There are so many ways to cut my lessons learned from 100 Strangers, 100 Days. Today, I’m going to give you a slice of the grander, big-picture lessons. I’ve written 24. Yes, that’s a lot. However, I probably could’ve written a hundred, and indeed, I thought about it. However, that’d be overkill, and you likely wouldn’t read it anyways.

So, here are 24. 24 because… that’s just where I decided to draw the line. Enjoy them, but please… learn some lessons on your own, too. J
  1. It doesn’t take much to start something important to you. I came up with theidea for 100 Strangers, 100 Days while hiking one Saturday morning in September. Within two hours, I interviewed my first Stranger. Within six hours, I had 100Strangers100Days.comup and running. It doesn’t take much to start, and get something off the ground. Just takes focus and commitment.
  2. It takes a lot to be consistent. The hardest part of the journey was not meeting Strangers. It was meeting one and writing about the interaction each day for 100 days. Some days, I wasn’t feeling up for it. However, I did it because that’s what this journey was about. Being consistent. Being deliberate. Meeting people. This is what separates the true doers from the wanters – executing.
  3. You can meet people everywhere. I walked up to Strangers with familiar faces around the office, Starbucks, and yoga, primarily. However, I also met complete Strangers in these places plus while shopping, walking on the street, hiking Stone Mountain, in line for a restaurant in Boston, everywhere. Meeting new faces is not as hard as many believe. Couple this with explicit networking events, and you can meet like-minded people and build new and existing circles.
  4. Things may always be awkward, but you’ll be comfortable about it. I was pretty natural, I think, at the beginning. However, I was still uncomfortable and anxious walking up to complete Strangers to ask them to share their stories with me. That was true up to Day 100. However, I only need to be confident and happy with what I’ve done, so far, for many of those feelings to melt away, and even give light to excitement. I wholeheartedly believe I can walk up to anyone today, and strike up a conversation.
  5. Each opportunity has one thing in common – you. Even when I got rejected, the next person was a new opportunity. I remember being rejected three times in one day before finding a Stranger to talk to me. But each subsequent Stranger knew nothing about the person before rejecting me. I was the only person who knew. It’s important to know what happened, but to keep positive and keep authentic with each Stranger. Think about that if you’re in sales.
  6. People want authenticity. By the end, I had a near 80% acceptance rate. More than half of those who turned me down either because they didn’t have time, or just weren’t open for the picture to be taken. Otherwise, people were very open to just talking to me and sharing their stories. I approached many Strangers who were staring at their phones or working on their computers. Yet, they allowed me to interrupt them, and many smiled as I shared my journey and asked them to be the Stranger of the Day. All of them smiled at the end of our meets.
  7. Support comes in many forms. I had several friends share my journey on their many different social media accounts, and one friend who helped me troubleshoot my website when it went down a few times. Then, I had friends who would ask me questions about how it’s going, but weren’t open to sharing with their friends publicly. There are segments of support in almost everything you do. Know who they are.
  8. Some of the closest people are the most skeptical. I was surprised I was still surprised at this. That is, when I shared #100Strangers100Days with some family and friends, they laughed at the journey with heavy doses of skepticism. They were more skeptical and teasing of the journey than others. Again, realize the segments of support.
  9. Familiarity makes everything so much easier. I did meet a lot of Strangers who I had seen before, but never spoke to, or gotten to know, them. This made introductions, obviously, much easier. Some of these Strangers with familiar faces, I’ve seen for years. I can go on forever, probably, and never say hello to these people because maybe too much time has elapsed that it’d be “awkward”. However, being late is better than never. In fact, it can help break the ice with some laughter – “so after four years of seeing each other, I’ve decided you’re safe to meet!”
  10. It can be hard to be a good listener. Sometimes, my head was running with what else was happening around my life that even listening to the Stranger in front of me for 10 minutes was hard. Couple that with the nature of this journey, I had trouble at times listening to connect and understand. I was listening to respond/ react. This made me, at times, want to interrupt. Be careful if you’re not listening and truly connecting. (I became more conscious when a Stranger mentioned how interrupting others can create silent, negative behaviors long term.)
  11. We don’t see ourselves as beautiful as others do. I took hundreds of pictures of Strangers – several takes for some. I found many takes to be great the first time, but the Strangers would laugh awkwardly and tell me they thought they were ugly. Meanwhile, I took many candid pictures by snapping pictures while they laughed or looked around. Despite many Strangers posing for the camera, these same Strangers wanted me to share their candids.
  12. Not a lot of people think about who they are, or what drives them. A lot of people paused for long moments when I asked them, “Who are you?” Many admitted they didn’t know, and had to think hard. Meanwhile, I had Strangers talk to me days after our meet to share they thought more about the question. It’s interesting how people describe who they are by what they do for work or their relationship status – typically, modes that are extrinsically influenced.
  13. It’s not rambling, it’s sharing a passion. I remember running into a Stranger weeks after we met, and he felt that he rambled on during our meet. I told him that’s not how I felt at all. Whenever someone put me on a path and carried it, I liked that a lot. They shared what was on their mind, and in many cases, they shared their passion. Their excitement helped spur a little bit of a monologue, but that was a great thing to hear. Not everyone allows his/ herself to have a passionate monologue.
  14. You’ll never be yourself as long as you’re being what everyone wants you to be. A recurring theme I heard from others, and one that I lived the premise of through this journey, was being comfortable with who we are. There were Strangers who kept their passions from loved ones because they didn’t believe friends and family would appreciate the passions like they did. Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, I had my own skeptics from friends and family. If I was truly worried about what others thought of this journey, I probably would’ve stopped this long ago, let alone not started. Don’t be like everyone. Don’t mind whatever “weird” is. Be yourself. 
  15. People are acutely interested in whatever true happiness is. I asked the Stranger of the Day if s/he could ask anyone anything (effectively, the next day’s Stranger), what would s/he ask the Stranger? A very common question was what happiness meant, and what was “true” happiness. I’m not sure why that was so common. Was it because they wanted others to think happy thoughts? Was it because they weren’t sure what made them happy? Were they looking for inspiration for what happiness reallyis? A question for another Stranger. J
  16. People just need moments. People need moments to connect. People need moments to escape. People need moments to get in gear to talk about themselves – what drives them. People need a few minutes to set the day-to-day aside. It doesn’t take long or need extraordinary effort to do something or to achieve a smile. It just takes one moment.
  17. Every meeting was just a snapshot in time. Important to recognize we’re all dealing with different things at any given time. I remember a couple Strangers who shared how you never know how others are really doing. Being nice requires no money or skill. Opening a door with a big smile can transmit energy. Someone might have just sold an important life memento of a loved one while burying a best friend. Take a moment. Live in the present. And recognize the power of a single connection right now.
  18. Look up and connect. Over time, the journey became more engaging. Yes, I got better at the approach, but really, our conversations started to flow as my style evolved. At the beginning, I took notes with a pen and paper and a bank of questions. Over time, I stopped asking set questions except for the first question – “Who are you?” Then, I let the conversation flow from there. I then used a voice recorder, so I can look up during our entire interaction, and let the conversation flow. Readers recognized this shift, and responded accordingly telling me how the stories were much funnier, more engaging, and just flowed so much nicer. Let this be a lesson as you’re around others and you have that itch to look down at your phone.
  19. Small goals can work against your much grander goals. Goals are a funny thing much like a Stranger once told me about reaching goals. I kept my eye on Day 100. By doing so, I also had “pocket” Strangers – referring to something like a “pocket veto”. In this case, I knew there were Strangers around that I had seen enough that breaking the ice and engaging them would be really easy. With that, I wouldn’t meet them unless I knew I may have a “difficult” day coming up – like, I would be extremely busy, or would not see as many people. So, I saved these Strangers for difficult days, just in case. What this really did was give me too much comfort and delayed the grander ambition to make connections. Be aware of those goals and those metrics you measure.
  20. Get to know people to break biases and judgements. I caught myself a couple times looking at someone and making a snap judgement. When I realized I made a negative judgement, I told myself to go ask that person to be the Stranger of the Day. I wanted to force myself to get to know people, and beware of snap judgements. Each time I did this, I discovered something great about the person.
  21. People think you need a novel concept to start something. You don’t. A lot of people (friends and Strangers) were amazed by this journey. They were inquisitive about how this journey came about. They were fascinated about the stories. They then thought they couldn’t do it, or they could never think of a journey like this. Here’s the thing – meeting Strangers is not novel. Writing about them is not novel. I just wrapped it all up in a package, and did it. It’s almost always about execution, not the idea.
  22. Each connection is a connection that can change lives. I had several friends who read about a Stranger they had seen before, and then, they actually went to meet the Stranger. They used the Stranger story as a foot in the door to get to know the Stranger even better. I’ve even connected some because of business synergies. The most obvious connections are sometimes hidden in plain sight.
  23. People are great. People are beautiful. You can connect with anyone. To the point above, we all have some amazing story somewhere in us. The people around us are not that strange after all. The people around us are not as foreign after all. We are all connected in some way, and you’ll find that when you take a moment and say hello, and go beyond the hello.
  24. You’re sometimes never really ready, but you kind of assimilate to whatever success looks like just by doing. This lesson kind of wraps up a lot of the entrepreneurial lessons above. That is, the level of effort I put into this was a lot more than I originally thought. Had I known this, I’m not sure I would’ve started. I was nervous walking up to some Strangers, but once I put my feet together or said hello, there was no turning back. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to fire before you ready yourself and aim. Happily, I’ve found I’m pretty good at this whole make-it-up-as-I-go-along-and-learn-and-adapt thing. Just go.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats

I recently finished Clayton M. Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life?. My friend and former client recommended the book to me.
Christensen’s a professor at Harvard, and he starts out the book addressing his class. Indeed, the book has a certain business flavor to it. Yet, it’s relevant to think about what success looks like beyond our careers and what we do for a living.
In fact, the phrase “what we do for a living” has a business sentiment these days. If you think about it, it’s a general question. I work out. I go out with friends for dinner. I write… a lot. Oh, and yes, I also work at a startup. I do a lot for a living, not just what I get paid for. I digress…
Here are my top take-aways:
  • I need to met my hygiene and motivation factors to be happy. Frederick Herzberg developed the Two-Factor Theory. The Theory helps explain what drives us and what causes us to both hate/ love our jobs. This is something I’ve heard countless times from business school and a book I’m reading now. Hygiene factors include pay, status, company policies, etc. In business school, I learned these are “extrinsic motivators”. Motivation factors included the actual work (fulfilling? Challenging?), recognition, personal growth, etc. These were also known to me as intrinsic motivators – these are internal sources of drive. Satisfying both factors is critical for me, and why I do what I do.
  • Be open to emergent opportunities, not just jam everything into a deliberate path. Deliberate paths are just that – planned, executed strategies. Emergent is a path where other opportunities provide a new direction (“emerge”). In startups, this is a pivot. It’s important to be open and even sometimes look out for emergent opportunities.
  • Everything has some purpose, some job to do. This is better known as Christensen’s Jobs To Be Done Framework. The framework is about recognizing that everything we use has some job. Even the people around us perform jobs for us. That could be a friend to hang out with to be happy; a spouse to lean on when times are rough; or, a colleague to help execute a project. Even a milkshake has a job to do. Milkshakes can be a simple breakfast alternative for busy adults. They can also be a treat to occupy children. So, think about what others provide to you as the job to be done. Also, recognize what job you fulfill for your friends.
  • How you live is all about your resources, processes, and priorities. Christensen points out how we strive for more resources without considering the processes to which we use them. For example, it’s common to give children more learning tools and more classes. However, it’s just as easy to pass on teaching and childcare to a daycare or nanny. Parents, then, are outsourcing the parental process. Parents are outsourcing how their children learn and how they process – think, act, execute. Priorities set the culture to how we devote our resources and enact our processes. Priorities are where we determine for what and who we make our time for (the one resource we never get back).
  • It all comes back to culture. One of the book’s final chapters is, “The Invisible Hand Inside Your Family”. “Invisible Hand” here referring to culture. We (I) talk about culture in business, but it permeates all facets of our life. Christensen happens to address culture in the family. Specifically, culture is about the values and mission taught to children. Culture is rarely formalized. Instead, it’s recognized through the norms we practice. It’s absorbed by our children and those around us.
  • “Just this once” is once too many. It’s the slippery slope that makes this one action okay. It’s the rationalization that a single time is okay as long as it’s not a habit. That one time makes it okay once. So why wouldn’t life repeat itself where it becomes okay twice? Three times? The moment our integrity slips, the easier we can let go of our integrity more often. That moment we make that excuse that today, I’m too tired to work out so I won’t go to the gym. The next time I’m tired, I can rationalize again. One time. It can speak volumes. One time can lead to a path.

