Investor dollars are somehow sexier - glamorized by the press in ways that client development never will be. A meme about it, just for fun...
I contributed a post on assessing candidates for hiring on Entrepreneur.com. Hiring and recruiting practices has always been a topic of interest for me, since my businesses provide recruiting services and hiring software, and concurrently, like any other business person, I've had to hire a lot of people myself over the years. Bottling the magic of a really good hire is pretty much impossible (sometimes you just luck out), but like anything else, we can increase our odds of being lucky by a little bit of hard work and the right technology...
One thing I’ve learned about hiring throughout the years is that there’s no single assessment that can ensure you’ve made the perfect hire. Hiring is a combination of empirical analysis and gut feel. However, there are now lots of different assessments available, and you can find one that makes sense for your work environment and teams. Using the right one can help increase the odds that you’re adding a great new member to your company. Read on @ Entrepreneur.com...
If you’ve managed to get through the earliest phases of startup, and definitely don’t show signs of failing anytime soon, you still may wonder, “But are we on our way?” While we agree with Mark Cuban that it’s always important to visualize the competition right on your heels, it’s also important to be grounded in reality and recognize signs of success for what they are, and to double down on the strategies that produced that success. In this article, we’ll examine five signs your startup is well on the way to long-term success... Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com
If you’ve chosen to bootstrap, you’ve prioritized a particular vision or path to growth over a cash infusion. But it also means you may not have the means to hire as many members of the team as you want or need. Here are five tips to help you responsibly grow your team as you expand.
1. Think long-term.
A plan is important for any startup, but it’s especially key for a company that doesn’t have a reserve of cash. Money can buy time, but it can’t buy execution, and your long-term company vision has to have a clear hiring plan that is tied to milestones. Michael Gerber’s classic The E-Myth Revisited stresses the importance of writing down every role that your company is going to need years in advance. You’ll often find in doing this exercise that you, as a member of the leadership team, are juggling half a dozen (or more) roles. But, the further you can forecast out how a division will grow or how a department will expand, the easier it will be for your team members to catch -- and retain -- a vision that will keep them grounded through short-term slogs.
2. Outsource or use software.
I’ve been in HR for many years and trust me, the entire HR process is time-consuming and complicated. You may not have someone on your team who can handle this, and people often underestimate how much time it will take to hire the right people and overestimate how much it would cost to outsource this task to someone else. Take a look at firms that help hire and find out what they can do for you. You can also use software like the kind my company, VocaWorks, provides to help you find candidates that are not available in the standard hiring channels.
3. Be thrifty.
Bootstrapped startups don’t have a “burn rate” because they’ve often had to focus on profitability from day one. That said, companies are made up of humans and, after a big win or a milestone, those humans can feel tempted to make a purchase or make a hire that wasn’t part of the plan we alluded to above. Beware of “deserving” upgrades to your situation and remember that bootstrapped companies have to push themselves through these growing pains. That might mean most of your team members are wearing multiple hats, and those benefits that are so visibly on offer at other companies aren’t available at yours ...yet. Team members need to be consistently reminded that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that a thrifty mindset is key to surviving to profitability and beyond.
Related: Is Hiring a PR Firm Worth It?
4. Consider the fringes.
There are many great candidates companies ignore because they aren’t part of the “standard” pool of candidates.
Retired or semi-retired workers. More than ever, those who are calling themselves “retired” are looking for meaningful ways to contribute, be it in business or in a community. They have a wealth of experience and often scare off companies who think that experience comes at a high cost. But often, those workers are willing to work for less not just for more flexibility in hours, but for an opportunity that they wouldn’t normally be considered for.
Interns. There’s no shortage of advice to hire interns to keep costs down. But what is rarely discussed is how key management and motivation is with these workers. They also may still be in school and, as such, have a limited hours to work. Interns often work best in teams directed towards specific projects, supporting your permanent staff. This ensures that they have a reporting structure, discrete tasks to complete, and an overarching goal that should be oriented around their strengths while being just enough of a challenge to be exciting and engaging. They should also be given frequent feedback as this is one of the most-ignored parts of an internship at many firms. Taking the time to mentor them will not just earn you great social capital in the marketplace -- they’ll often share their great experiences -- but offer you the chance to pre-screen for permanent staff via an extended working interview.
