My buddy is one of the best networkers around. He’s got people everywhere and for anything. Need a “container guy” (a guy who sells shipping containers)? He’s got one. Need to reach the head of a major healthcare system? Check. So when he was approached to help build traction and sales for a new product for pets – he knew everyone.
  • Product was ripe for ABC’s Shark Tank. He knew a guy who could get the company on-air. In fact, they started on the path of filming.
  • Reached out to several local businesses as points-of-sale for the product – 1000 units preordered.
  • Went to community events and locales to interview prospective consumers – got hundreds of great feedback and buying interests.
  • Secured seed investment to make production runs.
  • The list goes on…
He had agreed with the founders of the idea/ company on his compensation structure – namely, equity in the company based on milestones to which the founders agreed. After all the sweat and time spent to bring the company to executing on the funding, start filming, start production, the founders back-pedaled on everything. My friend never had a contract in place. The founders started sweating about equity only after he captured traction and pre-orders.
Needless to say, my buddy pulled out of the opportunity. Funding never occurred. The lots of product that was produced later sits in a storage unit.
I asked my buddy for his lessons learned…
  1. Never start without a contract. Similar to the entrepreneurs I spoke with months ago, being explicit and documented in expectations early on helps mitigate problems that willarise when there’s an inkling of success.
  2. Know who you’re getting into bed with. Startups are difficult, and having the right team in place for success is sometimes serendipitous but needs great consideration. The early team should be aligned as the culture starts from the beginning.
  3. Inventions are not businesses. Companies have products, but they don’t necessarily have revenue. Companies only exist as long as they stay solvent. The founders of the company believed having a product automatically equaled sales. Nope!
  4. 100% of 0 is 0. I remember at Body Bosswhen we were a bit greedy in sharing equity with a potential strength coach to become an Advisor. We didn’t end up asking him to be an Advisor and saved our ownership. Problem is that he ended up becoming the strength coach of the year and a Super Bowl coach while we kept 100% of a shut-down company.
  5. Your brand persists through ups and downs. My buddy made sure to meet face-to-face with each retailer he presold to to tell them the company wasn’t moving forward. He had to go back to his main investor to stop the check. As hard and shameful he felt about not moving forward, he ensured his contacts were in-the-know. His personal brand is fully intact and even strengthened due to his integrity and honesty.

My buddy is a great sales professional. He’s a great networker. Even though this opportunity fell through, he has many more opportunities available. But now, he approaches them with a lot more diligence.

This is a Daryl Lu original brought to you by Microsoft PowerPoint. No judging. Work with what you’ve got!
I’ve been posting all these Quotes of the Week on Facebook, Twitter, etc. that are meant to be inspirational. Many of those as well as the blogs I’ve been reading have been about motivating/ inspiring those to quit their jobs in favor of ones that fit their passions. Or at least, pursue a future where you can be happy both professionally and personally – fits your values. UGA alum and recent TEDx’er Barrett Brookssays to pursue that job you say “TGIM” – Thank God It’s Monday, rather than Friday (TGIF). I like that idea, though, I’d suggest having that feeling everyday.
So, after all these ghostly voices telling you to pursue something greater, you’re ready to take the leap, right? No? Why not? Everyone’s telling you to. C’mon… Heck, I have a friend who just informed her grad school she’s dropping out to pursue her passion in singing. Ready? Set? GO!
Okay, okay, so let me fill in the gap – where you are, THE GAP, and actively entrenched in your passion. Yes, that GAP where you either are about to leap, in the air of your leap, or just leaped. What should you do?
  • Have a Personal Kumbayah Session. That is, take some time out of your “busy” day to realize who you are. When you’re making a leap either into foreign territory/ on your own, it’s important to do a little introspection so you hone in on what you want to do, who you’re looking to connect with, why you’re doing this, etc. This is also great to figure out if the voices in your head will bring you actual happiness (and all that hoopla) or if you’re actually hearing voices your therapist should know about.
  • Unify Your Marketing Message. I’m actively helping a startup right now whose message is a bit fragmented. As the startup looks to scale, it’s really important to unify the message for investors, customers, users, etc. From your Kumbayah, bring everything together with a succinct message so you can start marketing who you are to the masses and, especially, those who matter.
  • Build Your Brand. In my eyes for entrepreneurs, wannabe singers, dreamers, etc., you should start producing and sharing whatever it is you believe in. I started blogging a couple years ago because I wanted to be a leader in not only companies, but in industries. However, I already had great experiences to share, and shouldn’t need to wait till I was in my 40’s with several gray hairs to be valuable. First of all, I’m 29, and realized that my hair’s already thinning so gray hairs may never come. So start blogging, tweeting, singing on YouTube/ open mics, etc. Start building your brand and an audience. It gives you a “home” to fall back on and share with others, digital or otherwise.
  • Ask for Help or the How-To. I’m a big proponent of networking and reaching out to others and asking for help. I used to be pretty introverted and hated asking for help. However, people WANT to help you. If you’re going to go out and really change course, you’ll likely need help from others – partners, investors, or even potential customers. I’ll reach out to those who have been “there” and those who are where I want to be. You’ll be surprised with how small the world is and maybe find the new, exciting opportunity you’ve been craving for. Go to conferences. Go to meet-ups. Meet people. Volunteer!
  • Put Together a Plan. A lot of the above doesn’t quite lead anywhere if you don’t have some goals to achieve, and that’s why it’s always good to put together a plan with specific goals for what you want to accomplish. When you hit the goals, do a mini celebration, and continue on. Just remember, your plan is living and breathing and much like your journey, will need to adapt and be flexible, but don’t get carried away with delaying for the sake of flexibility.
  • Jump When You’re Ready. Or Not. I love the sink or swim mentality sometimes. When you’re backed into a corner, you have no choice, but to fight to survive. That’s why I love going full-time on a startup. A buddy from college was tired from consulting and booked a one-way ticket to Iceland and a 7-month sabbatical from work. When he returned, he quit the job, and is now pursuing his passion writing, traveling, and speaking — his story here on the Huffington Post.It’s rare you’ll ever be fully “ready”, but you’ll likely be ready enough. Refer to Jeff Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework.

So what’s the point with all of this? Not everyone is an entrepreneur at heart or is ready for a startup’s demanding schedule and uncertainty (or to be a singer). But if you’ve got that pull to change direction or a great idea you want to explore, there’s certainly a lot of steps you can do to make that gap a little smaller as you decide to take that leap, should you choose to. I like to take calculated risks, so I hope this helps mitigate the size of the GAP for you. Happy leaping!

What other advice would you give to someone facing the Leap? How could someone narrow the Gap and position him/ herself for a successful pivot?

How often are you walking around when you notice someone wearing a Jawbone Up or Nike Fuel band?  They’re really starting to blow up and be everywhere, aren’t they?  The movement for wearable technology is just a growing wave, poised to be a tidal wave that consumes the world along with Google Glass, smart watches, and of course, those wearable devices for fitness.

I have a Jawbone Up — received as a gift from my brother and sister-in-law for graduation earlier this year.  It’s always intrigued me being a guy who loves to quantify myself because I’m always looking to be smarter, faster, stronger, whatever.  I’ve always been a terrible sleeper, and the Up band’s ability to track my sleep patterns was a pretty cool function (how accurately is another question).  I did have a couple issues with my band, but I found myself wanting to get it remedied with Jawbone quickly not necessarily because I wanted to track my sleep or count my steps.  I missed having it on my wrist not just because I felt lighter without it on my wrist.  Instead, I missed having it to showcase to the world that I care about exercising and I’m kinda nerdy so I want to quantify it.  Odd thing it’s become.

