Executives are getting harder to reach from all the pitches and cold calls. (Image source: http://www.channelweb.co.uk/IMG/475/87475/hiding-under-table.jpg)
I first heard about John Greathouse from one of David Cummings’ posts of the top startup blogs he follows. I admit that I don’t often read his blog, but his recent post “How To Network With Really Busy People” is resonating with me well.
Currently, I’m working with a startup to get leads and sales. I’m not full-time with them, or officially employed in anyway, but I’m helping out because it’s one of the slickest marketing tools I’ve ever seen. That, and the chance to continually learn and hone my business development skills is very much welcome. I haven’t quite figured out my Next Move (with this company or otherwise), so taking this approach gives me some latitude to do so – figure things out.
Anyways, John’s article is titled Networking, but let’s call it what it’s really about – sales. Or at least, what he’s really writing about. I’ve been working with this new startup, and it’s been a bit of a challenge, to be honest. These days, cold calls can definitely lead to opportunities, but they’re also becoming more difficult per John’s post.

“[High-profile] people deployed brute force to screen out unsolicited, inbound communications.” – John Greathouse

Indeed, in my recent efforts, it’s fascinating the routes many people take to deflect calls. Cold calls are hard for a reason. The CEO of a sales organization I recently talked to isn’t so bullish on cold calling – “that’s so 90s”. What I’ve found, and what John writes about is the need to really pay attention to your messaging. That’s stupid advice, right? Good. Then you’re onto something, too. No, seriously, here are some methods I’ve been using that has been finding some more success mixed in with John’s advice:
  • Get the appointment. The goal of the first communication is not to sell a product (though if you do, awesome). Instead, it’s about getting an appointment/ introduction.
  • Respect and Flatter the Gatekeeper. I read in “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, Founderand Chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight and networker-extraordinaire, the need to respect the admins, secretaries, and assistants of execs. These pros have the holy grail of the execs you’re trying to reach – their schedules. If you’re nice to them, not only can they find time to fit you in, but they also overhear a lot of the strategies potentially giving you a leg up.
  • Subjects Lines Are Key Lines. When you’re going to email someone, think about that subject line intently. That can either inspire someone to open your email, or immediately put you on the back foot if you’re too “salesy”.
  • Track what you say. If you’re going to do some cold communications like calls or emails, it’d be smart to have a script ready. You don’t have to necessarily memorize it word for word, but know the gist to be able to speak naturally, not like a robot. Test the script with different audiences and fine tune as you go along to develop a message that truly resonates.
  • Use every tool at your disposal… timely. With the ascendency of social media in business, it’s not a surprise to find execs of large companies using things like Twitter to communicate and have a presence. Depending on their position, industry, etc., Twitter can be a very easy way to interact with an exec vs. the “not cool” phone or email. At least, not at first.
  • Quality is to warm as quantity is to cold. Cold communication can be a simple way to quickly advertise/ outbound market to people you don’t know. However, you’ll need to reach out to many in order to get a response, let alone an enthusiastic appointment. At the end of the day, warm leads are obviously better, but you definitely need to put in a little thought so that you’re not burning a personal connection or wasting a potentially great connection. In the end, a mix of the two can do wonders till you create that inbound marketing machine.
  • Be creative. This is more of a hypothesis because I’m still fiddling with what is creative and what can be creepy weird. However, sometimes you need a little interesting way of getting your product/ service out there, especially if it’s truly innovative (startups!). Whenever people see a demo of the product I’m selling now, people get excited and their imaginations run wild with what they can do with it. However, it takes them to SEE it. Pictures don’t do it justice for obvious reasons. Instead, I’m going to try including a GIF where I can record a demo, and insert it as a picture into emails. I’m unsure if it’ll work, but it should be a quick and easy way to demo, while being educational.

I’m in the midst of testing out many different strategies for sales. It’s not a clear process all the time, and in fact, it’s a living and breathing process of meeting a prospect on the other side of the table. Some of the above are learned and experienced by myself and borrowed from John, but things like the last one are so open that they’re hypotheses in flight. I’ll have to follow up with what works and what doesn’t work later.