Part of the plan we discussed above should be to consistently stop and examine how your short and medium-term actions and additions are aligning with your long-term values and vision. Your team will go from a flat structure that can easily fit around a conference table to (possibly) a large distributed team that communicates virtually most of the time. What was originally excitement about building something together will develop into discussions about growth plans and career paths, and the leadership team always has to keep a strong grasp on the company culture and not let it be lost in growth, as it easily can be. To sure to make time for mentorship and be open to feedback about how the company is growing and evolving.
The weakness of a bootstrapped business is also its strength. Having to focus on profitability and funding your growth through it keeps you laser-focused on doing the right things and helps you chase off distractions that are exciting, but don’t have a short horizon to profitability. By ensuring that you keep the right mindset in how you hire those to join your team -- and making sure they share and maintain your mindset -- you will greatly increase your chances of making it to the other side of bootstrapping: long-term profitability.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com
It's very easy to think about life in buckets. Work, family, health, relationships, career, spiritual, etc... Most of us compartmentalize different aspects of our lives to a degree, in order to manage some kind of balance.
It's easy to think "have I been spending enough time with my family?" or "have I been neglecting my relationships because of work?" This kind of bucket-paradigm can help trick us into thinking that these are actually separate areas of life, that our life is actually divided in some way.
The truth (as always) is trickier - there are no real buckets. These are fabrications of our mind, as it grapples to process our everyday reality. But let's assume for a second that lumping different aspects of our lives is a useful construct...
I was thinking recently that where this type of thinking goes most wrong is when we apply it to our health. Each "bucket" really affects every other "bucket," but in no place is it more apparent than health. We are tempted to see maintaining our physical bodies in a healthy way as just another area of life about which to barter and negotiate attention - when really that is our life.
It's particularly dangerous to try to "get around" to your health. Every other area of your life suffers if you do not have your health - so it needs to come first, before any other. The other areas of life naturally flow from good health; for example, if you're feeling good, being patient with kids is easier. Another example is that concentration becomes easier when you are physically healthy, so your work improves. Health is not a bucket at all, but rather our only asset that underlies everything we do.
I write this in the particular light of working with startup companies. There is so much stress at startups and so many different demands - it's hard to manage it all. It's tempting to let health slide when time is precious, when in fact a healthy body and mind is the only likely way to have the sheer capacity to pull off a business successfully under high stress and low probabilities.
As always, this is mostly a reminder to myself!
I'm going to MIT tonight for a quick pitch to their students. Yesterday, I was thinking about what I can tell their students about jobs & careers, since their grads have a very different set of issues around their careers than most people. Scarcity of employment opportunities is probably (or more like definitely) not a major issue for most of them.
But what we all share is a need to carve our own path and make an impact, which is what really leads to happiness. I wrote up this handout with some tips to create a self-directed career. It's kind of aimed at young people starting out in their career and looking at what kinds of jobs are out there.
I'm also kind of sick of the cult of entrepreneurship and startups, although I believe very strongly in entrepreneurship. (I know this is not a very logical statement.) But what leads to life happiness in terms of careers is this feeling of ownership, autonomy; essentially liking what you do because you consciously choose to do it. It's important to choose your own path and feel independent - I think that's much more important in the end than entrepreneurship itself, or even than the type of role or company.
GIFs. Hard G, soft G, whatever... they're part of our world now. Especially because of Giphy and Slack, Gifs are part of our workplace communication.
Note: I hope that we don't completely lose the use of the English language, but you have to admit: sometimes a Gif says it better than you ever could.
What's interesting is that I've looked at Gifs for years, and used them, mostly for poor comedy, inside of Slack. But I never really thought of creating them. Of course, it's a snap to make Gifs (I recommend Giphy Capture). I'm not sure why I've never made one, or had some made, for my company before.
I think we're conditioned to not create. I think we can often look at something and think, that's nice someone else made that, instead of how do I make that myself? How do I look at Gifs for years and not think, hey I could make one of those for my company. I mean, what is wrong with me?
