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Showing posts from 2016

Going the Other Way: My “Year Before Preview”

I just watched a great TED talk by Laura Vanderkam – “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time”. I won’t go into detail about her talk because I’m going to save my big take-away in a near-future post. However, the point I want to share today is Laura’s idea regarding year-end reviews – write next year’s year-end review today.
Laura suggests essentially starting at the end, and working backwards into the schedule. Think about the goals you want to have accomplished.Break-down the milestones (processes and resources).Allocate the milestones into the schedule now. Laura went on to suggest we set 3-5 goals in three areas of our lives – career, relationships, and self.
In the spirit of many others doing year-end reviews, I'm going to do the Year Before Preview with Laura's help/ suggestions. Here’s a snippet of my Year Before Preview... Goal (in SELF): I ran the 2017 Peachtree Road Race, and I accomplished a sub-50 time.
I know myself, and know that I’m going to do a lot of other act…

Why I Joined This Startup – Comparing the CEO Mindset vs. Mine

One of the reasons I joined the current startup I’m at was to learn from a successful CEO/ founding team – to be mentored. So far, I’ve appreciated every moment.
It’s fascinating to me how he thinks. He’s highly successful with prior startups; so, to say his mindset is different from mine would be an understatement. In fact, we’ve approached many things from completely different perspectives.
Some observations and disparities in viewpoints: Him: time and money (big). Me: test and money (small). Oftentimes, he thinks in time first, money second. He recognizes time is a resource we don’t get back. Meanwhile, time is also money. Recently, we debated about testing messaging. As I thought about testing variants for efficacy that may take time, he thought about burn rate. Specifically, how much time and money will have been spent for an effective test? He would rather test quickly and burn through a list, for example, and then get another list later, not go through 4 weeks of burn before f…

TAG Sales Leadership Panel Take-Aways: High Velocity Sales Organizations

I attended a Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Sales Leadership event a couple weeks ago on High Velocity Sales Organizations.
(I’m a little late to posting this. Having scaled down to one post a week as I round up 100 Strangers, 100 Days (today’s day 89!), my posts are being stretched out.)
The event headlined: Kyle Porter, CEO, SalesLoftTyce Miller, CEO, MobileMindBrian Simms, Chief Sales Officer, Rubicon GlobalWanda Truxillo, Chief Revenue Officer, World Motors1 DBA MotorQueenBarb Giamanco, President & Social Selling Advisor, Social Centered SellingMy take-aways from the event: It’s hard to get the attention in sales, right? Every second counts – literally. The first 10 seconds are to earn a minute. Prospects are looking to be interrupted – pattern interrupt. Kyle mentioned how he was interrupted by a great cold call. Kyle told the caller to “email him later” because he was busy. The sales rep responded with, “are you sure you want to do that?” Kyle was taken back. “What did …

Book Review: How Will You Measure Your Life

I recently finished Clayton M. Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life?. My friend and former client recommended the book to me.

Christensen’s a professor at Harvard, and he starts out the book addressing his class. Indeed, the book has a certain business flavor to it. Yet, it’s relevant to think about what success looks like beyond our careers and what we do for a living.
In fact, the phrase “what we do for a living” has a business sentiment these days. If you think about it, it’s a general question. I work out. I go out with friends for dinner. I write… a lot. Oh, and yes, I also work at a startup. I do a lot for a living, not just what I get paid for. I digress…
Here are my top take-aways: I need to met my hygiene and motivation factors to be happy. Frederick Herzberg developed the Two-Factor Theory. The Theory helps explain what drives us and what causes us to both hate/ love our jobs. This is something I’ve heard countless times from business school and a book I’m reading no…

Starting with A Small Plastic Piece, The Effect of One Ever-lasting Brand

Recently, I played with my 3-year-old niece with a toy that I even had growing up, and it’s as great as it’s ever been. I remember when I started playing with the toy when I was closer to 8 or 10 years old. So to watch my niece play with it at such a young age was fascinating. This toy has been around for ages. It's got a strong following with collectors, movie goers, theme park visitors, and more. That toy? Legos.
I want to take a moment and appreciate Legos. The company, The Lego Group, started manufacturing the plastic toys back in 1949. The company and its original form as wooden toys started in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Per Brand Finance, Legos is the most powerful brand in the world today.
These simple interconnecting blocks and mini-figurines captivated my niece. I, in turn, was captivated watching her play with them. Here’s what I noticed: Builds observant and analytical skills. My niece studied a flash card of a model dog to assemble. Perhaps I’m not giving her or yo…

