Articles Tagged ‘Start-ups’

TEN TIPS FOR START-UP ENTREPRENEURS

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Let me start by saying that I don’t like to necessarily use the term “tips” as it is an overused, trite and hackneyed term with gambling implications. And the last thing I like to do when I talk to new business owners is invoke a gambling meme. Therefore, I will break the third rule of professional writing to change my title to use the word “suggestion.” There…now I feel better.

There is one rule that I counsel with every entrepreneur: BE YOURSELF. If you suddenly become too mean, too nice, too altruistic, too extreme in anything – especially if it doesn’t relate to your own personal traits or beliefs – that is a roadmap to failure. Moreover, there are so many suggestions I cold provide a start-up entrepreneur that I would be afraid to leave some out for fear that I would unknowingly and unwittingly repress information that important to that particular entrepreneur. Moreover, there is no way any person in my position, with my experience, could or should limit the list to ten things. With those caveats out of the way, I will presuppose what would help the average entrepreneur most. Oh, and one last thing: I don’t have anything in this list relating to people – who to hire, how to train, how to treat them, and so on. This is because it takes a special breed of individual to work with an entrepreneur to help him or her achieve their vision. I find that, short of tangible abuse, people (on both sides) work through their troubles and make it work, at least in the beginning.

So, here is my list of “suggestions,” in no discernable order.

1. Try to make mistakes. Lots of them. I call this “accelerating the failure cycle.” Take a lot of shots at your goal; innovation requires deviation. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Learn from experience and experiment. Having said that, mitigate the fallout from the mistakes as soon as possible. The best way to do that is to learn from the mistake. And the best way to learn from the mistake is by brutally honest feedback. I find that brainstorming and 360 peer reviews work the best.

2. Beware the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” Time and again, doing something one has little or no experience in or with sometimes yields results – or fallout – that are not conducive or aligned with the original plan.

3. There is no such thing as “change management.” The concept of “change” must be woven through the company culture – top to bottom, with NO exceptions. Change isn’t some project or program you have your manufacturing or engineering people do in their spare time. It’s everybody’s job, all of the time. Especially in a start-up.

4. It’s YOUR money, whether it comes from outside investment or out of your own pocket. Make sure everyone else knows it, and treats it as “their money.”

5. Be a part of every major decision – either directly or indirectly. If you are too busy to do this, your priorities are misplaced.

6. Get out of your comfort zone. Put down the iPods, iPads and iPhones and approach someone – preferably a total stranger and/or someone with a different point of view (e.g., different age, gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, whatever) – and talk to them. Engage them in conversation. Seek out diverse opinions. See what the “other guys” think. Learn all sides of the argument.

7. Be skeptical, not cynical. Contrarianism works. Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see. Question everything, anything and anyone you want. Remember: 5W’s + H (Who, What, Where, When, Why & How) = A Good Start. Look for people who can provide “constructive conflict” (as opposed to destructive). You don’t necessarily need alignment of opinion. Innovation comes from antithetical ideas – ideas that don’t agree.

8. In the final analysis, NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. At least, act like that is the case. No one can predict or forecast with any degree of accuracy or confidence. Beware of “experts” and “gurus.” One can ONLY be an expert with a learned and practiced skill, e.g., a surgeon or chainsaw carver. Be cognizant of the fact that people generally have a higher self-evaluation of their capabilities than they actually possess.

9. Understand the difference between good risk and bad risk. “Good” risk involves being prepared to take advantage of opportunities should they present themselves. “Bad” risk is the threshold you’re willing to step up to – and cross, if necessary – to achieve your goals. Remember that the concept of “risk vs. reward” is a zero sum game. There will ALWAYS be an outlier that has the capability of creating the “black swan” event – good or bad. And you won’t see it coming.

10. Try to eradicate the concept of waste, as well as the virtual reality of waste, in everything you do. At least at the outset, EVERYONE should be doing value-added work, i.e., work that contributes to “top line” revenues and “bottom line” profits. Lean and Six Sigma thinking and doing will help you achieve this.

John L. Ware
globalmfgops@mac.com

John has accumulated over 35 years of experience and expertise within all types of business operations management – including manufacturing, supply chain, distribution, engineering and quality/compliance operations. Companies he has worked for include U.S. Surgical Corporation, Sun Microsystems, nVidia Corporation and Domino Lasers, Inc.

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5 Ways to Deal with Start-up Stress

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

So, you have a lot of great things going on at your quickly growing start-up.

You have great new people trying to learn new jobs. You have new technologies you are learning, and new technologies you are developing and getting to do what you want them to do.

And then, guess what, something big goes awry.

A big client pushes a deadline; a key employee goes down; the sales pipeline doubles or your personal commitments come crashing into your business ones.

I call it start-up stress.

Really it’s just the same stresses you go through day-to-day in any business, but they’re amplified by the exciting and provocative angst of the internal possibilities of being the next big thing and the overwhelming failure rate that goes along with start-ups.

It’s not my first rodeo, so here are five ways I’ve learned to deal with start-up stress. You might find them mildly amusing, but I guarantee they are wildly effective.

1.High Fives and Margarita Fridays: Take time with your team and high-five the week’s successes. Get them out of the office early and share a beer, a glass of wine or a margarita (or of course their favorite non-alcoholic drink is fine too). What could be viewed as non-productive time actually does some very valuable things: it tightens the team through laughter and honest appreciation and also becomes a very productive debriefing time.It’s not my first rodeo, so here are five ways I have learned to deal with these start-up stresses. Y0u might find them mildly amusing, but I guarantee they are wildly effective.

2.The Sonic Scream: Create a uniformly annoying yet incredibly loud sonic scream that you all can do together when stress is starting to stack on top of itself. It sounds funny, and it is. It becomes a crazy way to release, breakthrough and come together as a team. Humor, adrenalin and volume can come together to be your best friend and great way to connect. Just make sure no customers are on the phone.

3.Practical Jokes: Nothing brings a team together more than creating an environment of humor. Start-ups are a lot of hours, deadlines and work. Levity is the best friend of a good team; it also is a powerful way to show your people they are more important than the work.

4.Gamification: It is always amazing how much people get into turning work into a game. Use your key performance indicators to make a scoreboard and compete against each other in the form of points, dollars, lunches or anything that is meaningful to you team. Scoreboards that everybody can see gets the key behaviors out and studied by the rest of the team. It allows your best producers to replicate their efforts and continue to strive to be better. Plus, it’s an incredible way to get people to really enjoy the enormous amount of work that needs to get done. Gamify your business and watch it grow.

5.Co-Create: So much of the fun of making a start-up real is to co-create it with your team. Scheduling time to allow the team to come together and put its signature on your organization consistently allows you to put your best product in the field and allows your people to truly engage in the mission.

Follow these tactics and watch your team engage in a powerful, creative and high performance culture.

Tony Scelzo
Rainmakers Marketing Group
317-216-6345
Tony@gorainmakers.com

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