In any case, I can now look forward to cluttering up the Internet with hundreds of product marketing Gifs in the future. Look out Internet!
We have to remember that the world (and the Gif) is ours to create!
I snapped this picture coming out of our NYC office. As I breathed in the smell of the new flowers, probably just days old, it was a refreshing, invigorating moment of clarity. Everything seemed new.
VocaWorks is also new, the equivalent of days-old. We are pre-product launch and really just getting ready to take off. We are lining up our first clients, partners, hiring our first employees, etc.
It's a fun time; everything is new. It's actually Spring, but also our Spring.
When you have a new product, a new company, your vision is actually sharper. You are inspired by its raw potential.
But it's easy to have fun with it, it's not a chore to be new. You do things like, you know, literally stop and smell the flowers.
But everything won't always be new.
We'll have complicated issues to sort out. Mundane details will pile up. Development won't always be what we want it to be. Life will get in the way sometimes.
We'll start walking by the flowers and worrying more.
The trick to growing startups is to always be a startup. To always be looking forward to the future and not get bogged down with the problems of the present moment. To maintain the delight of anticipation, no matter what you have now.
In the future, we'll have to try harder to feel new. And to keep our heads up, and to enjoy the moment. But it's possible, no matter what stage we're in. So this is a reminder to myself with this company to always be new and remember feeling young. Nothing's better for focus!
I came across a video on LinkedIn that had gone completely viral - a woman named Page Kemna created a jingle to convince a prospective employer to interview her.
When you see it, you'll know why it went viral - it's absolutely amazing. She's one of these people more than just regularly talented at music; she's fluent in music. She looks like she's fooling around and having fun, but sounds better than the last professional musician you've heard.
Someone should hire her for something. It's an incredible marketing idea, perfectly executed. That being said, my reaction (and my wife's, who was in HR) was the same: "Wow, what an amazingly gifted singer. She should definitely be in music." That might be why her LinkedIn profile still says: "Resume went viral, but still open to opportunities."
The natural reaction is to think that she should be either a professional singer or an independent jingle writer. And I bet she could leverage the virality of that post to create an entire successful career in either of these two areas.
More than anything else, employers want alignment. If you're hiring a salesperson, for example, you want them to be a little aggressive, love talking to people, be friendly and love helping people, and maybe have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. But most of all, you want them to actually want to be in sales.
You want to go to a doctor that reads medical journals in their spare time. You want to go to an accountant that crunches numbers in their sleep.
One time a guy I hired to cut down a tree gave me a half hour lecture on the way trees grow to protect themselves in times of drought. It was obvious that he loved trees and cared about his work.
At the end of the day, you want people whose interests and skills align well with their profession. When you add passion for a job, along with interest and skill alignment, you get those real fantastic career fits, where someone loves their job.
If you're representing yourself to employers, show them that you're going to be good at the job you're applying for. But then also show them why you're going to love what you do.
At VocaWorks, we're happy to be growing our team in the area of sales and marketing. Hiring salespeople, especially, is always a bit of a catch 22. Many of the good salespeople don't want to leave their jobs, and you don't really want the flip side. You might say that sales and marketing folks are some of the most difficult hires to make.
After having some conversations with their CEO, Isaac Morehouse, we signed up as a business partner with Praxis in order to participate in their apprentice programs. Praxis is now helping VocaWorks find some really exceptional sales and marketing talent.
For example, our last hire from Praxis, Ryan Scarbel, is doing a bang-up job (at least so far, @Ryan!), even with our pretty independent management style and his big move to work in our New York office. Ryan is performing essentially senior relationship management activities for VocaWorks, and is already an extremely valuable employee.
Praxis is also an educational partner for VocaWorks, which means that after we launch, VocaWorks will be able to help find even more opportunities for the people coming out of the Praxis program.
So this is just a quick note to say thanks to Praxis and recommend their apprentices to other growing startups.
