Month: January 2014

“Eighty percent of success is showing up” – Woody Allen

A good one for a holiday Monday.

We are working with a company that is developing an app for a specific sales function.  Their customer discovery process revealed that many of the sales people they are trying to help are lacking in some pretty basic discipline, namely showing up.  For the sales call.  For the demo.  For the open house.  They seem to want the 4 hour workweek but they haven’t done what it takes to get the machine going.

This is ok if you are working to pass time and make a little money but you should’t be surprised then when you are not making  your monthly and annual sales goals; and you shouldn’t expect someone else to make it happen for you.

It’s early on a holiday Monday morning.  Did you show up?


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“People don’t buy paint. They buy painted walls.” – Seth Godin

Another way to say it is, “People don’t buy drills.  They buy holes.”

There are a lot of features available today in the common hand drill; battery operated, variable speed, reversible, etc.  Manufacturers use bright colors and interchangeable parts and price to try to differentiate their products.  But features are just one part of the value proposition.

A product is acquired to enable a customer to accomplish a goal.  The features that make that goal easier to attain are the ones that matter most.  The rest are eye candy.

Read Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“There is nothing new under the sun” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

It’s compelling to contemplate the idea that every element that makes up our planet, plants, trees, animals and ourselves, was created at the moment the universe was created and has been around since then.  And yet, these same elements get rearranged, transformed and reconstructed into something unique each time a new life checks in.  In the end, those same elements dissipate and are returned to the universe for the next cycle.  Ashes to ashes…

The same can be said of ideas.  Humans needs are largely constant over time and therefor the problems in need of a solution can be traced back to some fundamentals.  Music, movies, video games, books, etc. all serve to pass along the culture, distribute content and engage our attention.  Technology and methods change but the needs remain the same.

Invention is important to entrepreneurship but it’s not the foundation.  It may not even be necessary.  A researcher pulled together disparate “green” technologies into a design for Habitat for Humanity homes where the home owner’s monthly energy cost was only a few dollars.  All the technology already existed.  The key was assembling the ideas of others into a new and unique solution.

Invention is about solving technical problems.  Entrepreneurship is about solving problems for people.


“Why is there never a big red button?” – Dr. Who

We all want the obvious answer.  We want all the customers to agree.  We want the big bold sign to tell us which direction to take.  We want to know in advance what will happen.

When it’s big decision time, we want the big red button; partly because of the fact that we need rituals to emphasize the importance of the moment, but mostly because we want the clear binary, black and white scenario where we know what happens if we push the big red button.

But it’s never that way.  You can’t know the outcomes, one choice over another and you can’t collect enough data to make you comfortable making the decision.

The best you can do is be true to your core values and make the decision based on the best data you have available.  Then you have to own it. If you’re wrong, fix it or pivot, but don’t sit around assigning blame.  Move on.

You’re going to be wrong a lot.  That’s the way it is.  You probably won’t even be right half the time but that’s usually good enough.  Sailing never follows a straight line.  It’s a series of moves and counter moves that gets you where you are going.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“All animals except men know the principle business of life is to enjoy it.” – Samual Butler

Entrepreneurship is hard, but then so is anything else that changes the world.  That does’t mean you can’t or should’t enjoy the work.

You have to love making your meaning.  There will be days when the decisions are tough, like having to lay off good people or fire those who aren’t going to make it.  Your competitors may resort to unfair practices or litigation to protect their markets.  And the government eventually has a say in how thing go.

You have to love your customers because they won’t always love you.  If the meaning you make is significant, you will attract detractors whose job they believe is to warn the world about the bad things that will happen when you change the things.

The money isn’t enough.  Getting rich is a good goal but it won’t help you retain your humanity in the bad times.

Doing good is the thing.  Doing good brings joy and that’s the principle business.

Blogging Gazelle is publish daily by Shawn Carson

“Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine…” – Dr. Who

“I don’t need to practice.  I’ve done this a number of times,” was the reply I got from an entrepreneur when I tried to schedule time to hear his pitch prior to the big pitch competition.  I strongly suggested he practice for me but he was adamant.  Practicing for others does not help him, he assured me.

His pitch turned out to be full of “um’s” and “ah’s” and “you know’s” .  He used technical jargon nobody understood and the story fell completely flat.  Too bad.  He had a great idea.

Communication is a two way street.  You have to say what you say and the listener has to hear and understand.  You can’t do this in your head.  There’s only one way to make sure your thoughts communicate what you want and that’s to test it for other’s feedback.

Guy Kawasaki says you should practice your pitch 25 times.  That’s how you are able to tell a good story rather than merely flip through slides.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson



“Make haste slowly.” – Guy Kawasaki

The common advice to startups is to get your product in the customer’s hands as fast as possible.  This is true because if you are solving a big problem, chances are that others are trying to solve it too.

Another basic truth is “never deliver the perfect product; deliver the product that is good enough.”  The Lean Launchpad folks call this the M.V.P.

But none of this means you have to sacrifice quality.  Your product does, in fact, have to work and it’s best when the customer is delighted to use it.

So how do you deliver a great product quickly, that is elegent but just good enough?

The answer is in the features and functionality you choose to deliver.  Your customer discovery process should highlight what is most important in solving the basic problem.  Then you deliver reliable functionality with elegant design and a delightful user experience.

It’s that simple…

Read “Reality Check” – By Guy Kawasaki

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” – Mark Twain

When you tell your story, you are selling your vision of the world as it will be when it has your product or service.  To be inspirational, the story has to present a world of delightful fantasy, while rooted in the realm of the believable.

The facts of the present must be faced honestly.  When you describe customer pain, people have to relate from personal experience.  Your market segments must reflect the true opportunity.  The competitive landscape has to be accurate without appearing hostile.  Failure to be authentic in these things will scrap your chances to sell your vision and your story loses credibility.

But if you do that well, the audience will allow you some freedom to show how things will be better once your product is available.  Your growth projections can be aggressive as long as the story is credible.  Your passion will sell your value proposition and people will want to be a part of the journey.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“The fact that one or more competitors are operating in the market proves that an opportunitiy exists.” – Rob Adams

I hate to hear someone pitch, “We don’t have any competition”.

For one thing, it shows they aren’t being honest with themselves, let alone me.

For another, if it is true, then there is no market and if there is no market, then there are no customers.  It’s not impossible to create markets from scratch but first movers have the burden of convincing people to be interested.

Finally, it shows they have overlooked the one competitor we all have.  That’s the customer’s decision to do nothing.

If there are a number of competitors in a market with no clear leader, the good news is that there is a defined customer problem but it also means no one has figured out the solution.  Go figure out why and you’ve got a hit.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson