Month: December 2013

“Eschew Obfuscation” – Unknown

Everything you do should communicate clearly.  Everything your company does should communicate clearly.  Everything about your product or service should communicate clearly. Here’s a partial list:

  • Value Proposition
  • Mission Statement
  • Company Values
  • Culture
  • Funding Pitch
  • Market Segment
  • Product Features
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Financials
  • Core Ideology

Your job as CEO is more to communicate than to educate.  This means meeting your audience on their terms, not yours.

This takes a lot of work and practice.  It takes a lot of feedback from others.  It takes followup and it takes repetition.  It takes a lot of one-on-one time.

And the biggest part of communication is listening.  Ask your stakeholders what they think and then shut up! Keep asking until you’re sure you understand.  Keep honing the message until you;re sure they understand.




“[Advice] is me talking to a previous version of myself” – Austin Kleon

I had a conversation with a good friend a few days ago.  We have a mutual acquaintance who has been very successful in his business, his family and his spiritual life.  My friend told me how he meets with this guy once a year with a long list of life, business and personal questions.

We all need mentors.  They point out things we miss.  They share things about themselves they might have done differently.

Seek out someone who has been where you want to go.  Buy them dinner and go with a long list of questions.  Develop this relationship so you can go back in 6 months, or a year or a few weeks.  All you are asking for is their story and their life lessons.  If they choose to share their network or give you more time, that is up to them.  The advice is worth the price of dinner.

Read “Steal Like and Artist” by Austin Kleon


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“You can’t be serious!!!!” – John McEnroe

McEnroe was a great tennis player.  He is now a great commentator.  He has always been a great entertainer.  Because of his passion, of course, but also because of the way he brought something different to the game.  He was rough at the edges and it made for great, entertaining matches in his time.

I doubt McEnroe woke up one morning and decided that for marketing purposes he would yell and scream when the calls went against him.  I think he was  being who he was, authentic and true to himself.

This went against the establishment which conveyed tennis to be a gentlemanly game, staying politely within the boundaries of good behavior.  And in the long run, the sport was better for it.  Millions tuned in the watch the loudmouth American either win or get his clock cleaned.  As for his ability, he was still one of the best in the world.

Find a reason to be different and don’t let the status quo dictate the way you have to play.  If the rules are stupid, question them, break them, ignore them (but don’t go to jail).  Stand out from the alternatives but still be the best.  Be passionate about being the best.  Find that niche of customers who share your passion.

A market where all the competitors are peddling the same thing; one-upping each other with boring new features,  that’s a group of customers screaming for something new and different.


“An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today” – Lawrence J. Peter

There is value in understanding what has been.  And it is interesting to try to predict what is coming.  It is useful for students because it gives them the opportunity to learn something without having to live it.

But living it is the only true way to really know.  Think about the masters of Jazz.  They invented a new kind of music by playing every night and getting instant feedback from their audiences.  Then after a while, they invented Jazz theory so people like me could try ufo understand what they were doing.  But no amount of study or practice can get one ready to play jazz.  The only way to do that is to start playing with and for others.

So it is with starting a company.  You can study the economy and try to wait for the right time.  You can wait for your life situation to reach the right point.  Or you can put yourself put there and figure it out for real.

If the problem is big enough,  and your solution is better than the alternatives, then you have the right environment.  You can find the first and you control the second.

Perhaps this is the year to get off the sideline?


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“If your mission statement is much longer than this sentence, it is probably too long” – Chris Guillebeau

December is the time to review the year and revisit your vision and mission.  You’re another year smarter now and you know more than you did a year ago.

A good mission statement is short, concise and captures the essence of why your company exists.  Someone who has never heard of your company should be able to understand what you do and why.

Keeping it short makes it easier to understand and remember.

Read “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“How many of you have deadwood on your staff? Did you hire them that way or did you kill them?” – W. Edwards Deming

How can you argue with this logic? Deming pretty well puts the responsibility of the team squarely on the leader.  Jim Collins would say get the right people on the bus BEFORE you even know where the bus is going.

Any compromise you make on choosing your team will come back at some point and you’ll have to deal with it.  It may be worth it.  But it may bring your company down.

The intangibles include integrity, persistence, taking responsibility and fearlessness.

Be clear about your expectations and your culture, in addition to the specific skills you need.  If you’re not sure about these things, spend the time to figure it out.  Cut the deadwood early.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Never start a business where you end up hating your customers” – Steve Blank

Another great point made by Steve Blank to his recent Lean Launchpad class.  This was in response to a question about whether or not to go on with the business now that the team had validated the market.  Check the Video

I think you have to really want to make a difference when you start a company.  There is no guarantee it will be a huge success.  It may only be a huge success to a small group of people.  Regardless, making a fortune as the primary motivation starting the company will not carry you through the tough times you will face.  I think that’s what Mr. Blank is trying to get across.  Your customers may not always love you; or they may love you to death.  Either way, it has to be for them and the problem you are solving.  The money alone won’t be enough motivation.

In this season, isn’t it appropriate to highlight the the giving aspect of the startup?

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“The economy isn’t broken. It’s different.” – Seth Godin

Times of changing cultures,  societies and economies are opportunities.  A whole new set of problems and needs that no one has thought of.  Problems that scream for solutions.

The music business has changed forever leaving musicians scrambling to figure out how to make a living.  New apps and services to assist them in this change are popping up.  Musicians now have to be entrepreneurs; learning how to be marketers and promoters and … well, business people.  The barriers to the audience are now obliterated. There are now numerous channels to distribute your music to your fans and the good thing is you can keep more of the money you make. The challenge is how to build the audience without the marketing and distribution channels of the record companies.  The cool thing is, you have the tools.

The same is true for a host of other businesses.  New challenges, new customers, new markets, new tools…

Those that try to hold on the the past will be left behind.  That’s why we need to embrace the change and relearn everything.

People still have problems and will pay for solutions.  Look around.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“It’s best to get as many people into one room as possible. Then go somewhere else.” – Jason Fox

Truly creative and innovative people don’t do well in committees and groups where thinking is influenced by the group dynamic.  This brings into doubt the value of group brain storming when important decisions are to be made.

Compromise is important in order for diverse people to live together but I’m not sure it’s vital in innovation and creative problem solving.  Feedback from customers is important, of course, in a reactive sense; not a creative one.

Make time to get away from the noise and think, create, try an idea, capture a thought.  Do it daily.  Capture your thoughts in a notebook or some other repository.  Freely share them for feedback.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson