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Showing posts from March, 2016

Maintaining My Entrepreneurial Spirit Despite Not Being One

Now that I’m on the W2 train (read: employed at a startup, not running my own), I’ve been having this internal battle about “not being an entrepreneur”. It’s a voice that keeps me grounded in my passions and my dreams. Though I’m not actively building out one of my own ideas, I realize the opportunities in my current role and how it’ll give me a greater platform to build my next startup.
However, one important aspect I’ve kept up with is meeting with entrepreneurs, startups, and wantrepreneurs. I still meet to expand my network and broaden my view of the startup world while helping others. 
I’m happy (with a massive sigh of relief) that I’ve been able to maintain my many connections while succeeding in my startup role. 
In fact, in my weekends upcoming, I have brainstorming sessions with several entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs to flesh out their ideas and potentially spark new ones. I’m very much looking forward to these sessions as they let me think outside the box, and work with indi…

My Talents (Ranked) as an Entrepreneur

Last Thursday while giving a talk, I was asked by an audience member what I was really good at as an entrepreneur. I thought about it for a second and responded, “I’m great at solving problems”. Well, he was looking for one of the 10 talents according to Gallup’s Strength Finder for Entrepreneurs — Entrepreneur Profile 10.
An avid student of psychology and self-improvement, I was eager to take the test. My results in order of strength from highest (1) to lowest (10): IndependenceDeterminationConfidenceDisruptorRelationshipKnowledgeSellingRiskDelegatorProfitabilityNot sure if sharing this would expose me negatively, but I see this as largely positive. Especially where I’ve been the last several years and, in many ways, where I am today, the results make sense. 
The independence talent coupled with determination and confidence is how I approach much of my work — largely solo efforts with head’s down dirty work. As I said in earlier posts since starting at SalesWise, I’ve been so focused o…

Yeah, Sales Before Product-Market Fit is Hard

So you’ve built an MVP of a product. You’ve hit the ground selling. You’ve gone door-to-door (probably more figuratively, but possible you’re actually doing this). You’ve met with 100 prospects, and of those 100, you got… 0 customers. Ouch.
One of the greatest problems in the startup world is selling a product before product-market fit. I know from personal experience with Body Boss how we launched with a product that was overbuilt with features that weren’t needed by our market while missing features that were critical. Sales was very hard.
Within our true 16 months of running, we had signed up 12 customers… the average receipt of the customers in the first eight months was $214 while the average receipt of the customers acquired in our last eight months was $458.
Meanwhile, our retention and user engagement numbers of our latter batch customers were several times greater than the former. This reflected many things beyond marketing… namely, our improvement in the product inching …

Start Your Idea Like You Would a Habit – With Micro Goals

I was talking to a wantrepreneur recently who was having a tough time getting started on her idea. She felt overwhelmed not knowing where to begin. Stopping her from starting was her own grand ambitions.
This is pretty common – this paralysis of too much and the unknown. However, we (this wantrepreneur included) can take a step back and realize startups aren’t short-term sprints – they’re marathons (of sprints).
Successful startups don’t happen overnight. Instead, they are successful from learning and iterating. It’s not about that initial jump, but sustained persistence. If we think about it this way, then we can think about approaching our ideas like we approach habit creation.
An anecdote from my life: I wanted to write my book two years ago. I had a couple false-starts where I typed up a couple pages and stopped. I kept stopping because I felt how daunting it was to start from PAGE 1 of a book of XYZ many pages. I believed in what I wanted to do, but it was a massive mountain to…

Make Imperfect Perfect

Seth Godin’s got a great post titled “While waiting for perfect”. From his blog: You've permitted magical to walk on by. Not to mention good enough, amazing and wonderful.Waiting for the thing that cannot be improved (and cannot be criticized) keeps us from beginning.Merely begin.He’s got another titled “Abandoning perfection”.
I really enjoyed these posts for their writing simplicity and their messages. I speak to many friends and new contacts who all admire entrepreneurs. They share daydreams of doing their own thing. Many of them are waiting… they’re waiting for a big client… they’re waiting for a great idea… they’re waiting to find a partner who can code. 
Everyone’s waiting for perfection when there are so many ways enabling them to act now. They can act now, build something simple, and start learning. Waiting for perfection stops us from learning. Stops us from finding out if our idea even works. It stops us from potentially learning of an even greater opportunity. 
I like Seth…

