On Tuesday, I shared a post on one of the greatest overlooked challenges by startups, and in particular, first-time entrepreneurs — considering change management
It’s imperative to consider the change management piece of any service or product — change management being the leading the transformation of the people within the organization. This is especially important with customers with multiple layers. 
Executives may be motivated to use a product or service for the benefit of the enterprise, but if the solution fails to integrate easily into the workflow of the “employees”, there’s a high likelihood of low adoption. With low adoption comes missed value which yields customer churn.
Change management involves a lot. I’ll take some examples from a SaaS perspective since I’m more accustomed to this arena — some key areas where a startup will surely fail:
  • Cumbersome UI/ UX. Said before many times and saying it again: UI and UX are now MUST-HAVES. Interfaces must be intuitive with clear calls-to-action. Bonus points for engaging UX will drive emotional evangelists.
  • Dramatic shifts from today to tomorrow. With Body Boss, we gave a lot of data and power to the coaches. We were able to chart out where players were after any session. However, most coaches weren’t accustomed to receiving that type of data continually. We didn’t guide coaches on how to interpret and make the data actionable. In many ways, we challenged coaches to absorb and use data that had never received before. Better practice would have been better reporting to drive focus and action to only the important data points.
  • Failing to consider the different consumers of a product. In consulting, you have the buyers who may be the execs representing some functional side of the business. Then, you may have a VP of Information Technology who had evaluate the software for security, for implementation, etc.. Then, there’s the end users of the system who may be front-line workers or managers who actually use the product. They all represented groups that consumes the product, and thus, it’s important to understand the benefits and risks of each group.
  • Not providing/ communicating (or very minimally) the vision and value of through the organization. That is, failure to share the value and get buy-in from the levels of the organization involved will, again, spur low adoption.
Obviously, there are many more ways to encourage failure through poor change management processes. Successful startups build a product and service that considers the people of the organization —their motivations, fears, and workflows.
One of the biggest challenges often overlooked by first-time entrepreneurs is change management. This was always a challenge when I was a supply chain consultant, and it was incredibly true as a founder of Body Boss.  

In consulting, I made recommendations, set strategies, and led implementations for transformations set by company execs. The transformations almost always had great intentions and great financial benefits that would otherwise seem like no-brainers to work. 
However, the greatest challenges weren’t the systems and processes to implement. Instead, the greatest challenges were leading and managing the change within the people of the organization. Different backgrounds, different skill levels, different motivations… everything impacted the people. The efficacy of leading change with the people dictated the success of transformations. Bain & Company cites “more than 70 percent of major change efforts typically fail” (see Results Delivery), and it’s largely due to change management.
Technology startups looking sell to businesses or consumers face a similar task in considering their products and services, especially in multi-layered organizations. In today’s world of quick-to-implement SaaS solutions, the effectiveness of change management can be a major component of user engagement and retention metrics (i.e. Day 1 returning users (“D1”), D7, D14, etc.).
When thinking about change management, entrepreneurs would do well to:
  • Consider the usage and implications to every layer of an organization that will use the product/ service — from executive buyers to core users
  • Communicate clear benefits, and ensure delivery of said benefits
  • Provide timely service in the event of missteps, bugs, or failure
  • Nurture adoption of the product/ service with all levels of users (getting started wizards, email notifications, other)
  • Create a simple, streamlined user experience (UX)
  • Understand and mitigate the risks to each [level of] user — considering your solution is from a new, questionably “viable” entity
Continuing last Thursday’s post on two entrepreneurs working with two inexperienced developers early on… The devs are experienced programmers, but just as important, they’re inexperienced in early-stage startups.
The problem for entrepreneurs isn’t finding early partners… it’s finding the right partners. Finding partners (of any functional resource) who will fight it out in an early-stage startup to get to product-market fit and beyond is tough.
The entrepreneurs in the presented cases should manage expectations of the dev partners as soon as possible – set expectations the road ahead will be long and tough.
In both cases above, the devs will not work full-time, and they want equity as a discount to cash. The problem is that early-stage startups need iterations to launch, learn, build, and repeat – most will struggle to find meaningful traction before product-market fit which could take 18 months. As that happens, passion and patience will be tested on both sides – the entrepreneurs and the devs. Lack of traction can dishearten anyone, especially those working late into the night on a project but not seeing “meaningful” shifts in customer acquisition, yet.
A recurring piece of advice I’ve heard over the years from mentors (during Body Boss and every business since) is having an operating/ partnership agreement before any partnership moves forward. You can go further in a contract by detailing deliverables and compensation (outright payment, equity, or mix of both). Here, contracts could include incentives for achieving milestones to ensure all parties stay committed to the cause while including opportunities to sever relationships if needed.
To be honest, contracts suck and can be deterrents for some partners. However, they can play critical roles later in light of success and failure. If individuals do want to move forward as partners, they’ll appreciate the importance of contracts.
Early partners are very tricky, and there’s no formula on the right one(s). There’s a mixture of trust, personality, can-get-shit-done attitude, and grit to overcome obstacles – each hard to measure. But if the entrepreneurs above are serious about their ideas, they need to be cautious bringing on inexperienced early partners.
What are some other areas to be cautious of with early partners? How would you qualify and move forward with an early partner?
A friend recently shared with me that to be successful and maintain some form of sanity, entrepreneurs should pick three of: work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends. My friend was referencing what Randi Zuckerberg said in an Entrepreneur.com interview. Randi shared how she balanced being a wife and mother of two, entrepreneur, speaker, TV producer, author, and even singer. 
My friend shared this concept of picking three after reading my book. She referenced how the book went into detail about the practicality of entrepreneurship including how team dynamics play a critical role.
Indeed at Body Boss, each of us cofounders had very different risk tolerances and life circumstances. The intricacies of our personal lives affected our financial needs which affected full-time vs. part-time work on Body Boss. That would then affect our speed to iterate on the product as well as sell. All of this had cyclical and amplifying effects on each other. Again, failure isn’t caused by a singular event. Failure occurs after a multitude of decisions and actions that cascade.
To Randi’s point in the interview, she mentioned how her 3 picks would shift from week to week, even day to day as long as there was balance in the long-run. Perhaps her five choices are more tactical, but it reminds me of how at any point, we should have stability in at least 4 areas of California-Riverside’s 7 Dimensions of Wellness – social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual, and physical.
https://wellness.ucr.edu/seven_dimensions.html
Challenges in somedimensions in life are good to keep ourselves engaged. However, trying to accomplish everything at the same time will inevitably cause quality in ALL areas to diminish rapidly. Instead, focus on a subset of areas at any given time and shift those priorities as needed to ensure balance long-term.
I sat down with a new friend who is starting a natural soap company, and in a sense, interviewed her as inspiration for this blog post.
I meet loads of entrepreneurs, and I’d like to start asking them similar questions to find common strings or uncommon facets of what makes them entrepreneurs. We did this with Body Boss asking coaches to answer a set of defined questions in addition to guest writing on our blog. It gave coaches an opportunity to market themselves and illustrate who they were while motivating others considering a job in strength and conditioning. This time, I’m doing it with entrepreneurs.
My friend is the first person I’m asking this common set of questions. Here’s Kelly Logan of Jade Marie’s Beauty:

1. Why are you pursuing entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is fulfilling. Kelly wants to build something from the ground up, and see how her hard work materializes.

2. What is it that you’re doing?

Making natural hair and body beauty products, specifically, soaps right now.

3. What made you start, and how?

Kelly always had a passion for beauty products, cosmetic chemistry, and her interest in math and science. She learned of the soap-making process years ago, and really honed her idea four years ago. She would read a lot about the soap-making process as well as how to start building her business.

4. What are some of your earlier lessons learned from failure or otherwise?

Lots of failures over the years. Kelly spent too much money on the wrong things including too much effort on festivals, pay-per-click, and even tactical things like having multiple email accounts and using the top-tier Shopify product.

5. What’s a personal area you’ve been working on to be a better entrepreneur?

Everything Kelly did before was in front of the computer. Now, she’s getting out in front of people which she is very uncomfortable with. She doesn’t lack confidence as much as she doesn’t like to call attention to herself and tends to be introverted.
Now, she’s forcing herself to be more extroverted. She wants to establish relationships including approaching a list of salons to help market and sell her product.

