Month: October 2014

“The further you are from the action, the more you need policies to control people you don’t know and outcomes you can’t see.” – Dan Rockwell

The heady startup days are a time when all hands are on deck and titles aren;t as important as getting things done.  If you survive to make it to the growth stage, you will have to hire more people who do things you will not be aware of or even understand.  You simply cannot keep a tight reign on everything.  You will also find you spend ever more time being the boss rather than being the entrepreneur, the innovator, the inventor.

This is a necessary transition in companies that grow.  Not all entrepreneurs make the change which is why the founder of a successful startup may not be the CEO at the growth stage.  The thing to keep in mind is this – The day will come when you can’t make all the decisions.  The choices are these:

  • Make the transition
  • Continue as Chief Development Officer and let someone else take on being “the boss”
  • Exit
  • Do nothing, stay a lifestyle business

The avoidance of company rules, bureaucracy and policies may be one of the reasons you chose to do a startup in the first place.  But be aware that your ability to grow is dependent on making the transition from closely managed to process management.

“Trust me, no one will ever complain if you delete a few PowerPoint slides from your presentation and tell a story instead.” – Annette Simmons

Somewhere along the way, PowerPoint got declared the standard in business communication.  It a powerful tool but it is still a pretty small box.  PowerPoint dictates how you tell your story if you let it.  Boring templates with bulleted text in one or two columns and colorful bar charts.  Then, to snazzy it up, you can add noises and swoops and checkerboard fade ins.

Somewhere, your listener indicates they are no longer listening.

But if there is a compelling story, one that they will personally relate to; one they have not heard before, one you are passionate in the sharing… that is memorable.  If nothing else, they will remember you.

Put your pitch together without slides.  Then decide if a handful of slides would help the message.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Norman Lear, who is 92 years old, was on the Tavis Smiley Show last night.  Mr. Lear said he couldn’t remember from whom he heard the quote but a quick Google search identified Mr. von Goethe as the source.  Mr. Lear shared a moment of decision when the studio threatened to fire him.  He checked with his attorney to see if they could take his wife and kids.  Then he said, “back up the truck.”

The point is to take action on your dreams.  Until you decide to commit to something, nothing is sure.  This includes people out there who want to help you.  Once you make a move, someone you know will come along and say, “you need to talk to this person.”  Opportunities will cross your path that seem random but they are not.

We spend too much time on all the risks that keep us from moving forward.  The world needs great ideas and great leaders.  We are waiting to follow someone.  Get on with it!

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Is a business plan always necessary? Actually, it may be detrimental, especially at the beginning of company creation.” – Tjan, Harrington, Hsieh

In their fine book, Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, these three collaborators open up the discussion by saying that entrepreneurs too often overthink their business at the beginning.  True to B-School form, they create a detailed business plan that is “precisely incorrect.”

There is a time at the beginning when you have to see if your wonderful idea for changing the world has legs.  That is, does anyone else want their world changed?  Spending too much time in analysis before you actually try your idea out with customers can not only waste time, but lead you down the wrong path.

Put your concept for a product or service down in tangible form and share it.  Get feedback.  A business plan can’t do that for you.

Read “Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck” by Tjan, Harrington and Hsieh

 

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Giving people what they want isn’t always what they want.” – Seth Godin

I want the “Save” button to work in my version of MS Word for Mac.  It’s irritating.  But getting the fix won’t change my opinion of the product one way or the other.  It just eliminates an aggravation.  What I really want is a new word processor experience but I don’t know what that is.  So I am left with comparing what I think I want to my existing experience with features and functions familiar to me.  I have limited my thinking to making the status quo incrementally better.

Napster changed the way people listen to music.  They were truly disruptive.  For good or bad things changed forever.  Yesterday, I asked a group of college students “who pays for music?”  One hand raised.  People want free music but do they really want the kind of music you can get for free?  We will find out soon enough.

Alex Osterwalder has a new book out called, “Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want “.  In it, he talks about observing how your customers interact with your product, not just giving it to them and taking credit for a new customer.  A product that gets put on the shelf is one nobody tells their friends about.

Free songs that sound like every other song and get listened to once on a streaming service will very likely not be what we call music in the future.  Is that what we want?  Really?

 

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

 

“If you’re too afraid to mess up, you’re too afraid to do better.” – Coach K

A few good things happen when we try and fail.

  1. We learn what doesn’t work
  2. We learn where our boundaries are (so we can break them)
  3. We get stronger
  4. We have better stories.  (no one talks about the vacations where everything was perfect.)
  5. We go farther than we thought we could
  6. We try new things
  7. We realize there are few things in life that result in being killed and eaten (tip to Bill Bryson)

Being comfortable is good for a while but you get soft if you don’t try for more.

 

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

 

 

“Prediction requires the identification of a pattern that repeats, because a pattern is what allows you to use what has happened to infer what will happen next.” – Michael Raynor

And this is precisely the problem with startups.  By definition, a startup is new.  It’s never been done before.  There are no patterns.  There is no history. You can;t predict what comes next.

This translates to risk which scares people.  It’s why bankers won’t let you borrow money against your own house to start a new venture.  You don’t yet fit nicely in a spreadsheet.

This is why it’s so important to get to first customers and quickly as possible.  It is the single best thing you can do to mitigate risk.  Sell what you have a soon as possible, even if it is not perfect.  Once you have customers, they will lead to in the direction of perfection.

 

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

 

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Today I am backpacking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Hiking in the woods is where I think; or not.  It’s where problems get solved in my subconscious.  It’s where the Creator reminds me that there is something more.

Our lives are so full of noise.  It’s getting worse and worse.  It’s good to get away.  From people.  From technology.

Take the time to be alone and to be quiet.

 

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“It is a curious feature of our existence that we come from a planet that is very good at promoting life but even better at extinguishing it.” ― Bill Bryson

As soon as you achieve any element of success in your business, people will notice.  You’ll have fans.  And you will have competitors.

They will cut prices.  They will say bad things about you and your products.  They will copy your ideas. They may try to defeat you with legal loopholes .  Everyone loves a winner but not for long.

Stay focused on your customers by easing their pain and delighting them in the use of your products.

 

Read “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson

 

BloggingGazelle is written daily by Shawn Carson