You ever see someone who is just wildly successful at whatever YOU’RE trying to be, and then you want to just emulate everything that person does? However, you’re not able to keep up, or you aren’t able to make it work the way you were hoping? Yeah, so that happens to me, too. And so now, this brings me to Inc.com’s article by Geil Browning “The Brain-Based Secret to Getting More Done”.
I’ve been told I’m like a machine sometimes when I work, but I know others who are just absolute freaks when it comes to productivity. As much as I want to be as successful or more, I know that I have to carve my own path. I want to change the world, sure. But for me to be able to do something as simple as, say, blog everyday like I know David Cummings can do, I know it’s just not something I can (or will) keep up with. Just like working out, I’ve gotta find what’s sustainable for me.
Browning writes how there are four major ways people think that can shape and impact how they are productive:
  • Structural.As you can imagine, this is the person who formalizes a game plan. It’s got rigidity. It’s got form and structure.
  • Analytical.Every decision is scrutinized to find and implement the best ROI.
  • Social.This type of person is democratic in his/ her approach. This is especially great to create a sense of accountability to the table for everyone.
  • Conceptual.Stuff is just done. There’s a notion that things are WIP (work-in-progress), but productivity here is measured in completion.

Okay, now that I’m done summarizing the article by Browning, here are my personal thoughts:
  • Team play. In a startup team (or really any team), it’s best to have people with different thinking and different backgrounds. The natural yin-yang and complementing will help your startup find holes in products and strategies. It’s like a good trivia team… you want people who can answer questions for any subject thrown at you.
  • Sustainability.The article mentions New Year’s resolutions (8% actually follow through?!) especially with exercise. Reminds me of an article I read from a trainer who was asked what was the best exercise to lose weight? The trainer responded with, “whichever exercise you enjoy”. You’ve gotta find what works for you, and what you enjoy to really implement anything that will be sustainable.
  • Switch it up! The article (and this very awesome post) is all about finding your natural state of thinking for productivity and just general mind set. However, I think it’s also good to switch it up every once in a while, and spend a day (okay, a few) trying to put a little more structure to your day, if you’re more conceptual. Or perhaps being more social. Not looking for the sustainable part, but spending a little time on the other side of the walls can help you consider other alternatives that can make your process and thinking that much more holistic and perhaps even stronger.
  • Respect.To the point above about team play, this article readily highlights the differences in how others may think. It’s easy to try to push others to your style of thinking, and then getting mad when it doesn’t stick or isn’t considered. This is why those personality profile tests like Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, etc. are so good for managers to see. It’s important to consider others as individuals and promote their own growth.
  • Consider yourself. The article, at its core, is about knowing yourself. In today’s high-speed, text-a-minute, Facebook-slap-in-the-face society, it’s easy to forget to consider who we are. I’m a big proponent of taking a few minutes every night before bed in reflecting on the day, and think about yourself. What you like, what didn’t you like, what you did well, what made you bored…

What are your thoughts about what makes you more or less productive than one of your friends or idols? How have you capitalized on one of your strengths to be more productive and effective?

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?

John Wooden, legendary UCLA coach who won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period including seven in a row once, said one of the most resounding things I’ve ever heard:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

I think I’ve heard a variation of this from somewhere that goes on, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, you must have time to do it a second time.”

I looked up local entrepreneur-turned Atlanta hero, celebrity, and savior (for startups and entrepreneurs, at least) David Cummings on his blog for any tidbits of sage advice.  I searched for “features” and found a few, and really appreciated one particular post — “Consider Future Manual Labor When Adding New Features“.

In essence, Cummings talked about realizing the ramifications of building new features, especially when considering the manual labor downstream.  Pushing for features to go out the door quickly for testing is part and parcel to the Lean Startup process, but there must also be a careful consideration about the effects downstream as well.

As we build Body Boss, we’ve come to realize there were a few features that were just wholly cumbersome to use, especially speaking with coaches.  Each time we considered new features, or even existing ones, we have to take a careful look at whether or not we’re really addressing the problem in addition to if we’re just putting a bandaid.  Because in the end, our customer-partners will tell us if they don’t like the new bandaid vis-a-vis complaints or low adoption.

However, if our customer-partners continue to clamor for the better, simpler design or robust feature, it signals that it’s not that the feature is poor, it’s that the implementation is poor.  Much like Cummings blogged about, as we build out features (you, too), careful consideration should be done to understand whether or not the actual implementation is just a bandaid or if it goes to actually building a better feature, and in these days especially, is the feature SIMPLE???  Simple not just for the users, but also for you the Company — the builders.  Simplification leads to higher adoption.

So going back to Coach Wooden, if you don’t build your features and your product right the first time (and you’ll know it), when will you have time?  If you hear your customers clamoring for it, but they aren’t using it, chances are, you haven’t implemented it the right way.  Look at it from your customers’ perspectives, and if you start struggling with the feature, chances are, too, that your customers have the same hang-ups.  Let’s just hope that when opportunity comes knocking that you have the chance to still fix it the right way; else, your customers may just look for someone else that IS willing to do it the right way.

