As I say to others, “I got this.”

Soccer’s been on my mind recently with several blog posts already this year, but last Tuesday’s soccer games illustrated yet another important revelation in my entrepreneurial, professional, and personal life… and it’s this notion that Quality Breeds Trust.

Last week, I was asked to fill in for two other games after my own. You could really see the disparities in quality from team to team, even before each game started. During warm-ups, you could see who was serious, who wasn’t. You could see who had a good technical touch, who didn’t. And in the opening five minutes of each game, all those earlier impressions were dead-on. That, in effect, had a drastic effect on how I played from simple things like positioning to passes. With lower quality players, everything had to be much more direct and calculated. With greater players, I could be more creative and play more piercing passes.
I remember when I started playing Silverbacks 7v7 so many years ago (damn, I’ve gotten old), I started out with one of my best buds, Don Pottinger – co-founder of Body Boss, programmer extraordinaire now plying his trade at ATV. He was so freaky fast, strong, and skilled that when I had the ball in our defensive half and I had to “clear it”, I would send the ball down the line or into a far corner. I knew that I could put it in no man’s land and before that ball went out of bounds, Don would latch onto it. We’d be off and attacking in seconds.
When you have quality players on your team, you let players make the play. You can see this happening any given Sunday – with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. When Stafford’s in trouble, he scrambles, and he’ll oftentimes lob it to the freak that is CJ trusting in CJ’s ability to make the play.
Sometimes, taking risks like throwing into triple coverage is okay… let great players make great plays! This is the Stafford to Johnson connection in the Lions-Bengals game from October 20, 2013. (Image source: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5491/10388278066_cca092c634_o.gif)
In a different way, you also have generalists like a player of James Milner’s capability of the current Barclays Premier Leaguechampions Manchester City. Milner’s not the most skilled defender or the lethal attacker of many others, but he’s a solid utility player that can be placed in any position, and his work ethic makes him invaluable.
(Image source: http://i4.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/incoming/article8853577.ece/alternates/s615/464323506.jpg)
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini on Milner: “I understand. I’m Milner’s No1 fan. Find me a more complete English player. There are players who’re better technically, yes. Quicker players, yes. Players who head better, yes. But show me one who does all the things Milner does well. There isn’t one.”
You can also trust quality players when they take on risks. It’s just part of their game. So called “risky plays” or their audacity to take on three, four defenders may have low probabilities of success, but it’s okay. It’s okay if it doesn’t come off because risk is inherent in their game… inherent to being great and to pull everyone else forward. For quality players, plays are calculated risks.
There’s an obvious quality and trust relationship in entrepreneurship, of course. They go hand-in-hand. In a startup team, the world is changing so fast that having high quality team members you can trust enables the team to act at speed. At Body Boss, I knew that Andrew had some slick designs and UX in queue for new features while Don and Darren were working hard building new features for our coaches and players. Meanwhile, I was out closing deals and handling logistics for our upcoming coaching clinics. There was no need for any one of us to micro-manage each other. That’d be a waste of time anyways.
From quarterbacks to wide receivers, center-mids to forwards, and sales people to engineers, quality breeds trust. Quality can take on many forms in skills and capabilities to an individual’s work ethic and personality… specialists to generalists. In any case, you know quality when you see it. Give them difficult tasks or ambiguous projects, and they’ll somehow find a way to nail it. With high quality players, you just have to trust them and let them make the plays.
What else influences trust? How else do sports not only build character but foster leadership and teamwork?
In November of last year, I’ve taken upon myself to get more comfortable and knowledgeable (dare I say, “dangerous”) in the world of finance, especially in the realm of startups and entrepreneurship. Take those two things I’m passionate about (startups and entrepreneurship) and layer in a subject I know little about and am… uncomfortable with.
Every month since November, I’ve published a post touching on 3-5 financial concepts ranging from vesting options applicable if you get that offer letter to join a startup to issuing different types of stock like common, preferred, etc. if you’re looking to raise money from a VC as an entrepreneur. I don’t necessarily have a set “path” or “course” through concepts. Instead, I just rely on the things I don’t know or what I read about, and I tackle the concepts from there.
It’s been a fun, humbling, highly informative experience so far. I’ve been reading more news about startups, funding events, offer letters, etc., and I actually know what the authors are talking about! Haha, yes, it’s been fun. Soooo, today, I’ve got my 5th installment of Finance of Startups!
Today’s topics include:
  • Board of… People (Advisors/ Directors)
  • Leverage(d)
  • Par Value

