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Articles filed in: Entrepreneurship

Fear, Procrastination And Getting Runs On The Board

I recently met with a super-smart friend who has an important idea to share with the world, she had three questions about how best to get that idea out there.
I had three answers that might help you to get your ideas out there too.

Q. What’s the best process for doing xyz?

A. The process doesn’t matter as much as having something to say that someone is ready to hear.
Perhaps the process is a simple as just saying or doing it?

Q. Why will anyone listen to me—I don’t have a title, PhD or runs on the board like other people (not true), and so on?

A. You don’t get runs on the board without trying to make the runs. You have a unique worldview that’s going to help people. They can’t hear if you don’t give them something to listen to.

Q. Are both of these questions fear talking? (told you she was smart).

A. Yes!

And two bonuses….

The best piece of advice EVER to kick procrastination into touch.

Lastly…..how is keeping everyone else’s score helping you to make your idea matter?

Image by ibmphoto.

Thinking About Your Assets

Take a blank page. Draw a line down the centre. On one side list your tangible assets, things like stock, equipment, products and your website.

On the other side make a list of your intangible assets, stuff like intellectual property, trademarks, brand names, the skills of your team, your customer database, reputation and the trust you have built over time.

Now one by one cross off the things that your competitors can easily replicate or acquire, on both sides of the list.

Cash Balances
Product Lines

Brand name
Customer Database

Customer Loyalty

What are you left with?

As we build our businesses, we often work hardest on the things that are replaceable, believing that our advantage is in the tangible value we provide and can demonstrate. The cup of coffee brewed, the line of perfect code written. But in a world where there are six cafés on every street and 200,000 programmers for hire on Elance in two clicks of a mouse we need to think more deeply about what really matters to our customers and clients. People place a premium on the things that you can never hand them over the counter (real or virtual). It turns out that trust is the scarcest resource we have.

If you want to build a truly great business put your energy into the things that can’t be crossed off the list.

Image by Death to Stock.

30 Questions Every Startup And Entrepreneur Should Answer

We’ve become really good at looking for answers. So good in fact, that we get close to asking
a billion questions every day in Google search.

And yet as busy business owners and idea creators, we struggle to find time to ask really important questions of ourselves. Here then, are questions worth taking the time to answer.

30 Questions for every startup and entrepreneur

1. Why are we doing this?

2. Why are we the people to do it?

3. Why is now the time to start?

4. What will happen because this idea exists?

5. How will this change how people feel about x?

6. Who is it for?

7. Why will they care?

8. What do the people we hope to serve want?

9. What do they believe?

10.How do they feel about the problem we solve?

11.What do they do—where, when, why and with whom?

12.What will customers say to their friends to recommend this product or service?

13.How can we make customers feel good because they recommend it?

14.What are we really selling beyond the utility of the product or service?

15.How can we add more value?

16.What happens because our business or project exists?

17.How will people find us?

18.Where are they already looking, or not looking?

19.What’s our greatest strength?

20.What weakness might get in the way if we don’t address it?

21.What does success look like, today, this year, next and five years from now?

22.What do we value?

23.What do we want to change?

24.What promises do we want to make and keep?

25.What matters most right now?

26.What’s going to matter more three, six or eighteen months from now?

27.What’s our difference?

28.What do we need to do today, to make sure that we can keep doing the things we want to do tomorrow?

29.If we could do anything today would this be it?

30.If not this then what?

When you know what you want, where you’re headed and why almost nothing can stop you.

Image by Darkwood67.

6 Ways To Become Part Of Your Customer’s Story

Think about the rituals that punctuate your days. Freshly boiled water poured over scented tea, your morning workout, or favourite mug. The ten minutes you use to brainstorm ideas in Evernote, checking emails, or meeting colleagues at lunchtime, your ring tone, playlist, date night….each one adding another layer of meaning to your day, becoming part of your story.

When we have ideas, make things, produce, sell and serve, we often begin by trying to work out how to get ‘our thing’ into the hands or inboxes of more people. The better strategy might be to work out how to punctuate the right person’s day and deliver one moment of anticipated joy or welcome interruption?

This kind of thinking is how Starbucks made a $4 coffee part of the story of millions of people.

How might you do that?

1. Create a great product, service or content that people enjoy using or coming back for.

Instagram, Amazon, Dropbox and Gala Darling.

2. Change how people feel in the moment.
Starbucks, copy on packaging like Nudie juices and Airbnb wish lists.

3. Solve a problem (maybe one people didn’t even know they had).
Evernote, 7 minute workout app and Canva.

4. Give people a story to tell themselves.
Macarons, Kickstarter, and yes even a commodity like milk.

5. Notice what people already do and work out ways that you can either disrupt, or become part of those rituals.
Warby Parker, Zappos and YouTube.

6. Make it easy for them to come back.
Dollar Shave Club, The Period Store and Netflix.

Image by LDRose.

How have you found a way to become part of your customer’s story?

Why I’m Doing This. Questioning What’s Important

It’s rumoured that Tumblr founder David Karp will get $250 million from the deal his company signed with Yahoo earlier this week. Do you think that’s what really matters to him?

