Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it. Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it. Begin it Now! (Goethe)

November 22, 2015

Screw Up? How to Apologize

When you screw up (it happens), admit it, apologize briefly, and then announce your Action Plan moving forward. It's that simple.

Most people make it much worse for themselves when they screw up.
They grovel (so embarrassing).
They offer credits and refunds (undisguised bribery).

Here's what Bloomberg.com has to say about it:

To investors, too much contrition is a sign of weakness.

Publicists are quick to tell clients what to do when the corporate nightmare of a misbehaving executive or a faulty product erupts: apologize, with feeling. The consultant who coached ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries on a mea culpa after a deadly listeria outbreak in April has chief executive officers read their talking points three times—once aloud, once to himself, and again aloud—to make sure they sound authentic. “The key is to feel the message points, not just recite them,” says Blue Bell adviser Gene Grabowski, a former PR News Crisis Manager of the Year.

Stock market investors have their own feeling about contrition, according to new research: lose it. Two business professors who analyzed more than 100 corporate apologies over three decades through 2012 found that those demonstrating the most emotion also experienced the steepest declines in share price over the following week. “The more empathy the company shows, the more they promise follow-through, the more they get slammed by the market,” says DePaul University ethicist Daryl Koehn of her research with Maria Goranova, who teaches management at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

The two put together a database spanning Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 recall of poisoned Tylenol tablets to BP CEO Tony Hayward’s infamous “I’d like my life back” crack weeks after the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The professors ranked apologies on a sliding scale of completeness. They figured the perfect apology would acknowledge responsibility, identify the harm, show a wise character, be delivered in person and on time, display empathy for victims, and promise follow-through.

No apology in their database rated as perfect, and only three got the next-best score. One came from Intuit, whose CEO, Brad Smith, wrote customers in 2010 to “deeply apologize for the pain” it caused them after an outage affecting such popular software as Quicken and TurboTax. The company’s stock fell 4 percent over the next week.

When Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson apologized for discrepancies in his résumé in 2012, his statement took responsibility for the distraction he’d caused, not the errors, and promised to “keep moving forward.” The professors scored his apology a zero. The stock rose for several days afterward, though Thompson eventually resigned.

What the researchers had hoped to prove was that investors valued the most ethically sound apologies. Instead, the strongest finding was the negative reaction to empathy. By contrast, CEOs who identified the problem and took responsibility for it, without any empathy, got a small stock increase.

One reason empathy may disturb investors is that it’s often considered a feminine trait or a sign of weakness, the researchers speculated. All the apologizers they studied were men. A 2007 report on CEO appointments found that corporate stock prices fell more steeply when the new leader was a woman.

Another possible interpretation, according to Koehn: “If you’re showing all that pathos, empathy, and emotional connection with your audience, the stock market might say, ‘They’re actually going to do something.’ And that’s going to cost money.”

Whatever the market risks, in an era when anyone with a mobile phone can publicize wrongdoing around the world, there’s little alternative to apologizing, says Richard Levick, a Washington-based publicist who’s advised Wall Street banks and the Catholic Church. And, as he likes to tell clients, saying you’re sorry is cheap. Levick cites a 2009 University of Nottingham School of Economics study that found an apology to disgruntled customers was more effective than cash. Only 23 percent agreed to withdraw a complaint in exchange for nominal cash compensation, while 45 percent did so after an apology. “Before we’re shareholders, before we’re consumers, we are human beings,” he says.

The Texas ice cream maker Blue Bell isn’t publicly traded, so there’s no way to judge investor reaction to the recall apology earlier this year. More important, adviser Grabowski says, is that consumers stuck with the brand. When it reappeared in stores this summer, customers lined up to buy it. That response may help prove another point, Koehn says: “The market may be out of step with the ethical expectations of the population at large.”

