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Showing posts from September, 2015

Take-Aways from My Talk at Georgia State's Institute for Insight MSA Program

I was recently given the opportunity to speak at Georgia State University’s Institute for Insight program to their Masters of Science in Analytics (MSA) students. It was an honor to speak to the class, and one that I admit, was daunting at first.
For one, I hold no advanced degrees in analytics, though, in my professional experience, I have run the gamut of analytics to drive decisions and strategies. However, it’s another animal when asked to speak to students who live and breathe data and analytics. Alas, I got over this quickly as school teaches one way but practical experience can teach on a deeper level – see “School: Tell You What to Do. Startups: Know Why You Do”.
Second, I wanted to speak about my entrepreneurial path. However, I’m so passionate about startups I can go on for days. My challenge was to distill one of my greatest passions to students who may not care about entrepreneurship while sharing an hour with consulting.
Did students even want to hear about entrepreneur…

School: Tell You What to Do. Startups: Know Why You Do

I was speaking to an entrepreneur I’m working with and he shared thoughts on his “lack of formal education”. He dropped out of school when he was 17, and has been building successful businesses ever since.
He’s happy he’s successful not least because if he had to join the corporate world, he wonders if his lack of a college degree, let alone an advanced one, would be a detriment. He lamented he didn’t “know the theory” behind the practical. I understood but argued otherwise.
In MBA in a Startup World I mentioned how working in a startup enables the understanding of the theory behind the practice. However, this morning coalesced my thoughts even clearer. That is, in my MBA experience, I was taught what to do, but didn’t really get the why. I had a sliver of practical exercises via student projects – controlled environments.  
In building Body Boss, I naturally adopted similar concepts of what I learned during my MBA program. (Remember, I was three months into starting Body Boss when I…

When Selling, Consider the Risk for Buyers

One of the biggest take-aways and “duh” lessons from my entrepreneurship professor at Emory was mitigating risk for customers – one of the greatest hurdles entrepreneurs face when selling. Risk, in this case, is tied to the buyer’s job security.
My recent conversation with the Managing Director of a venture capital firm reiterated the importance of mitigating risk for the buyer when assessing/ adopting a new solution. Consider this: You’re the VP of information security at a Fortune 500 company, and setting up a new data farm. There’s a new startup touting impressive server performance and security layers at half the cost of IBM. However, IBM is one of the premier hardware manufacturers with thousands of customers. They’re reliable and have been around for decades. Who do you choose? There are many answers you need before you can choose, but the gist is the inherent risk if $hit hits the fan. With a startup, you as the VP may be questioned for selecting a provider with little reliabi…

Is Your Customer’s Hair on Fire?

When considering an idea for a startup, I’ve referenced a question people often use: “are you selling a painkiller or a vitamin?” The notion is people “need” a painkiller before they need a vitamin (“nice to have”).

In my recent meeting with a venture capitalist partner, he uses the idea “hair on fire” as it’s more dramatic and visual. That is, having one’s hair on fire is direr than perhaps even a painkiller. (I, for one, don’t take painkillers even when prescribed oftentimes.)
For the VC, he considers three key questions to evaluate “hair on fire”: Are there enough people with their hair on fire? Read: What is the size of the market? Is it large enough for big returns?Do prospects know their hair is on fire? Read: Does the market need to be educated about their problem? How important is the problem? I think of this, too, as “is this a latent need or an active need? If latent, how can you convert to active?”Does the market have the desire to put out the fire? Read: Is there enough b…

Get the Yes, and Get Out

I had a great conversation last week with a managing director of a local venture capital firm, and he brought up a few points that struck me. I’ll share them over the next few posts. The first point he shared was a story about “getting yes, and getting out”.
In one particular meeting where with a local large company, the venture firm had the main objective of getting a key executive to agree to meet one of the firm’s portfolio companies.
The meeting was scheduled for an hour, except about 20 minutes in, the large company’s exec agreed to meet with the portfolio company. Almost immediately, the lead investor of the VC firm got up to leave. The partners reached their objective. Anything after the objective could have actually hurt the meeting or turned that definitive YES to a maybe or worse.
In most cases, this makes perfect sense. I find that I can be wordy and after reaching some initial objective enthusiasm can turn into lethargy or dilute the achievement. For the VCs, the goal w…