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for…

I wanted to wait to publish this week's post, so it coincided with Thanksgiving. It's a proper time to give thanks to those around me. Also, it's a good time to reflect/ appreciate experiences to shape my entrepreneurial journey.
Since Thanksgiving last year, I've done many things: Published Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success.Joined an early-stage startup.Spoke at many events.Started 100 Strangers, 100 Days. Those seem pretty "professional-related", but that's also what has shaped much of my life. Accomplishing any of those has required the support of many others. Accomplishing any of those has also forced me to appreciate time alone and personal-growth. These have included:
Read six books with subjects ranging from sales to leadership to personal development.Upped my yoga game, practicing at a legit yoga studio.Maintained good strength and development in the gym. So before I go into a reflective post best saved for the end of the year, my…

Children, Life, Priorities in Startups

I had a lunch with an entrepreneur recently talking about his experiences in startups in growth-mode and those in early-stage (pre-product-market fit). The most interesting wrinkle in our talk was having a young child while at these startups. I’m at the age where many people around me are having multiple kids. So, as I look around at possible co-founders, I must consider their personal lives – priorities.
My friend shared how having a young child meant he was much more cognizant of the time he spent working on the business. As one of the co-founders of his current company and having been a part of several successful (and some unsuccessful) ventures in the past, he’s building into the company’s culture strong balance.
He is also a lot more cognizant of his time. He focuses on efforts that will materially move the needle for the company. That can mean delaying certain bug fixes or existing customer complaints. His focus now reduces the number of “experimental” efforts without strong i…

Book Review: Predictable Revenue

Just finished reading/ listening to Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross. It’s been referred to as the sales Bible by several sales pros. Just so happened I never read it till now.
The book is written by former sales leader Aaron Ross as he helped implement the structure and strategies to scale Salesforce.com’s sales model.
My take-aways: The importance of structure. This is probably the most highlighted point of the book spanning everything from organization to cadence to sales cycle and reporting. Ross frequently harps on using a sales force automation platform – not a surprise.Value/ Customer first, and pretty much always. Ross highlights the importance of enabling the customer to talk about their business first… just about never talk about your product. Instead, integrate your product/ service in how it can resolve specific challenges of the customer.Customer Success is perhaps the most important facet of the sales process. Executives and boards almost always focus on new customers …

Investing In Things Like Conferences, Bring the Energy

Last week, my company sponsored a conference for sales force productivity. As I went into it, I remembered running booths with Body Boss… Evolution to Kick @$$ ConferencesMy New Year's Resolution: To Kill It at Conferences and Clinics
I forgot how much fun (and tiring) it was to work a conference, and how important it was for those working the booths and sessions to actively participate. Walking around many of the booths, many people sat behind their booths. Some, even, working on their laptops. Not very engaging.
Perhaps because my company is a startup that I was determined to get as many conversations and leads as possible. Sinking the investment that we did meant we needed a strong return. I felt that my company’s investment was my investment.
As attendees entered and exited sessions, and walked by our booth, I was right there in the middle of everyone engaging with just about everyone. One piece of schwag we gave out at the conference was a green “squishy” stress ball. I must’…

Valuation of Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary Startups

I was talking to a very successful entrepreneur recently about valuations of startups as they grow. Specifically, valuation multiples for an evolutionary startup with great revenues vs. a revolutionary startup with good revenues, especially when both are still in early-stage. 
In an evolutionary startup, the product offering is just that – evolutionary. That is, the industry has been moving in this direction for years. The valuation of this startup can be good due to traction, but as an evolutionary company in an established market, competitors will follow and then the evolutionary product becomes substitutable. Its multiple is likely less than 4X.
In a revolutionary startup, the product offering is defining a new space. Getting traction can be hugely difficult like pushing a boulder up a mountain. But once momentum hits, the valuation multiple can be significantly higher due to the meta knowledge and technology surrounding the startup. Yes, a startup doing well in this new revolution …

The Trap of Optimism Bias

In a couple talks I’ve given this year, I talked about failure – promote the book! I talked about over-confidence/ hubris as one of the reasons I, at least, failed.
I spoke to and heard from a number of successful entrepreneurs who advised me on certain traps as a first-time entrepreneur. I ignored some of the advice thinking we were going to be successful despite these “red flags”. This confidence is an example of optimism bias.
From Wikipedia, “optimism bias is a cognitive bias that causes a person to believe that they are less at risk of experiencing negative events compared to others”. There is optimism bias for both positive events – we will be more successful than others – and negative events – we will not succumb to the trappings of others who have failed.
Optimism bias is powerful and part and parcel of the confidence to succeed; however, it needs to be paired with a healthy dose of curiosity and adaptability. In our case, we should have heeded the cautions from entrepreneur…