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

Great book to read, and think about our lives professionally, personally, socially, and beyond.
I wanted to wait to publish this week’s post, so it coincided with Thanksgiving. It’s a proper time to give thanks to those around me. Also, it’s a good time to reflect/ appreciate experiences to shape my entrepreneurial journey.
Since Thanksgiving last year, I’ve done many things:

Those seem pretty “professional-related”, but that’s also what has shaped much of my life. Accomplishing any of those has required the support of many others. Accomplishing any of those has also forced me to appreciate time alone and personal-growth. These have included:

  • Read six books with subjects ranging from sales to leadership to personal development.
  • Upped my yoga game, practicing at a legit yoga studio.
  • Maintained good strength and development in the gym.

So before I go into a reflective post best saved for the end of the year, my thanks:

  • My SalesWise team. Joined them at the beginning of this year, and we’ve been through a lot with our pivots. However, we’re getting some good traction now, and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve poured a lot of effort into the company. We’ve also had fun doing it. Meanwhile, the team has trusted me to do a lot. They’ve continued to put their faith in me to do right by them.
  • Infinity Yoga — that “legit yoga studio” I mentioned earlier.They were recently named one of the Best Small Business by Mindbody, and it’s easy to see why. The community at the studio is special. The culture cultivated by Becky (owner) and the other yoga teachers is amazing, and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s why no matter how busy I get, I make time to end many weekdays at Infinity. Oh, and yes, the yoga teaching is top-notch.
  • Communities at Atlanta Tech Village and Starbucks. Atlanta Tech Village is a great place to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs. They’ve been there, done that, or are doing that. Starbucks, meanwhile, continues to broaden my circle of people from all walks of life. It may be a local Starbucks, but the people who walk in and out of the doors are anything but “local”.
  • My close friends. You know who you are. Many of you were editors for my book. Many of you have attended my speaking engagements to support me. Many of you “stop by” (via random texts, emails, etc.) to just say hello and see what’s happening. The little events are what make a big difference. Spending hours or minutes with people is great. But even a few seconds to say you’re thinking of me or have a question is precious.
  • My oh-so-many new friends. I’ve met so many people (beyond the Strangers) who continue to shape my day-to-day. I meet them at ATV, at Starbucks, etc. It’s an amazing feeling when you see these new and old friends. They always manage to bring a smile to my face no matter what. When they flash a smile, I can’t help but do the same. Smiles matter.
  • My family. Hard to say anything without my family, right? They’ve always been there to also pull me out of my work and alone time. My niece is growing so fast, that it’s been beautiful to watch.

