As my journey through consulting, post-grad education, entrepreneurship, and startup leadership continues, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my co-op experiences at a big corp more than 12 years ago.
Especially now as I’m recruiting, oftentimes, less experienced candidates than in my past, I’m realizing the value of spending more time at a big corporation.
At Georgia Tech, I was a co-op for four semesters at a major 3rd-party logistics provider in Atlanta. I remember falling asleep at my desk more than a few times that first semester. It wasn’t the most exciting as I was the spreadsheet analyst at first. Over the semesters, my projects became more complex, and I earned my stripes with my own special projects.
It was some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and laid the foundation for things to come. Here are some lessons now looking back at what I’ve learned.
  • Politics – Implementing changes at a big company is like steering a massive ship – it takes time, and a lot of effort. There’s a lot of personalities involved. There will be proponents and champions as well as blockers and gatekeepers. Knowing how to speak with executives while tactfully navigating the cluster of people is imperative. Politics and risks are huge facts of life that cannot be glossed over.
  • Structure – Big companies come with big structures. As much as you may jump and grimace at “structure”, structure gives us balance and the ability to prioritize. As a co-op, I learned the value of structure through workflows, time management, and simply, how to build an analysis.
  • Professionalism – I’m hiring in a startup. Yeah, you can wear a t-shirt, if you want. We’ll throw a stress ball around and crack jokes, but you can bet we will be professional with each other and with everyone we encounter externally. Too often candidates think professionalism is just “thank you” and “yes, sir”. Professionalism is about communication – both explicit and implicit. It can be silent communication through your body language. Professionalism is how you receive feedback, speak on the phone, and write an email. Too often candidates rely on what they think is good to him/ herself but fail to recognize what’s good for others.
  • Connections – Humans are social creatures, so relationships are vital to us. In the business world, relationships enable sales, recruiting, etc. I didn’t do a great job of connecting and forming good relationships with the full-timers. I did, however, form very good relationships with my fellow co-ops that later led to all sorts of opportunities. This is where I strive to better everyday in daily interfaces.
  • Reality – This sounds simple, but it’s not. Reading the best practices in books and learning about case studies is one thing, but reality sets in in the real world that toss much of what we hope and dream for out the window. That’s not to say things can’t be better, but there are details that make businesses so much more complex. Striving for better is always the goal, but failing to realize the holistic picture of yesterday, today, and tomorrow’s business can lead to disaster.
Michael Zeto of AT&T and former Founder and CEO of Proximus Mobility (sold) kicking things off for Mobility LIVE! Day 2’s keynote!
Day 2 from the Mobility LIVE! conference in Midtown was a full-day affair chock-full of some crazy interesting, provocative speakers. (I was told I should use more “interesting” language to elicit laughs and be more memorable. So for you reading this, you know who you are… you’re welcome.)
Yesterday’s post for Day 1 was much longer than I wanted to type, but it happened, and now I’m afraid of this post because… well, like I said, it’s a full-day rather than the half-day of yesterday. Let’s cut to the chase, that’s all you want to read anyways!
Okay, so here we go — Day 2 Highlights:
Keynote spearheaded by Michael Zeto of AT&T (former CEO of Proximus Mobility — acquired in 2013). Zeto touched on the many strengths of Atlanta as the central hub of the growth and evolution of Mobility.
  • Global data traffic to grow 13x in 2017 from today. That’s an outrageous number, but I’m not arguing
  • Georgia was ranked No. 5 in “app intensity” by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). App intensity is the number of app economy jobs compared to the overall jobs in the state
  • Razorfish, the marketing/ digital advertising/ etc. agency, is spearheading the Atlanta Pulse initiative to bring together all the happenings around Atlanta into a common platform. Gone are the days (to come anyways) of searching Facebook for what friends are recommending, Yelp! for restaurants, etc.
  • 38% of 2-year-olds have operated a mobile device; 13-years-old… the average age of the first phone (see Common Sense Media)
David Christopher, CMO of AT&T Mobility, shared some of the Top 5 trends he and the company sees during the keynote.
