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 activities including yoga at 3-5x per week, but I decide that the week before. Meanwhile, I have my three workouts scheduled already. So at a minimum, I’ve scheduled dedicated running times twice a week (there will be a soccer day in there somewhere, too). 
This is a recurring event now on my calendar between the end of April and July 4th when the Peachtree Road Race takes place.

Goal (in Professional): I’ve blogged twice weekly throughout 2017 about startups and entrepreneurship.

I’m pretty quick with my blog posts… relatively. So, I’m dedicating two hours every Sunday morning after my morning workout to pre-writing my two blog posts for the following week. This makes it so much easier for me to just review, approve, and publish the posts during the week.

Goal (in RELATIONSHIPS): Build stronger/ maintain strong relationships with family and friends.

In this case, I don’t have a “metric” per se on building stronger relationships. However, I’ve set this in my calendar so that every Thursday starting at 7PM and Saturday after 5PM. That is, I will not be working during these hours. I’m going to leave it open to make plans with family and friends.
Of course, this particular goal is also dependent on friends and family. Should I not spend this time with friends and family, then I can always dedicate this to myself.

Happy New Year!

Is this going overboard? Maybe. I’m not really sure, but I’m interested to see this in action, and at least, maintaining this for the first quarter of 2017. Then, I review how things are going. I’m pretty good at sticking to a schedule or being consistent to things that matter, so this shouldn’t be a problem. 
C’mon 2017!
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 finding something that works.
  • Him: Get results now, and get efficiency later. Me: Get results soon, and get efficiency later. To the point above, my CEO is acutely aware that we may have to freestyle a bit now which may be inefficient. However, he’s cognizant of what he needs now to show success. If we find success now, we can build out the right strategy to be more efficient and scale.
  • Him: top-down numbers. Me: Bottom-up numbers/ approach. Having boot-strapped my startups in the past, I think “organic”, bottom-up like acquisition. I think about acquiring a handful of customers through highly tailored approaches. I think about piecing together the grander message for marketing. My CEO thinks about conversions. He thinks about the math of filling the pipe with XX number of cold leads converting to YY leads converting to ZZ opportunities converting to AA customers. He thinks about what he can do now, how much more resources to commit to yield customers at the bottom. Then, refine the approach for scale.
  • Him: Get on the plane. Me: I’ll try to get them on the phone. That is, we need to learn as much as possible as fast as possible and keep everyone happy. From bootstrapping, I’m reticent to spend $100 on a customer (even if that fits in fine for our cost of acquisition). Again, I’m thinking about money, but from a “small pockets” perspective. For my CEO, I can spend what’s needed now (including hopping on a plane) to meet with prospects or working with an early customer to ensure we get the most out of our customers (beyond revenue). 
  • Him: Everyone pays. Me: Friends and family five-finger discount (free). Friends or not, if they find value, they’ll pay. I was always under the impression of giving a handful of friendlies free use of the product in exchange of learning. For my CEO, he wants to test if even his connections value our service enough to pay for it. That’s pretty important. Getting things free is great, and using it can be great. But that doesn’t tell you if you’ve created a product of VALUE.
  • Him: Your time is valuable. Me: I can discount my time. Same as the first couple points and the “finding value” bullet preceding, my CEO ensures contractors and the like get paid. When I was starting out, I offered to work for free as a trial to see if this relationship would be worthwhile. He was adamant on paying. It sets expectations. Free can discount effort. Don’t discount your value.

It’s been a fun ride, and I will continue learning from him. I haven’t set up explicit “mentoring” or “coaching” sessions. Instead, I’ve just taken so many mental notes on his approach to… everything. It’s fascinating, and I know this experience will pay off in the long-run. Heck, they’re paying off today.

