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Community Feeds the Entrepreneurial Fire

By on Sep 27, 2016 | 0 comments

For those who weren’t aware…   I  moved to New Orleans two months ago!   Since the big move from San Francisco I’ve been running my business here, joined the Idea Village as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for their Fall Digital Media accelerator and been looped into a Co-Curator role of the local TechStar Startup Digest. Phew! Over the past 2+ months I’ve met with leaders from professional organizations such as Idea Village, Propeller, 4.0 Schools as well as quite a few startup founders themselves to get a read on the local entrepreneurship landscape here in New Orleans. What is interesting is that from the largest professional organization down to the smallest startup (yahoo sole founders!), everybody has indirectly touched on a common theme: “How is my business/product/service going to make a positive change in the New Orleans community?” Notice how I haven’t heard the lines “…and this is how I’m going to change the world” or “…my product will create an entirely new market to service” Instead, Entrepreneurs (defined as startup founders, intrepreneurs, extrapreneurs, etc etc) here in New Orleans are actively trying to make their own neighbors life better from day #1 and solving local problems first, as voiced by the community. Back in San Francisco, all I ever heard was “my startup my startup my startup” – unless I missed some big group kumbaya meeting that was held each week, it seems that entrepreneurs in that market simply don’t give a s*** about the community itself. Granted I’ve only lived in New Orleans for about 70 days, but in my 5 years living in San Francisco I never heard this kind of talk. Let me share a few examples of civic engagement that I’ve run across. A colleague at the Idea Village who was a varsity swimmer in college leads a youth swim league based out of Tulane University’s Riley Athletic center – for free. He loves swimming and wants to help mentor and coach the next generation of swimmers. Last week I met the founder of Nola Brewing Company and he promptly said “Here’s my phone number call me literally anytime of the day or night.” There was no expectation. It’s unlikely I’ll ever buy something from him directly (indirectly, I love an ice cold Nola Blonde on a hot summer day) but he wanted me to know that as a newbie to the area, I had a friend in him. Pardon my french (hey, we ARE in Louisiana …) but people here frankly just GIVE A SHIT about the local community in a way that I’ve never seen in a “traditional” startup powerhouse city like San Francisco. And that’s really refreshing. Allow me to take the hint from my new neighbors: I’m only an email away from meeting new people and helping in any way that I can. Hit up my contact page and get in...

My Thoughts on Scrum

By on Jun 16, 2015 | 0 comments

Our team has a new obsession. Scrum. Originally a working set of processes to deliver better quality software on time, Scrum has now expanded to professional organizations, schools and governments. You can read all about it here. More important, you can see how it works in the graphic below. Scrum has it’s own language. You’ll hear terms like… Product backlog. Sprint. Scrum master. Product owner. …and the list goes on 🙂 Instead of trying to explain every element of Scrum to you (just buy the book) I wanted to talk about one very specific element of Scrum. Introduction to Velocity Velocity is the total effort a team is capable of in a sprint. In plain English: You can calculate a numeric value of how productive your organization was over a set period of time (known as a Sprint) based on ‘Story Points’ (again, read the book). The idea is that your velocity should increase significantly each Sprint. Jeff Sutherland, one of the creators of Scrum, estimates that a good Scrum implementation should increase a companies productivity by three or four times! What is really neat is that you can actually chart your velocity to see how your productivity increases as a group. Which I’ve done below for our team.   We increased productivity by +32% in 2 weeks This entire conversation reminds me of the saying: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” We had no idea how much our team could accomplish until we began measuring productivity in more than the quantity of tasks completed. Again: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” I’m not asking you to become a kool-aid sipping disciple of Scrum. I’m just encouraging you to find a way to measure your team’s productivity. And then try and improve on that unit of measure day-after-day, month-after-month and year-after-year. Make my day: Share this story on social media...