What are some tips for selling your product or service via cold communications/ networking? How would you sell a new product or idea that many entrepreneurs or startups often do? 
(Source: http://blogs.transparent.com/english/files/2013/10/odd_one_out.jpg)
Recently, I was described by an entrepreneur as “unemployable”. Hmm, well, since I was talking about potentially joining/ helping his startup, this could go a couple ways, but none sounded very assuring.
He quickly drew the comparison of him and me. Can’t be that bad, right, if he’s comparing the two of us?
But then again, I knew what he was referring to when he used the term. I just hadn’t heard the term before. Since Body Boss, I kept contemplating the role I wanted to pursue, and where/ how could I best help a company if I were to join vs. founding another startup of my own.
One of the challenges of true entrepreneurs – those looking to hop back on the startup grind even after failure – is finding that Next Move… finding the next home. Michael Tavani, co-founder of ScoutMob and now launching a design-focused incubator (simplistically) called Switchyards inATL, said it best: “Founders gotta found.”
The idea is that some entrepreneurs can be the idea guy, or can be the guy who really wants to start companies. It’s risky to hire these type of people because at any moment, they can strike some idea and run off to try to build it. I get that. I mean, that happens to me every other day it seems. Building Body Boss, I kept my spreadsheet of new ideas, and I never really pursued any. But when I was working as a consultant before for someone else or even with another startup, yeah, I get the urge to build something great… something that I can really ownand say, “I built that… I foundedthat”.
Of course, that comes with a price.
The price… or maybe the question is whether I can be a valuable contributor and committed to another cause. Can I be a team player, too? Can I be proud of helping to build someone else’s company? Fair questions, and I believe I can be all of the above.
No job is permanent, and with that, there are opportunities to learn and grow in just about any position. And of course, like I said last week, there is a “mortality” of being an entrepreneur and that coincides with my ability to keep my life sustainable amid that savings account. Building companies with little to no income can definitely be hard, so biting the bullet to be employable is perhaps a necessary step.
Hiring these “unemployables” can be hugely rewarding. Not just for their ability to think outside the box, but in general, they can keep a company continually building, continually inspiring others for greater. Just take a gander at Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “Need Innovation? Hire an Entrepreneur”.
To the entrepreneur’s point at the beginning of this post about the risk inherent to the unemployables, the hardest part is holding onto these entrepreneurs. They seek challenges and ways to continually promote their dynamism. For me, I know I work best when I really own several processes, not just one. I love doing just about anything and everything outside hardcore programming and okay, maybe some of that accounting/ finance, too.

Being unemployable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be a great thing to know, and a way to challenge yourself to be employable, Yes, even if that means taking some time off your dreams in hopes of taking a couple years of more incubation and learning to then eventually reach those dreams. 
What are your thoughts on your employability? How do you fancy yourself to be team member? How can founding entrepreneurs fit into other startups after failure, and be kept motivated to continue as part of the new endeavor?
Another Daryl Lu original (powered by Microsoft PowerPoint)

Okay, if I were to really pursue the dream that made me happiest, I’d be fighting my way into Jurgen Klinsman’s squad for the World Cup coming up on Thursday. (!!!!!!!!!! Super stoked about this!) But I’m not because there’s a gap in skill (maybe) and of course, the cost-benefit ratio/ opportunity costs to think about. There’s a graphic out there on the interwebs describing the crux of what most everyone falls into…

