|I know — my PowerPoint skills are amazing…|
- In a way, it’s almost like they’re the mini-CEO, complete with the influence, but no authority — they aren’t the direct supervisors of the engineer or designer and can’t fire anyone for not following through, and focused on the success of the product’s mission. [TNW] This couldn’t ring more true for Body Boss where the four of us co-founders had no “hierarchy” and equal equity. We formed a four-headed Product Manager. This can be incredibly challenging when everyone has a different vision, though, as wheels spin and development halts.
- [Josh] Elman wrote a post entitled A Product Manager’s Job and in it, he says that a core part of it involves having a good feel “for what seems right or wrong, and are also good at listening to early feedback from testers and others who try it.” [TNW] It’s rare there’s a dedicated Product Manager in a startup. In reality the CEO and the lead engineer (and designer) take on the role together. However, the take-away here is the importance of involving feedback from testers and partners early and often in the development of the product. This mitigates risk of building an unwanted product or non-essential/ useful features.
- True empathy for the customer is a must-have (we’ve all used products that didn’t feel like they had the customer in mind). [DC] Going hand-in-hand with the preceding point, building a product with the customer in mind is critical. Like at Body Boss, none of us were professional strength coaches, and yet, we were selling to them. We didn’t have true empathy, though, and thus, we missed some of the big pain-points early. This was hard moving forward from the start. Note the little nugget in what I just said, too: none of us were professional strength coaches. Having experience in your market/ industry can go a long way in developing empathy and leveraging your network for traction growth.
- […] PMs need to have an appreciation for leading while also understanding that it’s about solving the holistic problem. Being a PM can teach you a lot about leadership and also about yourself […] it’s not about using your power to accomplish something — he sees this action as a sign of weakness. It’s all about inspiration, vision, and analysis while keeping in mind that it’s a team sport so you’re not going at things alone. [TNW] and Attention to detail and planning skills are crucial due to all the moving parts. [DC] Product Managers are connectors. They have great communication skills and enough know-how of the business, sales and marketing, design, and technical know-how to empathize with the right touch points of the product. Just as you move higher up the ladder in a corporate setting, a leader’s duties shift to more strategic initiatives and people influences… much of what a Product Manager does.
- [Joanna] Wright says that managers need to be aware of three things: knowing the product and its users, having tenacity by picking up ideas and following through even though no one may believe in it, and being able to collaborate and working with others to have a strong vibe together. [TNW] Joanna’s points here highlight every critical aspect of an effective Product Manager… they are multi-faceted and view the product holistically… they are leaders – inspiring, team-oriented, collaborative… they persevere with the vision believing in the long-run benefits than short-term challenges… they are internally and externally people-focused as people are what drive the product either consumption or creation… they don’t just drive execution, but they motivate execution.
|Image source: http://www.partyswizzle.com/assets/images/S-DinnerChecklist.jpg|
What was accomplished in 2014?
I learned how to code!
Body Boss was “zombified”.
Developed stronger business development skills.
What was NOT accomplished?
Building a successful venture
|3 plates? That’s nothin’. Let’s see 4 soon.|
12AM on January 1st
|Thankful for a lot this Thanksgiving|
- Friends– I put friends first because I’ve had a couple really close friends who have been great supporters and motivators over the last year especially with Body Boss and Dee Duper. Everyone always seems highly engaged in what I’m working on, and offering some tremendous support including helping me learn how to program.
- Family– Always able to be counted on, my family has largely been a great support system. Though, I do have family members who believe I’m bat-shit crazy for continuing on my low-income-pursuit-of-my-dreams. I know that in the end, they just want me to be happy and comfortable. We haven’t seen eye-to-eye in some other cases, but overall, they’ve been exemplary to lean on especially when I’m dying from food poisoning and bed-ridden. Yeah.
- The Body Boss Fitness Team – Okay, so these guys are already pretty much captured in the above with Friends and Family (yes, they’re in both because that’s just how close we are). They’ve been a great team and are highly skilled at what they do. Everyone’s largely moved onto new paths, and it’s apparent the high quality these guys are with each joining some incredible startups even spearheaded by two of (who I call) the Atlanta Entrepreneurial All-Stars.
- Brookhaven Police Department – Shout out to the newly incorporated city of Brookhaven’s police department for responding to my 9-1-1 call back in May when I had a break-in at 4AM and woke with a stranger standing in front of me as I woke up — read “When a Break-In at 4AM Inspires 5 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned“. The other night, I woke up thinking I heard something. False alarm, but it was enough for me to relive that night. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to sleep the rest of the night. Not going to lie – that night was scary, but glad the officers responded quickly and professionally.
Scene from “The Walking Dead”… the only picture I could really find of a legit guy hiding under the bed. This might’ve happened when I woke up to a break-in at 4AM…
- Atlanta’s Startup Community – I once read, “only entrepreneurs understand entrepreneurs.” True story. Not many people really understand the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, so it’s great to have a growing, vibrant startup community here in Atlanta that is tight-knit. I’ve met some great people ranging from startup employees, founders of all levels (early, growth, failed, successful sales), lawyers, etc. Most everyone has been happy to meet or introduce me to others. Very thankful for the connections.
- Great Tools and Resources to Learn How to Code – I’ve only started programming in Apple’s Swift since August, and I feel I’ve been able to get up and running pretty… swiftly (get it?!). I’ve been able to pick up these new skills thanks to free YouTube channels, One Month [Rails], Stack Overflow, Parse, Facebook, etc. Especially for the platforms like Parse and Facebook, they’ve been very easy to integrate into.
- Fantastic Professional Network From a Life Before (and kinda still) – Every once in a while, I need to fill up the coffers to keep my entrepreneurial journey going. Though to an even greater degree, I’ve wanted/ needed to know I’m still capable of doing great work, even if the startups haven’t quite reflected that. So, it’s been great to be able to pick up the phone and tell prior colleagues that I’m up for some consulting work, and every one of them has been eager to bring me on asking, “How many hours do you want? When can you start?” I’ve been fortunate through my prior life as a consultant to have formed some stellar relationships and built up good, adaptable skills.
- “Eating your own dogfood”. This is a term endeared to many where company employees from the top down (CEO to… everyone below) use the company’s product or service as means for testing. You can see this all the time like Google’s Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass everywhere prior to launch (yes, partly as marketing, too).
- Observe like you’re on an episode of National Geographic. The late Steve Irwin and this crazy guy hugging lionstaught us to really understand the focus of our attention, we have to get out there in our subjects’ elements. Hashemi also noted that the key to understanding customer insight is to be out in the field observing customers, not behind a desk.
- Step into your Customers’ shoes. Hashemi’s article and the notion of a customer as an alien is funnily familiar to me. With Body Boss, none of us are Strength Coaches. We’ve had light experience training others, but that’s about it. Sadly, that was a big problem. When we started out, we originally built the app how we saw would be best. Watching our customers interact with it, though, we quickly learned we failed in building an app that engaged them appropriately – everything from look and feel, down to the how to track.
- The importance of communicative customer-partners. I think I’ve said this before where I truly look at our customers at Body Boss as partners. This is because for our success, they must be successful, too. And to do that, you need that feedback loop from your partners on what they like and don’t like to make iterations. Not all customers will be the partners you’re looking for, but if you’re going to really reach a mass audience, you need to get buy-in from your customers to help you with iterations (be okay with some hiccups), and you should be able to reach out at some frequency that doesn’t make you a stalker.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my Neo Moment with you, my blog readers, but I wanted to talk about it and perhaps you’ll have your own. The Neo Moment, to me, is this enlightenment and awakening of Neo, the protagonist in The Matrix. In the Matrix, there was a time when he was resurrected in the first movie, and he woke seeing the world for what it really was. At that moment, he stopped hoping and thinking he was The One, and just firmly knew he was The One. As he awakened to the world around him, he saw the Matrix in all its green numeric beauty.
My Neo Moment lasted a bit longer than a few seconds, but it was a moment where I started seeing the world much differently. It was when I started living life how I wanted to while also looking for ways to improve the world. To me, it was a moment where I started questioning normal, old-school conventions in favor of more… shall we say, “disruptive” ways of doing things. In many ways, it was my moment where I started coming up with ideas (potentially for different startups) in everyday things. I started just asking random people questions including flight attendants on Southwest on how to improve their provisioning, call center interactions with customers, etc.
I’m not the only one with a Neo Moment, of course. In fact, I’ve heard of a few Neo Moments recently that have and will continue to have a significant change in my friends’ lives.
- GiveLiveExplore.com – Matt Trinetti is a friend from Georgia Tech who up and decided that he needed to take a break from the consulting life. He kept hearing this little voice in his head to quit — you can read a recent article he wrote about this in the Huffington Post. In fact, he ended up taking a 7-month sabbatical (spearheaded with a one-way ticket) from a cushy consulting gig to travel to Iceland. The things he learned and experienced taught him so much that he quit his job immediately after his sabbatical, and is now a traveler and writer.
- TheWhole-Hearted.com – My new friend from Starbucks Ayan ventured to Brazil as part of her MBA program. Exploring the favellas and watching how technology has proliferated even into these neighborhoods has brought incredible life and opportunity to its people. She’s also been hearing more about how companies need to find purpose and impact the world in a positive way to really thrive — lessons she’s learning in her MBA program. When I met her in December last year, she was confused and unsure of her direction. But since then with all these new experiences, she’s been more and more sure of her direction, and she’s thrilled to be paving the way to finding that intersection of business and purposeful spirituality. She aims to travel the world, and bring that intersection vis-a-vis corporate social responsibility and social enterprise.
- TitinTech.com – Unsure if I can really say Patrick Whaley’s (CEO) Neo Moment was what really inspired him to push Titin Tech further, but I think it’s definitely lit a particular fire. Patrick had an idea to having weight compression clothing that would fit more naturally on athletes rather than bulky weighted vests. He had this idea early in his life and started working on it in 2006, I believe. In May of 2009, Patrick was mugged and shot and left for dead. He, luckily, survived, and utilized the very-near-death experience to work on his Titin Tech product that much harder, while also using his story to reach audiences as he used his product as part of his recovery. Today, the company is thriving, and he even posted a picture of Titin Tech at the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals practice facility yesterday. The World’s Only Weight Compression Gear. Patented. Boom.
