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Showing posts from December, 2015

Book Review: Leadership Moment

This is my second book review – The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem. The book shares nine short, true stories of moments of leadership. Useem does a great job capturing stories from executives of large corporations to fire chiefs and extreme climbers. Each story details the events and decisions of the leaders and the implications of each leader’s actions (or inaction).
Takeaways from the book: Successful leaders take action decisively, and as soon as possible. Extreme leadership moments tend to occur out of extraordinary circumstances like Apollo 13’s Eugene Kranz. Eugene was the NASA Flight Director in charge of the control room, and he had the unenviable leadership moment to bring back the astronauts of the crippled Apollo 13. Given the incredibly depleting oxygen levels and power, Kranz had to make decision after decision quickly and decisively.Inaction is sometimes the most damning action of all. Useem shares the story of John Gutfreund’s fall at Salomon Inc. Gutfreund failed …

I'm Writing a Book About Startups and Entrepreneurship... From a Failure Perspective

If you follow me on Instagram or have spoken to me recently, you might know I’m writing an ebook about startups and entrepreneurship. Specifically, I’m detailing the lessons learned from failure via Body Boss. I’m also collaborating with Don Pottinger on the book.
I’ve never written long form before outside of school which I really didn’t enjoy. This, though, goes way beyond anything I’ve ever written at 60-something real experience-filled, highly revealing pages. However, much like the rest of my writing and book reading these days, I enjoyed writing this book A LOT. It’s all about context and startups and entrepreneurship are my passions. I’ve already gotten a lot of great feedback from early readers and editors. “Loved the honesty about it! I would often read a chapter and think ‘great lesson – gotta remember that’. In fact, I just had an idea on a simple, yet effective way for our foreign offices to stay connected with the demands of our US market…” “GREAT read. It's probably…

The Miss Universe Card Failed in One Glaring Design Principle – Being Understandable

The other night’s Miss Universe beauty pageant highlighted another example of how poor design can lead to awkward, high profile consequences. If you haven’t seen or heard, Steve Harvey mistakenly proclaims Miss Colombia as Miss Universe. Steve had to apologize and backtrack and name the real winner, Miss Philippines. As you’d expect, the internet exploded with internet memes and Twitter posts poking fun at Steve.

But really, Steve is a scapegoat for a poor card design. Take a look at what Steve was looking at:
I harp on UI and UX a fair bit already, and this just highlights the importance of clean, directed design. You can understand the need for the card to be easily editable so winners can be printed after votes. However, their design is not good, and did nothing to help Steve.
Let’s look at Dieter RamsTen Principles for Good Design, and see where the Miss Universe card fell short:
The biggest principles the card failed was being understandable and thorough down to the details. I…

Sales or Public Speaking? Cater Your Message to the Audience

My buddy David Vandegrift, consultant-turned-entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist, recalled a conversation with a mentor who said it was an entrepreneur’s fault if the entrepreneur didn’t listen to his advice – “The Responsibility of Giving Good Advice”. David, however, believes it’s the advice giver’s fault if the message isn’t well-received. I agree with David.
While building Body Boss, I met with many investors and entrepreneurs. They all volunteered advice. However, no one had experience in what we were building. A few pieces of advice made sense looking back, but most didn’t at our stage – i.e. early partnerships or chasing funding.
In sales or public speaking, catering your message to the audience is paramount… I remember confusing/ upsetting a coach while demoing Body Boss. We sat in a room with several coaches projecting Body Boss. We kept using “consulting language” to the point one of the coaches abruptly stopped us and told us he didn’t understand anything we said. We fa…

Entrepreneurs Check if Schrodinger’s Cat is Dead

If you’re an avid fan of the show Big Bang Theory, you might recall an episode when Sheldon describes Leonard and Penny’s relationship potential using Schrödinger's Cat. In the episode, Sheldon uses the thought experiment to motivate Penny and Leonard to make a decision about going on a date.


Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment developed by Austrian physicist Erin Schrödinger. In simplicity, the experiment proposes a cat in a box with a poison which can be exposed or not depending on another factor and left for an hour. During the hour, the cat is in a state of “quantum superposition” – that is, the cat may be both dead and alive. Only if the box were opened would someone discover if the cat is dead or alive.
I thought about this experiment when I took an alternate route to Atlanta Tech Village the other day. The route wasn’t better than my usual, but it let me lay to rest the “what if?” This is a similar principle behind entrepreneurship – testing hypotheses, learning, and …

Book Review: The Lean Startup

Welcome, to my first book review. I haven’t been a good book reader growing up till a few months ago – true story. I’ve been reading a lot of breadth via blog posts and online articles, but lacked the depth. Now, I’ve been adding in the depth with books.
After reading each book, I’ll write up a mini-review. This [first] book review will be on The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – it’s almost the de facto manual for startups, and one I believe in a lot. I knew of its principles, but it took me a good while to read so I could better absorb everything.
My key take-aways: Customer discovery is so important to test the initial viability of an idea and beyond. This should be done early, often, and on-going as a means of learning to adapt the startup to market needsBuilding a lean product (minimal viable product, or MVP) enables a startup to be more successful (or fail faster) – build, measure, and learn fasterIf there’s a problem or a bug, people are behind it. By asking five succeeding whys, you…

Improv Acting Games to Up My Sales Game

Last Wednesday, I went to Nick Conti’s Professional Actor’s Studio to audit an improv class. I’ve always enjoyed doing improv not just watching. It takes a high degree of creativity, fast-thinking, and confidence. It’s also a highly useful skill for salespeople and entrepreneurs. In fact, Steve Wall, SVP of Sales for StudentBridge, incorporates improvisation as part of his interview process.
A couple games the students played (names may not be accurate): 5-3-1 Conversation: Three people are assigned to a group and each member is assigned either 5, 3, or 1 word to respond. Members can respond in any order, but they mustrespond in exactly the number of words they’re assigned. Implication: Think fast and relevantly. Oftentimes, each person is so focused on answering in the number of words that his/ her response is pre-meditated making conversations choppy (not flow well). For salespeople and entrepreneurs, have a plan, but be ready to adapt.Mister Whisker: Everyone stands in a circle. On…

Overcoming Timidity by Deflecting Focus onto a Product

When I asked Kelly what challenges she’s had to overcome as part of Tuesday’s Entrepreneur Interview Series, I thought about how I overcome my own timidity.
As a recap, Kelly, founder of Jade Marie’s Beauty, said she was forcing herself to be more extroverted to grow her brand. She has a difficult time accepting, let alone bringing, attention to herself; though, it’s not out of lack of confidence.
Like Kelly, I grew up shy of the spotlight. Today, I force myself to be comfortable being uncomfortable (i.e. I uncomfortably do a bit of self-promotion). As I type this post and you read this, I’m behind a digital wall, and one where you’re reading this later than I’ve typed this.
My friends will say I’m a great “deflector”… seamlessly shifting attention onto others. This, I realize is how I overcome my timidity. This is how I get over the fear of making cold calls, pitches, and the like.
When it comes to approaching others about a product or person, I’m not talking about myself at all. …

Entrepreneur Interview Series: Kelly of Jade Marie’s Beauty

I sat down with a new friend who is starting a natural soap company, and in a sense, interviewed her as inspiration for this blog post.
I meet loads of entrepreneurs, and I’d like to start asking them similar questions to find common strings or uncommon facets of what makes them entrepreneurs. We did this with Body Boss asking coaches to answer a set of defined questions in addition to guest writing on our blog. It gave coaches an opportunity to market themselves and illustrate who they were while motivating others considering a job in strength and conditioning. This time, I’m doing it with entrepreneurs.
My friend is the first person I’m asking this common set of questions. Here’s Kelly Logan of Jade Marie’s Beauty: 1. Why are you pursuing entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship is fulfilling. Kelly wants to build something from the ground up, and see how her hard work materializes. 2. What is it that you’re doing? Making natural hair and body beauty products, specifically, soaps right no…