6. How would you define success as an entrepreneur?

Kelly’s definition of success includes feeling fulfilled in what she is doing. She feels tied and passionate about her endeavor. She adds being able to quit her two jobs she’s working to pay for her supplies and sustain her dreams. She hopes to live a “comfortable” life on her company.
Her views on success aren’t uncommon to many others’. Though, she views just having her own business as the goal. This flies in the face of so many young wantrepreneurs who believe the only way to define success is to sell a company for 7, 8, 9 figures.
I recently stumbled on an article on TechCrunch about empty state designs – “The Most Overlooked Aspect of UX Design Could Be The Most Important”. It’s pretty good, and I won’t rehash the whole thing.
In gist, empty state design refers to the design and experience (UI/ UX) of an application when a new user opens an app or new feature. For example, if you just downloaded a photo sharing app, what would the app say and do to motivate you to use it? Poor empty state designs can lead to confusion, diminished interest, and the like which ultimately yields high churn early on.
Benjamin Brandall, the author, writes empty state designs should tell the user three things:
  1. What is this page/ platform for?
  2. Why are you, the user, seeing this?
  3. How can you fill out this page?

Body Boss was built quite feature heavy without clear call-to-actions upon new registration. We noticed this more apparently when we were signing up coaches on the spot at a trade show early on.

When coaches entered, there was an empty dashboard because no players had done any workouts yet. It was just a great-looking black screen. That’s not useful or sexy.
Our first design was a beautiful black screen. Not helpful, and not actually sexy
Similar to what the article suggests and what is common in successful apps today, we added a Getting Started Wizard walking coaches through setting up their organization.
We added a Getting Started Wizard walking the user through a simple set-up process when a coach first registers

The Getting Started Wizard walked through many different building blocks of Body Boss including adding players individually, or importing en masse
The result was more coaches knowing exactly what they needed to do to get started. We saw engagement rise especially in areas like inviting coaches, setting up groups, etc. The wizard was a great tool to complement our drip onboarding emails, too, to additionally provide structure in the onboarding process.
Check out Brandall’s article, and let me know your thoughts!
I was requested the other day to talk about how I balance work with life given the many things I’m working on today. Coincidentally, I read “Success at Work, Failure at Home” by Scott Weiss, entrepreneur turned VC.
Scott recalls the years his startup was doing great were years life at home was anything but. Now as a VC, Scott coaches startup CEOs on dealing with the pressures of work at home.
I’ve had several downs with the ups over the years, and now, taking on a few projects as I consider my next startup. I get questions, like from my friend, of how I balance work and life. That’s easy to answer, though, because my work is part of my life.
I don’t work allthe time, but a perfect day for me includes some work. I love what I do, and I love challenges. Over the years, especially since Body Boss, I’ve weaved in slow-down and even shut-down times.
Compared to years past when I was constantly working, I’ve learned a few things.
  • Not everyone needs everything immediately. I was too wrapped up in saying yes to others. Now, I realize how others value themselves and me. Those who matter respect my priorities.
  • Taking a day off each week makes me more productive. Like my body from work outs, my mind needs rest days to recover. These days off allow me to step out of the day-to-day and practice creativity.
  • There are two types of “me-time” – alone and with friends. Because I interact with many different people throughout the week, my alone times are havens (like morning workouts). Otherwise, I see friends on specific days of the week. Scheduling days prevents me from forgoing social activities.
  • Schedules allow for more spontaneity and freedom. Described in the Make Time post, explicitly scheduling things that matter (i.e. meetings with VCs, workouts, seeing friends, etc.) ensure high-priority things are accounted for. All other time becomes flexible to call audibles.
Whether it’s watching Netflix, running the neighborhoods, or writing journal entries, taking time off work makes me more productive. I let my mind recover and find creativity again… creativity that comes from anywhere.
How do you “balance” work and life, if there’s a distinction for you? What are some ways to mentally, emotionally recover from work?
I was speaking to an entrepreneur I’m working with and he shared thoughts on his “lack of formal education”. He dropped out of school when he was 17, and has been building successful businesses ever since.
He’s happy he’s successful not least because if he had to join the corporate world, he wonders if his lack of a college degree, let alone an advanced one, would be a detriment. He lamented he didn’t “know the theory” behind the practical. I understood but argued otherwise.
In MBA in a Startup World I mentioned how working in a startup enables the understanding of the theory behind the practice. However, this morning coalesced my thoughts even clearer. That is, in my MBA experience, I was taught what to do, but didn’t really get the why. I had a sliver of practical exercises via student projects – controlled environments.  
In building Body Boss, I naturally adopted similar concepts of what I learned during my MBA program. (Remember, I was three months into starting Body Boss when I started the core classes of my one-year MBA.)
For example, I didn’t have much sales and marketing experience before Body Boss. However, I quickly learned concepts like the different influencers in a buying decision, effective selling techniques, etc. while building the company – before I stepped foot in a sales and business development class in school. I had been burned plenty of times during my first cold calls and demos that I learned more effective techniques — techniques I would later learn in class.
In school, professors told me what to do. Body Boss taught me why I should do it this way, not that way while giving me a platform to practice CONSTANTLY. In sales, knowing the why makes me more effective by knowing how to adapt my style to the situation better.
Back to the Founder, he’s developed an amazing set of skills and knowledge that helps him be more successful. He’s adapted to not being told or taught what to do by learning on-the-fly, and now, he’s got the practical theory down. Perhaps he can write his own textbook.