I Came Close to the Shame Spiral But The Founder Caught Me

Brené Brown’s recent talk at Hubspot’s Inbound Conference was captured in Inc.com’s article “How to Avoid a Perfect Shame Spiral at Work”, and it was incredibly relevant to me just yesterday.

Brené Brown, behind the famous TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability”, spoke about the common miscommunication that happens in the workplace where parties neglect to speak their honest thoughts, and often spiral into shaming themselves.
Brené gives an example where she had unilaterally dismissed her CFO’s idea in a meeting without a clear explanation as to why. Commonly, someone in the CFO’s shoes would think the worst as to why his idea was dismissed. He’d focus on his greatest vulnerabilities as potential causes.
However, in Brené’s real-world case, her CFO was brave enough to speak to Brené afterwards about the matter. Her reply was that the CFO’s idea was so important it needed its own meeting and action plan.
A similar shame spiral was close to happening to me recently. At one of the compa…

Take-Aways from Life Is Good Co-Founder on Culture and Super Powers

My buddy recently shared with me a video from Inc.’s iCONIC: Chicago conference of Life Is Good co-founder Bert Jacobs. It’s lengthy at 43 minutes long, but it showcases how Bert and his brother’s company ingrained “super powers” and humanitarian efforts into the company culture that has driven the company into a $100M company.
As I said, the video’s pretty lengthy. I’ve distilled my take-aways below. Jacobs repeatedly tells the audience, “Your most precious asset is your time”. He then asks, “What’re you doing with your time? What’re you doing with your life?” Life Is Good is built on valuing everyone’s time and making that time valuable. They “focus on opportunities rather than the obstacles” believing whatever you focus on (good or bad) grows.The concept of Life Is Good came from the Jacobs’ childhood when the family was enduring much hardship. To focus on the good, the Jacobs’ mother started a dinner ritual where each family member tells what went well that day.Life Is Good is bui…

Leadership Take-Aways from Two of NCAA’s Most Successful Coaches

On my recent Delta flight, I read an interesting leadership article in Delta’s Sky magazine – the feature piece being an interview of two of the NCAA’s most successful coaches – Coach MikeKrzyzewski (Coach “K”) of Duke’s men’s basketball team and Coach Urban Meyer of Ohio State football with five and three national championships, respectively.
Given these two coaches’ storied careers, their leadership has incredible sustainability. Here are my take-aways from the article: Both coaches took leave of absences in their careers due to medical concerns. Their successes cultivated deeper motivations to win exacting significant physical, mental, social, and emotional tolls. After stepping away, however, each returned to coaching posts to continue winning ways, but implemented mechanisms and understanding to keep themselves in check. Take-away: To operate in peak form like their respective teams, leaders, too, need to ensure self-maintenance.The interviewer asked the coaches about social medi…

Learning from Doing –What Makes Life in Startups So Great

For one of my consulting projects, we’re stepping into usability testing for the launch of a new platform. I’ve participated in usability tests before, but haven’t run a “formal” test. The startup I’m working with hasn’t done one either, so I’m really excited about this – formulating and implementing this process, documenting results, and learning.
What really excites me about startups is this process and challenge of building from scratch. For usability testing, I’m creating the guidelines and plan with the marketing team. Yes, I’m leveraging other tools, guidelines, and templates I’ve found online and from friends, but I build my own before implementing others’. This way I test my own logic against best practices.
With Body Boss, I built a Master Playbook that contained all of our strategic goals and “plays” we were going to do. This included marketing campaigns, the sales strategy and pipeline, etc. More tactically, I created multiple cold call scripts in Excel so I could review c…