Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June, 2016

How to Stay Motivated

I opened up the floor for others to suggest today’s blog post topic and decided on “how to stay motivated”.
I’ve heard several entrepreneurs recently share their struggles – struggles from overcoming challenges to staying consistent in writing. It’s tough. It’s really, really tough.
As I mentioned in the past, many people assume the hardest part of startups is making the leap into entrepreneurship. That’s tough, but the greatest challenge is overcoming the CHASM. The greatest challenge is staring down doubt and overcoming hurdles over and over. There’s even a period referred to as the “trough of sorrow”.
Tips on staying motivated: Ground into your why. The why is what fuels your passion. It’s the reason you started. If it’s powerful enough, it’ll keep you going.Find tools, whatever they may be that gives you energy. For me, that sometimes starts with a simple motivational video.Surround yourself with supportive, like-driven people. Atlanta is really thriving as a startup hub with a v…

Book Review: Daring Greatly

I just finished reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. If you aren’t familiar, Brené gave one of the most popular TED talks regarding the Power of Vulnerability.   This book was recommended by a friend who has known a bit of my roller coaster through entrepreneurship over the years and my ability to go into a “hole” and not ask for help. I’ve learned over the years through my stubbornness how not asking for help, and indeed being vulnerable, tends to put myself on a secluded island. 
My take-aways: Shame vs. guilt… completely different. Guilt is a feeling of having done something wrong, whereas shame is a feeling of BEING wrong. There’s a difference there, and though subtle, is powerful in understanding that people are not wrong, but our actions can be flawed. It’s important to address actions, not the people behind them.Vulnerability is powered by confidence. It’s the ability to be “good enough” at the moment. It’s about knowing not everyone is going to be there, but the right people w…

The Toughest Questions Suck but Are Oftentimes the Best

Spoke to a friend in an early-stage startup recently who met with a legal team to get advice on some contracts. Apparently, the conversation went a little sour when the lawyer started asking deeper, probing questions regarding financials and the business model.
I say, “sour”, because the mood quickly changed from cordial to combative, and the startup felt they were being attacked. The startup entered the room expecting a review of documents, not an interview. The entrepreneurs felt the lawyers were testing their resolve, preparedness, and “fit” as a client.
As terrible as it may seem to be barraged with tough questions, the lawyer asks great questions about monetization, assumptions around projections, customer/ user acquisition strategy, and the vision. In many ways, the lawyer provides the harsh reality of what startups and entrepreneurs face, especially when entrepreneurs believe raising capital will be “easy”.
Some thoughts: Good partners are those who will not only raise the diff…

Sales Culture Development: Take-Aways from TAG Panel

I attended another TAG Sales Leadership event last week — “Sales Culture Development”. I’m appreciating all these events as I continue to develop as a sales professional (should never really stop learning) and as we, at SalesWise, develop our own sales team. 
Given the panel discussion was about sales culture, there was heavy emphasis on how to engage sales professionals as well as reviewing the metrics that sales professionals are evaluated on. 
The panel included:  Tom Snyder, VorsightBPPaul Schmitz, Transportation InsightScott Miller, CEO RampedUpFrank Tumminia, QGendaJohnny Walker, Walker Group/ Integrity Solutions (host)Here were the main topics I took away: Technology presents great opportunities and challenges. It’s important to recognize the dependency we become on technology and how personal effort and attention “disrupts” mass sales efforts. However, in a day of technology bombardment, personalization can be the key to sales.50-50 training on soft and hard skills. Much of sales…