- My Neo Moment came during my time at Emory getting my MBA. After Georgia Tech, I was always traveling doing consulting. It wasn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, I absolutely loved it. However, I also knew that I wanted to build my own company. I just didn’t think it’d be so soon with Body Boss. I entered the MBA program to be better prepared for business obstacles in the future (a lesson taken from Scouting — “Be Prepared”). What I didn’t realize was the greatest take-away from the MBA program was the time I would get to focus on myself, focus on building Body Boss, workout and play soccer more consistently because I wasn’t traveling.
For me, I’m thrilled to have found my calling and where I’m heading. It’s incredibly frustrating at times, and forces me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. However, I’m happy where it’s putting me, and the steps I’m taking.
What’s a Neo Moment you’ve had? Where/ how do you think your own Neo Moment is taking you?
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?
- 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.
- 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?
How often are you walking around when you notice someone wearing a Jawbone Up or Nike Fuel band? They’re really starting to blow up and be everywhere, aren’t they? The movement for wearable technology is just a growing wave, poised to be a tidal wave that consumes the world along with Google Glass, smart watches, and of course, those wearable devices for fitness.
Ryan Hoover, a blogger, wrote an article about how he has a Jawbone Up, but admittedly, doesn’t track anything anymore (see the article here). The original novelty had worn off for him. However, he continues to wear it simply because of the “branding” it provides. When I go out and see someone with an Up band, there’s almost this subtle head nod to the other person. Or if I see someone with one or one of the other wearables, I automatically have a notion that this person is an exerciser, and I immediately shift that person in my head to a different category of person. (Because I value fitness and health.)
The underlying notion I’ve appreciated more as I tote this wristband is the idea of personal branding. It’s this notion that we’re all marketers kind of like how we’re all salespeople (see Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human) — we sell who we are to get a date, we sell a suggestion for dinner, we sell our athletic prowess to get a spot on the team, or just outright, we sell for our job. And with this thinking, here’s what I’ve kind of learned in general and as an entrepreneur…
- You do care. Everyone says they don’t stereotype, but what you wear, how you present yourself in an email, everything is being scrutinized. Why? Because you care about who you interact with. Plain and simple. What someone wears, what someone says, it all paints some story for you. I think we all like psychology to an extent because we like to hypothesize that person’s story. So mind how you communicate…
- You’re a walking, talking billboard. You might actually have a company’s logo plastered on your chest, or you may have a partially eaten fruit icon lit up all nice and bright on your computer. Other than that, little details are sometimes amplified depending on what others value. Something like a small wristband can convey a big message. As an entrepreneur, you should realize that what you wear, say, and do can represent your company, too.
- Market to the audience. I think one of the challenges some entrepreneurs… actually, everyone has is that sometimes we get hurt if our idea or who we are doesn’t resonate with certain people. I did a pitch of Body Boss to a room full of investors, entrepreneurs, students, and teachers in business school. It resonated with half, while the other half felt otherwise. At the end of the day, you should understand that not everyone is going to have the same value for what you do or who you are. You have to understand that you’re marketing to a TARGETED audience, not everyone. Side note: respect everyone even if that “value” is not the same.
- Be one with your audience. Speaking of marketing to your audience, know what your target audience values and who they are — talk the talk, walk the walk. I once was pitching Body Boss to some potential coaches, and I was using some silly b-school lingo. The coaches called me out, and I realized we weren’t even speaking the same language.
- Be ready. You never really know who you’re going to run into. Be respectful, courteous, and potentially, your eccentric self. I got a flat on my bike while mountain biking once, and while walking my bike back to my car, a fellow mountain biker stopped and gave me one of his bike tubes and helped me fix my flat. I later learned he was an Senior Vice President of a large bank.
- Love yourself. That sounds cheesy and kinda “hippie”, but I’m sticking to it. I think that we’re all at this interesting point in the world where things are getting generic. People are trying to fit into some trend (Crossfit, certain phones, maybe even this trend of “entrepreneurship”) or trying to fit in to get a job, for example. However, I also see this other half of the world where personalization and people are trying to be different with loud-colored shoes, more free-spirited communication. Technology ubiquity has led to a broader range of products and services to reach audiences everywhere. Be yourself, and people who matter (audience, remember?), will value you, too.
- Be careful of stereotyping or being stereotyped. It’s a tough balancing act to temper our original scrutiny with what is real. No good answers for that here. Instead, I can only say that you have to be ready to pivot that original idea. Build your personal brand to market to the right people so you get that introduction to validate/ change perceptions.
- You represent more than yourself. Like it or not, you represent more than you. I represent my family, my friends, Atlanta, Georgia Tech, Emory, etc. Different situations, different audiences… they will put you in some category(-ies). This can be controversial because people oftentimes don’t want to be “pegged” as something. However, you will be; it’s human nature. In this case, use this as an opportunity to either shift those notions or as a way to adjust how to change your personal brand. You’ll have to decide how you want to represent yourself and those you may be affiliated with.