April 29, 2017

Jeff Bezos Reveals Method for High Velocity Decision Making

In his 2017 Shareholder report, founder Jeff Bezos reveals Amazon.com's tactic for:

High-Velocity Decision Making

Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations. The senior team at Amazon is determined to keep our decision-making velocity high. Speed matters in business – plus a high-velocity decision making environment is more fun too. We don’t know all the answers, but here are some thoughts.
First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong? I wrote about this in more detail in last year’s letter.
Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.
Third, use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.

The True Story of How and When CRM Software Was Invented

It was in the earliest days of the Personal Computer revolution. Many small businesses were using PCs for word processing, spreadsheets, billing and inventory. The marketplace was evolving rapidly; lots of new software was imagined, programmed, and sold. It seems ridiculous now, but in the early times these programs would be displayed in baggies hanging on carousels by the cash register in the local computer store, containing one or two floppy disks of magic software.
Imagine it: Software as Impulse Buy! Might was well get some extra software for the new computer, right? After all, the more it can do, the more profits, right? That's just Business 101. Cheap, too... games for 5 bucks at the low end to inventory software for 50 bucks or more. The best and most expensive software came with binders in boxed sets, hundreds of pages of documentation to explain how to use the software.
But it was all really awful stuff.
That statement comes from a guy who, at the time, had 20 years experience imagining, designing, programming and selling business application software on mainframes. But the people who were writing software for the PC were learning on the job, and there were not a lot of other ways to learn. Video did not exist on computers, there was no internet. It was a simpler time, in some ways...
Patents were not issued on software at the time. So if you had an idea, you had to program it fast and start selling it before the next guy comes along and copies it and starts selling it for less, trying to steal your lunch and put you out of business. The software business was a race, and a gamble, and a game of smarts playing against some of the smartest.
VC money was not a concept until later. Act! appeared in 1986 backed with VC money. The concept of "startup" didn't exist. 
It was the Wild West of the Software revolution. There was no clear leader in the commercial application software business for PCs. It was very fragmented, lots of small bit players. These small players could stand out by gambling on an ad in the industry magazines Byte and PC. One page cost a small fortune. Software publishers who could afford it showed up in Las Vegas in August, the world's biggest trade show, Comdex, takes over the whole town with non-stop innovation and deal making and partying. Software publishers were really just techies who built a product and had little to zero business and sales experience.
As these very early years of the Personal Computer revolution were changing the way we do business, there was a guy, let's call him DoubleM, whose fortunes were about to change for the better but only after changing for the worse.
It was on March 17, 1983 that personal bankruptcy was DoubleM's only option, the bottom was hit, and there was no place to go but up.
When faced with the reality of the line that was crossed, from success to failure, from luxury to poverty, and when it happens so suddenly, it gets your attention and forces immediate action or there will be nothing to eat...
DoubleM had some skills and some good experience with business due to having two previous startups and they were both business software that was used as a service (not SaaS, which came much later).
Another factor that helped align the stars for the birth of CRM was the fact that in this one person there existed a combination of skills, talents, whatever. it was this rare combination of all of them in one person that defied the odds by a big margin. For example...
There exist two worlds: the world of the nerd and the world of the "suits". Very rarely do they inter-breed. You either spent your time with your head inside the computer, learning and programming and debugging and fixing stuff... or you were running the business, and selling and marketing and focused on taking care of business. The nerds hadn't a clue about business and the suits had no clue whet the nerds were saying. This caused no end of problems in those early years, still does.
And then there are two other worlds when it comes to business: the owners on the one hand, and the salespeople / customer service people on the other hand, and they create the money that pays everyone else's salary. The bosses don't have a clue what or how to do the sales and service, and live in fear that someday all the sales will stop when the salespeople go work for a competitor. These two kinds of people existed on opposite sides of the world of business. Rarely did they mix in any individual.
So we have one individual with multiple essential and yet mutually exclusive experiences. Highly improbable.
The kicker is that he was ambitious, he had something to prove, he was "hungry", and that can make all the difference. He didn't like being bankrupt. He wanted to get his Ferrari back.
He decided to return to basics and do what he did 20 years earlier when working at IBM as a sales rep / systems engineer, right out of college. IBM was the greatest company in the world in 1964. He learned a lot. His assignment was to roam parts of 4 states, and find factories and sell them computer systems and then get them to do whatever was needed; to design and deliver the systems and procedures and software solutions. This time he would do it in San Diego, as an independent computer consultant.
The story has been told many times about what came next, how he asked a young and pretty lady friend to hand out some posters and deliver a one-word script ("Computers?") with a smile. The phone rang the next day with a call from a company who would soon become the first user of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software product.
The name of that company is Coffee Ambassador in San Diego, California, and the guy who bought that first CRM is still working there, because he's the owner. Sean Curtis is the guy who got one of the first posters and made the call, possibly hoping the pretty lady would return. 
Instead, it was "DoubleM", who showed up.  At the time he had no illusions about building a software product, he just needed to pay the rent and eat, and save up for a car. It was a humbling time. 
The first meeting went well, the office coffee company was growing quickly and having trouble keeping up with the paperwork. They needed a computer and a good bit of hand holding and custom programming, fast. DoubleM made a proposal to do an analysis of their needs for $950, with half of that at the start, the balance payable on delivery of what would essentially be a plan for using computers most effectively.
The coffee company bought the proposal, gave him a check for $475. The pressure was off for at least a week.
More calls came in, and in short order he had enough cash to buy his own PC, which was essential because he knew nothing about the PC. This was a key ingredient in his plan to survive. If he was going to master this new technology he needed to have his own PC, full time, instead of learning on the job at a customer's office. It's embarrassing looking through manuals in front of customers; it's erodes confidence.
Soon there was enough cash to buy the bits and pieces for a home office space in his studio apartment. For a desk it was two 2-drawer filing cabinets with a block of wood as the table top. The chair was a folding wooden torture device, cost all of 15 bucks at Sears.
He picked up a used mattress, a cast-off from a relative upgrading. He had a place to sleep, but the PC kept him awake.
PCs were only part of the rich tapestry of hardware and software that he worked with during the years of 1983-1984. Other systems included IBM mainframes, Apple II machines, and mini computers such as Altos and others. The hardware had its own unique operating systems, and languages, and application software. It was always a challenge learning new tech fast to deliver the solution, and get paid.
This guy, DoubleM, was just selling his time by the hour to whoever needed help, on whatever computer, operating system, application, or language.
DoubleM was soon eating regular and paying the rent. Within a couple of months he bought a cheap used car, a beater of a '65 Mustang, in red, because it reminded him of the car he drove when he worked as a sales rep / systems engineer at IBM almost 20 years previously, except then the Mustang was brand new, not 20 years old. Although cell phones had not come into use yet, that Mustang was truly a mobile device; it could get him to clients without borrowing a car from friends. It was a great milestone in his recovery from bankruptcy.
DoubleM considered work a meditation during those two years, with total focus on service to others, without focus on dreams of grandeur, without ambition, just keeping his head down and doing the work to earn the money for food and rent. 
He had one fork, one spoon, one knife, and one bowl. Life was simple.
There was a detail that needed to be solved, however. The maximum earnings that could be achieved was limited by the hours that could be billed by one person, DoubleM himself. If he wanted to play frisbee on the beach, not a billable activity, usually, he would be taking a pay cut to do it.
The "suit" within him knew that he needed a product that could be sold by others and that revenue could still flow IN when he played frisbee or was sleeping. A software product, a product that was unique, something that didn't compete with existing products, a software product for people like himself... sales people and entrepreneurs and customer service people, a program that would do the work that the suits needed done, and a program that the workers would want to use.
That was the big issue with software of the day, it was so difficult to use. it was crazy how some of the stuff was put together. And it was buggy of course. The biggest issue with that seemed to be that programmers of the day didn't understand users, and users didn't understand programmers. To make it worse, programmers liked to show off their skills and knowledge of software features, and that would result in software that users found baffling.
DoubleM had skills as a programmer, as well as a "suit",  a sales rep, a manager, and a startup entrepreneur. He saw things others couldn't because of the combination of so many experiences that rarely, if ever, existed in one individual at that time.
For those two years, the idea was brewing for what would eventually become a whole new category of software, and because it was new, there wasn't even a category, it existed alone, a free-standing and unique creation.

