success is found when you go beyond monetary gain and focus on building emotional and spiritual balance in life. As an Emotional Intelligence expert, she explains that “Nothing has meaning until you give it meaning.” Basically, stating that your past doesn’t have to determine your future and that you can change the outcome of your life at any moment. She’s been tagged by Success Magazine as a “One-Woman Brand” and “Creativity and Innovation Guru” and as a leading “Serial Entrepreneur” by Entrepreneur Magazine based on her ownership of 12 companies selling products and services generating millions every year.

Other panelist included Dr. Noreen Kahn-Mayberry, Jacquelyn Aluotto, Diane Caplan, and the only man and speaker in the room that helped us end the event in VIP style, Freddy Nager. One of his most valuable tidbit for brands is to stay focus on quality and not quantity. He had a massive presentation with impressive marketing and branding insights. We plan to share more of his work in future posts.

Collectively, there was a lot of great content shared, making it difficult to include it all here. However, we highly recommend that you follow each one of the speakers and panelists to learn more about their accomplishments and insightful content.

An event is not complete without an active and engaged audience and top level sponsors. Set in the historic Samuel F. Carter skyscraper, the JW Marriott Houston Downtown was the perfect venue for the caliber of women attending this event. Their luxury hotel showcases paintings and sculptures created by local artists for a dose of Southern hospitality.

Other instrumental sponsors that made this event possible included: Interesting Agency, Founded by Amanda Russell, and also the creator of Renaissance Women Summit, Houstonia Magazine, and P+R Productions.

As far as attendees goes, they traveled from various areas in Houston, and some even came from cities outside of Houston, to meet in downtown. Women from all walks of life gathered for the purpose of participating in this transformational experience.

To reach Latinas in Houston, we joined Connie Gomez, Momma of Dos blogger and Co-Founder of Houston Latina Bloggers network. Connie is a community leader with a passion for raising awareness of all of the Latina content creators in Houston. In her recap of the event, she shares how #HLB’s values lined up with #renaissancewomen #raisingthestandard event, in the sense that both are looking to “empower local women to rise above the standards and become success content creators, all while creating a sense of sister-hood. For HLB, we call it a Latina Tribe.” She further shared, “This type of event fills me with true joy, first off as a Latina who passionately persues empowering the women in her community, and secondly because I want to better myself as a woman, Momma, employee, wife, career-driven person. The Renaissance Woman Conference encompasses all of those important factors that push me forward towards a better me. I love representing the Houston Latina Bloggers and try to do my best with every opportunity I gain. – Connie Gomez, Co-Founder of Houston Latina Bloggers (Attendee)

We further engaged with a few sponsors and attendees to capture first-hand feedback on their experience at the Renaissance Women Summit. Here is what each of them had to say:

“Excited for the opportunity of attending the Renaissance Women Summit, I would like to express my gratitude towards those who shared their business development, entrepreneurial, and personal experiences. It was empowering to witness what great female leaders have achieved along their career and personal paths. A big applause to all! It is admirable and exciting to discover where others have gone and explore new opportunities of what the future can be. Thank you so much for making me part of this!” 

– Karen Aranky, Marketing Manager, Blue Leaf Houston (Sponsor)

“Most of us are constantly submerged in an ocean of technology and information reducing our face to face contact to a minimum. It is critical that we connect with the people and their emotions in an effort to build mutually beneficial and long-lasting human partnerships. The renaissance women summit was an incredibly powerful event that allowed us to connect and support an amazing group of influential female leaders. Soledad Tanner Consulting, LLC was proud to be a platinum level exhibitors and had the opportunity to lead a table discussion. I am looking forward to our next event.”
 – Soledad Tanner, MIB, Performance Improvement Consulting, Soledad Tanner Consulting (Sponsor)

“The Renaissance Women Summit Houston was amazing, inspiring, and motivating. Loved hearing from women of influence who have been successful in life. So glad to be a part of this inaugural event. My biggest take away: what am I doing, why am I doing, what do I have to teach, what are my clients receiving, what do they want, do they feel good after I leave, be kind to me, don’t let fear stay in front of me, don’t compare, don’t let toxic people influence me, take care of my physical body it matters, laugh, and marketing ideas. I am so ready to take my business to the next level.”