Board of… Advisors vs. Directors

Visit webpages of many startups’ “About Us” pages, and you’ll likely see a group of highly distinguished people grouped either as Board of Advisors or Board of Directors. Do you know the difference? No worries – I got you.
  • Commonalities – Both Boards are made up of a collection of highly knowledgeable, connected, and diverse individuals whose goals are to really help the company succeed. Ensuring all parties’ interests are aligned, Boards are typically compensated with equity on a vesting schedule; though, commonly in startups during funding rounds, Board of Directors may invest in the company (more on this later). Both Boards work at a higher/ strategic level rather than the day-to-day which is left to the management team (CEO, COO, etc.)
  • Board of Directors (BoD) – Provides a collective, broad, strategic vision. Directors have legal requirements and fiduciary duties to the company’s shareholders – meaning they are acting in the best interest of the shareholders – relevant as one of the primary abilities of shareholders is the vote and appointment of members of the BoD. The BoD typically grows with funding rounds as invested interests may want additional direction of the company via the appointment of representative. Also, corporations (C-Corp, S-Corp) are legally required – not so in limited liability companies, partnerships, etc. The BoD is also typically guided by a Chairman.
  • Board of Advisors (BoA) – Made up of specific experts who help mitigate risk that may arise. As such, Advisors are called upon rather infrequently or when a particular needs arise. Well, unless the Advisor is a wicked brilliant entrepreneur which the startup itself may lean on to provide guidance for growth. Both, the startup and the Advisor, may go this route (vs. the BoD) because of the legal ramifications, investment obligations, if any, etc.

Leveraged

The term “leveraged” is used to describe a company’s risk in debt vs. equity (debt-to-equity ratio works, too). Recall from the PART 2 Lessons touching on equity financing and debt financing.
A highly leverage company has a high percentage of debt financing in relation to equity. As debts must be repaid at some point as well as interest being a fixed cost, the costs of the company are much higher (simplistically). If the company was to go under, its assets would likely be sold to satisfy as much of the debts as possible first before any disbursements to shareholders.
So if debt drives up costs and if the company goes under, its assets are liquidated to satisfy the lenders first… you see why there’s more risk for a highly leveraged company? Okay, good. 

Par Value (for stocks)

So “par value” actually arose from recently looking at Etsy’s Form S-1 as they’re seeking an IPO.
Par value is more commonly referred to in relation to bonds, but I’m going to stick simple here since I’m talking about Etsy’s S-1. That is, the issuance of stock.
Snapshot from Etsy’s Form S-1 filing
In gist, par value (also known as par, nominal value, and face value) refers to the original price a security is issued. In the case of stocks, companies typically issues stock at a very, very small par value (like Etsy’s S-1 shows above) or no par value at all. This enables Etsy to limit or avoid altogether liability should its stock drop. For example, if Company Not Great issued stock with a par value of $10, and its stock started trading at $5, then it would technically be liable to the shareholder at $5 per stock!
Simple, right? Par value for stocks à very little, or none to limit liability. For bonds, par value works with a coupon rate to determine fixed annual payments. Well, I’ll talk about bonds in Part 6 next month that will be more technical, but hopefully, easy to understand.