Ryan Hoover, a blogger, wrote an article about how he has a Jawbone Up, but admittedly, doesn’t track anything anymore (see the article here).  The original novelty had worn off for him.  However, he continues to wear it simply because of the “branding” it provides.  When I go out and see someone with an Up band, there’s almost this subtle head nod to the other person.  Or if I see someone with one or one of the other wearables, I automatically have a notion that this person is an exerciser, and I immediately shift that person in my head to a different category of person.  (Because I value fitness and health.)

The underlying notion I’ve appreciated more as I tote this wristband is the idea of personal branding.  It’s this notion that we’re all marketers kind of like how we’re all salespeople (see Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human) — we sell who we are to get a date, we sell a suggestion for dinner, we sell our athletic prowess to get a spot on the team, or just outright, we sell for our job.  And with this thinking, here’s what I’ve kind of learned in general and as an entrepreneur…

  • You do care.  Everyone says they don’t stereotype, but what you wear, how you present yourself in an email, everything is being scrutinized.  Why?  Because you care about who you interact with.  Plain and simple.  What someone wears, what someone says, it all paints some story for you.  I think we all like psychology to an extent because we like to hypothesize that person’s story. So mind how you communicate…
  • You’re a walking, talking billboard.  You might actually have a company’s logo plastered on your chest, or you may have a partially eaten fruit icon lit up all nice and bright on your computer.  Other than that, little details are sometimes amplified depending on what others value.  Something like a small wristband can convey a big message.  As an entrepreneur, you should realize that what you wear, say, and do can represent your company, too.
human billboard
  • Market to the audience.  I think one of the challenges some entrepreneurs… actually, everyone has is that sometimes we get hurt if our idea or who we are doesn’t resonate with certain people.  I did a pitch of Body Boss to a room full of investors, entrepreneurs, students, and teachers in business school.  It resonated with half, while the other half felt otherwise.  At the end of the day, you should understand that not everyone is going to have the same value for what you do or who you are.  You have to understand that you’re marketing to a TARGETED audience, not everyone.  Side note: respect everyone even if that “value” is not the same.
  • Be one with your audience. Speaking of marketing to your audience, know what your target audience values and who they are — talk the talk, walk the walk.  I once was pitching Body Boss to some potential coaches, and I was using some silly b-school lingo.  The coaches called me out, and I realized we weren’t even speaking the same language.
  • Be ready.  You never really know who you’re going to run into.  Be respectful, courteous, and potentially, your eccentric self.  I got a flat on my bike while mountain biking once, and while walking my bike back to my car, a fellow mountain biker stopped and gave me one of his bike tubes and helped me fix my flat.  I later learned he was an Senior Vice President of a large bank.
  • Love yourself.  That sounds cheesy and kinda “hippie”, but I’m sticking to it.  I think that we’re all at this interesting point in the world where things are getting generic.  People are trying to fit into some trend (Crossfit, certain phones, maybe even this trend of “entrepreneurship”) or trying to fit in to get a job, for example.  However, I also see this other half of the world where personalization and people are trying to be different with loud-colored shoes, more free-spirited communication.  Technology ubiquity has led to a broader range of products and services to reach audiences everywhere.  Be yourself, and people who matter (audience, remember?), will value you, too.
  • Be careful of stereotyping or being stereotyped.  It’s a tough balancing act to temper our original scrutiny with what is real.  No good answers for that here.  Instead, I can only say that you have to be ready to pivot that original idea.  Build your personal brand to market to the right people so you get that introduction to validate/ change perceptions.
  • You represent more than yourself.  Like it or not, you represent more than you.  I represent my family, my friends, Atlanta, Georgia Tech, Emory, etc.  Different situations, different audiences… they will put you in some category(-ies).  This can be controversial because people oftentimes don’t want to be “pegged” as something.  However, you will be; it’s human nature.  In this case, use this as an opportunity to either shift those notions or as a way to adjust how to change your personal brand.  You’ll have to decide how you want to represent yourself and those you may be affiliated with.
What do you think about personal branding either through what you wear, how you interact with others, what you wear, etc.?  How have you changed public perception through your own personal brand?