Google Analytics vs. Event Tracking Apps – Through the Lens of an Office Tour

I was back with a startup I’m advising this past weekend discussing the importance of metrics. Or rather, more specifically, what you get with event tracking apps like MixPanel vs. Google Analytics.
So let’s start with an example from my office – tours at Atlanta Tech Village. You’ve taken the tour before, but you’re here with 2 friends who have never been. Meanwhile, there are seven other tour guests to which two say they’ve taken the tour again, but they loved it so much they’re doing it again.  The tour starts downstairs in the lobby before entering the rec room with game consoles, a ping pong table, shuffle board, and a kitchen.  Then, the tour goes through the “hot desk” area before re-entering the lobby and going up a flight of stairs to the second floor with dedicated desks and some smaller offices.  The group then goes up to one of 3rd, 4th, or 5th floors to see the larger office spaces. The tour guide is showing the group the kitchen as well as maybe an introduction to a sta…

Book Review: Start With Why

I recently finished Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. I didn’t even know about this book despite knowing of his infamous Ted Talk, but when I did hear of this, I was excited to go in-depth on the subject.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (or probably even recently), you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of being grounded in purpose and why – as an individual and as a company.
My take-aways: Leaders and founders utilize WHY to set the vision of the company. Typically, too, the founders are complementary in one providing the WHY while the other enables the HOW. For greatest effect, both must be present. Note: one is not “better” than the other. They’re complementary.We (and companies) are good at espousing the WHAT and HOW we do, but are “fuzzier” on our WHY. Starting with WHY allows us to build on an emotional pull with our audience – a trust. When we sell on our WHAT and HOW, we differentiate by features, price, etc. Why allows us differentiate on a deeper level – a belief and co…

100 Strangers, 100 Days – A New Journey to Inspire

Yes, that’s right… today’s Wednesday, and I “missed” yesterday’s blog post. Actually, that was on purpose because I’m shifting blogging back down to ONCE a week – weekly on Wednesdays. Why? Because I have started a little side project called 100 Strangers, 100 Days.
You might be able to guess what it’s about already… I’m meeting 100 Strangers over the course of 100 Days. I started last Saturday, September 17th. I should be wrapped up with my 100th Stranger on December 26! How wild is that?
This little project (I laugh as I type “little” because it’s actually, I think, quite a big undertaking) came to me as I was hiking on Stone Mountain that Saturday morning for the sunrise, as I often do. As I walked, I realized a gentleman who was walking beside me for the last 5 minutes. I told myself I might as well say hello to him, and then, the lightbulb came on…
Everyone is fascinating and has some story to tell. I’m fortunate and grateful to have met some really amazing people. These amazin…

Role of A Startup Advisor

Over the last year or so, I have become an Advisor for a couple startups. It’s been a great experience for me to teach and continue learning as an entrepreneur. I do meet with several startups and entrepreneurs weekly, but not officially as an Advisor save for a couple.
During (and especially after) Body Boss, I realized the importance of having Advisors. Advisors help startups and the executive team navigate the go-to-market waters bringing specific experience to the table – industry, technology, etc. With that comes connections, too.
The role of a startup Advisor includes: Guiding the startup on its directionProvide valuable insight into the industry, competition, market, etc.Share connections to move the company forward – prospects, new hire candidates, otherEstablish cadence around metrics for progress In exchange for devoting time and attention (and reaching success, hopefully), startups typically provide stock or cash to Advisors. This ensures both parties are aligned on objecti…

Book Review: The Challenger Sa

It took me a little longer than I thought, but I just finished Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson’s The Challenger Sale.
Another great book recommendation from a sales rep who was actually selling to me. This book builds on the SPIN Selling as the next big innovation in sales.
Needless to say, I learned a lot from the book, and enjoyed it immensely. In fact, after just reading the first few chapters, I started to hack my selling style immediately to be more Challenger-oriented.
What was interesting was that out of the different selling personas, the Relationship Builder typically had the lowest sales success. This was daunting for me as I typically harp on the importance of relationships, and though, I do take on several attributes of a Challenger (like teaching and tailoring, especially), I still may be very Relationship-oriented.
Here are my take-aways from the book: In today’s noise-filled world, Challenger sales reps focus and drive value for prospects from the get-go. They are foc…