The bottom line: While sincere apologies can bring down stock prices, customers prefer a prompt “I’m sorry” to cash compensation


November 4, 2015

Analytics: Metrics Matter

(from Andreesen Horowitz, a16z.com)

We (Andreesen Horowitz) have the privilege of meeting with thousands of entrepreneurs every year, and in the course of those discussions are sometimes presented with all kinds of measures that seemingly illustrate the promise and health of a company but aren't the best gauge of what’s actually happening in the business. So we've compiled not just one, but two, lists of metrics to help. But these metrics aren’t only about raising money from VCs -- as one of our commenters shared: Drive with them, don’t just report them!
Check out these 16 startup metrics
Then check out these 16 more

October 16, 2015

Becoming a better leader

Good reading for the weekend.  Consider these thoughts well, and resolve to be a better leader come Monday morning:
Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight, but it can be achieved through discipline, hard work and a commitment to improvement through experience. Great leaders aren’t born, as some people suggest; instead, they are shaped over time. And, while what makes a “great” leader in one application doesn’t always apply to others, there are some general rules that all great leaders follow.
If becoming a great leader in your own business or organization is your goal, these 50 rules are a good place to start:
1. Listen to your team. Rule one. Always listen to what your team has to say, even if you don’t like it.
2. Communicate as efficiently as possible. Make your expectations and feelings clear, in the appropriate medium as often as possible.
3. Talk less. Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying just anything.
4. Be an example. Be the type of person you want your team members to be.
5. Be passionate. If you aren’t passionate about your business, you’re in the wrong business.
6. Be consistent. Be consistent in your behaviors so your team knows what to expect from you.
7. Make firm decisions. Don’t leave things undecided for long, and don’t waver about a decision once you’ve made it.
8. Identify mentors and role models. Find people you can look up to and learn from, and follow them closely.
9. Interfere only when necessary. If you trust your team to do good work, don’t interfere unless absolutely necessary.
10. Know your limits. Don’t extend yourself beyond your means.
11. Know your strengths. If you’re good at resolving disputes, step in and resolve them as often as possible.
12. Know your weaknesses. If there’s something you’re not good at, admit it, and work on it.
13. Don’t make excuses. If you make a mistake, take ownership of it and don’t pass the blame to someone or something else.
14. Accept the unforeseen. You can’t control or predict everything.
15. Choose your partners carefully. Work only with people you can count on and trust.
16. Do good. Commit yourself to being a good person and giving back to the community when possible.
17. Meet new people all the time. Take every opportunity to expand your network and expose yourself to new experiences and perspectives.
18. Stay in touch with your emotions. Don’t be a robot -- let yourself feel.
19. Temper your reactions. Hold back your reactions until you have a moment to clarify your internal thoughts and feelings.
20. Have fun. Take the time to have fun with your team.
21. Research everything. Before making a decision, know the pros and cons -- do your homework.
22. Think everything through. Never exclusively trust your instincts or first reactions.
23. Choose your team carefully. Hire only those you can trust to get the job done (and to get along with others, as well).
24. Prioritize your team. Your team is everything. Give them whatever they need to succeed.
25. Be humble. Don’t get big-headed about your wealth, influence or position as a leader.
26. Forgive mistakes. Everyone makes them.
27. Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up too much over anything. Move on.
28. Be rational. Make decisions logically.
29. Be reasonable. Listen to dissenting opinions, and be fair.
30. Make time for what’s important. There’s no such thing as “not having time” for what’s really important in your life. Make the time.
31. Constantly learn. Read as much as you can, and take classes whenever you have the opportunity.
32. Improve everything. Work on improving your approaches, your skills and your processes constantly.
33. Never give up. Don’t throw in the towel when a little extra persistence could put you over the edge.
34. Transform your methods when necessary. If something isn’t working, change your approach.
35. Cut your losses when necessary. If you’re fighting a losing battle, retreat and start again somewhere else (or in a new way).
36. Learn from your mistakes. Try not to make the same mistakes twice.
37. Ground everything with data. Back up all your decisions, opinions and thoughts with hard, objective facts and evidence.
38. Don’t ignore signs of stress. Stress is real and can interfere with your ability to lead. If it starts setting in at abnormal levels, take action to reduce or relieve it.
39. Give feedback. Let your team know what they’re doing well and what needs further improvement.
40. Trust, but verify. Trust your team to get things done, but always follow up to make sure the work is completed.
41. Be approachable. Let people know they can trust you, and open your door to anybody who needs it.
42. Treat everyone equally. Don’t play favorites; it breeds resentment and makes you appear immature as a leader.
43. Don’t pursue close personal relationships with the team. Be on friendly terms, but don’t try to be best friends with everybody. You’re a leader, first and foremost.
44. Get the team together. Use team-building exercises or other excuses to get your team members talking with one other and having fun together.
45. Return favors. If someone helps you, make it your responsibility to pay back the favor -- even if it’s years later.
46. Don’t burn bridges. Never cut a contact completely out of your life.
47. Stay in touch. If team members leave or change roles, stay in contact with them.
48. Don’t sacrifice your personal life. Your personal life is necessary to retain your own mental health. Never sacrifice it for the sake of leadership or professional responsibilities.
49. Enjoy leadership. Try not to stress too much about being a leader. Instead, enjoy all the benefits it offers.
50. Take advice with a grain of salt. Even with these 50 rules! Because nobody knows everything, and no one piece of advice applies to all situations.
Follow these rules, trust your instincts and continually strive for self-improvement. Eventually, through your experiences and your efforts, you’ll become the type of leader most people only aspire to be. 

