I do not think there is any thrill that can
go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor
as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . .
Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.

Nikola Tesla

Details: Your Pen

For many years I have been an advocate of choosing a personal writing instrument that fits with the image that I intend to convey. With this post I hope to win you over to this practice.

First impressions are incredibly important in business. What we wear, how we stand and sit, how we shake hands, how we pay attention, ask questions, take notes... these are more important to success than what we say because these visuals are remembered far longer than our words.

To walk into a business meeting without a pen is possibly forgivable on the grounds that you are simply absent minded, and that you left it at home. However, to brandish a cheap Bic in a business meeting is far worse. It is your public admission that you are unaware of the importance of a quality writing instrument.

It is said that, in California, we are what we drive. It is also said, more generally, that we are what we eat. But when it comes to who we are in a business meeting, we are judged, among other factors, by our pen.

Commandment #4 is "Write It Down" and it is inarguably true that business could not exist without the written word. Although in today's world the vast preponderance of written words are created using computers and smartphones, there are still moments when the written word must be achieved the old fashioned way...

When you pull out your pen to sign an agreement, to take notes in a business meeting, or to send a thank you note, it should be recognized as a milestone moment, and that attitude should be visibly demonstrated by using a pen worthy of the event.

In my early years I wrote with a Cross pen, but found them to be too light and skinny for my hand. My next step was to upgrade to Mont Blanc for a few years, but found them to be still to light, and they were mass marketed, like the Cross. Then Waterman became my choice for many years. Recently I selected the pen in the photo above. This is a custom piece, unlikely to be found across the table from me. It's crafted with real printed circuit boards, using a process that is kept secret, for now at least. It's heavy, a feature I like a lot, and it's fat, so it fills my hand well. The full shape is called a "cigar pen".  It uses a standard Parker refill.

More importantly, perhaps, than the message we give others when we display an exceptional instrument, is the message we give ourselves when we write in private. Important words flow more freely, clearly and with greater power from a first class pen.

I experimented with fountain pens for a brief period, and enjoyed the quality of the Pelikan line, but the solution is truly obsolete and messy. My chosen standard has always been ballpoint, with a medium point, using blue ink. I never use a pencil because they always produce an inconsistent line width, they are messy, and require maintenance.

There will be times when you can get by with just your pen, for example when you sign a legal agreement. However, a class-A pen requires a class-A notebook to complete the package. I use the unique Levenger Circa system in a leather binder. This allows me to keep my pen in the binder and not in a pocket. (Never clip your pen in your shirt or pants pocket. People who carry their pens in a leather binder Hire the people who clip their pens to their pockets.)  The binder has the space to carry your iPad, business cards, etc. I choose a binder with a zipper on 3 sides to keep my stuff secure and private.

In your next business meeting, pay attention to what people are using to take notes, for surely they will notice what you are using.

What impression do you want them to have?

Business Execution for Results

Business Execution for RESULTS: A practical guide for leaders of small to mid-sized firms should be required reading for founders and CEOs of small businesses.

Some of what you will learn in this excellent book:

- Why it all starts with a big goal
- The importance of strategy
- How to analyze your industry the right way
- How to choose your game and play that game to win
- Why most companies get their SWOT analyses wrong
- How to make your performance visible
- How to really hold your people accountable

In particular, I was in total agreement with his focus on building the company around structured communications as follows:
- The Annual High-Level Strategic Review
- The Quarterly Strategic Review
- The Weekly Team Meeting
- The Weekly 1-1 Meeting
- The Daily Huddle

The only meeting he didn't mention and one that I have consistently recommended, is a monthly Board of Advisors meeting. But that may be a more advanced topic for this book.

This book was named Judges' Choice Winner in the Management category of the 2014 Small Business Book Awards. The awards celebrate the best business books that appeal to entrepreneurs, managers and their employees. The Winners were chosen by an expert panel of 24 judges from the small business community in the USA. The criteria for judging the Winners included: quality and quantity of the content conveyed; usefulness to small business owners and entrepreneurs; and freshness of the subject matter or how it was treated. The level of fan support for each Winner was also taken into account.

