I was planning to be entertained, which I was, but surprised at how many notes I took. Speakers like Ed Mylett, Andy Frisella, Hank Norman, Tim Storey, Micheal Burt, and Lewis Howes were surprisingly moving and informational - hence motivational. I also got to meet Silicon Valley mogul Naveen Jain. We also had speakers for sales training and marketing education, one who sold $3M in product right after his presentation. Who needed training when you could watch the masters sell right in front of you?
Peer groups are not a new concept. One of the notable first suggestions of the benefits of business peers working together was by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich (1937). In his huge best seller (some say as many as 20 million copies), he wrote about a “master mind alliance… with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.” In a later book, Master Key to Riches. Hill writes “every mind needs friendly contact with other minds, for food of expansion and growth.”
Why a peer group is the most powerful business and leadership development tool.
With summer upon us comes an opportunity for days away from the office - fun Fridays, vacations, hammock and beach days, or quiet mornings at the campsite. If you’ve planned for it, you should be able to turn off “work” for a fews days or more and shift your balance. Tune your body with healthy activities. Fuel your body with good food and drink. Then feed your mind. Take this opportunity to read, learn, and reflect.Trajectify coaches and clients each year share what we’ve been recently reading and recommending. We hope you find something here to enjoy and grow your awareness, skills, and confidence.
As a leader or entrepreneur, you get to create vision, set goals, and define success. As a business coach, I’d be negligent if I didn’t say that money (revenues & profits) is important. A business needs to be able to sustain itself (and its principals, team, investors, etc.). To make money, we need people. To attract and keep people, we need team and well-defined values. There is a direct relationship between money, people, values, culture, and organization. Who you hire and how you lead and build team is critical to the long term success of anything you may undertake where organization is necessary.
Amidst the tension, I was making every rookie management mistake in the book. Except I didn’t even have a book. I had no management experience and no training, nor did anyone around me. I made hiring mistakes. We were offered a course on Behavioral Interviewing, (which was the best thing I learned and saved my book, 20+ years later, pictured here), but even with the training, I put the wrong people in the wrong jobs. I recall my QA Manager being a disaster. There were other performance issues on my team. Wondering what to do when I found an employee sleeping under his desk. I didn’t know how to handle any of them. I tried to use my engineering skills to fix the problems, but you can imagine how that turned out.
On the surface, the business didn't succeed inthe first two iterations of IntroNet for the same reason that 90% of tech startups fail: we did not find a product-market fit before the end of our cash. It’s a math equation that is pretty deterministic. Why didn’t we find product-market fit? Perhaps we were solving for a pain (e.g., LinkedIn sucks) instead of a real problem (e.g., I can’t find expertise)? Did we try to change user behavior in a way that wasn’t tractable? Yes, probably all of that. There must already be thousands of blog posts on these very topics of startup road bumps and failures. Search for "reasons why startups don’t succeed" and get many perspectives on the same few themes. I want to share something more insightful.
The fact is that both Martin and I are experienced in startups, entrepreneurship and tech. We built a really good team. With the money and talent we had, the business didn't succeed after two attempts. So what is unique about our IntroNet experience that can serve as lessons for the future?
The first lesson came from my time at KnowledgeSet Corp in the late 1980’s. KnowledgeSet (KSC) was a pioneer in the early PC days, one of the first to put data on a CD-ROM, before CD readers were standard on PC’s or windowed operating systems were the interface to your computer. The company was founded by Gary Kildall and Tom Rolander. It was a company of about 15 geeks - and I mean that with every connotation of the term.
I was at a crossroads. Trajectify had grown to keeping me busy nearly full-time. I was organizing the Philly New Technology Meetup (PNTM). And I had my tech startup, IntroNet. For Trajectify, I was working with private clients, small groups, and doing a lot of speaking and business development. For PNTM, we were growing without bounds (nearly 3,000 members in less than two years), gaining sponsors, doingbigger events. merged with Mobile Monday Mid-Atlantic. As for IntroNet, things got very exciting as we saw a pivot from our introductions systems to doing something bigger and bolder with groups sharing their collective connections, expertise and information. I raised $1M for IntroNet.
I do think it’s important to be able to feel passion. I have a lot in my life for which I am passionate. I just don’t let passion run my business. That’s a revelation that has come to me over the past couple of years, mostly as I’ve been building Trajectify and able to look at many companies from the outside-in and work with dozens of entrepreneurs. Two years ago, I was likely quoted as saying that passion is the first thing I look at when evaluating an entrepreneur’s business. I was wrong. The way to grow a business is through being practical, measurable, and grounded, not by being “barely controllable.”
I just got back from Suzanne Evans' Be The Change Event - something different that any event I’ve ever attended - with lots of stories and lessons learned, some of which I’d like to share. The punchline - which you’ll get if you read further - is that you need to keep an open mind and look for learning in every situation. While I’ll likely never be a member of Suzanne’s “tribe” or attend the event again, what she taught and how she executed gave me some invaluable lessons, one’s I’ve already started to use, and I think made me a little less judgmental.