Many more thanks to give, I’m sure, but that’s where I’ll start. Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, that’s right… today’s Wednesday, and I “missed” yesterday’s blog post. Actually, that was on purpose because I’m shifting blogging back down to ONCE a week – weekly on Wednesdays. Why? Because I have started a little side project called 100 Strangers, 100 Days.
You might be able to guess what it’s about already… I’m meeting 100 Strangers over the course of 100 Days. I started last Saturday, September 17th. I should be wrapped up with my 100thStranger on December 26! How wild is that?
This little project (I laugh as I type “little” because it’s actually, I think, quite a big undertaking) came to me as I was hiking on Stone Mountain that Saturday morning for the sunrise, as I often do. As I walked, I realized a gentleman who was walking beside me for the last 5 minutes. I told myself I might as well say hello to him, and then, the lightbulb came on…
Everyone is fascinating and has some story to tell. I’m fortunate and grateful to have met some really amazing people. These amazing people have shaped who I am, and I’m proud of who I am and who I am becoming. I have looked at relationships as incredibly special to me – a realization surfaced from my time at Emory. That is, how much people and connections mean to me.
So on my hike, ironically, I didn’t end up meeting the man walking beside me as my mind went straight into thinking about documenting how I meet others – by reaching out, saying hello, and digging just a little bit deeper… with Strangers.
For whatever reason, the number 100 crept into my head for both 100 Strangers and 100 Days – had a nice ring to it. I thought about 30 days, but that didn’t seem very ambitious. 50 just sounded like an odd number. So 100 Strangers. 100 Days. Let’s go.
The purpose of this project is many, many fold.
  • To inspire connections. I want people to get out from their cellphones texting and “Snapchatting” to get to know people around them. Myself, I see so many people in my office, but do not say hello. I may say, “hi”, or give a friendly nod, but that’s the extent. I want to connect, and I believe we should all connect as social organisms. Plus, serendipity is a wonderful thing.
  • To motivate action. Like I said, 100 days is, I think, ambitious. I thought of the idea for this and within two hours, I was interviewing my first Stranger. Within 6 hours I had the website up. I want others who have passions or questions or a project in their heads to turn those questions to answers… to turn ideas into reality. I’m an entrepreneur because I execute. I want others to realize it’s not hard to start something magical.
  • To challenge myself. I wrote Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success last year. This could very well be another book down the line for me. That, and I want another personal/ passion project other than the passion for the startup I work for.
  • With 1 Stranger per 1 Day, I want to show it’s not hard to get out of our comfort zone. Just one little connection per 24 hours. It’s an exercise not to rush 100 connections, but to illustrate it’s possible on a consistent basis.
  • Show the world we can be compassionate and vulnerable. I can ask some deep, personal questions to which I hope to hear truths. I want to challenge others to be vulnerable to not just answering questions to me, but to sharing their story with the world (and their picture). It’s an incredible thing to ask, but I want to ask to let others make that choice… not me make that choice for them (which I have a terrible tendency to do – make choices for others). It’s a trust thing.
  •  To encourage us to get to know those who we don’t consider Strangers. I have friends now sharing THEIR answers to questions like they were Strangers. They want to share with me! Meanwhile, I have friends now asking THEIR friends these questions because they want to know what motivates them. It’s exciting to watch as we consider how people around us could be Strangers in some way, too.
  • To change the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors. I have no idea where this is going to go other than 100 Strangers… 100 Days. I may ask some more friendlier faces as I realize, too, that some familiar faces are just surface-level connections. As I said earlier, I want deeper connections, so maybe I go beyond Strangers. I don’t know if this will be a book. I don’t know if this will amount to anything “commercially viable”, but I’m good with that. I hope this journey motivates bigger effects on us as a community, as a nation, as a race. We all have common threads as well as beautiful differences. I want us to embrace each other and the effects of this journey for greateraspirations whatever they may be.

So stay tuned and check out these beautiful Strangers on http://100strangers100days.com – I’m on Day 12 today. Also, you can follow the journey via Twitter @StrangersXDays or Instagram @StrangersXDays.
Second straight post I want to share a story with you I’ve heard a couple times. But more recently, heard it from a fellow entrepreneur friend with a slew of great opportunities coming one after the other. And yet, he hasn’t grabbed any of the opportunities yet.
What are your thoughts? How do you relate?

“Parable of the Flood” by Author Unknown

A man was trapped in his house during a flood. He began praying to God to rescue him. He had a vision in his head of God’s hand reaching down from heaven and lifting him to safety. The water started to rise in his house. His neighbour urged him to leave and offered him a ride to safety. The man yelled back, “I am waiting for God to save me.” The neighbour drove off in his pick-up truck.
The man continued to pray and hold on to his vision. As the water began rising in his house, he had to climb up to the roof. A boat came by with some people heading for safe ground. They yelled at the man to grab a rope they were ready to throw and take him to safety. He told them that he was waiting for God to save him. They shook their heads and moved on.
The man continued to pray, believing with all his heart that he would be saved by God. The flood waters continued to rise. A helicopter flew by and a voice came over a loudspeaker offering to lower a ladder and take him off the roof. The man waved the helicopter away, shouting back that he was waiting for God to save him. The helicopter left. The flooding water came over the roof and caught him up and swept him away. He drowned.