Negative Emotions in Light of Great Traction Can Be Great Sources of Learning

An exec at an early-stage startup recently told me about how several prospects were nearing close… many of them big customers. What is normally good (“great!”) was met with “dread”. Curious, I wanted to know why.
In my experience, when I’m not elated about potential success (or tempered excitement), I feel one of two things: dread or anxiety. Dread is the feeling when I know what’s going to happen. I know the outcome. I feel dread when I know a potential customer will churn after hearing what he’s looking for only for me to know that after a while, the customer will churn. (Or we are shutting down like final days of Body Boss.)Anxiety is what I feel knowing something like the workload coming down the line – managing and doing it all. In this case, I know what’s coming, too, but it’s more around how I feel when I look at the mountain of to-do’s. In these feelings, I question where they come from. For dread, why are users going to churn? I am dreading a specific call? Why? Is the prosp…

The Dangers of Experience and Tempering Excitement

On Friday, one of my coworkers remarked to me that I was hyped up after a great call with a prospect. Indeed, if a sale did happen, it’d be a really great deal. However, I noticed that once he said that, I tempered my excitement. I started remembering my past experiences…
In my book, I have a chapter titled, “Sales is HARD”, and within it, I advise readers to “temper excitement when a prospect says he will buy till two weeks after a check clears”. This is what I started to remember when my coworker told me I was excited.
Thinking about this recently — this enthusiasm and expectation “mitigation” process I have. It’s not fun. In fact, I don’t like it at all. Though, yes, there is reason for adding caution, it also creates apathy towards potentially great things. Without expectations, excitement wanes (for me and for others). There’s an armor and defensiveness against being let down by a failed close and vulnerability.
Experience has a tendency to temper excitement and put up walls of “th…

Metrics for the Early Stage Startups

My friend, David Vandegrift (Associate at Pritzker Group Venture Capital), just co-wrote a couple articles on SaaS metrics that he and his VC colleagues pay close attention to – Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
They highlight the importance of CAC and LTV, specifically, as VCs are looking for sustainable businesses that have shown good handles on burn rate and revenue economics. Gone are the days of “easy millions” for startups with just traction. VCs are wary of bubbles and downturns, and thus, are watching for investments that can weather storms.
CAC and LTV are great metrics to have good handles on, but can be difficult for early stage companies, as noted by the authors. Specifically, lifetimes of customers can be quite short while CAC can be hard to measure as companies iterate their acquisition strategies.
One metric I assess that is less focused on economics is engagement/ retention (i.e. D1, D7, D30). Engagement is a hugely telling figure, esp…

Vertical SaaS? Horizontal SaaS? It’s All News to Me

Not sure why, but I have only recently heard of a term called “Vertical SaaS”. Okay, there’s also “Horizontal SaaS”, too. Based on some light research, looks like vertical SaaS is also a growing trend and the number of companies fewer than horizontal SaaS providers.
Vertical SaaS borrows its moniker from the concept of vertical integration whereby there is more control over a supply chain from raw materials to point-of-sale. Here, vertical SaaS companies focus on a niche market (industry) offering a solution that enables more process control.
Horizontal SaaS providers get really good at a particular offering, and widen their market to reach scale. Their focus is on breadth of market, and thus, its sales and marketing strategies can require more resources.
Many vertical SaaS companies (such as Veeva Systems, Guidewire, Fleetmatics) are doing well usurping legacy systems of traditionally slow-tech-adoption industries. Here, vertical companies develop a best-of-breed product, and focu…

No Good Time to Let Aspirations and Inspirations Delay

“exit by feature set or by a deadline, but above all, exit” – Intercom’s Des Traynor on launching (exiting) a product. I’ve been thrilled to hear two entrepreneurs I met with last year take to heart the importance of launching quickly, even if they did not feel “ready”.
In one case, the entrepreneur was building pitch decks trying to get funding on the idea before any development started. No bites for funding, and I finally asked if she believed in the idea enough to fund the initial development herself (and trim scope to MVP). She said yes, funded the initial development, launched, got great traction, and raised a sizable seed round.
In the other case, the entrepreneur needed to believe in her idea more, and share her product. She needed to share her story. With a few connections, she’s gone viral, and has been getting great traction, great mentoring and advisement… doors are now opening easily for her.  
Then, I run into the occasional wantrepreneur or idealist who claims to want…