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? 
Blend in just enough for better positioning… (Image source: http://tinyurl.com/ohhqkoa)
There are ton of MBA vs. Startup articles out there, and no doubt there are those who have very passionate (if not myopic) views on the subject. Like every other research paper, it’s catered to our views. I was even told recently in an interview at a startup that an MBA is largely looked down on in startups. So my view? MBAs suck! No, wait, MBAs are great! No wait…
Does it really matter? Maybe. My view is really that at the end of the day, we make do with what we’ve got. I’ve got that little piece of paper with “Master of Business Administration” and my name on it. I’ve also founded a startup and worked with several others. So maybe I have one of those amazing perspectives cuz I’ve been on both sides.
At the end of the day, the MBA was a great experience. Learning all these different subjects like Finance, Accounting, Marketing, etc. isn’t going to be the real value of the MBA. Instead, it’s really about the connections. So if you’re like me trying to really solve the aches and pains vis-a-vis B2B technology, it’s great to know I have friends and business school connections at companies of all sizes across the world. Essentially, I have some great prospects to ask questions or test out ideas.
At the end of an MBA program, you’ve got a great foundation of all the major business functions. What’s that mean? Well, for one, you know how to talk the talk, walk the walk, you can blend in with the rest of the corporate suits. That then enables you, as an entrepreneur, chameleon-like powers to be able to blend in with potential customers! When we think about customers and how to really sell or even build a product for them, it’s all about empathy and credibility.
You can get some empathy points with a corporate client when you know how companies really work. How does pushing that button or pulling that lever in marketing affect operations at the warehouse? How does inventory play in accounting? Big corporations drive the world even though small companies really employee the lion’s share of the workforce. (Think how big companies lobby and influence government policies. If small companies worked together…) With that, education is still highly valued in big corporations meaning that little sheet of paper gets you in the door as an employee or as a vendor.
Building a startup is like getting the theory behind the practice. Except, you’re also getting the practical lessons. In business school, I learned all these marketing terms, all these little financial models, but when we were building Body Boss, we organically built out the marketing mechanisms. We learned and adapted our sales strategies that was otherwise just talked about in case studies. With Body Boss, we built our own pipeline tracker and indeed, our own crude CRM. We weren’t just handed SalesForce at a major company to run with it. We now understand why we tracked various marketing and sales activities and why and how we employed drip marketing. You give us a powerful technology like SalesForce or PipeDrive, and that just becomes an accelerator for us. We’ve lived and learned from the bottom of theory, and we’ve lived the practice. 

With an MBA as an entrepreneur, I feel that much more Ninja-like

I went into Emory’s Goizueta Business Schoolto help augment my otherwise entrepreneurial/ freestyle consulting style with some structured approach. I have no interest in really sticking to one of those extremes of being wholly freestyle and entrepreneurial or highly structured. Instead, I’m trying to adapt a style between the two that fits me. Startups, as they get more successful, are startups for only so long before they feel the pressure of implementing some structure. Facebookis NOT a startup anymore, but credit to them for enabling a culture that still feels entrepreneurial. Other large corporations like IBM, GE, etc. were once startups, too. However, those corporate policies, operations, etc. are adaptations over time to sustain growth and support existing customers. With an MBA and some corporate experience behind you, you get to leverage some structure to the entrepreneurial spirit to get the best of both worlds.

I’ve seen plenty of people who have MBAs, and they’re wallowing in the pits of large corporations. I’ve seen MBAs be highly successful in startups. Does it all really matter? Nah. Instead, all about the mindset of the individuals and their drive. If you can leverage your background in a way to better understand the world and your market, your employees, your community… you can position yourself to succeed. If anything, I think that’s what any opportunity presents you with – positioning. Be it startups, an MBA, a techno-blog write-up, an introduction into a company, or an interview. How will you use your background to succeed? That’s how I view it.

How do you think education (and level of) plays a role in your job? What do you think you have in terms of [“requisite”] experience to be entrepreneurial?

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?

On any given day, there’s about a 60% chance you’ll find me at Starbucks working.  It’s a great, free working space complete with vibrant energy, wake-up aromas, and, especially this time of year, snowman sugar cookies.  Ah, and there’s usually a fascinating collection of people hanging out/ working.  This past Friday night, I was writing some Holiday/ Thank You cards to our customer-partners and other prospects when I was complimented on our cards by a fellow Starbucker (yes, handwriting them – crazy in this day of keyboard and touchscreen typing, I know). 
My new friend is an MBA student at Georgia State, and was a previous Psychology major in undergrad.  She was worried a bit about having a non-business background and post-graduate opportunities.  This was a great conversation for me because I’ve long appreciated how psychology intertwines with business.  It’s not readily apparent, but it really is.  Talk to any good salesperson, and he’ll know exactly how to talk to you and potentially what makes you tick and tock. 
Some quick thoughts on how psychology is engrained in entrepreneurship and business overall…
  • Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses.  Assessments like the Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, Berkman, etc. can be simple ways of finding out more about yourself.  These assessments may help you realize more about yourself to capitalize on your strengths and limit your weaknesses while building your career around your personal interests.  I’d recommend, however, that as much as you limit your weaknesses, to also work on those weakness or what stresses you — this can help you be a stronger performer – “be comfortable being uncomfortable”.
  • Building a Balanced Team.  As a continuation of the Strengths and Weaknesses above, building a team for a startup or small business with balanced strengths and weaknesses allow for a stronger company in addition to its product/ service offering.  For Body Boss, we do actually have differing personalities, and it challenges each of us to think more about why one another feels the way we do when we consider marketing campaigns, licensing and selling opportunities, or even just philosophies that shape our startup’s culture.

  • Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes.  Marketing has psychology all over it.  You have your target audience in mind.  Do you know what language they speak?  What style of communication they perceive?  How about what really resonates with them so that you can grab their attention right away?  Marketing is all about diving into the psyche of your customers and compelling them to engage with you.
  • Sales is All About Your Customer.  Many people will tell you that an effective sales strategy is to have the customer speak.  I think this can be somewhat true in terms of getting engagement.  However, why I like this rule of thumb is so that it gives me a break and a chance to listen to the customer and analyze him/ her.  Customers are all different, and chances are, your product/ service has many value propositions.  By sitting back and listening to your prospects, you can hone in on what matters to them and cater your value message accordingly.
  • Threshold of Pain.  My new friend asked me what signs a successful entrepreneur exhibits/ has.  I have many thoughts to this, not necessarily from my own perspective, but witnessing others.  One of the standout factors?  Mental and emotional fortitude.  Beyond the physical demands of being an entrepreneur (like lack of sleep), it’s the mental and emotional toll of going through the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship including feeling INCREDIBLE when new customers finding out about you to incredibly FRUSTRATED due to low user engagement, then back to a HIGH after a great exhibition at a conference, then dipping back down LOW from unsuccessful trial conversions.  Because much of entrepreneurship is about passions and the creation of your own product, it takes a toll both mentally and emotionally.  I recommend you watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk about this in “The Key to Success?  Grit”.

A company, a product… in the end, behind the curtains are people.  Perhaps this is also why psychology actually plays a significant role in business.  For my fellow Starbucker, I think having a background in psychology will give her a different perspective, and with an MBA to help round out her business abilities, she’ll have a strong platform to build on.

What are your thoughts on how psychology plays a role in business and entrepreneurship?  Where else do you feel psychology plays a critical role in business?

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