Read this book, take action, and get Results!
Business Execution for RESULTS: A practical guide for leaders of small to mid-sized firms

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.  

Mark Twain

Taylorism - Birth of Scientific Management

Looking back to where all this "scientific management" stuff began...

As early as the 1890s, Frederic Winslow Taylor of Philadelphia became the Father of what has come to be known as Scientific Management, or "Taylorism"), the theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows with the goal of optimizing productivity and reducing waste. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management.

Taylor observed that most workers who are forced to perform repetitive tasks tend to work at the slowest rate that goes unpunished. This, and other observations, led him to develop policies such as rest breaks, piece work incentives, time and motion studies, etc.

Once scientific management started, it was a genie that could not be put back into the bottle, and today's Toyota Production System, and Kaizen's focus on continuous improvement are merely the evolution of Taylor's insights. Beyond manufacturing, his findings have even been applied to sales process engineering.

Help Wanted: Admin. Assistant

Help wanted: 

Administrative assistant 
experienced with Mac, word processing, and spreadsheets. 

Part-time, flexible hours.
Work from home with occasional visits to Del Mar office.

Tell a friend, or 
send your resumé and pay requirements to 

Thank you!

Don't Drink and Thrive

Research shows that just holding a drink in your hand (and NOT drinking) at a business networking event will reduce your apparent IQ by 10-20 points, and make you less likely to get that great job, or that new client.

So, tell me again why you drink at business functions?  It just doesn't make sense.

However, AFTER work, and with team members ONLY, having a pint or a glass of wine will actually help with team bonding.

Bottom line: never drink at a business function. Period. It's the smart move.

Check out the full story here:

Venn-erable advice

Be in the star zone!

Source: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/updates?activity=5884708898992066560

My Startup Secret: a "Dream Woman"

Last Friday there was a Business Insider story about a startup in SF that advertised on craigslist for a "Gal Friday / Admin Assistant" who would be responsible for all the typical admin stuff, plus cooking, cleaning, and shopping. The story made a big thing about the cooking and cleaning part because the startup wanted a woman for the job, and they figured that was over-the-top sexist.

Maybe it is sexist, but that's missing the point.

The key to success is to delegate as much as humanly possible, so much so that all you have left are the things that you do extraordinarily well and that are essential to the success of your business.

I'm guessing that cooking and cleaning and shopping are not your core competency, right?

I discovered this secret in 1985, when I was doing the startup that became the first CRM software product for the PC (TeleMagic).  As the solo founder, I was doing it all: programming, sales, support, writing documentation... you name it. Sometimes I would be so in the Zone doing programming that I would completely miss one or two meals! And when I would come out of these marathon coding stints, with a raging hunger, there would be nothing in the refrigerator because I hate to shop, and hate to prepare meals, and it would be 3 in the morning and the only food available was Denny's... yuk.

That's no way to live, and certainly not a healthy lifestyle. So I decided to do something about it and put a free ad in the local Reader with the one word headline: SOUP!  You see, I figured that soup is the perfect food, for me, in that it can be heated up fast, and yet relatively simple to make, with a relatively long refrigeration life.

The first applicant was hired on the spot, and lasted for 6 months until she moved away with her boyfriend. She suggested a friend, Carol, for the job, and I took her suggestion.

It was the smartest move I ever made. Carol has been making soup, and more***, for me for 28+ years! Of course she also does the shopping for food, and the cleanup, but over the years she has taken on more and more. It's just amazing how many things are not my core competency!  :)  Gradually she took on laundry, closet organization, supplier interactions (no more dealing with the phone/cable/utility companies!), plant care, clothes shopping, and eventually I even showed her how to do the monthly financial reports, paying the bills... well, the list is now very long.

And the best part is that everything is documented in a System for Household Management**, so that when Carol is on vacation she can delegate the work without missing a beat.