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:
My 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 you say?” The sales rep responded slowly this time, “Are you… sure… you want… to do that?” At that point, Kyle was unsure. Kyle gave him the time. Or another cold call, “Hi, this is SO-SO. How do you handle cold calls?” It broke the ice.
  • Modern sales orgs are challenged to find the balance between “analytical scalable, measure” and “human, empathetic, customer-centric”.
  • Brian has a great track record of growing sales teams from the ground up. At Rubicon, Brian has grown from 1 to 85 sales reps in 10 months. Brian shares the keys to growth are: evangelizing the company message and vision; enable sales professionals to be pioneers; and separating the volatility of sales processes to an innovation team. What works then, gets implemented with the sales team.
  • Wanda shared how she grew from old-school orgs to very dynamic sales organizations. She recognizes the aspects of sales she can affect and what she cannot. She cites the importance of dumping baggage (possibly rigid sales professionals who do not align to the culture). Look for people who are agile, and enable them with the right tools – right tools in the right hands of the right people.
  • Brian also highlighted how the culture of sales people have a consistent theme from previous lives (applicable beyond sales, too). He looks for hustle. Can this person hustle? Is this person intrinsically self-motivated? Can candidate be beat down over and over again, and keep going? He looks for resiliency. To assess this, he tries to get the other person to open up about vulnerable moments.
  • Wanda stresses the importance for excellent communicators. If the email is trash, it says a lot. She’s looking for someone who is aggressive for the job in email. Customers will see the same type of emails. She wants her team to have lots of empathy. Be researchers and technologists – seamlessly pivoting between sales and marketing.
  • Tyce describes three types of people – 1. Person you can tell what to do, and it’ll happen. 2. Just won’t get done. 3. With no instructions, it’ll get done no matter what. Understand the different types and how the generations of people may affect them.
  • Two suggested sales books – 1. Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard. 2. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
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 now. Hygiene factors include pay, status, company policies, etc. In business school, I learned these are “extrinsic motivators”. Motivation factors included the actual work (fulfilling? Challenging?), recognition, personal growth, etc. These were also known to me as intrinsic motivators – these are internal sources of drive. Satisfying both factors is critical for me, and why I do what I do.
  • Be open to emergent opportunities, not just jam everything into a deliberate path. Deliberate paths are just that – planned, executed strategies. Emergent is a path where other opportunities provide a new direction (“emerge”). In startups, this is a pivot. It’s important to be open and even sometimes look out for emergent opportunities.
  • Everything has some purpose, some job to do. This is better known as Christensen’s Jobs To Be Done Framework. The framework is about recognizing that everything we use has some job. Even the people around us perform jobs for us. That could be a friend to hang out with to be happy; a spouse to lean on when times are rough; or, a colleague to help execute a project. Even a milkshake has a job to do. Milkshakes can be a simple breakfast alternative for busy adults. They can also be a treat to occupy children. So, think about what others provide to you as the job to be done. Also, recognize what job you fulfill for your friends.
  • How you live is all about your resources, processes, and priorities. Christensen points out how we strive for more resources without considering the processes to which we use them. For example, it’s common to give children more learning tools and more classes. However, it’s just as easy to pass on teaching and childcare to a daycare or nanny. Parents, then, are outsourcing the parental process. Parents are outsourcing how their children learn and how they process – think, act, execute. Priorities set the culture to how we devote our resources and enact our processes. Priorities are where we determine for what and who we make our time for (the one resource we never get back).
  • It all comes back to culture. One of the book’s final chapters is, “The Invisible Hand Inside Your Family”. “Invisible Hand” here referring to culture. We (I) talk about culture in business, but it permeates all facets of our life. Christensen happens to address culture in the family. Specifically, culture is about the values and mission taught to children. Culture is rarely formalized. Instead, it’s recognized through the norms we practice. It’s absorbed by our children and those around us.
  • “Just this once” is once too many. It’s the slippery slope that makes this one action okay. It’s the rationalization that a single time is okay as long as it’s not a habit. That one time makes it okay once. So why wouldn’t life repeat itself where it becomes okay twice? Three times? The moment our integrity slips, the easier we can let go of our integrity more often. That moment we make that excuse that today, I’m too tired to work out so I won’t go to the gym. The next time I’m tired, I can rationalize again. One time. It can speak volumes. One time can lead to a path.

Christensen’s book was great for me to remind myself of what’s important and what really drives me. I’ve written several times about what motivates me and the pull I sometimes feel as I consider my current and future direction.

Great book to read, and think about our lives professionally, personally, socially, and beyond.