October 15, 2015

I delegate, therefore I am...

I love a lot of things about being CEO,
but I think I love Delegating the most.

August 23, 2015

Six steps for setting business goals

  1. Define Quantifiable Goals
    The first step in setting business goals is determining exactly what you want to accomplish. Make sure your goal is worth your effort. Think about how you would design goals if you were certain that they would be successful. Conversely, what would your strategy be if this was your last opportunity? It’s important to set clear goals; you should know exactly where you want to go and you should not waiver from your target regardless of failures along the way. Be as specific as possible, so you are able to determine when you’ve reached your goal.
  2. Make your Goals Specific
    Once again, make sure your business goals aren’t too vague. It’s critical to use a goal setting formula that gives your goal a built-in action plan. Define your end goal and create a road map for exactly how you’re going to reach your goal. Be specific with what you want to accomplish at each check point. You'll achieve a great deal more than you would without these guidelines.
  3. Commit to your Goals
    Make a commitment and stick with it. Once you’ve set your plan in motion, stay motivated to see your goals through to the end. Don’t procrastinate or second-guess your decisions, as this will only delay the process. Don’t forget to enjoy the process and reward yourself for staying focused.
  4. Make your Goals Public
    An extremely effective technique for achieving business goals is making them public. Invite a team or even a single person into your plan; you’ll face accountability which can be very motivating. Once you share your goals with someone, you can determine what sort of involvement they will have with your plan. Will you ask them to check in with you every so often or not? What their role entails is up to you.
  5. Set a Deadline
    If you don’t set a deadline, your goal will fail. Goals without deadlines indicate that you are not fully committed. Determining a deadline puts your goal into context. Pick a reasonable date that isn’t too aggressive, but also not too far away.
  6. Reward Yourself
    In the goal-setting process, there’s one very important thing to remember: you. Once you’ve accomplished a goal or reached a milestone within your goal, make sure to mark the occasion. You’ve invested an incredible amount of time, energy and determination to reach your goal, so make sure you take a moment to celebrate your success.

July 15, 2015


Click here for the video: http://www.academybridge.org/videogallery/lean-startup-pivot/

A pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision. 

Eric Ries

10 Pivot Options

Zoom-In: A single feature in a product (service) becomes the whole product, thus highlighting the value of “focus” and “minimum viable product” (MVP), which can be delivered quickly and efficiently.

Zoom-Out: What was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.

Customer Segment: The product is positioned for a more appreciative segment, and optimized for that segment.

Customer Need: When the problem solved is not very important, repositioning (or a new product) is required to find a problem worth solving.

Platform: Iterating from an application to a platform (or vice versa) because most customers buy solutions, not platforms.

Architecture: Focusing on one of two business architectures: high margin-low volume (complex systems), or low margin-high volume (volume operations). You can’t do both at the same time.

Value Capture: The “free” model doesn’t capture much value, therefore many startups require a monetization model (revenue model) to capture value. This choise can have far-reaching consequences for the business, product, or marketing strategy.

Engine of Growth: Startups must select one of three growth engines: viral, sticky, or paid growth. Selecting the right model can dramatically affect the speed and profitability of growth.

Channel: Channel pivots require unique pricing, features, and competitive positioning adjustments.This impacts how a startup effectively delivers it product to customers (sales channel or distribution channel).

Technology: The technology pivot can provide superior price and/or performance and improve the startup competitive posture (same solution provided but with a completely different technology.

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” - Eric Ries

Watch Eric Ries (The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses) describe the different pivot options:

Lean Startup 10 Pivot Choices

July 13, 2015

Why do sales slump at 18 months?

Good friend and awesome sales trainer Mike Bosworth explores the art of the traditional salesperson, and extracts techniques from top closers to find the connection between storytelling and earning trust.

July 11, 2015

Success is...

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal...

Earl Nightingale

Listen to this excellent recording made in 1956 by one of the greats:

June 25, 2015

Ben Franklin; Four Rules for Living

Franklin’s Four Rules for Living

1. It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time, till I have paid what I owe.

2. To endeavor to speak truth in every instance; to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action – the most amicable excellence in a rational being.

3. To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.

4. I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of every body.

May 23, 2015

✅10 Ways to Boost Productivity ✅

There are tons of ways to boost your productivity, and here are ten of them.  But one of my favorites is missing from the list: UNSUBSCRIBE from a lot of those emails you get but never read! Open up your bandwidth for real work. Also UNFOLLOW and UNFRIEND until the chatter gets close to zero. Twitter? Forget it. Email only on focused time slots during the day.  Never answer the phone unless it's a pre-arranged meeting. Let it go to voicemail. You'll be surprised how many phone calls you don't need to take...  Excuse the rant, here are the ten:

May 20, 2015

✅ The Success Indicator - What Successful People Do ✅

What are the differences in what people DO 
that will indicate if they are going to be successful?

Check the infographic below,
and then think about what You Do.

Time to change some of your Actions?

May 10, 2015

Apple Watch: productivity Plus.

After several days of using the Apple watch, I am moved to write that it is totally excellent, and beyond my expectations. I thought that it would be a "nice to have" but have found that it is an absolute "must have".

I am a minimalist, so body jewelry is something I avoid. Although I own a Breitling Navitimer, a necessary but never used backup chronometer I wore during my flying days, now it just sits in a drawer.  It's great to look at, but it just tells the time, and I can get that on my smartphone. And I never did like the strap; it was truly uncomfortable to wear.

For the last 15 years, I think I might have worn a watch maybe 10 days, max.

So how come I'm such a fan of the Apple watch?

1. I just really got tired of pulling my tablet sized iPhone 6+ out of my pants just to check the time.

2. And, for anything more than checking the time, I had to go through the extra steps of thumbprint ID or entering the 4-digit code. This is a significant irritant, but you really need to have it secure.

3. I can honestly say that I have reduced the number of times I handle my iPhone by at least 95% because the watch does what I need from the phone, and it does it better and faster.  For example, on day one, I used Apple Pay to get lunch at Whole Foods, with the watch!

4. It's Fun! And I'm sure you'll agree the first time you answer your phone on your watch. Serious Dick Tracy stuff here. Text messages and email too. And Siri is right there to tell you everything she knows. However, I do find it weird that she knows sunrise/sunset times, but not high/low tides. I'm sure she will study up on that for the next version.

5. It's really well designed. Out of the box, I just naturally set it up to wear on my left wrist (like most right handed people do) and with the controls on the right side of the watch. But just today I turned it around with the controls on the left, and prefer that arrangement. Breitling's watches, at 10x the price at least, will never do that. The display is dazzlingly clear and bright, and customizable beyond imagining. I set up mine to show sunrise/sunset, time/date, moon phase, temperature, and battery reserve all on the main screen. Nice.

6.  First class support. Fedex delivered the watch, I signed for it, and by the time I got back to my computer, there was an email from Apple congratulating me for my new watch, and inviting me to a free 1-on-1 web chat with Kathryn, a very attractive Apple genius (see photo above).  How can I, how could anyone, refuse such an offer. She was very engaging, and there was no time limit at all. Take as much time as you need, no question too intricate or stupid. Yes, I do prefer redheads, but I prefer smart most of all, and she was absolutely on her game. Apple does customer service right.

7.  More customer service!  I got the 38mm watch size, the smaller of the two, because I thought the 42mm might be too big for my wrist. After a few days of wearing it, I suspected that the larger size might be OK for me, and stopped by the local Apple store to try one on.  It was a total madhouse, packed with Saturday afternoon crowds checking out the new toy.  I was expecting a long wait for service, but as soon as I flashed my watch, I went to the top of the list. Customers first!  Best of all, free exchanges!  I ordered the bigger one, which is expected to ship in July. Two months wait! They must be selling a bazillion of these things. Pay when I get it, bring in the old one for credit card refund, no problem.

8.  There are apps galore, and features I don't want to bore you with in print, but you'll love when you discover them on your own.

9.  And did I mention that I almost never take my phone out of my pocket any more?  In fact, when I'm home, I don't even carry the phone with me because the bluetooth connectivity from watch to phone is excellent. I have found battery life on the watch is certainly adequate to last all day, with a charge at night.

This watch will sell a lot more iPhones, and vice versa. You gotta get one!

May 3, 2015

Startup Reading 5.3.15

Always be Recruiting!

Elon Musk's ex-wife on what it takes to be a mogul - NY Times
How to run better team meetings - Results.com

Make yourself redundant as CEO - Founders Institute
What you don't understand about Growth Hacking - Founder Dating

Be alone.
That is the secret of invention.
Be alone.
That is when ideas are born.

I do not think you can name many great inventions
that have been made by married men.

Nicola Tesla

April 22, 2015

Doing a Startup? Step 1: Learn to Fly!

If you're thinking of doing your first startup,
and want to know what it's going to be like,
learn how to fly...

I was fascinated with flying at a very early age.
At 23, about 50 years ago,
I finally made it happen, and took a lesson at the local airport.

I had no idea that what I learned that day would apply to my career in starting and building successful businesses.

Without even introducing himself, the flight instructor walked me out to a small airplane (not the one in the photo) and soon we were taxiing toward the runway...

I was completely dumbfounded with the bewildering array of instruments on the dashboard, and the buttons, levers, and lights that were seemingly everywhere. I was impressed with his ability to deal with all those mystical controls while simultaneously talking on the radio and constantly looking around for something, but I had no idea what it was...

All of a sudden the engine roared and we began rolling down the runway, and by god, we were flying! The dream of a lifetime and it was happening all too fast for me to appreciate.

The instructor must have noticed the dazed look on my face and asks if I'm ok, do I feel sick? I hadn't been thinking about that, but no, I didn't feel like I was going to puke, thankfully.

He looks me in the eye and asks: So, you want to learn how to fly, kid?
Yes, Yes! Of course I do...
Ok, then, the lesson begins!