Why Customer Satisfaction is Priority #1 for Growth

By on Jun 10, 2015 | 0 comments

It’s funny how perception changes as your business grows up. In our first year of business, we were obsessed with making our biggest (and only) customer happy. They represented more than 90% of our revenue and we would do whatever it took to make them successful. Need your floors cleaned? We got you covered. Did the barista froth your latte enough on the way in to work? Have no fear we have one of those fancy IKEA frothier for ya to use. Looking back on that first year, this obsession was both our best and worst policy. Why was it the worst policy? Well, that’s pretty simple: It could have put us out of business. A single email that said “we’re going to use a different marketing services vendor” would have done the trick. In fact, a year down the road that client did send an email to that effect. The email said that the entire division was being laid off. Adios, client! Yikes! Talk about having too many eggs in 1 basket 🙂 You said this could be good though … So how could this ever be a good policy? Much less the best policy? Well there are four reasons I can think of off the top of my head: 1) Trench Buddies Success becomes mandatory for you. Just like it is for the client.  It puts the same amount of praise and pressure on you as the it does on the client. It puts you in the trenches with your client. And guess what that builds… 2) Trust Quickest way to earn your customer’s trust? Put your own neck on the line alongside them. You can’t buy that kind of relationship. You have to earn it. The customer and your team will spill blood in the name of winning that battle and war. Trust me on that one. 3) Pen Pals (but more serious) Making your customer happy (can) require near constant communication. There’s never a day or two that goes by without … You communicating what is happening Why it’s happening What you’re doing to fix it or boost it 4) No Surprises Avoid getting caught with your pants down. If you constantly communicate with your customer in the trenches, you should never get a surprise phone call from your customer that goes something like “We’re going to take this business to another vendor…” Case in point: Just this week we took a piece of business away from an established competitor in our space. The client had hired a new VP of marketing (someone we used to work with) and she was evaluating their vendors. When this particular vendor failed to impress her, she asked us to bid on the business. They had never been in the trenches with her. We had. They had never had more than two phone calls with her. We had hundreds. Within 30 days, the competing vendor was gone and we had the business. In Summary … Treat every client you have as if they were your most important.  Too tough to do? That’s a red flag that you’re stretching your people too thin. Or you don’t have the resources to provide killer service to your customers. Or that you have too many customers. Think I’m even halfway correct? Then share this story on social media....

Leadership is About Letting Go

By on May 20, 2015 | 0 comments

Recently a friend of mine was having a problem at work. She was receiving a promotion to a new job within the company, but her current boss was not allowing her to start the new job for two months. Without going into the details, there’s a lot of politics involved in this decision. That’s not important to speak about right now. What is important to speak about is leadership. In my opinion, my friends current boss was showing her true colors. Holding my friend hostage in her current job was showing that she was a poor leader. The current boss knew that this is an unbelievable opportunity. That my friend was a perfect person for the new job. But the current boss refused to let my friend leave in less than eight weeks. She demanded that my friend rehire her own position. Meanwhile, my friends new boss was chomping at the bit for her to get started. As I have matured over the years, one of the big things that I have learned about leadership is that you have to let your people go. It can be as easy as… Giving instructions and sending them off trusting the job will get done Telling a worn down team member to take a day (or week!) off work to clear their head. Letting the teammate go, knowing their heart isn’t in this job any more. In my opinion, great leaders know when to let go and to what degree. Sometimes leadership is about letting go. Did this story add some value to your day? If so, I’d be mighty obliged if hit the ‘share’ buttons on the lefthand side of your screen. Also, sign up for my mailing list to receive updates every time I publish. Receive Email Updates Every Time I...

Tell me what I need and hurry up already

By on Sep 17, 2014 | 0 comments

Every week I field anywhere between five and 15 sales calls. Folks from all over the country (and sometimes the world!) that are trying to sell me all kinds of things. Off the top of my head, here are the phone calls I have received this week: Search engine marketing software Business intelligence software Marketing automation Telemarketing services and software Fielding all these calls is a distraction; I’m usually in the middle of client work, helping to manage our growing team or reading The Oatmeal when I need a moment to recharge my batteries. These phone calls interrupt all the things I mentioned above. So I finally took the time to put together a cold-call script for the recipient of the call that helps move the conversation along. It goes a little something like this. Step 1: “What are you selling me?” Control the conversation from the get-go: it’s your time, don’t allow them to bumble around with it. If I smell a long answer coming to this question or they don’t acknowledge that they are selling me something, I cut them off and ask one of the following: “Hold on there. Tell me in one sentence or less what you are selling me.” “Hold it right there. Yes or No; did you call me today to sell me something?” I call this my “Tell me what I need and hurry up with it” response — it puts me in control of the conversation and focuses on closing out the conversation. Step 2: “Why do I need what you are selling?” This is an invitation to take between 10 and 30 seconds to deliver your “elevator pitch”: the few sentences that describe your product, the pain it addresses and the benefits my company will see from investing in it. Step 3: “Great! Let’s take this conversation to email.” At no point will I ever allow a cold-call to take more than 60 seconds out of my day; it simply isn’t time I have to give to a stranger trying to open my wallet and pluck out the contents. The reason I immediately push to email for professional conversations is because: The Value of a Written Conversation: I want all the facts recorded in front of me through our first few conversations. An email thread will do that for me. Can I Shake This Guy/Gal?: Oftentimes, a sales call without a positive ending (“I’ll take it!” or “let’s do a demo”) will get categorized by the salesman as a bad opportunity in Salesforce; they simply don’t want to deal with you anymore. That’s great for me — I’m actively trying to see if I can get you to go away! I’m Busy: Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit around on Facebook all day waiting for sales people to call me (shocking!). So thinking that your conversation is more important than whatever you interrupted me doing is definitely not true. An early sales mentor in my life taught me this one liner: If they have something fantastic to sell you, then they’ll keep following up. Over. And over. And over. It may take weeks. It may take months. But eventually my cognitive recognition of your email handle, phone number and sales pitch will take over and I will actually talk to...