  • Sees mobility in two lights — Leadership & Innovation and Scale (able to capture opportunity now)
  • Cites Forbes’ 2014 ranking of Atlanta as the number 3 best city for young entrepreneurs (see Forbes)
  • Five main trends: Relationship marketing, video, smarter smartphone, wearables, education
  • For Relationship Marketing, the key is marketing at SCALE! That is, how are organizations reaching consumers on a relevant, personable context?
  • Customers believe word-of-mouth over advertising to the tune of 92%!
  • Use advanced analytics to engage audiences
  • David cited Atlanta-based InsightPool as a key player in Relationship Marketing saying, “Delivering sincerity at scale”
  • Video-wise, content should be available anytime, anywhere. AT&T obviously plays a significant role in this with its large LTE network (and beyond)
  • For wearables, the trouble is getting people to actually want to wear it. David cites 75% of people know of wearables, but only 9% want to wear it
  • Need to blend high tech with high fashion. enter: Atlanta-based Memi – smart jewelry “made for and by women”
  • Smarter smartphones really involves making the smartphone the keystone to everyday life including, but not limited to: the connected home, car, TV, music, health, etc.
  • David talked about FIXD, a startup by several Georgia Tech grads who have introduced a way to plug a dongle to the car’s OBD port that sends data to your smartphone to share information including if you have a warning light — what’s that mean? What’s the impact if you ignore? What’s the potential repair estimate? etc.
  • On the education front, David sees a gap to fill in the next generation of STEM leaders
  • David showcases Great Parents Academy who works hard to develop education apps that are engaging for kids
Jeff Mitchell, Vice President of Sales of AirWatch got some airtime to share a couple tidbits, too.
  • Today, we’re in the “Age of the Customer” — this was a prevalent theme throughout the conference where the Customers (users in most cases) have the power to select on-demand what they want to engage in
  • Shift in focus to “How to win in the age of the Customer?”
  • There’s also a shift from “system of record” to “system of engagement”. For this, look no further than Uber which disrupted one of the oldest, entrenched industries
  • Also, look at how to bring social into the enterprise to engage employees (B2E — Business to Employees)
“Prove It: Mobile Media Drives Measurable Actions” session led by Millennial Media’s VP of Sales, Alia Lamborghini (side note: what an incredible last name…)
  • Panel included: Troy Brown of MSL Group (a PR agency) who is bringing app development (and really acumen) to the agency; Sanarr McLaughlin is the Manager of Interactive Marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG); Chris Bigda of The Coca-Cola Company over Connections Planning and Investments; Lisa Cantrell of Turner Broadcasting serving as the Director of Digital Strategy and Activations; and Erin Arnett, an Account Director of Yahoo!
  • For Chris, “connections planning” includes the paid/ owned media
  • Lisa must consider the sizeable and highly variable audience to which Turner broadcasts to with channels including CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, etc.
  • Per Alia, 86% of time spent on mobile is in-app vs. internet (see Forbes)
  • There’s a growing interest and attention in anonymous content. Think: Snapchat (kind of), [Atlanta’s own] Yik Yak, etc.
  • The Coca-Cola Company doesn’t store so much consumer data (except for owned data through programs like Coke Rewards). Instead, the Company partners with other companies for more data (like agencies, McDonald’s, etc.)
  • Mobile marketing is more “finite” by being a lot easier to measure than TV (conversions, impressions, etc.). There’s a better sense of Return on Engagement
  • One area of opportunity is the growing fragmentation of screen sizes including this “phatblet” phenomenon whereby many companies are designing mobile web-responsive sites. However, their digital ads are not properly formatted
“Think Outside the Bricks and Mortar: Understanding How Mobile is Moving Retailers” session led by Mike Neumeier, Principal of the Arketi Group (B2B marketing/ PR agency)
  • Panel included: David Wilkinson, VP of Global Channel Sales for NCR; Jeffrey Smith, the COO of PeterBrooke Chocolatier; David Kaiser of Great American Cookies as a Vice President; and Brooks Robinson, Co-Founder and CEO of Atlanta’s Springbot
  • First, what a SWEET group of panelists! (See what I did there? Well, they said it before me…)
  • For Wilkinson, he’s focused on the omni-channel experience. Mobile is really an evolution of the physical store front
  • Per Wilkinson, the “consumer driving the experience” — not different from the general theme of the conference