Although she never worked for my company directly, Carol became such an integral part of my startup team that she was awarded bonuses equal to everyone else in the profit sharing pool.  I couldn't have succeeded so well without her.

In the spirit of Delegation, I strongly recommend that you find your "Dream Woman"* as early in your startup adventure as possible.

"Whatever you can do, or Dream you can, Begin it.  
Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it.  Begin it Now!"


* "Dream Woman" is not my phrase. Business Insider used it in their headline for the story.
** Want a copy of my System for Household Management?  Email me.
*** Carol's Cuisine: some of my favorite vegan recipes prepared by Carol. Includes the story of how it all got started.

Stragedy: Tragic end of bad strategy

I'm usually a very optimistic kind of guy. I like thinking about positive outcomes, and how to create them for my clients.

But today, Friday the 13th, seemed like an appropriate day to be thinking about startup failures, and why they occur. The importance of strategy crossed my mind as being of great importance. Then the thought of flawed strategy, so common in startup land, got me to playing with a new word, a portmanteau of strategy and tragedy; kind of a tongue-twister: stragedy.

At first, I thought that it was the Bushism (strategery) but that didn't express the disaster of poorly thought-out strategy. I found the word at Urban Dictionary!

a plan that has the conviction of forethought, 
but which is so disastrous 
it begs for hindsight before it is even implemented.

How many startups have you seen that were merely features that could easily be programmed into existing businesses? These business models that recreate another product but with only one small feature to differentiate the product are a sure recipe for failure.

Or a startup team that has no experience whatsoever in the business they are trying to disrupt. 

Many startups are based on a product idea that has never been validated in the marketplace.

But let's not focus so much on the bad strategies; let's consider how to create good ones. Check out these resources:

The Perils of Bad Strategy - a quick read that includes definitions, examples of good and bad strategy and thoughts on "the kernel of good strategy"

First Time CEO (Marissa)

"The interesting thing about being CEO 
is that you have very few decisions you need to make, 
and you need to make them absolutely perfectly."

Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo

When I first read that quote, I related to the stress in the statement.  You need to make big decisions, and they need be perfect (or bad things will happen). These are not situations to be taken lightly. It's a high-stakes poker game. In Marissa's statement is the recognition that she is playing all-in on every big hand. The fear of being wrong is a heavy burden, and can lead to over-thinking, delay, and the worst possible outcome: not making a decision at all.

This is Marissa's first CEO job, and so she has a lot to learn, but she's got to learn it on-the-job, quickly.

Of course, no human is perfect, and therefore we can not expect any CEO to make all the decisions "absolutely perfectly".  When she said this she was probably still smarting from her $58 Million dollar mistake of hiring the wrong sales manager.  She hired him quickly and then she waited for 15 months before firing him! As a rookie CEO, Marissa violated one of the most elemental principles of success in business: 

"Hire slow, fire fast."

In lists of the biggest regrets by CEOs, the one that always makes it near the top is the regret of having waited too long before firing someone. After all, who really likes to fire someone? Not fun. And the worst part is that you have to admit that you made a mistake in the first place by hiring that person. Double not-fun. Then there's all that work of finding a replacement, getting them up to speed, time lost, distractions, yadda, yadda, yadda. Maybe the person will finally "get it"...  Yeah, when pigs fly, maybe.

The practical advice for first time CEOs is to not worry about being perfect, and to move resolutely forward, making decisions that you know can be / will be flawed, and resolve that when it becomes obvious that a decision turns sour, to act quickly to address the issue.

See also:
GigaOm: The CEO's weekly checklist
Quora: Advice for a young, first-time startup CEO

Your Company Library

Trinity College Library,  Dublin.
Your Company Library will likely be more compact.

Why a "Company Library"?

Your Company Library is a powerful system for communication. The primary job of the CEO is to communicate. Not just the goals of the business, but also how the organization is to work.

The most effective, and efficient, way to do this is with a Company Library that contains books, audios, and links to online resources that deal with the most important aspects of the company's philosophy and operations.