Avoiding Sales Management Sins of Rapid Growth: 6 Take-Aways from TAG Panel

Yesterday, I attended my third Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Sales Leadership event. This event was all about the pitfalls (“sins”) of managing a high growth sales team. (Highly relevant for me as we grow at SalesWise.)
The panel featured: Mark McGraw of Sandler Training (moderator)Gavin Harris, VP of Sales at SalesFusionAdrian Fallow, AVP of Pardot (Salesforce)Earne Bentley, Director of Sales at Origami Risk My main take-aways: The 3 Sins of sales management (from Mark): (1) Poorly designed selling philosophy (culture). (2) Too tolerant of mediocrity. (3) No system for selling or managing sales.No surprise the panel touched heavily on instilling and persisting a great sales culture. Common phrases throughout the panel included: “surround yourself with top talent”, “raise the bar”, “do not tolerate mediocrity”, “structure”, “understand a sales candidate’s ‘fire’ or motivator”, and “on-going training”.“Think like a big company” – this really hit home for me as I have been rath…

Seize the Opportunity

Second straight post I want to share a story with you I’ve heard a couple times. But more recently, heard it from a fellow entrepreneur friend with a slew of great opportunities coming one after the other. And yet, he hasn’t grabbed any of the opportunities yet.
What are your thoughts? How do you relate? “Parable of the Flood” by Author Unknown A man was trapped in his house during a flood. He began praying to God to rescue him. He had a vision in his head of God’s hand reaching down from heaven and lifting him to safety. The water started to rise in his house. His neighbour urged him to leave and offered him a ride to safety. The man yelled back, “I am waiting for God to save me.” The neighbour drove off in his pick-up truck.
The man continued to pray and hold on to his vision. As the water began rising in his house, he had to climb up to the roof. A boat came by with some people heading for safe ground. They yelled at the man to grab a rope they were ready to throw and take him to…

Go With the Flow

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for a photoshoot (yes, I was the talent – surprise!). I also used it as a chance to get away. When my colleagues found out, they wished me luck, have fun, and should be great. My response: “yeah, we’ll see”.
Not sure why I responded that way, but one of my colleagues laughed and shared with me the below story to which I very much relate to (and not just because the setting is China).
What are your thoughts? How do you relate?  “We'll See” by Author Unknown   Once upon a time, there was a farmer in the central region of China. He didn't have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field.
One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, "Oh, what a horrible thing to happen." The farmer said simply, "We'll see." He was so at peace and so calm, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave …

Respond by Shifting Perspective

Talking to a friend recently we laughed about my run-in with a rabid wolverine feline (“domesticated cat”) and then coming face-to-face with a home intruder at 4AM – these all happened in May 2014. 
We talked about this notion of reframing/ shifting the perspective to turn something negative into something positive. Indeed, I did just that turning both events into blog posts with lessons for entrepreneurs.
Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005 included this:  “You can't connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.” Steve’s point alludes to the opportunity to “shift perspective” – what happened cannot be changed. Trust in the opportun…

Taking Time Off Is A Constant Practice

Last week, I posted one of the most important blog posts since I started except… I lied. I didn’t quite take that vacation/ break.
I haven’t taken a vacation in quite a while. Even in late December and early January when I went to Orlando and San Fran for family vacations, I worked. A lot. This past Thursday, I still ended up working 6-7 hours even after everyone at work messaged me to get offline.
It’s a hard to be “okay” to turn off. Early in the week, I handled several marketing tasks, but I hadn’t finished any of my sales and customer success tasks. These efforts boiled over into Thursday, my supposed time off.
Having lived through the roller coaster of Body Boss and then last year’s anxiety-filled summer, knowing to turn off and actually doing so is a work-in-progress. In fact, like working out, exercising vulnerability, speaking, writing, etc., taking time off should be a constant practice.
Harvard Business Review has a great article about resilience – “Resilience Is About …

Postmortem of a Failed Startup – Now in Paperback!

Today’s post… a plug for my book – Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success – is now in hardcopy! You can pick up the paperback on Amazon for $13.99 (or ebook for $5.99).
I originally published the book as an ebook in early January. Got a lot of great feedback including Amazon reviews like...

I want to start using the book to teach other entrepreneurs before meeting with me. One of the reasons why I wrote the book was because of how often entrepreneurs shared challenges described in the book.
If you’re looking to get your venture off the ground, your idea out of your head, or have a startup in-flight looking to grow, get the book on Amazon.

