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I love reading what people think makes an entrepreneur successful.  Mostly because it reminds me everyday that there is no secret formula.  Every article is written to the writer’s perspective, and it really is so different from person to person.  Take the latest article I read: The Single Most Important Habit of Successful Entrepreneurs.  The author, Mr. Dan Kennedy of Entrepreneur, argues that punctuality is [his] criteria.

Kennedy writes about the relationship between respecting another person’s time with the respect of the other’s opinions.  It’s a relay and reciprocation of respect of the other’s time with the respect of his/ her own time.

If anything, I would say that being detail-oriented would be my gauge of success.  Aside from potentially the mental aspect of being “gritty”, I have to say that being detail-oriented is my biggest criteria.  I admit — being detailed is kind of a big bucket.  It includes things like being detailed enough to check your work, knowing the background of a company or person you’re interviewing with, having that little extra “oomph” in your dress on a date, or even, yes, being on time because you prepared to take into account traffic.

Being detail-oriented separates the goods from the Greats.  Most people can do well on tasks they’re given, but think about someone who’s impressed you.  Was it the person who just got it done, or the person who got it done and went above and beyond to make it QUALITY?  It’s well known the little details the late Steve Jobs would require from Apple.  Then there’s Alabama’s Nick Saban and his pursuit of perfection from the start whistle to the end (the game against Auburn not withstanding).

I’ve noticed this actually in a lot of different quirks that executives watch for including some of the below:

  • My father is the Principal at his electrical and mechanical engineering firm.  I remember when I was younger that he taught me to “complete my circles” when I wrote an “8” or an “O”.  He argued that it was the detail of “closing the loop” that was something he looked for since he deals with sometimes 10’s of pages of size E drawings (34″x44″) with little AutoCAD scribbles needing to be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.
  • An AVP at a major mobile wireless company scrutinized people’s dress.  Was it sloppy?  Did it look like the prospective partner walked in with a shirt straight off the floor?  What did he drive?  The AVP argued that a person’s dress, the car, etc. it all made some statement about how well he did his work believing that personal life affected work style in addition to the confidence transpired from some material objects.
  • A strength coach once made the remark about his interns who were tasked to wash his shaker bottles.  He said that every shaker bottle had to be washed a certain way believing that if an intern couldn’t even do something as “remedial” as washing a bottle, how could he trust the intern to coach an athlete that could be worth several million dollars?  The money thrust into sports can be so significant that every detail of a strength program had to be carefully put together as to not injure or fatigue the player for game day.
  • One from my earlier life as a consultant, I learned the importance in making quality, consistent deliverables.  My previous boss and one of my clients really demonstrated the importance of consistency.  Our deliverables went beyond just me, but they represented my team as well and even my whole company.  Clients notice the little things including when you’re traversing a presentation and font jumps up and down, left and right… It’s distracting and takes away from the message you’re trying to convey.  Also, if you fail to do a spell check, if this happens from the onset, good luck keeping credibility for the rest of the meeting.
Any particular quirks or levels of detail you watch for in people?  What have you noticed that has stood out to make people more/ less successful?

On any given day, there’s about a 60% chance you’ll find me at Starbucks working.  It’s a great, free working space complete with vibrant energy, wake-up aromas, and, especially this time of year, snowman sugar cookies.  Ah, and there’s usually a fascinating collection of people hanging out/ working.  This past Friday night, I was writing some Holiday/ Thank You cards to our customer-partners and other prospects when I was complimented on our cards by a fellow Starbucker (yes, handwriting them – crazy in this day of keyboard and touchscreen typing, I know). 
My new friend is an MBA student at Georgia State, and was a previous Psychology major in undergrad.  She was worried a bit about having a non-business background and post-graduate opportunities.  This was a great conversation for me because I’ve long appreciated how psychology intertwines with business.  It’s not readily apparent, but it really is.  Talk to any good salesperson, and he’ll know exactly how to talk to you and potentially what makes you tick and tock. 
Some quick thoughts on how psychology is engrained in entrepreneurship and business overall…
  • Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses.  Assessments like the Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, Berkman, etc. can be simple ways of finding out more about yourself.  These assessments may help you realize more about yourself to capitalize on your strengths and limit your weaknesses while building your career around your personal interests.  I’d recommend, however, that as much as you limit your weaknesses, to also work on those weakness or what stresses you — this can help you be a stronger performer – “be comfortable being uncomfortable”.
  • Building a Balanced Team.  As a continuation of the Strengths and Weaknesses above, building a team for a startup or small business with balanced strengths and weaknesses allow for a stronger company in addition to its product/ service offering.  For Body Boss, we do actually have differing personalities, and it challenges each of us to think more about why one another feels the way we do when we consider marketing campaigns, licensing and selling opportunities, or even just philosophies that shape our startup’s culture.

  • Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes.  Marketing has psychology all over it.  You have your target audience in mind.  Do you know what language they speak?  What style of communication they perceive?  How about what really resonates with them so that you can grab their attention right away?  Marketing is all about diving into the psyche of your customers and compelling them to engage with you.
  • Sales is All About Your Customer.  Many people will tell you that an effective sales strategy is to have the customer speak.  I think this can be somewhat true in terms of getting engagement.  However, why I like this rule of thumb is so that it gives me a break and a chance to listen to the customer and analyze him/ her.  Customers are all different, and chances are, your product/ service has many value propositions.  By sitting back and listening to your prospects, you can hone in on what matters to them and cater your value message accordingly.
  • Threshold of Pain.  My new friend asked me what signs a successful entrepreneur exhibits/ has.  I have many thoughts to this, not necessarily from my own perspective, but witnessing others.  One of the standout factors?  Mental and emotional fortitude.  Beyond the physical demands of being an entrepreneur (like lack of sleep), it’s the mental and emotional toll of going through the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship including feeling INCREDIBLE when new customers finding out about you to incredibly FRUSTRATED due to low user engagement, then back to a HIGH after a great exhibition at a conference, then dipping back down LOW from unsuccessful trial conversions.  Because much of entrepreneurship is about passions and the creation of your own product, it takes a toll both mentally and emotionally.  I recommend you watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk about this in “The Key to Success?  Grit”.

A company, a product… in the end, behind the curtains are people.  Perhaps this is also why psychology actually plays a significant role in business.  For my fellow Starbucker, I think having a background in psychology will give her a different perspective, and with an MBA to help round out her business abilities, she’ll have a strong platform to build on.

What are your thoughts on how psychology plays a role in business and entrepreneurship?  Where else do you feel psychology plays a critical role in business?

My buddy just sent me this article from The Next Web about the potential costs to build some of today’s big players in “startups” including Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, Uber, etc (see “How much does it cost to build the world’s hottest startups?“).  They’re not really startups anymore, though, I’d argue.  But of course, they used to be.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Twitter:  May not take long to build the core — 10 hours and a good $160 Ruby on Rails course.  But to really get to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) you have to pour in about $50K-$250K for processes, infrastructure, and the like.
  • Facebook: One expert quoted $500K (min) and 9 months of development and design team.  The real costs, however, is the support.  The expert estimates a monthly burn-rate of $30MM just for its infrastructure so we can Like, Share, and watch videos of kittens!
  • Uber: Uber “scrapped by” with $50MM to build what the service is now, and then Google and Benchmark rammed another $258MM since August.  Artem Fishman (VP of Huge) estimates an MVP would have cost about $1.0-1.5MM to develop.  However, beyond the app itself, there is lots of costs to navigate local legislations and permits to think about.
  • There are several other hot “startups” on the list including Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.  Check out the article to read more.  
What made this interesting for me also coincided with the notion of building a startup and a recent post on David Cumming’s blog post “Can’t the Software Just be Knocked Off“.  It’s also a notion people have asked me in regards to Body Boss.  The question makes many people think about keeping their ideas quiet, or even gives people a notion that they can just copy another program and have the same success or even better.  Some personal thoughts:
  • A company is an iceberg.  What you see in a front-end either in an app or even marketing material is just the tip of the iceberg.  Beneath the water is a whole lot of you-don’t-know-what that really makes a business a business.  Costs to build an app is oftentimes (especially in the long-run) the tiniest line item compared to everything else it costs to maintain a successful app.
  • It’s about the experience.  I’m not an Apple fan, but they have customer service down in ways Microsoft has really never been able to copy.  Just watch Microsoft Stores vs. an Apple store.  The culture ingrained in Apple just oozes a satisfying customer experience.  With apps, making a simple, easy-to-use experience is not simple.  It’s also what makes things like Tinder blow up (with users).
  • You don’t know what you don’t know.  Companies and their products/ services get refined iteration after iteration.  Through customer usage, interviews, and just being in the space, they learn what makes products and customers tick and tock.  Similar to the iceberg analogy above, a startup who has learned and iterated knows things that knockoffs may struggle with because they haven’t experienced it.
  • Value of an App?  $500K.  Value of Your Network?  Priceless. I’m trying to be clever here with a reference to Mastercard commercials (here’s a good one), but the point is that many times, what can make or break a product/ service is the company’s network (connections).  I know there’s a suggestion somewhere about suggested network size for B2B startups, but I can’t figure it out or find it.  If someone knows it, let me know.  Essentially, have a large, quality network in the market you’re approaching.
  • Cost of Entry is Low.  With so many frameworks and Software Development Kits (SDK) available, it’s pretty easy to have a copycat program ready to go and live in a short amount of time.  And because of that, almost anyone can do it.  (My friends and I’s first foray into entrepreneurship, we used a framework based off of fmylife.com and created abigeffu.com where users could dish “A Big Eff U” to… anything or anyone.  It’s since shutdown and is being squatted on.)  What’s difficult is getting repeat users/ customers because they’re being inundated with like-products.  Instead, standing out is the hardest part.  If you’re going to build a similar product/ offering, you need to add elements that will “wow” users of existing products to woo them onto yours.
  • Don’t be Shy to Share.  Lastly, the notion of someone copying your idea or product is valid, but not all that probable from the get-go.  Everyone is pretty busy as it stands.  I mean, when was the last time you heard a great idea like Uber or some social app, and you started building one?  Sharing your idea with others allows you to iterate and discover who your customers are and what they want before potentially ever writing a single line of code.  There is so much more to building a startup from an idea creating a big hurdle from just anyone copying you — expertise, grit, and those things outlined above.
So what are your take-aways or thoughts about building copy cat products/ services?  How would you go about building a similar product, but tackling the market with a new twist?