Some of these volumes are to be consumed by everyone in the organization. Others are for just the members of a particular department, such as Sales or R & D. It should be determined by each business owner those volumes that are to be consumed prior to employment, and after, and even how many times per year these volumes are to be reviewed. Repetition is important.

The purpose is to have everyone in the organization be crystal clear when it comes to the basic philosophies of the company, the corporate culture, the goals, and what is required for continued participation in the adventure.

I have created a two lists of recommended books, one for startups, and a more complete list for companies a bit further along.  

to get started with your Company Library
(recommended books) 

What Great Salespeople Do

There is only one essential book on sales excellence: 

I highly recommend it.

Get it on Amazon:  Click Here Now

Read it over the weekend,
and transform your business on Monday.

Take Notes!

It is absolutely amazing to me that people who should know the simplest, most elementary things, just DON'T. It is as if a part of their brain is missing.

If you ask them about this thing they don't do, they will agree with you that they should, but for some reason, they just don't DO what they know very well what they should do.

For example: taking notes.

A couple of weeks ago I was one of 4 entrepreneurs invited to work with some students in a simulated "Shark Tank" event. My job was to listen to presentations of about 10 individuals/teams and give them feedback. 

Not one single student took notes! And these are students! I'm assuming that they take notes in their classes, right?  It should be a habit, right?

A few months ago I was one of a group of entrepreneurs who helped a team of two experienced business executives prepare their business plans for presentation to a group of investors.

When the big day came, neither of these executives took notes of the feedback!

What's up with that?
Do these people have eidetic memories, or hyperthymesia?
It is highly improbable, of course.

Imagine: you have worked many long hours on your ideas, and you finally get the very rare opportunity to share it with people who have great experience with this sort of thing, and they give you some very valuable feedback, and you don't even take notes?

Seriously, do you think you can remember everything you were told?

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”


The wikipedia article calls taking notes a form of self-discipline. I agree, and amplify that by saying that it is one of the better habits a business person can form.

But beyond that, it is a form of respect for the person to whom you are listening. 

When they see that you are diligently taking notes, they will be impressed with your seriousness of purpose, and want to help you even more. Taking notes is an indicator of your coachability. If you are coachable, you will get more of it. If not, you will be dropped for someone who is. Life is too short to waste with dullards.

Learning from your own experience may be Smart, but it is expensive and time consuming.
Learning from others' experience is Wise.

Take Notes!

Technology makes it easy. I recommend to my coaching clients to record our meetings on their smartphones, so they can pay full attention during our meetings, and then play the audio sometime later, when they can take notes from the recording. I recommend this, and it is just completely amazing to me how few actually do this. Is it laziness, or are these people just not highly motivated? 

Show me a man who takes notes and I will do extra work to help them.  

Show me a man who takes notes, and actually does something with them, and I will move heaven and earth to help them.

Being Resilient

Staying Resilient Through the Ups and Downs

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.

You have big ideas. You know you're going to make it, it may just take some time, possibly a lot of time. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, great days and horrible ones. You love your job one day and wish you worked for "the man" the next. But you're resilient. You will hold onto the hope you started with and power through each challenge - because it's your job.

Here are five ways to stay resilient and motivated.

1. Find a mentor. Being able to talk through your worries with someone who can offer up real advice and will keep your head in the game. Find someone you can trust, who understands the ins and outs of your industry and you can learn from.

2. Get out of the office. Exercise can make you happy, even if it's as simple as a long walk. If you don't think you have time, make it. Get up earlier, quit working so late or take a 30-minute mid-day break. It will kick up your endorphins and make you more creative.

3. Surround yourself with positive people. Being around happy people will motivate you. Whether it's the people you hire or the regulars at the coffee shop, find space to be inspired by others.

4. Give back. When you give to others, you get so much more in return. Join a group that gives back to the community. People who give tend to be more positive.

(source: www.melaniespring.com)

Mass email pre-flight checklist

Of course you have your own checklist that you use to create the best possible outcomes from your email marketing campaigns.

