I recently had a couple interns work for me at SalesWise. They were great resources to help in marketing, sales, prospecting, support, etc.
However, the interns were straight out of high school (or still in). They did not have much experience in any particular area. It was a challenge, at first, to get them ramped up on what to do. Luckily, I leaned on my experience as a co-op back at Georgia Tech to help me lead my interns.
My biggest advice to the interns, and indeed, the same understanding I wanted them to be grounded on: “Absorb as much as you can, even if the work seems ‘simple’.”
My biggest advice to them after their time? “Re-read and re-absorb everything you did.”
One of my regrets from my internship at UPS Supply Chain Solutions back in the day was not absorbing as much as I could about logistics, transportation, the contacts I interacted with, their interests, etc. As I look back, there were hundreds of connections I wish I kept in touch with. (LinkedIn makes it much easier to do this today.)
I had my interns research our various customer profiles — their functions (i.e. sales operations, sales enablement, marketing ops, other), the challenges of each persona, how our solution could benefit these individuals, etc. By the end of their time, they could rattle off what was important to each person and could write messages or communicate with each person in a meaningful way.
I feel my co-op experience gave me great insight into being a professional and working with others, especially communication. However, I missed out on some of the “tribal knowledge” because I didn’t think much about it.
For my interns, I felt it was important (as each wanted to enter some role in business) to understand the people on the other side of the table — customers, internal stakeholders, etc. I wanted them to understand the WHY of each task. These interns were very bright, hardworking, and self-starters.
They will run up against many other students who are just as bright, hardworking, and self-starting. What will set them apart is their ability to immediately contribute and have accelerated growth. It’s this tribal knowledge, these concepts around understanding audiences, etc. that will make these interns highly valuable as they seek their next opportunities.
What are the pieces of advice you give to interns? How have you helped nurture interns? If you were an intern, what was some of the best advice or best take-aways from your experience?
The other night an old friend came by needing help to create a marketing campaign. Her store was launching, but she was having all sorts of trouble sending out a couple email campaigns.
She had already visited the company’s offices after getting zero help from Support. (Yes, you do that when you’re desperate and looking for answers.) She had sought the help from friends who used to work at the company or knew of those who did. No one was able to help.
Surprisingly, I was the last resort. (Because I’m really not that technical.) But perhaps for good reason — I knew Don Pottinger. 1030PM on a Sunday night, and I knew that I could still hit him up for help on resolving my friend’s problem.
After an hour, though, we were still stumped. But here’s the difference between all the other tiers of support my friend went through: Don kept on pushing. He kept researching and troubleshooting. Coincidentally, he actually had some experience with email marketing given his startup (he is the CTO), is a marketing automation platform, Kevy.
Don realized the desperation of my friend, noticed her passion, and knew she tried her absolute best to figure out the problem. He saw someone who needed help… needed his expertise. So there’s Don, now 11:30PM on a Sunday night… CTO of an early-stage startup… with three kids under the age of 3… staying up to research and help a friend of a friend. Perhaps, he also enjoyed the challenge.
By midnight, he figured out a couple issues, and my friend was able to launch her campaigns successfully. Today, she’s even switched over to Kevy.
What my friend experienced with Don is what I experience all the time from him, and from what many others experience with Don. That is, he’ll push and push to help. He isn’t able to help everyone, but he recognizes those who have put in the effort, warrant his help. He’s passionate about entrepreneurship and helping entrepreneurs. He’s reliable when you need him.
Everyone needs a Don. Luckily, I’ve got one, and a few other Don-like friends.
I am a big fan of data, analytics, metrics and… you get it. So much so, I’ve recently published several posts:

Fitting that one of my colleagues shared a talk by the Director of Marketing, Diana Smith, of technology startup Segment: “Measuring for B2B Engagement”.

In this talk, Diana shares what and how to measure engagement in technology products/ services, especially (my favorite). It’s a quick sub-14’ video, but if you’re looking for the highlights, I’ve got you covered.
  • Develop a Tracking Plan. What events to track? Why? What properties should be captured? Location of the events to track (i.e. website page, app screen)?
  • Key to the Tracking Plan is defining a naming convention. The naming convention should start with the Object (i.e. user, account, document) and the action (i.e. signUp, delete, edit). Consistent naming conventions enable teams to easily and quickly align on metrics. Examples: userSignUp, accountDelete, documentEdit.
  • Question WHY you want to track. Understand WHAT you want to track and why. Start with 3-5 events. Diana recommends these three areas to start: Discovery(how the user has displayed interest), Engage (how users explore top feature(s)), and Convert (where users pay).
  • Pre-signup, be simple. When considering what to track pre-signup, track the origin of people hitting entering the site and conversion. Use Google Analytics.
  • Think about the important events of an app/ user from the very beginning. This enables everything downstream to be smoother and easier.

