Startup Related Items
Face it, sometimes you're going to mess up. Here's how to do wrong things the right way.
Winston Churchill famously said success is defined by the ability "to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
The world's most most interesting entrepreneurs certainly lived that reality.
"If we're not making mistakes, we're probably not growing," said Bo Menkiti, founder and CEO of The Menkiti Group and CEO and founding partner of the city's fastest growing residential real estate brokerage.
"As an entrepreneur you're going to make a mistake," agreed Joel Holland, founder and CEO of Video Blocks, a subscription-based stock footage firm. "You can either let it crush you or motivate you."
Recently, Menkiti, Holland, and Naomi Whittel, the CEO and founder of natural supplements company, Reserveage Organics, revealed their best mistakes to Inc. during an event held in Washington D.C., sponsored by Capital One.
How do you separate the good mistakes--like, say, intentionally misspelling a word in a headline to garner attention--from the bad ones? And if you're going to make mistakes, what kind should you make?
The kind that inspire you
When Whittel went to sell her first company, she thought she'd done everything right. She hired a business broker, courted suitors, and settled on a family company with an 80-year business history. She developed a relationship with the company's head, even visiting him at home before closing the deal.
The only problem, she said, was that the buyer turned out to be "a very sophisticated con artist." After he'd gained her trust, he convinced her at the last minute to restructure the deal. The change left her holding stock that was essentially worthless.
Whittel went to court over the matter, but in the meantime, she said her husband convinced her to "frame the stock certificate" as inspiration.
When she launched Reserveage Organics, she used her bad experience as motivation to grow big fast and keep control. The result? She reached $70 million in sales in her second year and was named Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year in Florida.
The kind that reveal new opportunities
Holland was always an entrepreneur, dating back to when he collected and sold used golf balls as a kid. But he said an early mistake he made in trying to launch a business offering "life advice to teenagers" led to a realization.
Holland did a great job of rounding up celebrities and respected people for videos in which they'd offer inspiration and advice. The problem was that the resulting videos he produced were kind of "boring," he said, and lacking quick edits or fun graphics. "It was like Charlie Rose for teenagers," Holland admitted.
That realization led Holland to discover how few options there were for people who wanted to make videos with stock footage and better production. Eventually, he founded Video Blocks, distributors of 1,000,000 clips of royalty free stock video and audio every month (and one of Inc.'s 30-under-30 young entrepreneurs this year).
The ones other people make
This one is easy, but also easily overlooked. Why not gain the benefit of other people's missteps without actually having to go through the painful experiences yourself?
At the start of his businesses, Menkiti said he experienced six months of missteps, which he attributed in retrospect to having recruited some of the wrong people. Even as he corrected his strategy and focused on building a team that was committed to his vision, he recognized it might make more sense to learn more consciously from other peoples' efforts.
Now he seeks out "people a little bit ahead of me, and I learn from their their mistakes," Menkiti said, in part by constantly reaching out to new mentors.
"Most entrepreneurs are extremely curious and probably really lonely," and thus willing to share their time and expertise, he said. "Call them!"
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Are you a member of the texting generation who's more than a little awkward on the phone? VC Mark Suster has tips for you.
No one uses the phone anymore, the New York Times declared a couple of years ago and millions of young people shrugged.
Texting? Sure. Chatting online? Of course, but for a certain generation of young business people currently entering the world of work, actually dialling a number is mostly for moms and telemarketers.
But however much the phone may have fallen out of favor for personal use, professionally, the fact remains that every now and again you’re actually going to have to put headset to ear and chances are, with so little practice, you might be a bit rusty at this simple but essential skill.
So how can you make your telephone calls less awkward and more efficient? VC Mark Suster recently offered some tips on his blog that are worth reading in full for every digital native with a slight phone phobia. He’s not talking about anything specialized like interviews or sales call, "I’m talking about simple and quick calls to your business peers, VCs or other players in your ecosystem," he writes. Doing this well is trickier than it appears for many people, he continues, but you can up your chances of getting your business done smoothly and quickly by following this advice:
Prepare! Write your set of bullet points on paper before the call. Write out the reason you’re calling, your key points and “the ask” in advance and your time allotment so you can always refer back and make sure you’re tracking to your plan.
Start informally with banter: Two things to watch for: 1) if you’re trying banter to build rapport but not "feeling it" then quickly shift to business. Some people just aren’t "chit chatters" and prefer to get on with things. I find that kinda boring, but I know some people are just wired that way. 2) some callers take this banter too far It starts to border on disrespectful of the person’s time or wasteful of your 15 minutes. Don’t be that person. How long you go for is really a judgment call because there’s no right answer.
Let them know why you’re calling: When you’re ready to pivot the conversation your next line should be some derivative of, "listen, the reason I’m calling is … blah, blah, blah" 25 percent of people or less actually do this. They just talk and I’m not really sure why they called. If you’re calling for a reason, the sooner the recipient knows the sooner they can help.
