This past weekend, the Body Boss team and I attended the Glazier Football Clinic in Atlanta. Last year, over 1,800 coaches – primarily high school and from the southeast – congregated to attend some great speakers (including Georgia Tech’s Director of Player Development John Sisk) and check out some of the latest “toys” vis-à-vis vendors like us. Oh, and like all conferences, it’s also a bit of a high school reunion for these coaches to see old friends again on an annual basis. I wrote about the experience in the post “Spreadsheets SUCK! No, really, see what Coaches wrote…
Last year, we attended this clinic and a few others, and we admittedly didn’t have some important features in Body Boss. We heard it over and over again from coaches asking us, “Do you have an app?” (We had a mobile web app.) “Can you still printout group workouts?” (No, just individuals.) “I have younger players so we don’t strength train.” (Well, you can sorta do body weight tracking…)
This year, we were able to answer just about every question. Body Boss had evolved so much since we first launched and the 2013 Glazier Clinic and the subsequent Clinics. We heard from coaches and over and over again about specific features, and we built out those features that the most anti-Body Boss customers wanted/ needed. So imagine now our excitement in being able to sell a product that the coaches actually ASKED FOR!
  • “Do you have an app?” Absolutely. We have native iPhone, iPad, and Android apps (for smartphones and tablets).
  • “Can you still printout group workouts?” Yes, we still give you the ability to print out personalized workout cards for all your players or select groups.
  • “What if I have younger players?” Well, players of most ages should train. Younger ages shouldn’t necessarily strength train with weight, but they can still exercise. With Body Boss, you can create Workout programs that are specific for kids and including video tutorials on how to do them. You can engage the younger players while actually coaching them on how to perform drills, and you can even upload video tutorials so parents know what to do and how to motivate their kids.

Yeah… that’s how that went. But we also had a greater time at this clinic because of the way we engaged coaches and focused in on not necessarily the benefits right off the bat, but instead, we opened around pain points. See, the old-school way of doing things was always to either write down a workout on a whiteboard or use Excel to printout workouts, and then have the time and energy to enter all that data for the team back into a spreadsheet. Clearly, you can see the annoying and time-consuming efforts in that. We challenge the old-school way of doing things by introducing technology into an otherwise low-tech world with Coaches.

We started off the Clinic with a blank whiteboard simply asking coaches to write reasons as to why the old-school way, spreadsheets, SUCKED. Our wording was chosen carefully to illicit an emotion and really capture coaches’ attentions. When you have someone tell you something “SUCKS”, you tend to perk your ears. What we got at the end of the Clinic was a number of fantastic reasons why the old-school way is a real PAIN.

We started with…

And ended with…

Our new marketing strategy hit on a number of cool things, sometimes not intended, including:
  • Pain and annoying things evoke such a great emotion from prospects – it’s easy to understand
  • Having a board where our customers could share a voice created a way to coalesce their emotions in sometimes succinct messages, and thus, rally any passersby and fellow colleagues throughout the Clinic
  • Hand-writing the reasons also showcased the variability of handwriting legibility/ readability which in the old-school way of printout and submit, was an evil coaches had to deal with
  • Made for an easier way to pull in passersby into our booth. Coaches could be pulled in not just by our handsome faces and siren-esque voices, but also by our visuals including a big TV monitor that looped through video tutorials, our app on multiple devices, and of course, our Spreadsheets SUCK whiteboard
  • Can be used to re-engage with the leads generated and be a great talking point with future prospects
  • Showcased the pain points of the old-school “it’s always been that way” methodology
  • Definitely left an impression with coaches with a standout, memorable booth
So in the end, we got 70+ contacts… several which are very warm leads, and several who have already signed up for the free trial. Of course, the hardwork comes really after the Clinic as we engage with the contacts to convert into trials which then we must try to convert into sales. But our initial momentum has yielded 3X the leads and contacts, and we didn’t even have our wonderful fitness models from last year!
And as for the whiteboard, it was a great idea that we used, and one that came out of nowhere. It reminds me of one of the great lessons my Entrepreneurship professor, Charles Goetz, taught me while I was at Emory, and that was the difference between latent vs. active needs. Approaching an industry and individuals where technology hasn’t been a big deal until recently (unless you’re in a research lab or something), a lot of the old-school methods can be dubbed “latent needs” where users don’t know about the pain and don’t need to address till they come to that bridge. What bringing the pain-points of old-school front and center, we might have just recategorized the old-school methods as ACTIVE needs. This, now allows us to address those needs directly with Body Boss.
So what are your thoughts about your experiences at conferences and how your messaging and products get tweaked? How would you shift customers’ latent needs to become active needs?