Conclusion

Keep on keepin’ on, as ­theysay. I’m six months into learning finance, and luckily, it’s such a big, complicated subject that there’s still so much to learn.
Next month’s installment, I hope to touch on bonds, for sure, especially given how lightly I touched on “par value”. Perhaps I’ll also share some insights from the Etsy S-1 as I’m still poring over it. If there are other concepts or questions you have, feel free to send them my way!
Resources: http://www.vcdeallawyer.com/2009/11/28/board-of-directors-vs-board-of-advisors/, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/2014/04/17/advisors-versus-directors-how-to-build-better-boards/, http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/business-finances/debt-vs-equity-advantages-and-disadvantages.html, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/leverage.asp, http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/106.asp
First time hitting three plates on dips
Way back in the day when this blog was actually branded Supply Chain Ninja [vs. Entrepreneurial Ninja now], I wrote about consulting and supply chain and, of course, subjects that interested me that I then related to one of the two. One such post was “What consulting has taught me about weight lifting, and vice versa” – you can probably guesstimatewhat that post was about.
Well, now that this blog’s about the Art of Startups and Entrepreneurship, I want to translate some take-aways and experiences from weight lifting to the entrepreneurial realm. Or even better, tell you why every entrepreneur should be working out. REGULARLY.
The benefits of weight lifting for entrepreneurs are many-fold ranging from adding structure to the entrepreneur’s chaotic day, the quantifiable challenge, and its benefits to your overall wellness.

At the end of the day, you’re probably your harshest critic

Hey, I get you. Being an entrepreneur, you probably feel the difference between success and failure is driven by you. The brand, the company’s missions and values, it’s about how you develop it. Of course, though, there’s a ton of external forces that make or break your company including your team, the market, your client’s internal office politics, forces majeure… so maybe it’s not all about you, too.
When you’re lifting weights, though, it’s first and foremost a test of you against yourself. When you’re lifting however many pounds (or kilos), those big chunks of iron don’t care about you. They don’t care if you had a bad day or good day. They just abide by the laws of gravity. If you disrespect the weight and aren’t careful, they’ll punish you.
In one of the rare instances of your life, as an entrepreneur, it’s really about you. You can make excuses of why you aren’t going to make it to the gym this early morning, but at the end of the day, you’re making excuses to yourself. So in this way, working out gives you the ability to truly be your harshest critic while being very honest in that it’s largely… yes, about you.

Adding a little structure to the chaos is a beautiful thing

When you’re an entrepreneur crushing it every day (working, that is), you can lose track of time. You’re in this mode of figuring out why this piece of code isn’t working, and it’s driving you insane. Or customers are hitting you up left and right asking if you can help them import data else all heck breaks loose. Maybe you even forget to use the bathroom… that happens. Often.
Your weekends are much like your weekdays, so much so that you wake up not actually sure what day it is. Happens. Often.
When you insert a little time for working out, you start to add a nice little placeholder and structure to your schedule. Suddenly, you’ve added time for yourself (maybe a workout partner, too?). The only way to achieve any results from working out is doing it consistently. So when you put on your calendar placeholders for 30 minutes or an hour a few days a week, you’ve added consistency in your otherwise chaotic, fluid life.
I’ve long understood the notion that you only make time for those things that matter to you. When people say they don’t “have time”, it’s an excuse. You don’t make time. With a workout schedule that you follow, you’ve made it a priority for you. And beyond that, you’re making YOURSELF a priority. If you’re going to succeed, you need to take care of yourself first to be in a place to care for your company and others.

You like challenges. Well, there’s nothing more challenging than adding 2.5 pounds to the bar

It’s amazing when you’re squatting and you’re contracting those quads, driving your heels into the ground keeping your chest high… you’re breathing out slowly, and when you’ve reached the top, you rack that weight, and *BAM!* you just set a new personal record.
Lifting is an amazing exercise in quantification and having a true visual gauge for improvement. Sure, you can use Hubspot’s Sidekick to track email open and click-rates or crunch spreadsheets for inventory fulfillment metrics, but there’s a lot going on there. When you’re lifting, you can see yourself getting stronger and fitter in the mirror and on the bar. Want to do more than you’ve ever done? Just add something incremental like the 2.5-lb plate. It’s not much, but it can mean A LOT.
I believe entrepreneurs are driven by a host of things, but one of the most common is the challengeof building something meaningful from nothing. It’s a test against the 800-lb gorillas more established in the market. It’s a test of your leadership abilities. It’s a test of your persuasive skills.
You love challenges. Embrace weight lifting as the challenge you get benefits from every workout.