Don’t hang yourself: One of the other big mistakes callers make is going “off to the races” talking about their business without getting any feedback from the recipient of the call. This is bad enough in person but I promise you if you do it over the phone the recipient will start to tune out. If you listen closely you’ll probably even hear the tapping of a keyboard. You can talk for a bit but then seek feedback and make sure the other person is “with you.” When I used to do a lot of recruiting we used to call it “hanging yourself” because people who talk for long periods of time without seeking feedback are generally not self-aware or good at human interaction.
Check out the complete post for several more phone tips and further details on how Suster likes callers to behave.
Do you have telephone anxiety?
A former work addict finds that taking a little time off has transformative power.
As much as I'd like to boast about my ability to see the big picture, day-to-day details have long prevented me from fully observing what was happening around me. I was junkie, a common day work addict that justified her addiction via excuses about doing something good.
I used to think I didn't have the luxury of taking time off for an extended period of time. Any small business owner who does the math knows that it is costly to be absent from the company. The eye of the master fattens the cattle, as the saying goes.
And then I burnt out. I was overworked, malnourished, exhausted. I was no longer able to re-charge my batteries. I took a forced leave of absence, fearing that the next worst thing to death was the breakdown of the essence of a company I had created with my husband through blood, sweat, and tears.
A wondrous thing happens when you have time off. You see the world differently. You leave the routine behind.
During this time off, I learned these three wonderful things:
1. An all-consuming, head-down mentality does not create growth
Intellectually, I've always known this. But I still kept thinking, "If we can just get past this one last hurdle, I'll be able to step back." Truth is, there's always going to be something that keeps you from feeling comfortable about taking that necessary step back. But like a band aid, the parasitic relationship between you and the details of your business need to be ripped off. Abruptly. This jolt of change alone will help you jumpstart your journey into becoming the leader you always wanted to be.
2. Your life is always more important than your work
I feel like a hypocrite for saying this. I kept up the nonstop 12-hour days for six years. I wasn't living; I was merely surviving. I was obsessed. Finally I hit a wall. I was so wired up I was unable to sleep, my mind was fogged. I was a zombie. Via an intervention (I'm not kidding), I was made to realize my life was worth more than another stressful stage in the company. I hadn't been out at 3pm on a Friday in years. I didn't know what direct sunlight on a breezy afternoon meant! Through valuing my life, I grasped a way to make my business thrive without deteriorating my well-being.
3. Experiences make you a better leader.
Life experiences give you perspective, and most importantly, inspiration. If you come into the office inspired and upbeat you are more likely to inspire others, and to generate new ideas. If you come in as a zombie, or in a bad mood because you're tired, you're less likely to be productive or inspire your staff to do so as well.
I took a six week sabbatical and I'm slowly easing my way back into the rhythm of things. Put bluntly, it isn't a cake walk. Things are dinged up, a bit messy, and the cattle isn't as nourished. But I'm back. My mojo is back. My mindset has changed for the better. And we're ready to move forward.
The product development firm, Insight, has launched a new funding model to help start-ups get through a critical stage of development
Incubators are a fairly recent trend in the start-up world. They provide critical tools to a start-up; companies typically get office space that they share with other start-ups as well as access to valuable mentorship and potential investor relationships. But some fledgling businesses need more than tangential support to grow their businesses. They need critical partnerships in key areas to get their business to the next level.
We recently learned of an interesting new model led by Steve McPhillamy at Insight Product Development. Insight is a product development firm that has traditionally worked with big, well-funded corporations. They've always wanted to help startups but struggled with the best model to do so. Product development is a costly endeavor, and most startups couldn't afford it.
Here's the problem.
industries such as biotechnology.
been available to big companies with large budgets
technologies, but relatively poor at creating new innovation. In contrast, startups excel at innovation.
Insight, have been missing out on the most exciting innovations, because
startups were unable to afford their services.
But Insight finally found an incubator niche, within medical devices, that it may be able to leverage to serve startups in a better way. Insight provides product development services to the start-ups at a discounted rate and, in return, receives an equity stake in the business. It's an 18-month process and, for many startups, it's the critical item that takes the company from technology concept to a product that can be commercialized.
Insight has launched this model with a few initial partners, but if they can make this work on a larger scale, it could be very attractive to startups looking to turn a technology into a product. The benefits accrue to various members of the startup ecosystem:
a discount and better position themselves for sale to a strategic acquirer
assurance that the startups have gone through a rigorous product development
We think this model works especially well in the medical device space because of its unique characteristics. The interesting thing about this space is that it's possible to sell your start-up to a number of medical firms, without a significant track record of revenue. Plus, venture capital firms are willing to fund pre-revenue technologies, which provides funding for product development. Product development, in this case, is the key gating item to get the technology to the next stage and make the company viable for sale.
We will be watching this space to see if anyone else develops a value-added incubator model for startups outside of biotech. If so, these incubators can be critical partners to fuel startup growth.
Send us your questions on building a business. We can be reached at email@example.com.
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