Joining A Startup Has Been A Massive Culture Shift

It’s been a little over a month since I signed on full-time with a startup (two including my month of contracting), and it’s been a big culture shift for me. Jumping straight in… I go to the same office everyday. I don’t actually have to go into the office everyday, but at our stage, it’s important to be amongst the team to iterate our sales and marketing strategies. However, I still switch my afternoon environment to find new energy and meet new people.I’m reluctant to use outside resources. Having bootstrapped startups in the past and working with other startups with little funding, I can appreciate not only wearing multiple hats, but also using every resource I do have to accomplish a need. However, now, I have resources (in the team or externally) to help produce what I need.Food! Now working at ATV, I essentially have free breakfast and snacks. Additionally, my company does team lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays + Startup Chowdown on Fridays. This means that I can conserve a lot …

5 Lessons From My Buddy’s Great Entrepreneurial Start that Amounted to Nothing

My buddy is one of the best networkers around. He’s got people everywhere and for anything. Need a “container guy” (a guy who sells shipping containers)? He’s got one. Need to reach the head of a major healthcare system? Check. So when he was approached to help build traction and sales for a new product for pets – he knew everyone. Product was ripe for ABC’s Shark Tank. He knew a guy who could get the company on-air. In fact, they started on the path of filming.Reached out to several local businesses as points-of-sale for the product – 1000 units preordered.Went to community events and locales to interview prospective consumers – got hundreds of great feedback and buying interests.Secured seed investment to make production runs.The list goes on… He had agreed with the founders of the idea/ company on his compensation structure – namely, equity in the company based on milestones to which the founders agreed. After all the sweat and time spent to bring the company to executing on the fu…

Recap of Google’s [Long Article &] Pursuit of the Perfect Team

While writing last week’s brainstorming post, I read NY Times’ article about Google’s pursuit of finding the “perfect team”. The article touched on how the most effective teams all operated very differently, and there was no clear pattern amongst groups… kind of.
There was no clear correlation to successful teams being friendly outside the office versus those with no outside office interactions. There were successful groups of full of introverts and those full of extroverts and then teams mixed. Teams made up of exceptionally bright individuals didn’t directly translate to outperforming teams with less-exceptionally intelligent individuals.
Instead, one key element that all high-functioning teams exhibited was everyone having an equal voice – speaking roughly equal amounts. Teams heavily dominated by a few did not function nearly as well as those more “talkative” groups.
Further, high-performing teams had team members who would engage in conversation regardless of function or exper…

Entrepreneurship Lessons From Media Executive-Turned Security Leader

I attended an Emory Entrepreneur Network breakfast last Thursday with Scott Hightower, President and CEO of Verified Security, as the speaker.
Scott spoke of his start in media production before making the leap into entrepreneurship by buying a small security company. Eight years later, the company is a highly successful managed security services provider for commercial customers. The company’s abbreviated customer list includes Clorox, Great American Cookies, Zaxby’s, and Holiday Inn.
Scott shared his top 12 lessons he’s learned since taking the plunge into entrepreneurship to which I’ll highlight the top 4 that stuck out to me. Focus on cashflow and profitability/ focus on recurring revenue. Scott saw a grand opportunity in the security company he bought in its relationships and a gap in providing monthly services. Scott implemented a recurring revenue model that helped his company through the economic downturn in 2008-2011, and it is recurring revenue that will drive the valuation…

Two Structured Brainstorming Methods to Fill In The Gaps

I’m following up on last Thursday’s post on brainstorming and collaboration with a couple known brainstorming methods. The two methods listed below come immediately to mind. Each promotes collaboration amongst team members and thinking more holistically – helpful for many small startups who may lack expertise in key functional areas. Disney’s Brainstorming Method: Dreamer, Realist, and Spoiler. One of the largest, creative companies in the world has a process to identify new opportunities by establishing “rooms” where all ideas are brought to the table with little prejudice. After the ideas are brought forth, the team evaluates the realism of each idea (shortening the list). Then, the team runs through a “spoiler” room where each idea is scrutinized for actual value and viability. Here, ideas are tested for sustainability. Disney’s method compartmentalizes the ideation process so all ideas are brought to the table before shooting any of them down. Based on their track record, seems he…