Alright, so it’s 2014! Happy New Year! Okay, we’re a little belated…

Into Year 2 now for Body Boss (since launch), and it’s Go Big or Go Home time.  Since we launched last year, we found conferences and clinics are really great platforms for us to market and sell Body Boss.  Especially for our target audience, the big clinics occur in the late winter months into the early part of summer. In fact, we’ve got a big Coach’s clinic this weekend for mostly high school football coaches throughout the southeast for the Glazier Football Clinic.

Preparation can really set yourself apart and really be a great marketing and sales diving board if done well.  So here are some tips and pointers for you as you think about heading to a conference either as an exhibitor or just an attendee…

  • Conferences are rarely where dollars are exchanged.  Yup.  If you’re looking to close a lot of deals, they’re not going to be at those exhibitor booths.  Instead, they may happen at a dinner or meeting room nearby, or more likely, later.  Conferences are more about making the connections.
  • Have some standout materials to give out.  When I say materials, I mean like content materials — one-page slicks, business cards, and otherwise.  I can’t tell you how many great leads and compliments we get from some of our materials. We don’t spend much money on the actual materials, but we make sure what we give out is designed well to leave an impression with the call to action (CTA).  Look into Moo.com for business cards, and Vista Print for some one-pagers.
  • Get out from behind the table.  I’ve seen some vendors sit behind a table waiting for people to talk to them.  This is HORRIBLE.  People aren’t going to just walk up because you have a table and a sign.  If anything, you look cold, and no one wants to work with someone who’s cold and uninviting.  Get out, and think about being proactive in pulling people in.  You’ve probably spent money to be at the conference, so spend a little effort to bring them in, too.
  • Give them a reason to talk to you.  First, your product or service should offer some value to the target audience or this whole post goes to the can.  Beyond, you have to captivate the audience to stop by.  One way to do this is with a good looking banner.  Let’s call this a minimum requirement because everyone else will at least have SOME banner.  If you rely on one the conference gives you, it’ll probably be terrible, and it’ll entice no one.  If you’ve got power at the booth, think about hooking up a TV or other display that alternates images or videos so wandering eyes will be quickly drawn to your booth.
  • Your booth is like a website.  If you’ve got the right signage, your product on display, or even someone demo’ing, you’ve done your inbound marketing.  Next, it doesn’t hurt to also have a little outbound marketing, too.  In conjunction with the “get out from behind the table” point above, say something interesting to grab people’s attentions as they walk by.  Heck, we’ve even dared or joked with coaches who walk by our booth, and just because we’ve got some personality and passion for our business, they want to come over to talk to us.
  • Hire models with brains (if you must).  With the whole “grab attention”, I think this is an important point.  I’ve seen some pretty cheesy booths in the past who hired models to help bring people in.  But what’s funny is that when these models bring in prospects, the prospects ask questions and the models have no idea what to say.  We’ve actually brought two great models in the past to a Clinic.  They were fantastic.  Outside of being models, they knew the business and they knew fitness.  When it came to coaches asking about the product or talking shop, the models were on point, and ended up getting several coaches to sign up for trials by themselves — a great asset, too, when the rest of us are handling other prospects.

Presentation is half the battle, especially, I think, at conferences where you’re really trying to lure people in. Then again, the best strategy is to have a strong following via word-of-mouth which could end up funneling potential customers TO you rather than you pulling others in. And while you’re talking to the masses, you’ll no doubt intrigue others to stop in and hear what you’re all about. Kind of sounds like a quality street show, not that I say it…

What are your thoughts on conferences?  What might I have missed?

I was scouring the web looking for some good posts about speed and agility as a startup’s advantage when I stumbled upon this: “Speed and Design: Key Differentiators for a Startup”.  It was written more than two years ago in December 2011 by a tech entrepreneur, but it’s still highly relevant today.  In fact, it’s spot on in what I was looking for.