A reason why it was so unique was because it represented a paradigm shift in the nature of user software. Virtually all software products at the time were really special-purpose tools designed to accomplish a certain task (word processing, spreadsheet, accounting), whereas what DoubleM had in mind was a collection of tools that were integrated to perform real world needs (sell more, build a business, customer support), and to do it in such a way that you didn't need to know much about computers. At the time, most computer users were the early adopters, the people who knew about computers, so the software of the time was designed knowing that users were already literate with them. In order to enter an entirely new market, the software had to be an order of magnitude easier to use, it had to be so easy to use that a salesperson could use it, someone who had slim to zero computer experience.

The essential purpose of the product was to create cash for the user, because that was DoubleM needed most at the time.
If he could get a computer to create cash, that would be a good thing. There were zero products in existence at the time that were focused on creating cash, quickly, and building a business around that goal.

The software would have have a couple of key features:
1. It had to be Open, integrating with other software products, for example it had to integrate with whatever word processor and accounting software the user was already familiar with. After all, if you are going to be using the computer to sell, you should be able to enter the order and send a thank you letter at the same time.
2. It had to be able to dial the phone, regardless of what phone system the user had.
3. It had to be customizable by users in a wide range of "vertical markets" for example, stock brokers, recruiters, real estate sales people, insurance, telemarketers, and even Catholic churches. It had to be a universal product.
4. And not just customizable by users, but also other developers who could get deeper into the operation of the software and create entirely different market specific capabilities. These would be product variants that could be sold by others at a higher price than the base product. This gave the product the aura of a general purpose opportunity for people to get into the highly profitable and rapidly growing software industry.
5. It had to keep notes that documented the history of all interactions with the customers. This feature alone would have huge advantages for company owners and sales reps alike.
6. It had to be trivially easy to find any customer's records, quickly, by business name, or individual name, and able to file the records by "recall date" (when the customer was to be contacted next). Virtually all sales record keeping at the time was done with 3x5 cards in a shoe box, or a Rolodex™and once the customer's card was filed by recall date, it was no longer retrievable by company name or individual name. So having the ability to retrieve records from a database using multiple keys (indexes) was big stuff in those early days. The tools to do this were primitive and clunky and not suitable for inexperienced users.
The idea was presented to Sean Curtis, at Coffee Ambassador, in late 1984, and it went like this: the product DoubleM imagined would cost the company $5,000 and they could use it forever with free new features and bug fixes.  The only catch is that the ownership of the software would stay in the name of DoubleM, who would sell it to other companies, hopefully. The deal was agreed.
After the check was signed, DoubleM did the name test and offered Sean Curtis his choice:
    1. TeleMagic, or
    2. Michael's Magical Money Machine

Sean chose option 1, and so TeleMagic was born at that moment.
Going from idea to reality was the difficult part, of course. There was zero money to hire a programmer for the work, so DoubleM had to do it himself, nights and weekends, when he was back from the paying customers offices. Don't give up your day job, the one paying the bills. Violate that rule and you wind up homeless and hungry. So the days were long during that winter, but eventually the demo day was set in early 1985. The customer loved it. CRM was born.