  • Jeffrey noted how his company’s many stores were moving towards mobile Point-of-Sale to better engage the Customer right as he/ she walks into the store. In fact, he was touting NCR as his POS of choice with Silver to leverage iPads
  • There’s a shift in the mentality and even the demographic of the employee behind the retailer when utilizing a mobile POS including getting out from behind the counter which used to be a natural barrier that isolated the cashier from the customer
  • 95% of PeterBrooke customers are women on the regular. Irregular probably being around Valentine’s Day or when men get in trouble with their significant others…
  • The demographic for PeterBrooke is also a little older where some consumers still don’t have smartphones. So for the Company, the phone number is key as an identifier (reminds me of WhatsApp)
  • For Kaiser and Great American Cookies, they have 5 different brands (including the cookie cake company we all know and love (okay, me especially), Marble Slab Creamery, etc.)
  • Kaiser and Company are looking at mobile as a means to have a strong online order platform
  • Like PeterBrooke, Great American Cookies is looking at NCR for Silver as their POS of choice. I’m wondering now if this was all a set-up that the two retailers are touting a fellow panel member’s new product… Hmm…
  • The cost and set-up of using a mobile POS is minimal with incredible benefits including the ability to engage the EMPLOYEES through learning management. Also, these POS systems enable better customer experiences by connecting loyalty programs
  • Great American Cookies noticed 60% of visitors a couple years ago to the mobile site also signed up for their loyalty program (that’s a great attach rate…)
  • For Springbot (very cool company that I’ve heard a lot about in the Atlanta startup scene), they can see data for hundreds of stores. They’ve noticed big shifts of mobile traffic from 19 to 28% over the last year
  • Like the earlier panel “Prove It”, Brooks sees a lot of merchants forgetting to mind the message and formats of their email marketing campaigns. If emails aren’t formatted properly for the mobile device, merchants aren’t going to reach customers (who can read that??!)
  • Speed of the site from an infrastructure perspective is a growing critical element… one that even Google’s ranking system takes into account
  • Springbot sends nightly email with recommendations to the customer (the retailer) on improvements — go beyond just dashboards and reports by actually suggesting
  • David Kaiser is a HUGE advocate for a simple box that can aggregate and consolidate data across multiple POS systems. For Great American Cookies’ franchises, they can sit on different POS’s… getting meaningful data can be a challenge
  • A lot of excitement and interest in Apple Pay as well as Apple Passbook as means to not only pay via mobile to engage new, younger audiences, but also the ability to replace merchant-specific apps. Most consumers really don’t want to download and install new apps
  • Merchant-specific apps really have to add a lot of value in order to get engagement
Great. I just wrote another lengthy post… I didn’t even attend the last two session rounds, either. This was more or less an extrapolation of my notes I took. Very interesting insights, and I’ll need a few days (probably a week for next week’s blog post since I just wrote two this week for this) to digest and share my own personal thoughts.
Overall, really great event, and I’m excited it’s mobilizing Atlanta’s influential companies to gather and share. I attended the event for some additional inspiration in addition to satiate my technological interest. I’m looking forward to the event’s growth next year with perhaps some additional, event-friendly venues (you should use local startup Gather to help, Metro Atlanta Chamber!) as well as integrating some more startup companies — mostly early-stage as the there were a number of advanced startups present. Adding in some foreign companies (beyond Georgian borders) will be good, too.
Also, event somewhat aside, it’s evident Atlanta is indeed sitting on the cutting edge and as a central hub for the mobile (r-)evolution. It’s exciting to hear all the stats beyond shown up on the projectors for all the great things Atlanta is being known for as well as the growth of the industry and the opportunities that abound for this great city. Heck, just look around at all the recruiting companies in attendance. Also, shout out to my under grad alma mater The Georgia Institute of Technology for getting all sorts of recognition and a source for a lot of the innovation happening in mobile. You could really see and hear and really witness how Georgia Tech is a major catalyst for the ecosystem. It’s all great news for not just Atlanta and the state of Georgia, but also for the country and the world.
To next year’s Mobility LIVE! conference! See you there.