When he reached heaven and asked, “God, why did you not save me? I believed in you with all my heart. Why did you let me drown?” God replied, “I sent you a pick-up truck, a boat and a helicopter and you refused all of them. What else could I possibly do for you?”
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for a photoshoot (yes, I was the talent – surprise!). I also used it as a chance to get away. When my colleagues found out, they wished me luck, have fun, and should be great. My response: “yeah, we’ll see”.
Not sure why I responded that way, but one of my colleagues laughed and shared with me the below story to which I very much relate to (and not just because the setting is China).
What are your thoughts? How do you relate? 

“We’ll See” by Author Unknown  

Once upon a time, there was a farmer in the central region of China. He didn’t have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field.
One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, “Oh, what a horrible thing to happen.” The farmer said simply, “We’ll see.” He was so at peace and so calm, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave him a new horse as a gift.
Everyone’s reaction now was, “What a lucky man.” And the farmer said, “We’ll see.”
A couple days later, the new horse jumped a fence and ran away. Everyone in the village shook their heads and said, “What a poor fellow!”
The farmer smiled and said, “We’ll see.”
Eventually, the horse found his way home, and everyone again said, “What a fortunate man.”
The farmer said, “We’ll see.”
Later in the year, the farmer’s young boy went out riding on the horse and fell and broke his leg. Everyone in the village said, “What a shame for the poor boy.”
The farmer said, “We’ll see.”
Two days later, the army came into the village to draft new recruits. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they decided not to recruit him.
Everyone said, “What a fortunate young man.”
The farmer smiled again – and said “We’ll see.”
… 200 posts, that is. Since this time last year (just about), I’ve published twice weekly to hit the 200-post mark in much faster span than my first 100. I have to say that 200 posts really doesn’t seem like much, but it really is.
Each post (with the exception of maybe two) has taken a couple rounds of editing and some thought process to author. It’s a good bit of work, especially now as I’ve taken on the full-time gig at SalesWise wearing lots of different hats from sales to marketing to customer support to website build.
So reflecting on my last 100 posts, here are the most popular posts:
It’s interesting to see which posts have resonated better than others, and I’m starting to draw some conclusions. I’ll share them on my next post – #201!