 – Lisa Giesler, CEO, A Time And Place For Everything, LLC (Sponsor)

“As an “edupreneuer” (education entrepreneur) I was unsure of what to expect at the event. The RW summit was full of energy that was empowering and the boost I needed to launch my business to the next level. I walked out at the end of the day motivated and ready to put tips and ideas to practice as soon as possible. RW Summit provided a safe and supportive environment to share dreams and the platform to put those dreams to reality. The connections that were made are incredible and the experience was priceless. Reading Intervention Academy will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be part of such an inspiring group of influential women. I can’t wait to attend another inspirational event. #RaisingtheStandard”

 – Kelley Stephenson, CEO, Reading Intervention Academy (Sponsor)

“My experience as a sponsor at RW was wonderful! It felt great to share a room filled with so many talented and passionate women. From the moment we arrived, we felt the love and positive energy. It was great to witness so many women share, learn and connect. Women supporting women through business is exactly what Luca Love is all about! The organizers and promoters of RW did a great job on creating a very special event. This is just the beginning of something great. Apart from business and emotional intelligence, we gained an incredible amount of connections from many inspiring women. We look forward to being part of this group and movement.” 

 – Paulina Tobon, Creator, Luca Love (Sponsor)

“I had the pleasure of attending the 1st Renaissance Women Conference. It was life changing, to say the least. This conference was empowering. We were equipped with the tools to search and find our passion. We were transformed by the testimonials of powerful successful women who have chosen to take the limits off. All types of women were in attendance; Women who have carried their cross, women who have been defeated, women who lost their drive, and women who were searching for a sisterhood. We were united and transformed back to a state of excellence. I feel inspired, I feel energized and ready to take my business to the next level.” Tieasha Waddy, CEO, Houston Birthing Connection (Attendee)

If you would like to add you own review of the event, go to our event listing and click on review. We would love to hear what was your greatest takeaway from this event.

You can also check out additional photos from the event on the Interesting Agency Facebook page.

Now on to our next event!

Project Z is a Latina-owned, global events marketing, and branding strategy agency based in Houston, TX. Our mission is to maximize our clients’ sponsorship dollars and provide all the resources available to help them execute effective event campaigns. Our strategic solutions elevate brand awareness and delivers results that provide memorable interactive experiences. For more information about our services, to list your event, or for event invites, please email

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Soledad Tanner Consulting, LLC (Presentation Promotional Video)

Soledad Tanner Consulting, LLC is an innovative consultancy that will help you grow your business, increasing your profit and productivity. 

We analyze your business, find areas of improvements and opportunities to profit, provide an action plan, coordinate the implementation of recommendations and follow up to ensure results.

We specialize in working together with you, the business owner, and help you fulfill your vision and reach your financial goals.

Phone: 832-998-2136
Like her on Facebook: SoledadTannerConsulting, LLC,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Most Common Strategy Mistakes

In the book, Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy, Joan Magretta distills Porter's core concepts and frameworks into a concise guide for business practitioners. In this excerpt, Porter discusses common strategy mistakes.

by Joan Magretta

"Michael Porter didn't get to be a giant in the field of competition and strategy by hunting small game."

Joan Magretta begins her new book on Harvard Business School's Michael Porter's work by noting that, from the start of his career, Porter has been asking a big question when it comes to understanding everything from the free enterprise system to the individual motivations of managers.

Why are some companies more profitable than others?

In this excerpt from an interview between Porter and Magretta, Porter discusses the importance of strategy in delivering competitive advantage.

Book excerpt from Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy.

Joan Magretta: What are the most common strategy mistakes you see?

Michael Porter: The granddaddy of all mistakes is competing to be the best, going down the same path as everybody else and thinking that somehow you can achieve better results. This is a hard race to win. So many managers confuse operational effectiveness with strategy. Another common mistake is confusing marketing with strategy. It's natural for strategy to arise from a focus on customers and their needs. So in many companies, strategy is built around the value proposition, which is the demand side of the equation. But a robust strategy requires a tailored value chain—it's about the supply side as well, the unique configuration of activities that delivers value. Strategy links choices on the demand side with the unique choices about the value chain (the supply side). You can't have competitive advantage without both.


