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 young kids enough credit. But yet, it was amazing to watch her study the picture and search for the right pieces. She observed the shape, color, how they fit together, etc.
  • Cultivates creativity. My niece also assembled several ice cream cones stacked with various “flavors” and toppings. She was experimenting with different color schemes while role-playing an ice cream vendor. It was fun.
  • Motivated persistence. I wasn’t sure how my niece would react when the pieces didn’t quite fit together the first time. In fact, I was ready to jump in when they didn’t fit together immediately. I didn’t. Instead, she would pull the pieces away, observe the alignment, then try again. She would fidget with the pieces till they lined up perfectly and fit together.
  • Encourages bigger, more fascinating dreams. Lego pieces are, for the most part, simple and small. My niece knows she can assemble these small pieces and build something fascinating.

Few brands come to mind with such a powerful, meaningful effect on people from an early age. It’s amazing to see how Legos continue to evolve. They not only stay relevant, but they stay at the top of today’s culture.

That’s the dream, right? To build something so great and so influencing that impacts so many for so long…
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:

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 thanks:

  • My SalesWise team. Joined them at the beginning of this year, and we’ve been through a lot with our pivots. However, we’re getting some good traction now, and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve poured a lot of effort into the company. We’ve also had fun doing it. Meanwhile, the team has trusted me to do a lot. They’ve continued to put their faith in me to do right by them.
  • Infinity Yoga — that “legit yoga studio” I mentioned earlier.They were recently named one of the Best Small Business by Mindbody, and it’s easy to see why. The community at the studio is special. The culture cultivated by Becky (owner) and the other yoga teachers is amazing, and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s why no matter how busy I get, I make time to end many weekdays at Infinity. Oh, and yes, the yoga teaching is top-notch.
  • Communities at Atlanta Tech Village and Starbucks. Atlanta Tech Village is a great place to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs. They’ve been there, done that, or are doing that. Starbucks, meanwhile, continues to broaden my circle of people from all walks of life. It may be a local Starbucks, but the people who walk in and out of the doors are anything but “local”.
  • My close friends. You know who you are. Many of you were editors for my book. Many of you have attended my speaking engagements to support me. Many of you “stop by” (via random texts, emails, etc.) to just say hello and see what’s happening. The little events are what make a big difference. Spending hours or minutes with people is great. But even a few seconds to say you’re thinking of me or have a question is precious.
  • My oh-so-many new friends. I’ve met so many people (beyond the Strangers) who continue to shape my day-to-day. I meet them at ATV, at Starbucks, etc. It’s an amazing feeling when you see these new and old friends. They always manage to bring a smile to my face no matter what. When they flash a smile, I can’t help but do the same. Smiles matter.
  • My family. Hard to say anything without my family, right? They’ve always been there to also pull me out of my work and alone time. My niece is growing so fast, that it’s been beautiful to watch.

Many more thanks to give, I’m sure, but that’s where I’ll start. Happy Thanksgiving!

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 indications of traction.
A common aspect of startups and the corporate world is that life still goes on. Priorities do shift. The difference is that at a startup, sometimes experiments are the best way of finding the right thread to pull on. The balancing act, then, is the right experiments with the right lifestyle.
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 at the peril of ignoring existing. Hold the hands of your first 10, 20, 50 customers.
  • 80% of the defects and problems in the sales process happens during hand-offs.Ross calls handing off between teams as “passing the baton”. I read this as the issues that arise when discussions and knowledge of the customer is lost from team to team. It’s like the game “telephone”.
  • A successful sale is about both companies. As much as sales is focused on earning the business with a prospect, effort should also be spent on evaluating if the customer is even a good fit for the seller. Too often, sales reps spend time on customers that do not fit the ideal customer profile, and thus, productivity (and indeed sales efforts) slows.

This book was recommended to me by several people, but I read it after the Challenger Sale (review here) after the recommendation of a colleague. As you can surmise from this review, Predictable Revenue is much more high-level than the Challenger Sale – Challenger being the more tactical sales approach.
There’s a lot of good take-aways, and finer details buried throughout the book, that this will be a reference tool for me in the future.
Last week, my company sponsored a conference for sales force productivity. As I went into it, I remembered running booths with Body Boss…

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 myinvestment.
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’ve put these balls directly in the hands of 75 people while casually giving my 5-second pitch to see if they’d stop by. I even up put one ball directly in the chest coat pockets calling them “pocket spheres” – new fashion accessories. Hey, I got laughs, and I got serious interest from them.
Okay, maybe I had too much energy – ha! But you know what? I have a stack of qualified leads and ongoing conversations with 20 or so contacts, while no doubt raising a lot of awareness. If a few of these convert, our investment and our enthusiasm will have paid off well. Isn’t that the most important thing? To drive a return on an investment knowing you did all that you could? I made the experience more personal for attendees while adding some ridiculous humor into it. Like making cold calls – you need something to get the receiver hooked and engaged for that initial conversation.
If you’re going to work, enjoy it. If you want a conversation, start it. If you’re going to make an investment, give yourself every chance to succeed and the highest returns.