Consulting with Startups – It’s a Capacity Thing

I want to build on last Tuesday’s “The Challenges of Consulting With Startups”. More specifically, I want to stress the reason an early-stage startup brings on an agency or consultancy – it’s capacity.
Capacity is the hired help to augment the team. At SalesWise, our team is vastly experienced in driving success – what to execute and how. What we struggle with is the execution when we have 20 sales calls to make, 4 demos, 2 support tickets, and a kick-off call.
What I’ve found to be ineffective for most consultants is when they come in wanting to do big bang changes and huge strategy sessions. Our environment changes rapidly. We are not ready for big bang changes. We need to execute, learn, iterate.
So if you want to consult with a startup, have an eye on the larger strategy, sure. You have value for early-stage companies in this area. But one of the best ways to implement that strategy is getting “stuck in”. Roll up your sleeves, and take on a more “staff aug” role to understand ho…

Speech? Blog? Book? Here's How I Just Start

Writing a speech, writing a book, writing a blog post… I realized recently that they all start similarly (at least for me). They differ in revisions and rehearsing, if any. Starting off, I take a moment to think about the subject. I either start with an outline or just start writing (or dictating).
I get a lot of questions about how to start a blog, what to write about, or in the case most recently, perfecting a speech. The hardest part is starting out and putting together the first draft.
To that end, if you’ve got an upcoming talk or want to start blogging, here’s my method on how to start. 1.Think about the subject, and go through a creative learning process with some research – online and/ or in-person. 2.Are there requirements or limitations? Delivery style, can you use images, max length, etc. Consider these to narrow the scope. 3.I want my material to be as authentic and casual as possible, so I typically do not go through a huge brainstorming conquest. Instead, I jot down a fe…

The Challenges of Consulting with Startups

The challenges of consulting with startups goes well beyond just “price” (read: “tight budgets”). Many wantrepreneurs and entrepreneurs try branching out on their own by consulting. They believe it's a great fit with some experience (“expertise”) and startup enthusiasm. Not quite.
I have spent a lot of time consulting with startups after Body Boss. Today, I sit on the other side of the table hiring consultants at SalesWise. With both perspectives, I want to share the challenges I see. Consultants want to bring too much structure to an agile environment. For most consulting entrepreneurs, strategy consulting is where the fun is – it’s like being a part of the vision of the startup. Many see opportunities to bring their experience from big brands and apply “best practices” to startups. This could mean big strategy sessions, long timelines, and structured deliverables. However, for startups, especially early-stage companies, heavy structure won’t last simply because the company is st…

Want to Be An Entrepreneur? Take Deliberate, Small Actions

John Greathouse wrote back in May about practicing entrepreneurship with a purpose. John talks about deliberate actions before (or during) diving into entrepreneurship.
It’s a great reminder-type post as to what drives many entrepreneurs beyond building a company and, yes, the chance at making a substantial lifestyle change. For many – me being one of them – there’s a drive and passion about the challenge and impact of building something great from nothing.
A few points John shared that I strive to practice everyday: “Advise A Startup”. I love speaking to startups, entrepreneurs, and wantrepreneurs. Networking is great, but hearing the problems others are solving and how is highly educational. As John also said, teaching others is a great way to amplify and accelerate learning.“Don’t Throw Up, Speak Up”. I grew up as an introvert, but realizing what I wanted to achieve, I wanted to be more extroverted. So, I hacked my personality for years and got comfortable doing uncomfortable thin…

Through Entrepreneurship, How I’m Deepening My Learning

I often hear how building a startup is like getting an MBA but on the job. Having an MBA and built a couple startups, I can say that it’s true… at least, partially. The downside of learning as you go is the otherwise lack of guidance and not knowing what you don’t know.
When I was at Body Boss, I had little experience in sales and marketing; however, I was the “Head of Business Development”. In a startup with three other partners with no experience in business development, I was the head, the foot, and the @$$.
I was always heads-down trying to figure everything out. I needed to learn a lot while tending to everything in front of me. This meant I didn’t dedicate time to self-development. Meanwhile, I was deep in the weeds without stepping back to see if I was oriented in the right direction.
Since Body Boss, I’ve taken steps to help cover the areas I don’t know while also accelerating learning in the areas that I care deeply about. (E.g. I’m no longer learning how to build iOS apps!…

Value Is Fundamental to Driving Traction

Ash Maurya recently wrote in Entrepreneur an article titled “Traction Is What Investors Are Looking for When You Present Your Plan”. Ash writes that investors are looking for traction, above all other criteria like market opportunity and competitive advantage.
Ash’s definition of traction is: rate at which a business model captures monetizable value from its users Before Ash describes the definition of traction, he shares his thoughts on value… Created value > captured value. That is, the value a customer receives is greater than the value the company receives (the customer pays).Captured value ≥ cost (delivering solution). This is simplistically understanding revenue is greater than (or equal to) cost.Created value ≥≥ cost. This is a pretty simple to understand. For companies looking for investment (well, any company looking to be successful), it’s important to understand traction and all the drivers thereof. As an early-stage startup wiggles and fights its way towards product-marke…