This was an entirely unsolicited recommendation and for all I know, Praxis might ask me to take it down. ;) Full disclosure (not that I think that I need one) - we're also proud to have Isaac Morehouse now on the advisory board for VocaWorks. So you could say he's a friend of the company, but we're very glad to have hired from the Praxis apprentice program and plan to hire more people in the future.
Is Facebook a Monopoly? My quick answer to save you some time reading: no! But here’s my longer answer.
Right now, there seem to be two conversations going on about Facebook.
The first question is: “Did Facebook break any laws or betray user trust through their privacy policies and data protection?”
The second question is: “Is Facebook a monopoly?”
I believe, but I’m not sure, that both lawmakers and the public are conflating the two questions purposefully, as if Facebook is deemed a monopoly, then the government could more easily regulate it, thereby (supposedly) alleviating the concerns about data and privacy.
But they really are two separate questions that should be treated as such, so let’s address just the monopoly question. There are also technical legal definitions of monopolies that I’m not trying to address here, but I just want to look at this issue and give you my gut reactions.
Facebook has real competitors
-Other Social Media:
There is nothing wrong with Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and services like Apple photo sharing. They are each getting stronger every day, and basically introduce most of the features that Facebook has. However, the primary reason that people don’t jump ship easily is due to the lack of portability of their networks — it’s not a feature issue. Meaning, if your mom is on Facebook, you don’t want to tell her that she now has to join another social network or service just so that she can see the photos of your kids.
Competitors focus on this area of network relocation and are constantly innovating new ways to transport your existing friends on to other platforms. In recent days, Dock.io must be spreading like crazy, evidenced by the 15 email invites that I have received. Dock is using crypto payments as the way to incentive people to transport their networks. I wouldn’t hold them up as a Facebook competitor, but it demonstrates a business model that could allow mass portability of data networks — put a deep-pocketed company like Google or Microsoft in that model, and Facebook has problems.
Facebook faces true existential threats
-Kill or Be Killed
When Google introduced Google Plus, the folks at Facebook reportedly went into crisis mode. It was a kill or be killed moment. Google propagated its new service throughout its mass market services like Gmail, creating a distribution channel like no other. But it didn’t work. Is this an example of how even arguably the most powerful company in the world couldn’t take out Facebook? No — because Google Plus represented a competitive threat, not an existential threat. Meaning, Google Plus tried to do what Facebook does, much like Bing tried to do what Google does. They ended up as watered down versions of the original, like knock-off Reebok kicks at the dollar store.
-The Real Threats
However, Facebook faces true existential threats every day. Apple, for example, could be said to have a lock on high-end mobile devices. What if they create easier ways to share photos and updates between friends and the wider world, without the need to use any app or any website?
What if Alexa starts relaying messages between consumers and popping up messages from friends on smart TVs? What if a new company invents a way for communication technology to be embedded in everyday wearables, like jackers, shirts, and rings? These kinds of innovations could not just slowly chip away at Facebook’s hold, but rather almost instantly make it obsolete.
When a company has to worry every day about deep-pocketed competitors introducing its every feature - gunning for its blood - as well as existential threats that threaten its very existence, can you call that company a monopoly?
Facebook is free
In order to call a company a monopoly, I believe you have to show that its customers have no other choice; that a company has such a grip on a particular product that it can flex its pricing power at-will, leaving the customer with no other alternative.
Many people have been arguing that Facebook is a monopoly due its its undue “market share” of attention or consumer data, as if this is what makes for a monopoly. However, the customers of Facebook are advertisers, not consumers.
You would have to show that an advertiser has no other way to reach people — billboards, TV, content marketing, sports arenas, and you know, Google; you have to show that all of those fine alternatives don’t represent suitable advertising choices.
The only rational argument is therefore not in the pricing / client criticism, but perhaps on the user attention, data or audience perspective. It’s akin to arguing that during the yellow journalism days, that a particular newspaper chain had a monopoly on the attention of consumers and distribution networks.
This argument seems problematic as well — saying that any company has a monopoly on consumer attention implies coercion of attention, which is nigh impossible. Facebook carries and maintains its attention because people are interested in the content it provides. People’s attention is fickle though; boredom strikes easily. Young people’s attention, for example, is priceless, as it represents the next generation of interest economics. Facebook, with all it’s muscle, cannot keep young people interested.
Not a monopoly, but maybe not so great
Although not quite a #deleteFacebooker, I am far from an avid supporter or user of Facebook. Recently, I actually stopped using Facebook, or at least reduced my use of Facebook by about 95%. Personally, I think people spend too much time on it. I worry that personal connections are being lost, not gained. I also worry that each post people share exposes their insecurities, and that attention to those insecurities can sway people further in a negative direction.
I also worry about young people and especially teenage minds, already naturally tuned for social cues and influence, succumbing even more to peer pressure. But again, these are two separate conversations: one is: Is Facebook a monopoly? And the next is: Should I use Facebook myself? Let’s keep them separate and not confuse our own feelings about the service with the need for governmental action.
In the meantime, let’s have a good long thinking about how we’re using Facebook and social media, and judge how they are adding or subtracting value from our lives.
I had one of those great conversations with my kids yesterday. You know, the kind where you talk for an hour and everyone is laughing and drawing sketches, and generally engaged.
We were talking about the major business models of the Internet over the past twenty years (I know, I know, it's just what I like talking about.)
Kids know better than us. Their minds are clear. I'm not sure that they are more logical in general, but sometimes they have an ability to see things as they are in a way that adults can't.
In any case, we were talking about the greatest business model to come out of the Internet age, and maybe ever - Google. Right now, Google holds the cards. If most commerce happens on the Internet now, it's like they control most of the roads leading to the stores; And they have some patents on concrete manufacturing too.
We talked about how Google organized the Internet, connecting websites from one to another. To again use the road analogy, it's like they created the signs and paved the roads, so now it seems like they own the roads.
But they don't.
One of my kids immediately asked, "But if you talk to your computer, are you using Google?" They asked that because they grew up talking to computers, while I didn't. That's what I mean about being clear-headed. Their eyes see the present, while ours can't help but look at the past.
Voice, and the AI technology behind it, is much more of an existential threat to Google than Facebook ever could be. Facebook mastered the social graph and this does, in some ways, created a new paradigm for finding services. Meaning, you can ask your friends instead of asking the web.
But this isn't the real threat. Facebook still plays in the same world of websites and apps, the world of the 1990s. I don't think it represents the paradigm shift that voice and AI represents. These new technologies could destroy computers themselves. They could destroy mobile devices. It doesn't change what we do with computers or browsers - it makes computers and browsers irrelevant. This is why Google is dumping money into AI and voice technology.
For right now, Siri, to use one personified AI assistant, is pretty darn stupid. I tried asking Siri to open "Robot Unicorn Attack Two," and she couldn't do it. She needed to hear the actual name of the app, RUA2; even though it's "her" own app, in her own app store, on her own device.
The robots have a long way to go before they attack.
The challenge for us thinking about technology, and also how to raise kids that know how to best use technology, is to think clearly about the future. To see the present for what it is and not through a lens of how it was.
Consultants, freelancers, and project-based talent are very important parts of how companies resource their projects. Today, I published this article on how to best work with different types of employees in order to get things done faster (and well!) Many thanks to Sushman and the editorial team of HR Technologist!
Hiring managers and HR professionals see that more and more companies are using flexible labor as part of their regular hiring plans. McKinsey notes that contract work has grown four times faster than total employment in the last decade, and a recent survey indicated that 34 percent of the US population - roughly 53 million people - are freelancing in one form or another. But perhaps companies still fear to regularly use a blended team of full-time employees and flexible labor. However, such teams often have the potential to far outperform a standard team made up solely full-time staff.
When you use Pandora over time, it starts knowing you a bit too well. You start hearing the same music over and over again. You aren't challenged anymore. You feel spoon fed or frozen in time. The AI engine gets lazy.
I noticed this recently with Facebook. People talk about the "echo chamber" of Facebook - it starts predicting your likes and interest, and then simply feeds you that. It feeds off everything that is you - or at least what you are now, and not what you want to be. At it's heart, it's an advertising matching engine, distilling your desires and interests into commercial intent.