Was this the prize he had his eye on six years ago when he started? Could money have been the answer that was top of his “Why I’m doing this” list back then? Would his answers be the same today?

I’d like to think that what mattered to David when he had everything, (but the money) is how his work changed what one person was able to do the next day. If it did then he still has that today and the money doesn’t even matter.

Now it’s your turn. Write the question. Underline it. Think hard. Write your list.


Are the answers the same as the ones you would write if your ship came in?

Image by Katie Johnson.

The Secret Of Disruptive Innovations

When the online eyewear retailer Warby Parker began selling boutique-quality glasses at a $95 price point they weren’t just trying to undercut the bigger players in the industry. Of course they did that and more, growing the company by 500% in just a year and mostly by word of mouth.

The average customer who needs glasses buys a pair every 2.1 years. Warby Parker set out to make glasses something that customers would buy in multiples as a fashion statements, much like women buy shoes and bags. They wanted customers to view them as accessories they could change to match occasions or moods. And while price combined with quality enables the company to tell a different story than other retailers, what changes everything is the story the customer now tells himself about how many pairs of glasses he can own and how often he should buy new ones. Many of Warby Parker’s customers buy six or seven pairs of glasses at a time and not just when their prescription expires.

Airbnb made people long to experience a destination like a local without the $8 price tag for nuts from the mini-bar. Apple changed how we feel about buying a whole album including the songs we didn’t care about. Amazon’s Kindle made us think of airport bookstores as reference libraries where we browse but don’t buy.

The secret of disruptive innovations and business models isn’t that they disrupt ‘the industry’, it’s that they disrupt people. They change how people feel about something enough to change how they behave. It’s entirely possible to look into the future and think about how your customer might be changed tomorrow as a result of what you do today. While ‘the industry’ works on the assumption that the larvae of today will just be bigger caterpillars tomorrow, the disruptor imagines butterflies.

Image by Len Matthews.

The Real Job Of A Marketer

When a mother of two stands browsing the birthday cake supplies at the local Cook & Dine store she’s not imagining how well the piping bags will work. She’s imagining how she will feel when her little girl’s face lights up at the party on Sunday afternoon.

We think our job is to change how people feel about what we do.
Our job is to change how they feel about themselves.

Image by edenpictures.

What’s Wrong With Business Communication And How To Fix It

Business has got a problem. It’s pervasive, eats away at human connection and strips meaning from our interactions. While trying to be professional and sound more knowledgeable we’re sanitising and jargonising our conversations. This is killing our ability to communicate.
So how do we transition from meaningless communication to creating meaningful impact?

If you ever find yourself typing a word you wouldn’t use when you’re talking to your mum.
Delete it.

When you hear words that would make your kids stare at you incredulously falling from your lips.
Stop using them.

If you start saying “apologies” instead of just being “sorry”.
Think hard about the person at the other end of that conversation.

When your words make you sound like you don’t really mean what they are saying.
Then don’t say them.

Your customers want to communicate with the real you. Your colleagues want to truly understand who you are.
Why not let them?

Image credit.

10 Things That Work Better Than SEO In The Connection Economy

A decade ago if you owned the URL wineseller.com and stuffed your website full of keywords you’d won. You can’t earn loyalty in a category today simply by gaming Google because your customers are searching for relevance not just keywords.

Ten things to think about beyond SEO.

1. Build a brand not just a business.
Attach meaning to everything you do. Think beyond the utility of the products and services you sell. Apple did this with “1000 songs in your pocket,” when others were selling 32MGB music players.

2. Make things that people love.
Bahen & Co. chocolate, Chobani Yogurt and Airbnb.

3. Create valuable content that people want to share.
Educate, inform and entertain with blog posts, articles, digital magazines, images and video. Problogger, TED.com and 99u.

4. Connect people to each other.
When like minded people find you, create opportunities for them to belong and to come together.
Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit nails it.

5. Be generous.
Give something away.
The Holstee Manifesto has been shared and linked to tens of thousands of times. Mailchimp gives away a great library of free email marketing resources.

6. Get permission to have the next interaction.
Daily Candy, Philippa Stanton and your newsletter list.

7. Practice patience. Play the long game by building loyalty.
Logo Design Love, Etsy and Zappos.

8. Spend more time serving your audience and less time working out how to get search engine spiders to notice you.
By The Way Bakery, TED.com and The Good Life Project.

9. Earn trust, don’t just own keywords. Change how people feel not what they search for.
Wieden & Kennedy, Brain Pickings and IDEO.

10. Be the brand people seek out, not the one they stumble upon.
Tattly, Seth Godin, Evernote and Moleskine.

The brands that win now make their customer’s lives better first and worry about search rankings later. They work hard to get their message believed not just to be noticed.

Image by Zetalab.

The Cycle Of Persuasion Vs The Cycle Of Loyalty

Your agenda.
Short term gain.
50% off. Buy now pay later.
Big funnel gathering the most prospects.


Talk in whispers.
Your customer’s agenda.
Building trust over time.
Products and services people can’t help talking about.
“A few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”—Amanda Palmer

Image by bwaters23.