Round out your health in more ways than the physical

I’m a big proponent of University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Seven Dimensions of Wellness. I believe at any one time, you should strive to have at least five of these dimensions in a stable condition. Of course, depending on your own preferences in risk and the like, maybe just three or four should stable for you. 
University of Californa, Riverside’s Seven Dimensions of Wellness
There are countless studies on the positive effects of exercise, and I won’t cite the many articles here – just a Google if you’re interested after you’re done reading this. Instead, I want you to look at UCR’s dimensions, and you may be able to see all the different ways exercise can impact you.
For me, I’ve met some great friends (social), found time alone to think on my own — like my own introverted nirvana (spiritual, emotional, occupational), am in great physical shape with loads of energy (physical which then affects occupational, social, etc.), eating better because I want to maximize my exercise gains and optimize nutritional value (physical), etc. The list goes on and on.
When you’re heads down plugging away at your startup, it’s easy to lose track of time. It’s easy to grab something quick and easy like fast food. It’s easy to work in silo on your own or holed up with just your team with little interaction with the outside world. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to stress until you’re exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically, etc. Weight lifting gives you the platform to find stability and strength in more wellness dimensions, so in the end, you’re working and living at peak capacity.

Weight lifting can teach you patience and perseverance

I loved this story I read about legendary Romanian Olympic lifter Nicu Vlad about the time Nicu was working on the Snatch. He had a progression to follow with the end goal of lifting 185 kilograms on the Snatch. However, he missed his progression of 170 and 180 (multiple sets with varying degrees of success, but largely misses). He didn’t once act out from missing the lifts. He kept progressing up to 185. On that 185 rep, Nicu gripped the bar, eyes determined… and in one swift, smooth motion, he nailed 185 kgs over his head for the best lift of the day.
The great Romanian lifter Nicu Vlad
Nicu had amazing determination, impeccable skill, and unrelenting mental fortitude. Despite all of the missed attempts, Nicu knew the plan for the day focusing on the end game, not missed sets in between. Each lift, no matter the weight, was performed to perfect technique. He was consistent, even if he failed to hit the Snatch.
In entrepreneurship, wins like Facebook, Uber, Pardot, AirWatch, etc., are not made over night. They take time with eyes on the grander vision. Weight lifting can teach you all about patience and trusting the process of hard work and consistency and, yes, perseverance. Because if you’re looking to lose weight, hit three plates on the bench, it’s not going to be accomplished in one workout. It’s going to be a consistent process with small accomplishments along the way.

I could go on and on…

I really could. I’ve already written a lot, but there are so many parallels of weight lifting and entrepreneurship and startups… and so many reasons why entrepreneurs should all lift weights. (Perhaps I’ll write a follow-up next month.) That’s just how powerful weight lifting can be for entrepreneurs, or heck, everyone.
Next time you get frustrated about how a typo caused you to spend hours trouble-shooting your code, maybe you should take that frustration to the gym. Entrepreneurships’ ebbs and flows, highs and lows are a great match with weight lifting’s ability to expend energy and build mental fortitude.
Okay, lift on 3. 1… 2… 3… LIFT!
What are your thoughts on the benefits of weight lifting for entrepreneurs? How do you think working out or exercises has been beneficial (or not) to your startup aspirations? 