What are your thoughts on building out a product or a new feature?  Have you had trouble where you’ve built features, and haven’t seen it adopted despite customers wanting it?  If so, how, and how did you remedy it?

Today’s post is a bit different… Not talking about any supply chain or job specifically, but I wanted to touch on something that’s been on my mind a lot recently with my co-founded startup Body Boss Fitness.  That, and David Cummings has a great post about this: part-timing to build a product and company — great post and tough lesson (see article here).  It highlights a few very important lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs especially the need to run full-speed on a project.  That being said, I’d also like to  point out a few take-aways specifically for those aspiring entrepreneurs (this list is not all inclusive nor exhaustive, just immediately on my mind).  

  1. Building a business is tough.  Taking the plunge is not for everyone understanding there are life circumstances and personalities that necessitate bootstrapping a project.  Wheels may spin, and it’d be great to have that all crucial customer feedback soon and up front.  The key, I believe, is continuous learning along the way even if it’s internally focused (learning how to code, dealing with the attrition of team members, etc.).
  2. Be ready to commit at the right time.  Building on the preceding bullet, committing full-time to development of the product would be great, however, there are extenuating circumstances (yes, I’ll include “fear” here) that may necessitate bootstrapping.  What will surely kill your startup is launching and doing nothing to nurture it.  I learned this when friends and I launched ABigEffU.com.  Huge failure.  We developed it in 30 days, but after it launched, we just sat back thinking it would just take off.  It was a stupid move, and one that I also didn’t commit to because it was more of a challenge if we could build something but I wasn’t passionate about it.  There’s a big lesson learned — startups don’t go anywhere without care and attention (and some love).  It’s kind of like having a baby… take care of the baby while in the womb, yes.  You can still work, go out with friends (don’t drink, please), etc. while the baby’s in there.  But when that baby comes, you better be ready to commit to parenting.  (Maybe a bad analogy, but you get the point.)
  3. It’s about you.  I love ABC’s show Shark Tank.  Thank goodness I have a DVR so I can watch it and fast-forward through commercials.  Anyways, you hear some pretty wacky ideas on there, and some pretty good ones.  You can really tell who will succeed when you watch and listen to some of these presenter, nevermind their product.  I remember when I was in the Boy Scouts, I was at summer camp.  My friends and I started a “business” where we sold Magic Pens.  Magic Pens were nothing more than sharpened sticks with charred ends.  They let people write on the canvas of their tents and easily washed off.  We even dipped the end of the Pens in wax as a sign of authenticity and quality!  We sold them for a nickel with varying packages.  We ended the week with $10 in our pockets — enough to buy several slushies at the Trading Post.  Something so simple and silly that all of our customers knew how to make, but they still bought it to the tune of $10 (99% profit).  I didn’t know all the kids who bought the Magic Pens.  They bought because we did well marketing and selling charred sticks.  It’s about you… not necessarily your product.
  4. Be resilient.  And as David highlights, most startups fail.  Heck, Venture Capitalists pick 10 really, really good startups to fund with the hope that ONE of them will make it big. However, a key deciding factor of how a company will make it (potentially the ultimate) is the people.  Are they resilient?  Do those on the SharkTank take the hits and despite not getting love from the Sharks, do they learn, and are they passionate enough to succeed?  Spending weeks, months, or even years bootstrapping is one thing but once you launch, be resilient and focused to win.  Hear your customers, investors, and choose what you listen to.  Be resilient. Steve Jobs always had this notion that to succeed, you tell customers what they want.  Of course, you won’t succeed if you always ignore.  But you have to know which to listen to and what to file away.  J.K. Rowling pursued 12 publishers who all rejected her manuscript for Harry Potter before finding Bloomsbury.  I think she’s doing alright.

Like in grade school, “In conclusion…”, David’s got a great post about committing full-time to a project.  But if you’re a bootstrapper, you’re probably a bootstrapper for a lot of reasons, but make sure you’re learning along the way and you’re pushing the company and product as fast as you can.  This is especially true if you know this area is the next hot market — you don’t want to start competing against the world, afterall.  Just know that at some point, if you really want it to grow, you need to devote your time, energy, and love full-time.  The company is yours so it’s all about you and what you put into it, and how you can stay resilient to your product while knowing what to hear and what to listen to.  Like David said, it’s “tough” but he never said impossible.  

Strive for greatness fellow entrepreneurs!

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[1] Body Boss is a performance tracking application for sports teams and organizations.  Coaches can build customized workouts for their players to ensure workouts achieve fitness goals and beyond.  Body Boss creates social competition, continuously motivating and challenging players while driving accountability.  With Body Boss, coaches and players now have a competitive edge to win the battle off the field to deliver results on the field.Visit us at www.BodyBossFitness.com or contact us at info@bodybossfitness.com.


[2] David Cummings is a serial entrepreneur and investor in Atlanta, GA.  Mr. Cummings founded Hannon Hill and Pardot. Recently, Pardot was acquired by ExactTarget for $95.5MM.  You can view his blog here.