Now that I’m on the W2 train (read: employed at a startup, not running my own), I’ve been having this internal battle about “not being an entrepreneur”. It’s a voice that keeps me grounded in my passions and my dreams. Though I’m not actively building out one of my own ideas, I realize the opportunities in my current role and how it’ll give me a greater platform to build my next startup.
However, one important aspect I’ve kept up with is meeting with entrepreneurs, startups, and wantrepreneurs. I still meet to expand my network and broaden my view of the startup world while helping others. 
I’m happy (with a massive sigh of relief) that I’ve been able to maintain my many connections while succeeding in my startup role. 
In fact, in my weekends upcoming, I have brainstorming sessions with several entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs to flesh out their ideas and potentially spark new ones. I’m very much looking forward to these sessions as they let me think outside the box, and work with individuals who are highly successful in their fields. I get to jump in and provide input as a product entrepreneur to help them paint clearer visions and create action plans — this is what I absolutely love.
As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, currently, I am focused a lot on the tactical responsibilities of sales and marketing. I’ve created some great new material, but I’ve had to get real deep into the weeds. Sessions like brainstorming give me a chance to exercise even more creativity in realms I’m not particularly familiar with. However, they’ll help me flex and strengthen my mental muscles that will, in turn, help my current role.
Even though I’m not really an entrepreneur today running my own startup, I’m still pursuing entrepreneurial activities that will complement my current role as a full-timer at a startup. But also just as importantly, I’ve been able to maintain the entrepreneurial activities that I truly enjoy, and those that will help me in my path of being a successful entrepreneur in the future.
Last Thursday while giving a talk, I was asked by an audience member what I was really good at as an entrepreneur. I thought about it for a second and responded, “I’m great at solving problems”. Well, he was looking for one of the 10 talents according to Gallup’s Strength Finder for Entrepreneurs — Entrepreneur Profile 10.
An avid student of psychology and self-improvement, I was eager to take the test. My results in order of strength from highest (1) to lowest (10):
  1. Independence
  2. Determination
  3. Confidence
  4. Disruptor
  5. Relationship
  6. Knowledge
  7. Selling
  8. Risk
  9. Delegator
  10. Profitability
Not sure if sharing this would expose me negatively, but I see this as largely positive. Especially where I’ve been the last several years and, in many ways, where I am today, the results make sense. 
The independence talent coupled with determination and confidence is how I approach much of my work — largely solo efforts with head’s down dirty work. As I said in earlier posts since starting at SalesWise, I’ve been so focused on delivery of the tactical that working on the strategic level has been a challenge for me. 
On the flip-side, I wish selling were higher, especially given my current role, but my work has been in flux as we learn and iterate our messaging. As an early-stage startup marketer and seller, I’m evolving more than normal as I iterate towards better-targeted messaging to scale acquisition.
So, I’m not at all surprised on being low on delegation. Given the many different hats I wear and the many tactical pieces I need to deliver, I have developed a propensity to work in silo. I find myself learning new tools and methods so I can do more on my own — a paradox given workload vs. time. Instead, I have a strong locus of control as I want to own more of the processes end-to-end so I can learn what works and what doesn’t without fragmenting my (our) learning. This is especially beneficial (at the moment) as I work longer hours, and I am unable to get responsive help when needed. 
It’s good to see my talent rankings. Though, I hoped Gallup would show me the “intensity” scale for each talent. Meanwhile, I recognize the risks of each of these. Heck, I realized my independence was becoming stronger late last year, partially promoted by a growing distrust of others to which I’m happy to be a part of a team to rekindle the ability to trust. A good team is comprised of team members with complementary talents — to which I have a very strong team to fill the gaps (in talent) I have.
Scott Hightower speaking at the Emory Entrepreneur Network Breakfast Series on February 25th at the Morris, Manning, and Martin
I attended an Emory Entrepreneur Network breakfast last Thursday with Scott Hightower, President and CEO of Verified Security, as the speaker.
Scott spoke of his start in media production before making the leap into entrepreneurship by buying a small security company. Eight years later, the company is a highly successful managed security services provider for commercial customers. The company’s abbreviated customer list includes Clorox, Great American Cookies, Zaxby’s, and Holiday Inn.
Scott shared his top 12 lessons he’s learned since taking the plunge into entrepreneurship to which I’ll highlight the top 4 that stuck out to me.
  1. Focus on cashflow and profitability/ focus on recurring revenue. Scott saw a grand opportunity in the security company he bought in its relationships and a gap in providing monthly services. Scott implemented a recurring revenue model that helped his company through the economic downturn in 2008-2011, and it is recurring revenue that will drive the valuation of his company.
  2. Ask for help and connect with others. Scott worked at Cox Communications in media production for 15+ years and didn’t know anything about security. He realized he needed to reach out to others for help and to learn as much as possible as fast as possible. He enrolled in educational classes. He networked. He grinded to be a successful leader.
  3. Figure out the sales process and automate it. Scott cites Aaron Ross’s book Predictable Revenue as a source of great inspiration for his business. To accelerate sales, he figured out what would be too costly to serve or too far outside the company’s services and said no to them. Meanwhile, he streamlined and set out the structure that would enable selling to be a repeatable, scalable process.
  4. Work on your business, not too much in it. Scott cited how difficult it was to grow the business and focus strategically when he was in the weeds addressing anything and everything. It’s easy as a passionate entrepreneur to get tied into the weeds. For Scott, his task list kept growing and he spent too much effort on tactical tasks rather than strategic tasks. As the owner and driver of the company’s vision, he needed to delegate and prioritize.
  5. Don’t try to do too much – specialize. (Scott said he was going to list his top 10 to which he actually provided 12. Emulating Scott, I’m over-delivering with this fifth point.) This was a key learning for me as well from my early startup – build a focused product, not bloated with too many features and functions. Scott focused on his differentiators so as not to be trapped in a commoditized business where price competition ruled. Additionally, to succeed in efficiently addressing sales, services, and customer support, the company needed to specialize its services, not a broad stroke.

I enjoyed Scott’s lessons and the many books he pointed out as great teachers – added a couple to my list already. I’m giving next month’s talk on Thursday, March 24th so I’ve got my work cut out in following in his footsteps. If you’re involved in Emory at all, come hear the talk! Emory Entrepreneur Network Breakfast Series.