Another mistake is to overestimate strengths. There's an inward-looking bias in many organizations. You might perceive customer service as a strong area. So that becomes the "strength" on which you attempt to build a strategy. But a real strength for strategy purposes has to be something the company can do better than any of its rivals. And "better" because you are performing different activities than they perform, because you've chosen a different configuration than they have.

Another common mistake is getting the definition of the business wrong, or getting the geographic scope wrong. There has been a tendency to define industries broadly, following the influential work of Theodore Levitt some decades ago. His famous example was railroads that failed to see that they were in the transportation business, and so they missed the threat posed by trucks and airfreight. The problem with defining the business as transportation, however, is that railroads are clearly a distinct industry with distinct economics and a separate value chain. Any sound strategy in railroads must take these differences into account. Defining the industry as transportation can be dangerous if it leads managers to conclude that they need to acquire an airfreight company so they can compete in multiple forms of transportation.

Similarly, there has been a tendency to define industries as global when they are national or encompass only groups of neighboring countries. Companies, mindful of the drumbeat about globalization, internationalize without understanding the true economics of their business. The value chain is the principal tool to delineate the geographic boundaries of competition, to determine how local or how global that business is. In a local business, every local area will require a complete and largely separate value chain. At the other extreme, a global industry is one where important activities in the value chain can be shared across all countries.

Reflecting on my experience, however, I'd have to say that the worst mistake—and the most common one—is not having a strategy at all. Most executives think they have a strategy when they really don't, at least not a strategy that meets any kind of rigorous, economically grounded definition.

Magretta: Why is that? Why do so few companies have really great strategies? What are the biggest obstacles to good strategy?

Porter: I used to think that most strategy problems arose from limited or faulty data, or poor analysis of the industry and competitors. To say it differently, I thought the problem was a failure to understand competition. This surely does happen. But the more I have worked in this field, the more I have come to appreciate the more subtle and more pervasive obstacles to clear strategic thinking and how challenging it is for companies to maintain their strategies over time.

There are so many barriers that distract, deter, and divert managers from making clear strategic choices. Some of the most significant barriers come from the many hidden biases embedded in internal systems, organizational structures, and decision-making processes. It's often hard, for example, to get the kind of cost information you need to think strategically. Or the company's incentive system rewards the wrong things. Or human nature makes it really hard to make tradeoffs, or to stick with them. The need for trade-offs is a huge barrier. Most managers hate to make trade-offs; they hate to accept limits. They'd almost always rather try to serve more customers, offer more features. They can't resist believing that this will lead to more growth and more profit.

I believe that many companies undermine their own strategies. Nobody does it to them. They do it themselves. Their strategies fail from within.

Then there is the host of strategy killers in the external environment. These range from so-called industry experts to regulators and financial analysts. These all tend to push companies toward what I call "competition to be the best"—the analyst who wants every company to look like the current market favorite, the consultant who helps you benchmark yourself against everyone else in the industry, or who pushes the next big thing, such as the notion that you're supposed to delight and retain every single customer.

Let's take this last idea as an example. If you listen to every customer and do what they ask you to do, you can't have a strategy. Like so many ideas that get sold to managers, there is some truth to it, but the nuances get lost. Strategy is not about making every customer happy. When you've got your strategist's hat on, you want to decide which customers and which needs you want to meet. As to the other customers and the other needs, well, you just have to get over the fact that you will disappoint them, because that's actually a good thing.

I also believe that as capital markets have evolved they have become more and more toxic for strategy. The single-minded pursuit of shareholder value, measured over the short term, has been enormously destructive for strategy and value creation. Managers are chasing the wrong goal.

These are just some of the obstacles. Cumulatively, they add up. Having a strategy in the first place is hard. Maintaining a strategy is even harder.


Joan Magretta is a Senior Associate at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Wishing you a successful 2017!!!

Happy New Year!! Do you need help with increasing the profit of your company? 

STC analyzes your organization and provides a diagnostic and coordinates the implementation plan. Call me at 832-998-2136 for a complimentary consultation. For more info,