But is it this well done?
Click http://www.emailmonday.com/emailmarketingchecklist

The first thing I liked about it is the way it is broken up into sections, making it a lot easier to use because each of the sections is bite-sized. The sections make it more organized than just a long, long list that is pure chaos.  You probably did the same thing with your checklist, right?  Of course you did!

One thing I would add to the checklist is a post-email checklist to determine if you achieved your goals, and what you can do better next time.

I love that they call it a pre-flight checklist. Did you know that checklists were developed to help pilots deal with the ever-growing complexity of aircraft. It was a matter of life and death. (Read the true story) Your email marketing campaign is also a matter of life and death, of your business.

Use checklists! And continue to improve them.

Recommended book: The Checklist Manifesto

Clearly Defined Goals

In the absence of clearly defined goals,
we become strangely loyal to 
performing daily trivia
until ultimately we become enslaved by it.

Calculating LTV: Lifetime Value

This infographic from KISSmetrics blog.  
See the original post and especially the comments, at:

To see the graphic in greater detail, click:  

For more sales/marketing infographics, click:

Epic Fails in the Startup World

The New Yorker magazine has a nifty little piece with the headline: Epic Fails in the Startup World, which completely fails to deliver on the promise of the headline.  It never names a single Epic Fail in the Startup World.  Instead it focuses on some drivers of the fact that startups fail at a huge margin over successes.

Over-confidence is a big reason for startup failure.  To my way of thinking, another way to phrase that is just plain old stupid. It's the kind of stupidity that is sometimes characterized by the guy who says: "Hold my beer and watch this!". The most epic fails that follow sometimes get publicized by earning a place in the Darwin Awards.

But I'll bet that the rate of failure of startups is vastly understated. I'll bet that the conventional estimates of 80% of startups fail is low, and that the number is much more likely at 95% or more. This is likely true because many/most startups never get reported as starting up. The question becomes: "When does a startup become a startup?" A lot like "When Does Life Begin?"

If a startup exists at conception of the idea, then probably 99% of startups fail. Most never get past the idea stage. You probably have a few of those yourself. I know I've gone through a few of those. But of course they were never reported to anyone keeping statistics on startup failures. And, by the way, who the heck is keeping track of these things anyway?

It's not just the failures that are worrisome, it's the walking dead. Those are the startups that just keep hanging in there, in that ugly space between the champagne and burnt toast. These are a testament to the motto: "You can't fail if you don't quit!" Someone should put them out of their misery, and let them go on to fail at something else, just for the variety of it all.

Speaking of going on to something else, one point that the New Yorker article debunks is the conventional wisdom that an entrepreneur who fails once has a better chance of success the second time around. Absolutely wrong. Stupid is stupid. Ain't no cure for stupid. Or, as Forest Gump says: "Stupid is as stupid does". Yet even with all his stupid, he went on to startup a successful shrimp fishing business. Of course, that was just in the movies, not real life.

Take heart, startup people, success is right around the corner!

Or is it?

Here's a startup that analyzes startup failures:  TheFailCon.com  (check the videos)
The biggest analysis of startup success and failures is The Startup Genome: Compass

These resources are important because it's better to get smart from other people's stupid than from your own. People who learn from other people's experiences get smart fast. People who don't learn from other people's experiences will fail at a much greater rate. That's one of the best reasons for having a Board of Advisors.

Startup Fun Formula

New client: Idea stage startup.  Clear goal.  Needs plan of Action.
Estimates of the costs to achieve the goal are provided.
Here's my reply:

This is an excellent start at gathering real numbers to use in your planning.

Of course:

"The larger the island of knowledge, 
the longer the shoreline of wonder"  


The clarity of your numbers will shape your Plan of Action.

A number that is very important, and still unknown, is
the amount of Cash you are starting with, right now,
and how much more are you willing and able to put into the adventure
over the next, say, 24 months.