One of the reasons why I was looking for speed and agility in a startup is the idea that so many great ideas are already out there.  However, the startups that are born and grow and survive are oftentimes the ones that standout especially in design. 
Today’s world has anyone and everyone programming.  There are great resources like Codecademy, One Month Rails, Lynda.com, and they go on and on.  There are utilities that help you build an app without ever touching real code!  Back in the day (early 2000’s and prior), programmers came at a premium.  The real good ones were always in San Francisco.  But now, people have so many tools out there to get programming experience, and launch quickly. 
The keys now to standout are a startup’s speed and design. Though, I will add one more to this list and make it lucky number 3 – service.  Here are some thoughts on why and how speed, design, and service:
  • Build, Launch, Adjust, Repeat.  There are niches and pain-points everywhere.  Applying a model from industry to industry can work, but fine adjustments are needed to really build and cater to a specific market.  The quicker you can implement and adjust (or pivot) the more likely you will win customers and win them fast over competitors.
  • Brains Are Rare Talent.  Those with creative minds have it made.  Creativity is like one of those attributes that many people aren’t born with.  Instead, it takes unique minds to sometimes come up with the most unique solutions.  Creativity is difficult to train.
  • Great Programmers Can Be Your Catalyst.  It’s true that with coding, there are almost infinite ways to implement a solution.  At the end of the day, programmers are builders where architects (the creatives) may provide the final plans.  If you get me to the future state, I don’t need to know what’s behind the curtain so much.  However, great programmers have the know-how and the experience to know how to deploy quickly and may know the reasons why NOT to employ a particular method or code due to some harsh learnt lessons from the past (i.e. polling can be a major server suck).
  • Keep it simple and sweet.  KISS has long been a phrase tossed around about anything and everything.  My dad actually said K.I.S.S. stood for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  Whatever works, I suppose.  In the end, today’s culture is NOW NOW NOW.  And because of this, startups need to orient their products and services to help customers get set up quickly.  People aren’t going to make time to understand your product if there’s something out there that is both easier to set up and easier to use.  Set up, training, and transacting take time, and as you all know the other popular phrase… time is money.
  • Bring It All Together with Superior Service.  Tying everything above is service.  Or rather more specifically, customer service.  As a startup, you’re bound to run into problems and issues be they software bugs, product quality control, service issues, etc.  Your ability to provide personal customer service quickly will endear your customers.  If you fail to be upfront and honest and provide assistance timely, you’ll quickly become just another company that your customers feel can be replaced easily.  By being personal and providing timely service, you can reach customers on a more HUMAN level, and thus, play emotional ties.

So Rohit from techCEOprovided a good start in calling out speed and design as key differentiators.  However, I feel that adding service is a critical third differentiator.  As a startup, it’s important to maintain healthy and communicative feedback system with customers to know what to fine-tune, what to create, what to remove… Speed to deploy and iterate, design for simplicity and usability, and service to maintain and build relationships are the activities that really set startups apart, and should be parts of a sustainable business model.

What are your thoughts about key differentiators?  What’s another key differentiator that I may have missed?
Inc.com’s Ilan Mochari wrote “What Happens When Entrepreneurs Fall in Love With Their Creations”.  The article went in a different way than I thought.  In light of the Golden Globe-nominate Her starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson (voice) where Phoenix’s character, Theodore Twombly, falls in love with a computer system, Mochari writes about the propensity for entrepreneurs to fall in love with their creations.  Though, the ending was more of a cautionary note for any one of us, in general, about the attachment we have these days to technologies. 
Mochari opened the article talking about the “edifice complex,” a spin on the Oedipus complex when sons fall in love with their mothers.  The edifice complex is where a person falls in love with a building, or at least, the desire to the design one.
Mochari talks about how Jim Koch’s, founder of Boston Beer Co., love for his business enabled him to pursue building a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility despite providing minimal value, instead, adding substantial costs in capital and operating costs.  (He later realized his folly and moved to build a smaller facility, but only after heavy investment in time and capital.)
Lessons and Take-Aways
The conclusion of the article was a little more “generic”, and could serve entrepreneurs/ readers with a more cautionary tale in touching on Koch’s dilemma.  That is, there are many perils when it comes to loving our creations as entrepreneurs including some thoughts below:

Failure to see the real opportunities.  I’ve long described entrepreneurial endeavors analogous to raising a kid (for better or worse).  As such, we sometimes believe our creations are perfect as they are, and no, he never bit Little Billy despite jaw impressions to the contrary.
When you’ve spent hours and weeks and months and years on your product, you may be blinded to see that there is something eerily wrong underneath the covers.  As such, it’s important that even though you may test features for success/ failure, getting feedback early and often from your customers and prospects lends critical perspective to ensure your product hits the spot.

Blinded to the failures.  Somewhere in your journey of the startup roller coaster, you may stumble and fall.  Periodically, the team should evaluate the direction of the company, and whether or not the current path will lead to the Land where you want to be.  However, sometimes love of your startup may blind you thinking your startup will succeed, when in fact, it won’t.  Either a pivot is needed, or shutting down is the more appropriate direction so you can move onto another project.  Of course, this can be tricky and takes real consideration whether or not you may just be in the “trough”.

Stagnation for improvement.  This can be confused with the above, but I want this to be clear: what I mean here is the debt (not financial, but technical or otherwise) of the startup.  If you’ve been working on a project for years (oftentimes, not that long), you may believe your product is so perfect that it can’t actually be improved anymore. Or maybe that it’s in a great place where it doesn’t need to be improved.
We, as a people, should strive to learn to better ourselves and the people around us.  We’ve always got room to improve.  As such, our creations oftentimes have room for improvement as well.
I like the notion of the idea of Six Sigma – the notion of process improvement to reduce variability.  With Six Sigma, you’re constantly looking to improve.  When you reduce variation to some level, then you crank the screws tighter and the cycle for improvement continues.

Over-valuing your startup.  Tune into ABC on Friday evenings, and you can catch a glimpse of over-valuation galore on Shark Tank.  You’ll see Mr. Wonderful, Mark Cuban, and the other sharks pointing out hideously high valuations of entrepreneurs; thus, putting in a massive hurdle where the entrepreneurs never get investment.
I like capitalism and the notion of free markets where the market pays what the market bears.  I haven’t had quite the opportunity to really sell a company (yet), but the idea here is that entrepreneurs’ biased views and love for their startups sometimes fail to recognize the notion that what they believe the worth of their company is can be very different from what it’s worth to the free market.  This may lead to a failure to do a deal in a complete liquidity event or investment to get the business blasting off the ground.
Wrapping It Up!
Hey, passion for our startups is important in entrepreneurship.  It can be a great ingredient in how we continue to pursue our dreams.  Passion and love gives us that genuine spirit that enables us to invigorate and motivate prospects into investing in us or buying our products.  However, love for our products should be tempered with realism.
Have you seen the movie Her?  What are your thoughts on our growing dependence on technology?  What are some other ramifications of falling for our startups as entrepreneurs?

I read this article from Stephanie St. Claire, a self-described “unfunded entrepreneur” – “11 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business”.  I think I read this middle of 2013, and just kept it in my list of sites to remember, and articles I want to blog about because I enjoyed it.  Obviously, right?

St. Claire writes about many aspects of starting her business and the journey to wherever it is she is today – still fighting the good fight.  She traverses the messiness of divorce, selling her home, a meager $14 left on her bank account, and so much more.  She says she’s a good writer, and her creativity truly comes out in her writing making her article more fun to read.

So, while reading her article, I wanted to touch on a few of her 11 points, whether or not I agree or disagreed.  Armed with my own experience with Body Boss and others from the past, my thoughts:

  • Her first point: One. Running the business is your first priority.  I quickly learned from Body Boss that it’s not about Working Out, meeting Coaches and Trainers, watching Players crush it in the gym that will occupy a great deal of my time.  Instead, it’s about the little things like taking care of business.  I don’t think it’s as much as 15% of my time.  However, it includes all the little things like paying the bills and ensuring the insurance for the company is in line, the LLC exists year to year, answering emails quickly on the weekend, or staying on the phone to trouble-shoot issues after my afternoon game of soccer pick-up.
    Like the Sharks on Shark Tank tell so many inventors, inventions are great, but inventions alone aren’t businesses. 
  • Two – Ready to meet your soul mate?  It’s you.  While really working more and more on Body Boss during my MBA program at Emory May 2012 through May 2013, I became so much more in tune with myself.  My time during the MBA program actually was one of my greatest – not necessarily for the program itself, but the time I was able to “work on myself”.  That’s actually what I tell everyone about the greatest takeaway from MY time at Emory.
    Be comfortable in your own skin, and be comfortable being yourself.  Not everyone will buy your idea and buy into what you’re trying to accomplish.  You’ve gotta stay true to yourself.  Like business like personality, St. Claire’s point from Ten – Email will be your new best frenemy – “Not everyone is your customer”.
  • Four – Running out of money is a common part of the journey.  St. Claire writes about how dreams of flying high hit rough air with the gas gauge near zero forcing her to land into the “wild, abandoned air strip called Bank Balance: Fourteen Dollars”.
    I kinda like the idea of having less options when you’re starting something out.  Understanding everyone has his/ her own life, but with a more “complex” situation comes more excuses.  By having options or working part-time, you may not feel the pressure to really make your startup work.  When you’re staring at no income but still bills to pay, you start to really push yourself to make it work… else, you crash land and watch as your startup go up in smoke.  Back anyone up into a corner, and you give her no choice but to fight. 
  • Now that I’ve pointed my thoughts around going full-bore on your startup, here’s St. Claire at point Five – Build a hybrid stream of income.  Okay, so obviously hitting some meager amount in your bank where you can’t even pay bills is a bit of a problem.  Something’s gotta give.  St. Claire talks about how picking up some other part-time gig to supplement income could be beneficial – adding financial stress to an already immensely stressful situation can be even more taxing.  She says that if you believe part-time income would serve to put your mind at ease, then do it.
    I think this is sage advice if only you take on legitimately part-time work.  If you’ve just gone ahead and taken full-time work or pulled in part-time work that demands more time than your business, I think that’s a mistake.  Your business should be priority #1 as it requires dedication and care to succeed.  Splitting time, again like said above, may not give you the right motivation to truly push yourself. 
    What else I’ve found is that most people (your customers or even co-workers included) only have so much daylight to work with you.  If you don’t have a majority of your time to work on your business, you may miss prime time where customers need you, or simply, you may be missing prime time for selling.  You’re likely not selling to entrepreneurs like you who are working non-stop.
  • Six – Read Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work. Simply put from St. Claire (and Pressfield’s book) is something I’ve found to be true: “[The biggest] challenge you will deal with in running a business is your own resistance”.  You will no doubt harbor doubts and excuses, and those around you may tell you you won’t succeed or you should go back to a cushy, safe job, but ultimately, it’s your choice.
  • Eleven – Number eleven is a hodge-podge.  From St. Claire: “Work out perplexing issues in your business and it will resolve problems in other areas of your life. Breathe, play, laugh.”  I think the key message here is that if you fix some major areas of your business (you know the problems, probably), you could benefit in alleviating other areas of your life.
    And yet, like the point above about taking on a part-time job if you need to to mitigate financial stress, you should maintain your life still.  That is, still make time to enjoy the little things of life.  That may include exercise, friends, and especially family. 
    What are your thoughts about St. Claire’s 11 lessons?  Any of them resonate more so with you than others?

    Ever since I was young, I was a huge proponent of “being prepared’. I think it was especially hammered home as an Eagle Scout — “Be prepared” is the Boy Scout Motto after all. And in Entrepreneurship, I think being prepared can be a game-changer — one that separates the good from the greats.

    I learned the importance of being prepared while preparing for and running my Eagle Scout Project — a food and clothing drive with North Fulton Charities. Coordinating with the North Fulton organization, the local Kroger, the many neighborhoods in the Alpharetta area, and of course, with my hardworking Scout volunteers… it was all a pain. No doubt about it.  However, the drive ran so well, we received donations that overflowed one of those trailers you see being towed by monster SUVs.  It was really was, I believe, a rousing success, and it ran so well because of preparation and planning.

    As I’m heading into our second year (since launch) of Body Boss, the notion and importance of “being prepared” has never rang more true.  In my effort to keep my blogs going with bullet points, here are a few “be prepared” moments that come to mind…

    • Conferences. Conferences are especially great places to market and sell many products and services.  However, preparation can really set yourself apart and really be a great marketing and sales diving board if done well.  Be prepared to standout from the sea of vendors.

    • Get in the mind of your customers.  Sales is all about understanding needs, right? Well, being prepared in this case means knowing who the buyer is, what’s he/ she looking for, and being prepared to answer the hard questions. Think of it like an interview. Be prepared so the interviewer asks you a question you’re ready for, or to show that you’ve done your own homework.
    • Be ready to pitch at a moment’s notice.  At any given time, there’s a 50-50 chance I have my computer with me, or at least a pen and paper. I also carry a deck of business cards and Body Boss one-pagers. Like the little robot kids at Disney say, “it’s a small world”.  At any moment, you can run into a prospective customer or a valuable partner. I remember once in Denver at a Starbucks (of course), I saw two big guys in athletic apparel walk up and sit down. I casually laid out some Body Boss collateral on the table nearby acting like I was looking at them. It eventually led them to ask about Body Boss. They were entrepreneurs who were former college football players, and one was a coach at a nearby high school. We talked about sales opportunities and other licensing deals.
    • Be prepared for the fight. Being an entrepreneur is tough. I think I’ve mentioned the toll it takes on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Going full-time on one also demands a level of financial preparedness, too. Be ready so when it comes down to do or die time, you’re ready to go full steam ahead and you’ve got the conditioning to push through the ebbs. Entrepreneurship isn’t a sprint… it’s a marathon… made up of sprints. Really.

    You can’t prepare for everything. However, if you prepare right, you’re likely able to mitigate the impact should something go wrong. Or, you’ve prepared yourself to seize the moment. One of my favorite quotes to live by is from Roman philosopher Seneca: “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”.

    What are your thoughts about “being prepared”? How has “being prepared” helped your cause either in a startup or otherwise?

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    I love reading what people think makes an entrepreneur successful.  Mostly because it reminds me everyday that there is no secret formula.  Every article is written to the writer’s perspective, and it really is so different from person to person.  Take the latest article I read: The Single Most Important Habit of Successful Entrepreneurs.  The author, Mr. Dan Kennedy of Entrepreneur, argues that punctuality is [his] criteria.

    Kennedy writes about the relationship between respecting another person’s time with the respect of the other’s opinions.  It’s a relay and reciprocation of respect of the other’s time with the respect of his/ her own time.

    If anything, I would say that being detail-oriented would be my gauge of success.  Aside from potentially the mental aspect of being “gritty”, I have to say that being detail-oriented is my biggest criteria.  I admit — being detailed is kind of a big bucket.  It includes things like being detailed enough to check your work, knowing the background of a company or person you’re interviewing with, having that little extra “oomph” in your dress on a date, or even, yes, being on time because you prepared to take into account traffic.

    Being detail-oriented separates the goods from the Greats.  Most people can do well on tasks they’re given, but think about someone who’s impressed you.  Was it the person who just got it done, or the person who got it done and went above and beyond to make it QUALITY?  It’s well known the little details the late Steve Jobs would require from Apple.  Then there’s Alabama’s Nick Saban and his pursuit of perfection from the start whistle to the end (the game against Auburn not withstanding).

    I’ve noticed this actually in a lot of different quirks that executives watch for including some of the below:

    • My father is the Principal at his electrical and mechanical engineering firm.  I remember when I was younger that he taught me to “complete my circles” when I wrote an “8” or an “O”.  He argued that it was the detail of “closing the loop” that was something he looked for since he deals with sometimes 10’s of pages of size E drawings (34″x44″) with little AutoCAD scribbles needing to be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.
    • An AVP at a major mobile wireless company scrutinized people’s dress.  Was it sloppy?  Did it look like the prospective partner walked in with a shirt straight off the floor?  What did he drive?  The AVP argued that a person’s dress, the car, etc. it all made some statement about how well he did his work believing that personal life affected work style in addition to the confidence transpired from some material objects.
    • A strength coach once made the remark about his interns who were tasked to wash his shaker bottles.  He said that every shaker bottle had to be washed a certain way believing that if an intern couldn’t even do something as “remedial” as washing a bottle, how could he trust the intern to coach an athlete that could be worth several million dollars?  The money thrust into sports can be so significant that every detail of a strength program had to be carefully put together as to not injure or fatigue the player for game day.
    • One from my earlier life as a consultant, I learned the importance in making quality, consistent deliverables.  My previous boss and one of my clients really demonstrated the importance of consistency.  Our deliverables went beyond just me, but they represented my team as well and even my whole company.  Clients notice the little things including when you’re traversing a presentation and font jumps up and down, left and right… It’s distracting and takes away from the message you’re trying to convey.  Also, if you fail to do a spell check, if this happens from the onset, good luck keeping credibility for the rest of the meeting.
    Any particular quirks or levels of detail you watch for in people?  What have you noticed that has stood out to make people more/ less successful?

    On any given day, there’s about a 60% chance you’ll find me at Starbucks working.  It’s a great, free working space complete with vibrant energy, wake-up aromas, and, especially this time of year, snowman sugar cookies.  Ah, and there’s usually a fascinating collection of people hanging out/ working.  This past Friday night, I was writing some Holiday/ Thank You cards to our customer-partners and other prospects when I was complimented on our cards by a fellow Starbucker (yes, handwriting them – crazy in this day of keyboard and touchscreen typing, I know). 
    My new friend is an MBA student at Georgia State, and was a previous Psychology major in undergrad.  She was worried a bit about having a non-business background and post-graduate opportunities.  This was a great conversation for me because I’ve long appreciated how psychology intertwines with business.  It’s not readily apparent, but it really is.  Talk to any good salesperson, and he’ll know exactly how to talk to you and potentially what makes you tick and tock. 
    Some quick thoughts on how psychology is engrained in entrepreneurship and business overall…
    • Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses.  Assessments like the Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, Berkman, etc. can be simple ways of finding out more about yourself.  These assessments may help you realize more about yourself to capitalize on your strengths and limit your weaknesses while building your career around your personal interests.  I’d recommend, however, that as much as you limit your weaknesses, to also work on those weakness or what stresses you — this can help you be a stronger performer – “be comfortable being uncomfortable”.
    • Building a Balanced Team.  As a continuation of the Strengths and Weaknesses above, building a team for a startup or small business with balanced strengths and weaknesses allow for a stronger company in addition to its product/ service offering.  For Body Boss, we do actually have differing personalities, and it challenges each of us to think more about why one another feels the way we do when we consider marketing campaigns, licensing and selling opportunities, or even just philosophies that shape our startup’s culture.

    • Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes.  Marketing has psychology all over it.  You have your target audience in mind.  Do you know what language they speak?  What style of communication they perceive?  How about what really resonates with them so that you can grab their attention right away?  Marketing is all about diving into the psyche of your customers and compelling them to engage with you.
    • Sales is All About Your Customer.  Many people will tell you that an effective sales strategy is to have the customer speak.  I think this can be somewhat true in terms of getting engagement.  However, why I like this rule of thumb is so that it gives me a break and a chance to listen to the customer and analyze him/ her.  Customers are all different, and chances are, your product/ service has many value propositions.  By sitting back and listening to your prospects, you can hone in on what matters to them and cater your value message accordingly.
    • Threshold of Pain.  My new friend asked me what signs a successful entrepreneur exhibits/ has.  I have many thoughts to this, not necessarily from my own perspective, but witnessing others.  One of the standout factors?  Mental and emotional fortitude.  Beyond the physical demands of being an entrepreneur (like lack of sleep), it’s the mental and emotional toll of going through the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship including feeling INCREDIBLE when new customers finding out about you to incredibly FRUSTRATED due to low user engagement, then back to a HIGH after a great exhibition at a conference, then dipping back down LOW from unsuccessful trial conversions.  Because much of entrepreneurship is about passions and the creation of your own product, it takes a toll both mentally and emotionally.  I recommend you watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk about this in “The Key to Success?  Grit”.

    A company, a product… in the end, behind the curtains are people.  Perhaps this is also why psychology actually plays a significant role in business.  For my fellow Starbucker, I think having a background in psychology will give her a different perspective, and with an MBA to help round out her business abilities, she’ll have a strong platform to build on.