(Source: https://bobbiblogger.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/rich.jpg)
This is a good portrayal, I think, in the world of Venn-Diagrams telling you what to do. However, I think we should step back a second and assess where really you want to be. In most cases, I think it’s being happy and if you were [knock-on-wood] to pass tomorrow, would you be satisfied? Or, what regrets would you have… how do we minimize regrets?
The buzzwords today are “entrepreneurship” and “startups”, and with the Hollywood flick of The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, along with the many success stories we hear about including Snapchat’s $4B acquisition offer by Google, WhatsApps liquidity event at $19B to Zuck and Co., and others, there’s obvious stardust in our eyes to dream big. That, and we all like to think we can be billionaire bosses. The truth is, though, we can’t and most aren’t.
Having spent the better part of the last few years making no money on a startup (even as a tech firm with low costs, there’s still some costs to cover) and then shuttering, we’re still one of sooo many stories of unfortunate failure and like I said, no money. You know how media goes, though… in the world of startups, hype up the big acquisitions and startup successes. That sells.
But looking at this gorgeous wedding this past weekend I attended in Jamaica, it also brings about a harsh reality some (many) entrepreneurs face… without income, you limit yourself on what you can do or how much you can enjoy things. It’s a hard road going uphill while most of those around you are in cushy positions living it up in otherwise more stable occupations. For me, I’ve traded the lavish lifestyle of consulting (let’s tone down “House of Lies”, by the way) for the uncertainty of startups.
It’s definitely sucked to go to bachelor parties at nice steak restaurants (my favorite), and hold back or not order anything at all while the rest of the group chows down on glorious meaty plates.
Luckily, I’ve got some runway from savings from years of lavish consulting and still frugal spending. However, for the last several months, I’ve eaten countless loaves of bread with peanut butter for lunch and I’ve stopped taking my whole family out to dinners just because… instead, it’s my family definitely supporting my dreams (me).
In fact, an entrepreneur once used the term “mortality of an entrepreneur” as a reason why he seeks funding for any of his endeavors. He only has so much to keep going on personally. Not that I can say I want to be beholden to someone else, or really have a living off another without a really good, profit-generating business, but it’s interesting to think about.
It’s a tough life, and one day, I hope to pay back my family and friends for the support with dinners, random gifts, vacations with friends and family, etc. For now, I’ve got to watch the wallet (especially from homeinvaders at night), and keep plugging away with the belief that I’ll pivot and find my entrepreneurial success to give me the stability and flexibility we all really crave. I don’t think financial security necessarily gives us the “freedom” we want as much as we want the “flexibility” to change our directions.
I know several friends who say they want to do their own thing one day, which could very well be true. However, looking at their lifestyles right now, you can also see how a job is just that – a job. It doesn’t come back to bite them at night. It doesn’t keep them up. However, their jobs enable them to have and live a lifestyle they’re completely happy with.
Entrepreneurship certainly doesn’t guarantee happiness, much like a current “corporate” job. If in the end, you’re happy and your job enables a lifestyle you’re happy with, you’re able to travel the world like you’ve always wanted, then that’s okay, too. We should all be okay with that, rather than push into the media-hyped world of entrepreneurship and startups.
So if you think you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s important to really understand the difficulties and be strapped in for the long run. At least for me, I subscribe to the idea of “plan for the worst, hope for the best”. At some point, if the money doesn’t come through one of these entrepreneurial endeavors, there’s going to be a harsh reality for me to mitigate my risks while perhaps embarking on a journey that may take a step back toward entrepreneurial greatness. It sucks, but taking two steps forward and one step back is still better than no steps forward.
And before I close this article up, I do have to include the obligatory bulleted list of some pros of the harsh realities of entrepreneurship:
  • Lack of income creates some creative solutions
  • Having a set meal everyday frees up time thinking and shopping for what you’re going to eat
  • Like a dog backed into a corner, you have to fight to survive
  • Without stable income, you find you can cut out a lot of extraneous niceties (#firstworldproblems be damned!)
  • Most people will never understand what you’re going through, but with a strong startup community, you’ll find a niche of those who have gone through it, ARE going through it, or will
  • You emerge from the darkness with incredible strength and mental/ emotional fortitude (I hope)
  • If you’re like me, you thrive on challenges and building something from nothing. Entrepreneurship is certainly ONE avenue to do so, and the one I’m using as a vehicle to make a bigger impact. You can find yours, too

Without great risk, it’s difficult to attain great benefit, and so yes, I definitely still view full-time pursuit of a dream is the way to go, but like I said before, it’s wise to mitigate risk through preparation personally (familial), financially, professionally, mentally, emotionally, and socially (all the other -ially’s). So if entrepreneurship is going to make you happier or help you get there, by all means, do it. If it’s not, then do what you can to achieve what makes you happy.

What are your thoughts of why you shouldn’t pursue entrepreneurship or some other passion? What are the cases to overcome the risks involved?
Scene from the “Walking Dead”. (Source: http://cosplayclaire.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/rick.jpg)
Excited for it to be June now. May just couldn’t end fast enough. Given my run-in with a ninja cat that left me bloody like I was attacked by Wolverine earlier in the month, the end of the month somehow trumped that story with… a break-in to my house at 4AM. It’s quite the experience when you wake-up in the middle of the night to find someone in your dining room you don’t know going through your house. I’ll step back just for a second to give you a backdrop because I know you’re going to be wondering…

Last Wednesday night, I went to bed a little early, and forgot to not only lock my door (to my house and car) but also forgot to set the alarm. During the night, my alarm chime went off signaling a door was just opened. In my daze, I think I thought it was a dream, so went back to sleep. However, I woke up a few minutes later realizing that that’d be a strange thing to have in a dream. From my room, I can see through the house, and that’s when I saw a figure at the dining room table. Wanting to ensure it was not just a friend, but also being cautious, I followed the figure into the kitchen. Not more than 5 feet away, I was staring at the back of someone I definitely didn’t know. 