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

His questions spilled out at great speed, each one like a droplet of water in a full-force fire hose:

What's your airspeed?  He points to the indicator.
What's your heading?  He points to the compass.
What's your altitude?  He points to the altimeter.
Look out the window! You see any traffic?
What is the engine speed? He points to the tachometer.
Are your wings level with the horizon?
Which way is the wind blowing?
Are you climbing or descending or flying level?
Are you flying straight or turning?
What's your oil temperature? He points to the gauge.
Oil pressure? Another gauge.
Where's the airport?
Can you make it back if there's a fire?
Fire?  Holy shit! Airplanes burst into flames?
Where would you land if the engine quit?
And then, I swear, he turns off the engine, and the once-spinning propeller is stopped.
The silence is like Death, and now I know I have a madman for an instructor.
Where?  Where would you land?  Look out the window, point to a place you can land.
I point to a place that looks like a field. He says No, too far away.
I point to a highway. He says, again, too far away.
The ground is getting closer all the time, and I'm convinced that this is the day I die...
Then he turns the engine back on and starts to climb to safety.

I'm totally confused. It's overwhelming.
He's a sadist, I'm sure of it. Insane!
Nobody can learn all this, let alone master it.

I thought this was going to be fun, but this is pure pain.
And I haven't even touched the steering wheel, but he doesn't call it that.
Everything has a special name, nothing is familiar.

Maybe this flying stuff isn't for me after all...

Welcome to learning to fly.
Doing a startup is the same.

So much to learn, so many things that can go wrong, so many ways to fail.

I stuck with it, and earned my solo permit after only 8 hours of instruction,
and then I quit flying for the next 28 years, while I focused on business.

I applied those flying lessons to the several businesses I started over the years,
and one of them (TeleMagic) was so successful that I finally bought my own airplane
(the one in the photo, a newly manufactured but 1935 design, Waco YMF-5, built by Waco Classic)
and flew it for the next 7 years, all over the USA and Europe.

Of course,
I did eventually learn about all those buttons and knobs and dials and gauges.
I did learn how to navigate, and communicate on the radio.
About the hazards of weather and how even innocent clouds can kill.
I did learn the federal regulations governing all things in the air.

I even learned how to have Fun while flying.
Aerobatics! Loops and rolls, and spins, and more.
Different airplanes: Open cockpit biplanes, The P-51 Mustang, the Spitfire, floatplanes, gliders, multi-engine airplanes, the B-17 bomber, more...
It was wonderful, better than I could have imagined.

But it took time, lots of time.
And practice.
There were mistakes.

Even the simplest mistake in an airplane can kill you.
As with business, not paying attention can have the most severe consequences.

When you learn to fly, you learn from an instructor who has lots of experience.
And you fly with them until one magical day they certify you to fly solo.
But that is just an illusion, you may be able to fly without your instructor, just not with passengers.
No way are you allowed to risk other lives with your inexperience.

Only after many hours of book learning, and tests to be sure you know the material,
and many more hours of flying with an instructor to check you out on the finer points of flying... only then are you certified to be a pilot in the eyes of god and man.

Even then, it's really just the beginning; a license to learn more.
You'll never stop learning.

And so it is in Business.

The big lesson keeps playing out:
Either you are IN control, or you are OUT OF CONTROL.

As pilot-in-command, and as CEO,
you MUST be in control at all times,
in a constantly changing environment.

You must always be checking your current situation with your flight PLAN, and know what you are going to do if/when things conspire against you, as they most certainly will.

Pay attention. To everything. All the time.
Focus on the most important things.
What is the PLAN?

And, in the middle of all the chaos, you want to have Fun, right?


(more later)

April 18, 2015

Startup Reading 4.19.15

Prototyping is always worth it
Prototyping is always worth it - Futurice.com
Smoke Tests: Comprehension vs. Commitment - GrasshopperHerder.com

The Innovators Dilemma for SaaS Startups - Tom Tunguz
Management Myths vs. Facts - Results.com

10 Experiments to test your startup hypothesis - Founder Institute
Reward Success and Failure, punish only inaction - Berkus

Your Product Demo Sucks because you're focused on your product - First Round
The 5 Ps of Productive Meetings - Results.com

CFO to CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people, 
and then they leave us?
CEO: What if we don't, and they stay?
From Garry Ridge, CEO WD-40

You don't build a business.
You build people and then people build the business.
Zig Ziglar

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Peter Drucker