    What are your thoughts on how psychology plays a role in business and entrepreneurship?  Where else do you feel psychology plays a critical role in business?

    My buddy just sent me this article from The Next Web about the potential costs to build some of today’s big players in “startups” including Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, Uber, etc (see “How much does it cost to build the world’s hottest startups?“).  They’re not really startups anymore, though, I’d argue.  But of course, they used to be.  Here are some of the highlights:

    • Twitter:  May not take long to build the core — 10 hours and a good $160 Ruby on Rails course.  But to really get to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) you have to pour in about $50K-$250K for processes, infrastructure, and the like.
    • Facebook: One expert quoted $500K (min) and 9 months of development and design team.  The real costs, however, is the support.  The expert estimates a monthly burn-rate of $30MM just for its infrastructure so we can Like, Share, and watch videos of kittens!
    • Uber: Uber “scrapped by” with $50MM to build what the service is now, and then Google and Benchmark rammed another $258MM since August.  Artem Fishman (VP of Huge) estimates an MVP would have cost about $1.0-1.5MM to develop.  However, beyond the app itself, there is lots of costs to navigate local legislations and permits to think about.
    • There are several other hot “startups” on the list including Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.  Check out the article to read more.  
    What made this interesting for me also coincided with the notion of building a startup and a recent post on David Cumming’s blog post “Can’t the Software Just be Knocked Off“.  It’s also a notion people have asked me in regards to Body Boss.  The question makes many people think about keeping their ideas quiet, or even gives people a notion that they can just copy another program and have the same success or even better.  Some personal thoughts:
    • A company is an iceberg.  What you see in a front-end either in an app or even marketing material is just the tip of the iceberg.  Beneath the water is a whole lot of you-don’t-know-what that really makes a business a business.  Costs to build an app is oftentimes (especially in the long-run) the tiniest line item compared to everything else it costs to maintain a successful app.
    • It’s about the experience.  I’m not an Apple fan, but they have customer service down in ways Microsoft has really never been able to copy.  Just watch Microsoft Stores vs. an Apple store.  The culture ingrained in Apple just oozes a satisfying customer experience.  With apps, making a simple, easy-to-use experience is not simple.  It’s also what makes things like Tinder blow up (with users).
    • You don’t know what you don’t know.  Companies and their products/ services get refined iteration after iteration.  Through customer usage, interviews, and just being in the space, they learn what makes products and customers tick and tock.  Similar to the iceberg analogy above, a startup who has learned and iterated knows things that knockoffs may struggle with because they haven’t experienced it.
    • Value of an App?  $500K.  Value of Your Network?  Priceless. I’m trying to be clever here with a reference to Mastercard commercials (here’s a good one), but the point is that many times, what can make or break a product/ service is the company’s network (connections).  I know there’s a suggestion somewhere about suggested network size for B2B startups, but I can’t figure it out or find it.  If someone knows it, let me know.  Essentially, have a large, quality network in the market you’re approaching.
    • Cost of Entry is Low.  With so many frameworks and Software Development Kits (SDK) available, it’s pretty easy to have a copycat program ready to go and live in a short amount of time.  And because of that, almost anyone can do it.  (My friends and I’s first foray into entrepreneurship, we used a framework based off of fmylife.com and created abigeffu.com where users could dish “A Big Eff U” to… anything or anyone.  It’s since shutdown and is being squatted on.)  What’s difficult is getting repeat users/ customers because they’re being inundated with like-products.  Instead, standing out is the hardest part.  If you’re going to build a similar product/ offering, you need to add elements that will “wow” users of existing products to woo them onto yours.
    • Don’t be Shy to Share.  Lastly, the notion of someone copying your idea or product is valid, but not all that probable from the get-go.  Everyone is pretty busy as it stands.  I mean, when was the last time you heard a great idea like Uber or some social app, and you started building one?  Sharing your idea with others allows you to iterate and discover who your customers are and what they want before potentially ever writing a single line of code.  There is so much more to building a startup from an idea creating a big hurdle from just anyone copying you — expertise, grit, and those things outlined above.
    So what are your take-aways or thoughts about building copy cat products/ services?  How would you go about building a similar product, but tackling the market with a new twist?