The Main Menu of that first version had 3 choices:
    S - Start
    E - Everything else
    X - to exit the program

The Start concept was unique in that the product represented a semi-automated process that could be turned on or off at will. Start initiated the process of creating cash. Enter S to Start making money, enter X to stop making money, and E for everything else, like printing letters, reports, doing backups, etc. Just 3 choices, S, E, X... oh, my, look what that spells! Well now that we have your attention, let's see what this thing can do...
DoubleM gifted the software to friends who used it in their businesses; they got excellent results with it. It was time to take the next step. The first sales rep was hired, John Briches, a waiter in a local restaurant, who started part time as a commission only telemarketer, using the software to sell the software, to Value Added Resellers (VARs), people who would in turn use the software to sell their software and services and consulting, which is exactly what DoubleM was doing before he built the software. it was magnificently recursive and self optimizing. People who saw it "got it". It was off to the races.
Soon enough, however, competition popped up: Act!, Maximizer, SaleMaker, GoldMine, and a cast of what seemed like hundreds of copycat products. It was as if the wold of software all got the idea very quickly starting in 1986-88. When there were a few products that seemed to do similar things, some software industry writer put them into a category and called it "Contact Management".  If you called it "Sales Automation" you could get more money for the same software! Then years later it was changed again to "Customer Relationship Management". But it was all the same, really. Just an electronic Rolodex, a name and address list, on steroids, with lots of bells and whistles that improved the productivity of all who used it.
That first software product was continuously improved to version 14.5 for the DOS platform. There was a Windows version in early '93.
The software was primitive by today's standards but it was amazingly effective. Among all of the early CRM products, the first of them, TeleMagic, stood at the top because it was so easy to use, and yet very powerful. By the time competition appeared, that first product had lots of iterations of the Build-Sell-Learn loop, TM was, and stayed, far superior to other software companies' offerings. But hoards of rabble copycats were catching up fast and it was always a game of cat and mouse, rapid development, and mad selling.
There are lots of stories out there that credit the first CRM to Act!, which appeared much later, in 1986, and even GoldMine, which published in 1988 at the earliest, but TM was there before them all, chugging along every day at Coffee Ambassador in San Diego. They continued to use the software for the following 25+ years. Many companies still use the earlier DOS versions to run their entire businesses. Besides the PC, for DOS and Windows, TM versions were built for Unix, Mac, AS-400 systems,  translated into foreign languages and sold in many countries, although the USA remained the primary market.
Freed from the stresses of the software business at last, DoubleM went on to some other amazing adventures that have been recounted elsewhere. This is just the story of the first CRM; you can do more research at DBLM.com.

Sage seemed conflicted about their investments in the CRM marketplace, having also purchased Act! and another CRM product, then sold them off, but kept TM all these years. TM is still selling, 32 years later, and supported by a core of dedicated VARs, even though Sage stopped development many years ago. Based on Sage's actions, it could be argued that they did everything they could to kill TM; but it's the software product that will not die. 

This post was originally created on 4/29/17, and may have occasional edits as typos and/or inconsistencies arise.
Signed: "DoubleM"
Michael McCafferty,
Del Mar, California
Mobile:  858.342.6949
Email:    mm@DBLM.com
Website: DBLM.com


Wikipedia (TeleMagic)
Wikipedia (Michael McCafferty)
The TeleMagic Adventure  with photos of early product, Inc. 500 awards, etc.
YouTube: TeleMagic, The Secret Files   (many other TeleMagic origin videos on YouTube)


What You Say Is What You Get
Describes the days of desperation and poverty, the bankruptcy, and how the turnaround started. The premise is the power of positive (self) talking. Click the title to read the chapter. Copyright 1991, George Walther.

The Greatest Sales Stories Ever Told, from The World's Greatest Salespeople
A brief look at the start of the TeleMagic adventure, and the critical role played by the poster "The Ten Commandments of Managing a Young Growing Business". Also describes the negotiations during the sale of the company and the lessons learned. Click the title to read the chapter. Copyright 1995, Robert L. Shook.

April 6, 2017

Learning from Pie

Live data:

My Checklist™ has been improved to show more of my day, and it has been quite revealing. Lots of gray/black area where things either don't get done, or don't get tracked, or "Other". Maybe only 1/3rd of the day does anything get done (and I'm including hammock time in the "getting done" because what is life without hammock time, amiright?)

