It’s All About the People, the Team, and its Values (#3 of 8 Lessons from 8 Startups)

It’s All About the People, the Team, and its Values (#3 of 8 Lessons from 8 Startups)

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.

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Why You Need Access to Inspiration and Experience (#2 of 8 Lessons from 8 Startups)

Why You Need Access to Inspiration and Experience (#2 of 8 Lessons from 8 Startups)

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.

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An Experienced Startup Founder Learns Some New Lessons

An Experienced Startup Founder Learns Some New Lessons

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? 

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Good Leadership is a Prerequisite for Good Business (#1 of 8 Lessons from 8 Startups)

Good Leadership is a Prerequisite for Good Business (#1 of 8 Lessons from 8 Startups)

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.

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Don't Do What I Do, Just Do What I Say. Grow LOUDLY!

Don't Do What I Do, Just Do What I Say. Grow LOUDLY!

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.

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Passion and Emotion May Be Destroying Your Business

Passion and Emotion May Be Destroying Your Business

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.”

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Lessons Watching Her Make $2M (Easily) Teaching Selling

Lessons Watching Her Make $2M (Easily) Teaching Selling

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.

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Leave the Office and Make Millions

Leave the Office and Make Millions

We spend a lot of time in the office - working with our team, on our projects, with our money (investments, revenues). We see our business through the eyes of those who know us well - employees, investors, family. It’s a very narrow perspective that we get when we only interact a typically homogeneous and friendly population. Every week, I drag entrepreneurs out of the office nearly kicking and screaming - they say they have too much work to do! - in order to me to help them view their business by talking with customers, competitors, partners and their market. Here are three stories to show how some of my clients and I did millions of dollars in deals by following an outside in approach.

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Winging It at The White House (though not the West Wing)

Winging It at The White House (though not the West Wing)

In April, I was invited to participate in the first ever Tech Meetup at the White House. Organized by Meetup.com and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith. Tech Meetups have been around for about a decade. They are events where new technologies and new tech companies get to demo and network with a community of entrepreneurs, techies, service providers, and investors. They’ve evolved to also include education - speakers, lectures, courses and classes. I co-founded and co-organize the Philly New Technology Meetup along with several Bootstrappers Breakfasts. It was an honor and privilege for me to be part of the first Meetup at the White House.

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An Entrepreneur Makes Their Own Luck (Looking from the Outside-in)

An Entrepreneur Makes Their Own Luck (Looking from the Outside-in)

Luck, serendipity, and random collisions are often credited in helping entrepreneurs become successful. Being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference. I used to hope that such luck would strike us at one of our startups. Then, someone really smart told me to stop waiting, that luck doesn’t usually happen, that we must make our own luck. I wasn’t sure that I completely believed that luck wasn’t random. And then I met Bianca Thompson.

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Core Values through our Behaviors (and how not to be a Rob McCord)

Core Values through our Behaviors (and how not to be a Rob McCord)

Whether you're looking for a job or building company, you need to look beyond culture to assess - or establish - core values. The US National Park Service has a good and simple definition for core values: "The values underlie our work, how we interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission." It's not easy to establish and communicate values. Lots of companies study and publish their values, and many don't do it very well. How many companies think "Integrity" is a core value? Too many. The problem is that Integrity is a high level concept and doesn't necessarily make it clear how we should or will behave.

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It's Never Too Late for Me, BoJack Horseman, or You

It's Never Too Late for Me, BoJack Horseman, or You

Entrepreneurship favors youth. I coach entrepreneurs of all ages and meet a lot who are 35 and older and appear to be discouraged by the ageism they feel and see. It's part of my coaching to help break limiting mindsets and not let obstacles - real or perceived - get in the way of achieving goals. If you're an entrepreneur that's starting later in your career, or beginning to consider it, I want you to know that there are ways it give you advantage over your more youthful peers. Here are five reasons how your stage of life makes you a different entrepreneur.

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The Difference Between Coaches, Mentors, Advisors, and Consultants

The Difference Between Coaches, Mentors, Advisors, and Consultants

Too often I hear the terms mentors and coaches interchangeably. I'm sure of you search for definitions, you'll easily find ones that support how you've been using the terms. For me, clarity is important. When I built Trajectify, I wanted it to be clear what it is that I am doing - for my clients and myself. If I could put clarity around the definitions, I could better understand the problem and build my business to serve the greatest need. I looked at four roles - Coach, Mentor, Consultant, and Advisor - and tried to simply describe the nature of the relationship:

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Why Are Goals So Hard?

Why Are Goals So Hard?

One of the first things that I do with each new engagement is to work on goals - for the company and the entrepreneur/leader. It might seem basic, and many have done it before, but my experience is that few entrepreneurs and companies have current goals or have been able to do them well. We don't move forward without goals - it is difficult to grow a business in the absence of them.

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