William the Magician!
About a month ago, I was talking to a buddy at a coffee shop about start-ups and entrepreneurship. A man sitting next to us overheard heard our conversation, and asked us questions about building businesses. He happened to be a professional magician, and ran a small business called Davenport Magic. William Davenport was, in gist, an entertainer for kids, company events, business customers (like Wow Café’s customers who would enjoy a dinner anda show), etc.
We spoke to William for a few minutes before having to part ways about all things including marketing, selling, and generally, growing the business.
Fast forward a couple weeks, and William called me to schedule a sit-down to talk in greater length about what he’s looking to accomplish and glean more tips. He also mentioned how that day we met, however brief, was taken to heart and he had implemented a lot of what we talked about including blogging to drive inbound marketing… EVERYDAY. I was astounded and impressed, so I agreed to an officialsit-down.
So we met yesterday, and had some good conversation, and man, I’m excited for him. He’s got a good thing going for himself, and has the desire to be something greater. But really, I’m more excited because he’s a good guy who is PASSIONATE about what he does.
I want to share a few tidbits from our conversation…
  • It’s all about relationships. I think everything is ultimately driven by relationships whether that’s to a brand, to a friend, to family, etc. For William, it’s apparent how important relationships are. Much of his business is from word-of-mouth. He’s a magician, and though it’s not a common skill/ profession, there are plenty of other options for selecting entertainment for a gathering. As such, what makes someone call you for a gig is that relationship. For me as I do independent consulting, I’m not really that different from others. Consulting’s commoditized. Instead, though, I get calls because of my relationships.
  • Your brand needs to be consistent and genuine. Part and parcel to relationships is your brand – who you are, what you represent. For William, he showed up in a suit, and carried himself with confidence. His tone of enthusiasm was authentic. He wanted to portray himself as a professional and inviting. Your relationships grow and become stronger through a consistent, genuine brand.
  • Call to action. Call to action. Call to action! From his website, to his emails, William didn’t have an apparent call to action to either visit his website, send him an email for more information, or sign up for a gig. When someone visits William’s site or sends an email, he (you can insert your name here) should motivate the visitor to interact with you. Leads are special and coveted, and once you have them in your queue, you can start to cultivate that relationship, which hopefully turns into an event (for William’s case).
  • Know your audience. William mentioned how he works hard to understand the psychology of the crowd. It allows him to throttle or mix up his tricks to cater to the crowd. For example, at tradeshows, he knows he needs to approach more than one person at a time because with one person, they can be scared and distrustful. With approaching two or more people at once, people tend to open up more… and with two people engaged, more of the crowd around stops to look at what’s happening.
  • “Make people feel great”. This was priority number one for William, and it’s a great message for everyone for their customers. This reminds me of the Head of Care for a major phone manufacturer I worked – she and her team strived for a common vision: “Delight the customer”. For William, making people feel great included the following facets: 1) great personality; 2) dress the part; 3) hold yourself to a higher standard; 4) ASTONISHMENT – this was more of an aim, but it’s paramount.
  • Be and stay humble. There’s always someone out there smarter than you, with more experience, or with a grander network. For William, there’s plenty he can learn from others, and there’s much I can learn from him including captivating audiences (or sales prospect for that matter). 
  • Work your @$$ off for your dreams and passions. When I asked William what kept him up at night, he recited everything about his business. His business is what drives him, and what motivates him. At the end of the day, he’s thrilled to have left his corporate life and computer science background behind in pursuit of his passion in magic and entertainment. You could tell that though he worked so hard, he still had so much energy and enthusiasm for what he does.

William’s going to do well on his current strategy, but there are few things he can do to be even greater – yes, including his website. We’re working on that. However, I know that he’s going to hustle and make good choices to expand. He’s eager to learn, and he wants to improve.
The other thing I realized, more for myself, is how much I like working with small businesses. This is probably what motivated my good friend Don Pottinger to write “The Best Entrepreneur I Know”. I see the same small business challenges and opportunities being in startups myself… also because I see the crazy hard work my dad puts into his small business in electrical and mechanical engineering. I just started a dialogue in potentially helping a small biz in Midtown selling lighting fixtures. With all the conversations, these are entrepreneurs who are working their tails off, and are so busy. I know that if I can make small changes in their businesses, I can make a world of difference for them, too.
William’s a magician and small business owner doing what he loves… that’s special, and what drives me. Dare I say, “It’s magical.” Haha, okay, when I reach this level of cheesy, I know it’s time to end.
Till next time!
What are your thoughts on what makes a great small business? How about a small business owner? What are some words of wisdom for William on up his company?