One thing for sure: I'm spending more time in the hammock now that I have started tracking it. I should focus on Selling more... :)

April 1, 2017

Pie, anyone?

Welcome to the first pie chart, actually donut chart, for the My Checklist™ prototype, Version 8+.

A feast for my eyes!

This could be the first marketing-oriented development work. I like it a lot, and signals a paradigm shift of epic proportions. Hold on, the ride is going to get interesting starting now!


This is live data, under development, for experimental purposes, but I'm thinking I need to get more granular on the Other.  That much Other begs for further detail.

March 21, 2017

68 SaaS Startup Mistakes - DON'T do these things

This is a great list from CBinsights.com, one of my favorite and highly recommended newsletters following the startup world, and they are all about data.  Disclaimer from CBinsights.com: This will be useless for wantrepreneurs, people who believe VC is required to build a biz, folks who can’t grind, or folks selling $9.95/month SaaS products (and many others).

I've chimed in with a few comments of my own (MM: ...........)

#1 DON’T take advice from non-customers. “Only take advice from those who have to live with the consequences.”  (MM: also see #68)

#2 DON’T tolerate high-performing assholes. They might provide short-term benefit but are cancerous to culture long-term (MM: a bigger problem is tolerating low-performing nice people.)

#3 DON’T fall in love with pedigree. There are plenty of smart folks who aren’t Google or Stanford alums.

#4 DON’T half-ass onboarding of new teammates. Teammates make decisions to stay quickly. First impressions matter. (MM: this is a horrible mistake made by most startups. You can not expect success from a hire and ignore policy.)

#5 DON’T believe you have to raise VC. This narrative is great for VCs but is BS. Revenue is the best funding. (MM: Bootstrap for as long as humanly possible. Sales Solves All Problems. Bootstrap is another word for 'Revenue Fund'.)

#6 DON’T be pressured into raising VC. Just because a competitor did doesn’t mean anything. (MM: see #5)

#7 DON’T let them call you a lifestyle business. You can revenue-fund a giant (Mailchimp, Atlassian). (MM: the only people who really matter are customers and employees.)

#8 DON’T waste money on PR to get customers. Especially early, do it on your own. Know what PR is good for.

#9 DON’T chase press in sexy but irrelevant media. It’s easier to go after niche media which is less sexy and more useful. (MM: 'Vanity Metrics' are a waste of time.)

#10 DON’T believe your own hype. People are saying your co is amazing. Enjoy & forget. Stay paranoid. (MM: "Only the paranoid survive." Bill Gates.)

#11 DON’T get fixated on losses. If you’re doing it right, you’ll probably lose a lot. It sucks but try to forget. (MM: I'm not so sure about this one. I hate losses. You should too.)

#12 DON’T think you know your end market from day one. Be promiscuous in the early days. Sometimes, customers show up you didn’t expect. (MM: look for the pivot!)

#13 DON’T be promiscuous about your market forever. At some point, you have enough data. Pick a market and attack it. (MM: Focus! Execute!)

#14 DON’T hire smart people and “figure it out later.” People do better with clear goals and priorities especially early on. (MM: Each hire must produce income enough to pay their costs. If not, you made the wrong hire or the right hire at the wrong time.)

#15 DON’T hire under pressure. Every time we’ve rushed a hiring decision, we’ve regretted it. (MM: hiring is one of the most important decisions you make.  It's the strongest signal of the culture you want to build.)

#16 DON’T fire slow. Easier said than done, TBH, but culture is driven by people you hire and fire. (MM: You've heard it so many times: Hire slow, fire fast. Most startups get it backwards. If you haven't fired anyone in a while, you're either the God of Good Hiring, or you're not doing your job.)

#17 DON’T inflate people’s titles. When your startup scales, the inflated title holders get demoted. Not good. (MM: I always inflate titles when there are only a few on the team, but they know they are inflated titles, and are advised that they will either grow quickly into the job, or they will soon report to the new VP of Administration, or whatever. Don't call someone a partner unless they really are!)

#18 DON’T be afraid to hire expert advisors. We did too much non-core stuff on our own in the beginning. Made mistakes. (MM: get experts part time on project basis. Check UpWork.com)

#19 DON’T be afraid to fire expert advisors. Sometimes, people/firms coast by on reputation. If you find this, run. (MM: see #16.)

#20 DON’T do what Slack, Dropbox, Evernote do. Everyone is super smart until they’re not. Do what is good for your biz. (MM: do your thing, your way. Test. Pivot. Learn.)

#21 DON’T believe the easy hype BS. You can’t growth hack your way to $100M in revenue.

#22 DON’T believe being out-funded matters. Money buys you time. It doesn’t buy you the ability to execute. (MM: Mo' money, mo' problems, especially when it's somebody else's money.)

#23 DON’T only celebrate big wins or sales wins. Highlight big and small milestones and recognize folks behind them.

#24 DON’T sell to startups. No money. High churn. They die. The definition of SaaS hell. (MM: unless they pay cash up front, maybe, but the LTV is questionable.)

#25 DON’T be the lowest priced product in the market. This path generally sucks. Trust me. (MM: I like low price to enter a market, and then raise prices to reflect real value.)

#26 DON’T get cute with pricing It’s confusing and nobody is buying your important, awesome product cuz of this. (MM: the idea is to make it easy to buy, to remove the risk of buying, but if they can't understand your pricing and value proposition, you're hosed.)

#27 DON’T be afraid to ask if your product idea sucks. Customers will tell you if it’s something they’d pay for. They want you to win. (MM: not a fan of this negative way of getting product feedback. Prefer to ask how it could be improved. If they don't buy, it sucks, or else you're talking to the wrong prospect.)

#28 DON’T respond to trolls. Obvious but don’t. (TBH, I still do this to F with them from time-to-time) (MM: Focus. Put your energies where they will create a profit.)

#29 DON’T worry about perfecting your tech too early. Revenues > technical debt. This will change as you scale. (MM: There is no Perfect. Get in the market asap. Learn fast. "If you're not embarrassed by your first product, you've waited too long." Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn.)

#30 DON’T be boring. So much software marketing is boring. Have a voice. Be interesting. (MM: Please!)

#31 DON’T chase startup fads. Badges, AI. Big Data. Does it help customers?

#32 DON’T think biz dev / CS will learn through osmosis. Not investing in training as you scale will hurt you. (MM: continuous training is one of the biggest mistakes of startups.)

#33 DON’T wait to hire customer success. Even if churn is low, hire CS folks to ensure customers love you. (MM: right here you have the secret to success in business: happy customers. It's ridiculous to keep adding new customers if they aren't going to be deliriously happy. Measure NPS.)

#34 DON’T believe in the one hire messiah. If you’ve got a mess, someone may fix it. But don’t bank on it.

#35 DON’T half-ass reference checks. Whether it’s a new teammate, investor or important advisor, vet them hard.

#36 DON’T meet with VCs unless you’re ready to raise. If you meet them, even casually, it’s a pitch.

#37 DON’T price based on competition If you’re indistinguishable from competition, that’s a problem.   

#38 DON’T think channel partnerships will save you. It’s hard to get someone else to do the selling for you. (MM: amen!)

#39 DON’T dominate conversations w/ customers. The more customers talk during conversations, the better. (MM: asking questions is the smartest way to sell.)

#40 DON’T try to delegate product management too early. In the beginning, the product managers are the founders and engineers.

#41 DON’T forget to ask for the sale. A quick yes is amazing. And a quick no is also pretty good. Don’t get strung along.

#42 DON’T listen to people with no money who want to “integrate.”  99% of time, these people are colossal wastes of time. Show me the money. (MM: upvote!)

#43 DON’T fear non-scalable work. Elegant solutions are often not worth the effort. Love the grind.

#44 DON’T worry about competition. Focus on the customer night and day. (Hint: Read Jeff Bezos on this topic)

#45 DON’T give a shit about Hacker News. God – we wasted so much time trying to get on the HN front page.

#46 DON’T try to innovate in HR. Focus your innovation efforts on your product. (MM: there's that word again: Focus.)

#47 DON’T give perks you can’t give forever. If the market turns downward, and the perk wouldn’t survive, don’t give it.

#48 DON’T hire salespeople till you can sell it yourself. If you’re the founder and can’t sell the shit out of it, nobody else will. (MM: when you can Do it, then Document it, and Delegate it. Create a repeatable, scalable sales process and you will rule the world.)

#49 DON’T think all leads are created equal. Double down on best ones. Some will never buy. Forget them.

#50 DON’T try to please everyone. You’ll build a crappy product that doesn’t get anyone fired up.

#51 DON’T worry about your personal brand. Unless it helps recruit teammates or customers, why bother?

#52 DON’T try to act like a “salesperson.” There is not one way to sell. Do what’s comfortable.

#53 DON’T ignore sales advice. There is a lot of wisdom out there. Use it.

#54 DON’T do ‘demos.’ Have conversations. You’re not a tool with buttons and features. Position yourself as more. (MM: demo less, ask more questions.)

#55 DON’T be lazy after your first conversation. People are busy and aren’t fixated on you. You have to keep them interested. (MM: follow through is essential. Why start if you aren't going to follow through?)

#56 DON’T buy whole grape / piece of watermelon thing Focus on the narrative that works for you. Not one foisted upon you. (MM: I had no idea what this means! So I looked it up. It's kind of like the old "Do you want to be King, or do you want to be Rich?" Bottom line: It's your business, make it do what you want, no some VC.)

#57 DON’T believe the media/VC survivorship bias. 79% of exits are < $200M. Google and Facebook are freaks.

#58 DON’T always look for new channels. It’s better to be killer at a few channels than suck at many.

#59 DON’T pointlessly network. If you’re emailing to pick people’s brains, swap notes, etc, stop it. Now. (MM: yes, you are wasting other people's time, but also your own. Have you no shame? If you have a specific question, go for it. Focus.)

#60 DON’T be a ‘conference ho.’ See #59. Don’t mistake activity for progress.

#61 DON’T hesitate to ”flood the zone.”  Once you find something works, milk the hell out of it.

#62 DON’T deceive yourself on the size of your market. Build a product and price with your market in mind.

#63 DON’T fetishize failure. Failure blows. Don’t make it ok and say it was a learning experience. (MM: if you're going to say it was a 'learning experience' you should have proven that already by subsequent success.)

#64 DON’T worry about your name and logo too much. Cuz you will never do worse than us. CB Insights began as ChubbyBrain. 

#65 DON’T expect clients to tell you what product to build. First, it is not their job. Second, their feedback will often be incremental. 

#66 DON’T do feature demos. Nobody really cares. They want to know why it makes their lives better. (MM: if you're still reading, you should have learned this already.)

#67 DON’T ever forget WIIFM. Nobody gives a shit about your product. They care about What’s In It For Me? (MM: WIIFM=What's In It For Me? This is basic Sales 101. Value Proposition.)

#68 DON’T blindly follow this advice. There is no playbook. Anyone who tells you there is one is stupid and/or a charlatan.  (MM: even Buddha said to not believe him, or anyone. Believe in yourself, learn from others.)

More from the good guys at CBinsights:

204 startup failure post-mortems (view here
Why we don’t have an exit strategy? (view here
54 mistakes of a startup CEO (view here)

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March 19, 2017

The Checklist™ Version 8.

1930s Ford logo
In the fullness of Time, and in the dawn of spring,
Version 8 has sprung forth,
and it is strong.

Major changes to The Checklist™...
We use it daily, and we love it more every minute.
It has become a Cyber Superpower.
As different from Version 7 as cheese from chalk.
A new paradigm.
Foundational and philosophical breakthrough.

Enough smoke?
OK, here are some details...