What are your thoughts about education’s role in delivering the why behind the practical? 
For one of my consulting projects, we’re stepping into usability testing for the launch of a new platform. I’ve participated in usability tests before, but haven’t run a “formal” test. The startup I’m working with hasn’t done one either, so I’m really excited about this – formulating and implementing this process, documenting results, and learning.
What really excites me about startups is this process and challenge of building from scratch. For usability testing, I’m creating the guidelines and plan with the marketing team. Yes, I’m leveraging other tools, guidelines, and templates I’ve found online and from friends, but I build my own before implementing others’. This way I test my own logic against best practices.
With Body Boss, I built a Master Playbook that contained all of our strategic goals and “plays” we were going to do. This included marketing campaigns, the sales strategy and pipeline, etc. More tactically, I created multiple cold call scripts in Excel so I could review character-count, word-count, speed of delivery, etc. Then, I’d try the scripts on batches of prospects, document the results, and improve them over iterations.
I’m eager to see how the usability tests go, and figuring out what works well and what doesn’t work. I’ll share lessons learned after, of course. I’m excited to learn from this experience more first-hand as a moderator. Add Usability Tests to the list of experiences thanks to startups and entrepreneurship!
I get many questions on how I find my consulting opportunities. Since Body Boss, I’ve been working different consulting gigs from supply chain consulting to website development to product management and the like with clients from Canada to local retail companies to startups.
My simplistic response: “have great relationships”.
Quick thoughts on finding opportunities:
  • Maintain relationships. My previous life as a consultant in a startup firm allowed me to get amazing experience working with decision makers. Many of those same people want to work together again and again.
  • Say hello. I get many opportunities from just simple introductions to strangers in everyday places. For example, I met a woman at Starbucks who later introduced me to her boyfriend who wanted to redesign his digital assets for his retail store. 
  • Be flexible. I’m a generalist, and it’s been my advantage to work with companies in many capacities. For example, I have two recent opportunities in front of me: 1) technology consultant in China; 2) a talent manager for a burgeoning artist.
  • Confident self and strong brand. I’m honest in my interactions, so many people see me as confident and genuine building a relationship on trust. As I mention more about my experience and my blog, others see me as an expert. Doesn’t take much from there to work together.
  • Never hard sell. Everything is relationships-based (think: brand) – it’s the only real advantage companies have. When I meet anyone, I never hard-sell. I never need to. We form a relationship based on trust and ability to execute. Opportunities grow organically from there.
  • Get out!It’s hard to do any of the above without meeting new people. I’ve formed great relationships from UK consulate events to network introductions to, yes, Starbucks. Everything starts with an opportunity.

What are your thoughts on finding new work opportunities? Where would hard-selling be more appropriate versus softer, relationship-based sells?