Diana gave a decent high-level talk on tracking without getting too technical. Check it out, and ensure your tracking aligns enables your business/ growth strategy.

What are your thoughts on event tracking and analytics? What are the metrics you care about and why? 
Sat down with a young film Director and Producer recently who is having trouble with his team. He’s produced several independent pieces and is about to work with a massive brand and big time director. He’s real excited about the opportunities coming up, but more recently, he’s frustrated with his colleagues who also happen to be good friends.
There have been pains and frustrations with key individuals which have threatened production; meanwhile, relationships between his brand and his clients have been strained due to the same colleagues. The crux of the problem is working with friends who are amateurs and are not as determined as he is.
While this Director is working hard and building a name in the industry, his colleagues are neither at his level, nor are they working as hard to be better. The production is HISbrand, and he is realizing it is his brand that is being harshly affected. His visions are being muddied by those representing him. In an industry based on brand and can be fickle, every negative relationship can tarnish opportunities for years.
Thoughts here:
  • It’s real, so treat it as such. One of my lessons from Body Boss is that you have to treat your startup as a true company (or Production Company in this case). It’s not a hobby if you want it to truly turn into something special. You can start from a hobby, but eventually, you must treat it as a company. Everything counts. Everything matters.
  • Your team is an extension of you. For entrepreneurs, it’s the co-founding team, the leadership, the employees. Top-to-bottom, everyone represents your brand. Hire slow. Fire fast.
  • It’s not about friends, it’s about quality… about passion… about vision. Some say working with friends is bad, but that’s not the real problem. The problem arises when you can’t work professionally together, and how working relationships can impact personal ones. Sometimes, friends should just stay friends.
  • Re-frame the hard talks. The Director is worried about impacting personal relationships when considering how to approach his colleagues about moving in different professional paths. However, the longer he procrastinates, the more mistakes occur. It’s important to realize that hard talks will occur as the company grows, as more customers onboard, etc. Re-frame the difficult talks into interests (rather than positions). Each talk needs to happen for a reason, so re-frame to the positive outcome of this.

One of the greatest challenges of any business is maintaining a positive culture rooted in its founding mission and values. The candidates and partners businesses bring on board has a tremendous say in how companies can be successful.

For the Director, it’s important to realize that not everyone will fit the culture and passion of the company, and he needs to take action sooner rather than later. The Director is the leader, and must lead by example.

I recently met an author of several books and also had a startup some years before. She lamented how her beauty product was probably too early – timing, indeed, is an important factor in startups. She also shared how many of her books failed to be commercial successes.
Knowing what my own book was about, she asked me, “When did you know it was time to stop?”
I get asked this a lot. Perhaps everyone believes an author on startup failure knows the moment. Perhaps I know the signals, the omens of impending startup doom. That, sadly, is not true at all. It’s not true because there’s no answer. It’s up to the entrepreneur(s).
Steve Blank used a comparison in “Venture Capital is ‘Liquidity Ponzi Scheme” that I often use: “entrepreneurs are like artists”. Both can accomplish great things and be wildly successful. Both can be wildly misunderstood, too. Both, likely, must overcome the roller coaster of ups and [many more] downs before finding success (if ever).
Entrepreneurs and artists are driven by a mission and passion. That’s what keeps entrepreneurs and artists going.
Entrepreneurs, like artists, see the world in their own ways (“different”). Often, they misunderstand or meet odds and antagonists all over. To entrepreneurs and artists, the challenges are opportunities.
When I looked at the author, I responded, “you stop when you’ve lost the passion” referencing what happened at Body Boss. We had lost the passion to keep hitting and overcoming challenges.
A Google search of “failure” and entrepreneurs returns thousands of results, and indeed, entrepreneurs. Jack Ma, founder of China’s Alibaba, is one such example of extreme grit and persistence – his failures are well-documented. When entrepreneurs ask, “when do we know when to quit?”, they are looking for reasons to quit. Many are looking for outside influences to signal to stop when the true answer lies within.
You’re going to run into challenges (opportunities) as an entrepreneur or an artist, no doubt. What will keep you going is passion and a belief in your mission.
Recent conversations have led me reflect and provide tips for the younger generation:
  • Talks with rising high school seniors, college-bound, and post-grad students seeking input on local schools (namely, Georgia Tech and Emory) especially as an entrepreneur
  • Life regrets

These were mutually exclusive talks, but they ended in similar ways. For the first type of conversation, I always brought up the energy, the student population, and the academic resources of both Georgia Tech and Emory – the former, especially.