Add to that:
The amount of Cash you figure you can raise from "friends and family"
either in the form of loans or equity investments,
or from selling your assets (home, car, gold bars, etc).

Plus credit cards and personal bank loan capability to finance the adventure.​

I'm assuming that the sum of those numbers is close to zero.
And that's ok, all is not lost,
it just means we need to Act accordingly.

Lots of Cash is available, from many other sources
such as Grants, and Sales of Products and/or Services to Customers.
Sales is my favorite because you don't sell equity or have to pay it back.

Another number that is missing is Time (T),
the hours per day that you, and others, will dedicate to this adventure.
Beware if your answer to this question is anything other than:
"Every waking hour, day and night, weekends,
from now until the end of Time... I am obsessed."

With constraints (Cash and Time) known,
your options become much clearer.

The next step is to lay these cash Inflows (I) out in a spreadsheet,
so you can see, by month, when and how much cash is available.

The obvious next step is to enter your cash Outflows (O), by month,
(just estimates of course).

The simple equation reveals the Truth:

Fun ($) = (C + I - O) * T

Avoid activities that produce negative Fun.
Optimize activities that produce positive Fun.

It's a game.
Sort of like a plate-spinning act.

The different plates represent different types of Activities
that are required in the startup:
Product Development, Admin, Support, Sales, Finance, HR, Board of Advisors, etc.

The founder/CEO is the only plate spinner, at first.
To scale up the adventure he must Delegate
as much as humanly possible to others who will be reliable spinners.

To attract human resources to optimize Time,
the entrepreneur uses the power of Story
to communicate the Vision, the Message, the Call to Action.
The Plan of Action.

The Story needs to be Written Down.

This is your Next Step.

Write the Story.

Selling Vaporware

Allow me to share with you one of the great secrets to success in business...

In order to be successful in business, the first requirement is that you actually BE in business, and it is to this topic that I refer.  Most startups never get to the point of actually being in business because they have to do (list of other stuff) first.  This strategy is flawed.

Most startups would argue that there is some initial period of being in business that is devoted to product development, whereby a product is built, and only then is the search for customers, and the ultimate exchange of cash for software.

What I mean by "being in business" is characterized by talking with customers about their needs and charging them real money to provide the solution. If you aren't doing that, you're not in business.

I learned this first-hand when I started my software company.  I didn't have a product, and I didn't have, and couldn't borrow, any money.

It is when your back is squarely up against the wall that you get most creative.

I had to sell a product that didn't exist.  In fact, I had to do that in order to get the money to live until I could build the product, so I could deliver the product and get paid.

I educated my first customer to understand what sort of a solution he needed, and then gave him the opportunity to enjoy this fine product in a couple of months, and all it would take to achieve this yummy goodness is his autograph on a check for half the price now and half on delivery. He readily agreed, and then I informed him that the only other condition about the software was that it would be my property, he would get to use it in perpetuity, and that he would get all support and updates for free. His forward-thinking reply was that it's irrelevant who owned the software, only that he gets the benefit of using it.

Imagine the beautiful moment when you turn an idea into words and then into cash!  This was the beginning of Remote Control International, and my product TeleMagic, the first CRM* product for the PC, in 1985.

Some startups think that they need seed capital in order to build a product, but I respectfully disagree as a general principle. Selling stock instead of selling your product (the one that doesn't exist) is a sucker play. Seed capital is the most expensive money your could ever get.

Because of the Vaporware approach I took, I was able to retain 100% stock ownership from startup through the Exit. It was very rewarding.  :)

Check out this neat post about the subject of Selling What Doesn't Exist. Interestingly, it is from another CRM (close.io) founder.

*CRM is the acronym for Customer Relationship Management and describes a category of software that facilitates customer/prospect interactions.  Since TeleMagic was the first product of it's kind in 1985, there was no category.  Soon after I started selling, there were many competitors, and software of this type was known as Contact Management software, then Sales Automation software, and now Customer Relationship Management software. Whatever the name others gave it, I always saw it as one of the elemental products that every person needed.