Lists of Major Features and Improvements:

1. Dropdown data entry and validation throughout.  This is really a much better user experience on smartphones. Quicker data entry, point/click; keyboard optional. Scoring is much easier to personalize without changing spreadsheet formulas. We are hitting 100,000-plus scores on most days and it really does encourage doing more!

2. Financial section added, with monthly Budget, calculated to daily Burn rate and cumulative burn, income, investment available, Runway, all the good stuff is calculated. If you can't generate cash this checklist, you should just get a job and work on a new plan.

3. Simplified. Reduced number of tabs: goals, priorities are integrated into cells for review in Notes.
History sheet was integrated into the Daily Checklist sheet and this allows add/delete/reposition activities (rows) without need to duplicate changes in History sheet. This is such a strong benefit to using creatively.

4. Built-in guided tour (column E) was removed, because the data validation drop down selections make the checklist is so obvious that Help was unnecessary.

5. Improved Analytics, because you need them.

6. Who-What-When has been improved. Bigly.  In use. Simplifies processes. Time added for Power Users. Unfair competitive weapon. Revealing this secret is inadvisable, except with very close friends.

7. Others improvements too mundane to mention, some of zero consequence, but fun. Many more improvements of all sorts to come, as always in our relentless pursuit of excellence.

Unrelated, Insignificant Notes:

1. Started using/enjoying Tab Modifier, the Chrome extension, that offers custom favicon-sized browser tab graphics so it is easy and fun to differentiate your many browser tabs, especially if pinned. Sweet! Started using the above V8 logo from 1930s Fords. Similar to the V12 logo for TeleMagic, one of my favorite creations! Isn't 8 a lucky number for Chinese?

2. Some routines programmed with help from good people in China, via UpWork.

March 17, 2017

Bankrupt on St. Patrick's Day!

On this day, 33 years ago, I hit bottom. There was no place to go but up.

In tears and great shame, I called my father to borrow $400 so I could file for bankruptcy. I turned in my leased car, moved to a tiny unfurnished studio apartment, and started over with nothing: no car, no credit cards, no savings, no job, no income... nada, zilch, zip, zero.

And thus began the great adventure of recreating myself. I had one spoon, one fork, one knife and one bowl. But nothing to eat except for the kindness of friends. The situation called for immediate action.

I talked a printer into doing 100 copies of a poster of the Ten Commandments for Managing a Young, Growing Business and begged a good friend (thank you Marianne Nagle) to hand them out to businesses in Sorrento Valley. The next day the first customer called (thank you Sean Curtis).

Soon I could afford cereal and soup. I scored a used mattress and bought a folding wooden chair from Sears for $15 to work at a makeshift table. In a few months I was earning enough to buy a very used car for $100/month.

I was selling my time as a computer consultant for $25/hour, at first, and gradually raised my fee as I got busier. After two years of subsistence living, Zen-like focus on helping others, practicing humility and gratitude... it was then that I determined to build a proprietary product and startup a business to sell it.

Thus was born the product TeleMagic, in 1985, and 7 years later I sold the company. So in total it was a 9 year adventure of recovery from flat broke to financial independence. It was hard work of course but it also took luck, timing, and the help of good people along the way.

Nowadays I help other entrepreneurs achieve their goals.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 🍀

February 17, 2017

I want what I want, when I want it.

Hate all that email?  Me too!
I want it, but not Now.
I hate all the interruptions with stuff that can easily wait until later.

I want what I want, when I want it.
So I finally decided to do something about it.

I set up a Label called "1. Read Later"
and Filter everything I get on a recurring basis
(newsletters, notifications, meetups, blah, blah, blah)
to automatically skip my Inbox and go directly to Archive
with the label 1. Read Later.

Now I'm just never bothered during my Golden Hours
with the trivia I just do not need to know about Now.
Ah! The Peace!

At the end of the day,
I click on the filter called 1. Read Later
and easily deal with all the stuff.

I even put an event on my calendar for 5:30 pm to Read Later!

Sure there are apps to Read Later, but this method is automatic.