Much of Atlanta’s growth can be traced to the talent coming through the Institute on North Ave, and I excitedly share all the amazing resources at Georgia Tech and at the students’ disposal including the affiliated Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) incubator.
Access to some of the most brilliant minds is just a walk away from dorms while the knowledge capital amongst the student population is top-notch. I was intimidated when I started at Tech with students to my left and right valedictorians, salutatorians, World Science Fair Finalists (one person invented a 3D scanner), programmers with flourishing internet businesses, and even professional video gamers. It’s rare you will be in another place with so many like-minded peers in the same age group ever again.
My advice to students was the lesson learned from Boy Scouts: Knowing and Using the Resources of the Group. The “Group” here is The Institute (applicable in any college), and the “Resources” is everything – from using your status as a student to completely cold call contacts to building a team of cofounders, it’s all right there.
Seek out the intricacies of the university people do not know about. Ask alumni for tips and secrets they only discovered at school. At Emory, one “secret” was finding out students had access to 16 sessions with a counselor/ therapist. No time like the present to start creating greater self-awareness. These sessions (I milked them for 19) were EYE-OPENING, and one of the first tips I tell any student (prospective or current) at Emory.
To the second conversation, one of my biggest regrets is not actually taking advantage of the resources at Tech. Fresh out of Boy Scouts, you’d think that lesson would have resonated more, but it was only after college that I realized the massively missed opportunity.
College should be fun, and it’s one of the greatest times to try almost anything. Succeed or fail. Either way, learn and experiment. The MBA year for me was my second try, and I did just that. I took advantage of as much as I could from Emory. Even more fascinating is that Emory has been an incredible school for me to continueto leverage today. I speak to classes. I call on and meet with several professors. University reps actively help promote my book. It’s been great.
The kicker to all of these conversations and all the advice: it’s the same advice you can (should) implement today. Yes, even beyond school. Whether it’s at the companies we work for today or the yoga classes we do at night, the resources in front of us are in abundance. Oftentimes, it just takes stepping out of your comfort zone and saying hello to someone new, or just being more curious (not cautious) about your surroundings.
(Scene from I, Robot. image source: https://i.imgflip.com/fwri0.jpg)
It’s often best to start with what goals you want to achieve when deciding what metrics to track and events to instrument. This, then, drives key questions. So welcome to today’s post – the prequel to Tuesday’s “Metrics vs. Instrumentation”.
Almost every facet of a business – technical, business, financial, operational, etc. – should have some strategy in place for improvement. As such, there is a need for an understanding of where the company sits today, in the past (if available), and the goals for the future. The natural thing to do, then, is to ask the right questions.
Here are some questions that can help determine the instrumentation and metrics needed:
  • At what rate are we losing existing customers (churn)? à can highlight product-market fit issues, education issues, misaligned expectations, complex UI/ UX, etc.
  • What is the lifetime value of a customer? à help determine the ROI of marketing strategies, especially against the cost of acquisition
  • What is our server uptime service level? à understand if service levels and how that may impact existing customers
  • How often are our users using Feature X? For how long? à help determine roadmap and UI/ UX issues, unnecessary feature sets, etc.
  • How are we acquiring website visitors, and at what rate are we able to convert these visitors to some call-to-action? à test the efficacy and messaging of marketing efforts
  • How often are users visiting our knowledge base? Is there a particular article that is visited most often? àbetter upfront knowledge sharing/ education, better UI/ UX opportunities

Goals and strategy of the company leads to questions on where the company sits today, and how to achieve tomorrow. Then, instrument as needed to capture status and improvement.

I heard some confusion recently about: what exactly are metrics? What’s instrumentation? How do they differ?
Definitions from dictionary.com)
  • Metric: a standard for measuring or evaluating something, especially one that uses figures or statistics
  • Instrument (-ation): a means by which something is effected or done; a device for measuring the present value of a quantity under observation.
With yesterday’s 4th of July and 47th Annual Peachtree Road Race, I’ll use running as an example to illustrate the differences.
Important metrics for runners:
  • Time
  • Distance
  • Average speed
  • Heart rate
  • VO2 max (lung capacity)
Examples of how to instrument:
  • GPS (for distance)
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Stopwatch (time)
  • Metabolic cart (VO2)
As you can see, instrumentation (“instrument”) is the way to which results can be captured to provide insight — metrics. They are not the same, but rather, one feeds and enables (instrumentation) the other (metrics).

Instrument early on to answer questions and drive the startup forward — backed by data. Check out these 8 metrics for startups from proper instrumentation.