After about 5-10 seconds of running a highlight reel of every scenario possible (including “is this the moment I go ape-shit-crazy on someone while I have the element of surprise?”). After careful and QUICK consideration, decided it’s probably best to notify 9-1-1 in case I got in a fight and lost. Slowly crept back into my bedroom with ninja-stealth at which point I dialed 9-1-1, and waited for the police to arrive. Long story short, police flooded the house, and caught the intruder hiding on the other side.

Not in my house… (Source: http://www.resto.be/static/images/11/0/117360_1126.jpg)

So like my run-in with the ninja cat, this obviously gives me yet another great story to share with people, but also to somehow draw some entrepreneurial lessons out of this. Yes, I’m that crazy. I’m drawing parallels in the oddest of places/ situations. Ready to hear me out?

  1. Protect your house. When it comes to today’s technology startups and the loads of data available we all put online, it’s paramount to have safeguards as a company. The most important “things” in the house are the people. In your company, it’s your employees, customers, users, etc. Ensure you have the right mechanisms in place to protect user data as it could have painful/ costly repercussions.
  2. Be diligent in security and safety. It’s funny (now anyways) to think how I have locks and an alarm system. However, if you don’t USE the safeguards you put in place, you kind of defeat yourself. Make sure your security procedures are up-to-date and running. Use monitoring tools to check the status of security, the server, etc. You only need one lapse in judgment, one moment of negligence to have the greatest regret of your [company’s] life.
  3. Redundancy is a good thing! In my prior life as a consultant, business continuity was commonly an area of weakness for organizations big or small. That is, if the server farm goes down what’s the back-up plan? When I was on the phone with 9-1-1, I had 3 dominant thoughts in my head if this situation went south (too dramatic?): 1) how do I tell my loved ones I love them and to pursue their passions? 2) Is this going to hurt my leg work out in a couple hours? And 3) do my business partners have all they need from the presentation and financials I was working on? At least in the 3rd concern, my partners have access to all my work vis-à-vis the Cloud.
  4. Calling for back-up is smart. I think I’m right to say probably every man in the world has dreamt of the situation I was in, and like me, had envisioned pummeling the intruder, and emerging as a hero. In the situation, though, I decided that if things went south, people may not find me for days… That, and I don’t know if there are more guys outside, if he’s got a weapon, or if I’m a bad fighter/ he’s a good fighter. At the end of the day, best to call in someone who can handle the situation. As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely have so much belief in your way of marketing, selling, etc., that you will rely on your judgment alone, but there may be someone on your team you can delegate to who is better equipped, or can complement your “genius”.
  5. Don’t panic. It’s about damage limitation/ mitigation now. In my head, I was pretty darn calm to be just a couple steps from a potentially dangerous person. Hopefully, the 9-1-1 tape doesn’t go public portraying me otherwise. Being calm about this situation or any negative situation in a startup is perhaps redundant advice. However, it’s worth reiterating that having a calm-functioning head as a leader in a company goes a long way in keeping your employees, investors, and customers’ morales up, while presenting a solid face (even if you’re going crazy in your head). Check out what Walt Disney said to his brother when Walt just learned he lost his employees, his product/ idea, had no income, etc. in Inc.com.
We all dream of being a hero, right?! (Source: http://184.168.230.109/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/hero.jpg)

So like my run-in with a ninja cat, there are some lessons to be learned in coming face-to-face with an intruder that can be ported to entrepreneurship and startups. It’s already a great story that draws the attention of people at Starbucks (it’s not a pick-up line, but somehow, I’m getting introduced this way by others in just a week since – Monica, this is your shout out). No doubt this will be a fun story to share and to use in drawing some sort of attention when I start running some sales and biz dev efforts (trust in relationships is built on personal connections, not actual work – think “water cooler”).

What are some other take-aways/ lessons you think you’d get out of running into an intruder? How do you think you would react in my situation?
And of course, out of the 40 t-shirts I grab from my closet, I grab the one about a donut race to go to the police department… They got a kick out of it, though. Shout out to the quick Brookhaven PD!