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. 
Neo Moments happen all the time to people. They’re watershed events that spur sometimes drastic changes in approaches in life. Many people will have several Neo Moments in their lives. What’s common, I think, is some underlying voice as Matt Trinetti puts it in his article that starts creeping in and whispering to you that something else is calling. That voice eggs you on, and oftentimes, taking a leap into some foreign territory be it traveling, educational experiences, or some near-death experience, that’s where Neo Moments seem to crystallize for people. It’s where people get out of their comfort zones (sometimes unintentionally), and push themselves into places where that little inner voice encourages them.

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?

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

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

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

We started with…

And ended with…

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

It occurs to me that Body Boss has a great story.  A great story of why we’re here today with Body Boss trying to disrupt the “industry” of Team Strength and Conditioning.  
Darren Pottinger really started us on this path back in 2010/ 2011 of bringing more intelligence to working out – bringing regression and statistical modeling/ forecasting to training with a simple Excel model… yet can be built better and stronger.  Being the zealous and extraordinarily gifted problem-solver and programmer, Don Pottinger joined in on the fun looking to build the spreadsheet into something greater – an app for the masses.  
For several months, the brothers Pottinger iterated, and it was in the fall of 2011 when Andrew Reifman joined the team to bring his black magic of Design Creativity to the fold.  Andrew and Don were long-lost friends from Dunwoody High School.  After learning Andrew had built award-winning sites while working at various design agencies, Don asked Andrew to join.  Definitely loved his personal website.  I mean, how do I get little power bars like the X-Men cards I used to collect???  This Andrew guy is LEGIT.
I’m not sure when I really joined because I was consulting and always traveling.  Tell you what – if you can travel while trying to do your own startup, props to you because I don’t recall when I was adding value on a consistent basis.  SO enter me, Daryl sometime in that glorious assembly of the Dream Team.  Having played soccer at Tech with Don, we had become best buds for a while.  I bring to the field the execution and drive as well as some patience for the business administration – makes sense since I was entering Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in the accelerated One-Year Full-Time program May 2012.
Gifted with an extraordinarily talented team who also lived and breathed personal fitness, we entered Startup Riot as one out of 30 startups competing in a pitch-off of sorts in Atlanta in February 2012.  Many to this day will never forget our presentation where Darren stripped off his shirt to the hoots and hollers and affection of women… and men.  We were voted into the Top 5, and at the time, we were aiming to be a B2C company.  We were going to build an app based on the principles of intelligent personal fitness leveraging the growth of mobile and technology.  Though, we didn’t even have a product to show.  All we had was a dream.
After meeting with Georgia Tech and re-evaluating our strategy, we decided to shift to the B2B market – focusing our efforts on helping improve the feedback loop between Coaches and Players in sports teams and organizations.  As we reflect on our own past experiences, workouts were disseminated from Coaches to Players via sheets of paper and rarely, if ever, were those workout results ever returned to the Coaches. Even rarer was when the Coaches would take those sheets of workout results and plug them into something like Excel spreadsheets.  Tracking pieces of paper, writing it all down, transcribing the number into Excel… that’s about a 2-3 minute process for a single player.  If you’re a Coach of a team with 50 players, you can do the math and that’s a lot of wasted time.  Add to that other competitors’ focus on just the Coach… that’s not how TEAM sports are played.  We wanted to create a tool that engaged everyone on the team from the Coaches, Trainers, and the Players.  Afterall, Players are the ones who have the execute come game time.  That’s when Body Boss was really born.  
We built towards a vision without actually talking to too many other players or Coaches, but in August, we met with the Athletic Director of Centennial High School in Roswell, GA where we presented the initial design and vision of Body Boss.  Excited for what we were working on and seeing an immediate value, he invited us back after a few enhancements.  In December, we really locked in with the Head Football Coach and Head Baseball Coach at Centennial High School to trial Body Boss with their players starting January.  Everything since then has been… shall we say, history.  
So here we are, a bunch of Georgia Tech nerds + a talented Graphics Designer from University of Georgia.  Our home is Atlanta, GA, and our dreams lay in the stars.  Our backgrounds in soccer, weight training, certified personal fitness training, expertise in data and analytics, technical programming and design know-how, some great business sense, and a whole lotta drive… we’re aiming to change the world.  We’re not just a team… we’re a family looking out for one another.  We’re proud of the family and friends we’ve earned over the years, and we will make you all proud.  We’re here to disrupt the team strength and conditioning space with Body Boss.  Be excited.  Visit us at BodyBossFitness.com. Follow us.  @BodyBossFitness