At the same time, I saw myself using Facebook too much, mostly at night. It's designed to keep you hooked, and those thousands of software engineers know what they're doing and do it well.
It was too much - and I started seeing it as a destructive aspect of my life.
Probably like many people, I use Facebook for a lot more than sharing pictures of my kids. I have company pages that I administer, ad accounts that I help manage, and a couple of really valuable groups. Deleting Facebook for real isn't really possible for me.
But the real issue, for me, is the app. Deleting the app segments your time spent generally to the day, and the net effect is almost the same thing as deletion. After a couple of weeks (essentially) without Facebook, here are some of the things I've noticed:
- You talk more to people - because you have to. Facebook lulls us into a sort of relationship complacency. You feel like you know what people are doing, so you don't need to ask. Of course, Facebook updates are never how people are really doing, that's just their highly curated blend of what they want the broad world to see.
- You haven't heard of everything already. People are so hooked on their feeds that a lot of conversation these days are things people gleaned from Facebook. Starting sentences with "Did you see that thing on Facebook" has to be one of the most common expressions. When you don't use Facebook as much or at all, there's a gap: you haven't seen every meme.
- You go to old media a bit more. Facebook has the most up to date, comprehensive news aggregation service out there. Without that as your starting off point, I find myself going to newspapers and magazine sites a little bit more, where you get editorial versus algorithmic spoon feeding of content.
- You have an extra hour. Maybe this is just me, but I believe I'm getting an extra hour in the day by not having the Facebook app. I started spending much of my last hour before going to sleep checking Facebook, reading news, and seeing what my friends are doing. Without that, I feel a bit like I'm getting a 25 hour day. Now to make the most of it!
I can't think of anything negative about killing off Facebook time. Maybe if there is a bear attack in my neighborhood, I won't hear about it until it's too late. I'm guess I'll have to take that chance.
I put together a quick Airtable of sales and business books that I have enjoyed. I'll try to remember to add to this list in the future.
This is a topic I enjoy thinking about... how do you talk to your kids in the right way about business? I got a lot of helpful input from other members of the YEC group that also have kids.
Here's How Entrepreneurs Are Talking to Their Kids About Business
While it is very true that children often do what you do, not what you say to do, it’s important for parents, particularly entrepreneurial parents, to give their actions context and pre-empt that favorite question of all children: “But...why?” This way, not only do children understand the hard work you put in -- and why sometimes you have to leave them for a bit -- but they become empowered to see possibilities of entrepreneurship, even at an early age. Just by taking a few moments to reflect with them on a universe of possibilities, you can create avenues for greatness.
After a ton of work, we're wrapping up our prototype of the new VocaWorks tech hiring platform! I did a quick video this morning of the software. I'm always a little nerdy, but I sound a little extra nerdy due to a cold that I just can't seem to shake. So please excuse the non-radio friendly voice.
Like Ferris said... "You're still here? It's over!"
Good ol' grand-dad Luke the Evangelist! My 23andme report says it, so it must be true.
This is yet another reason for me to add that annoying "Chief Evangelist" title to my Twitter bio. Turns out, it's in my blood!
We're taught to "never go to bed mad" with our spouses. But the reality is that we often think better in the morning. Many times, we won't even remember what we were mad about.
When you're running a business, you can expect to deal with problems - a lot of problems. You're everyone's go-to person for problems.
If there are issues with an employee, you worry about how it will affect your client relationships, for example. It's easy to work yourself up about things - grind away at the issues and try to resolve everything in your mind. It's a recipe for frustration.
It's many times better to let things go... resolve what you can through immediate communication, but then try to only care about the things that you can change. Worrying doesn't help resolve anything, and it's many times better to sleep on things.
I've learned to compartmentalize things in a way, to just do everything I can every day, but then let the things that I can't change drop. Or at least let them rest until another day.
It's many times good advice to "go to bed mad" at your spouse. To say, "Hey, I love you, but we're both tired, let's go to bed" - to address things fresh in the morning.
Same goes with business - stewing in worry makes everything worse. Do what you can each day, and let the rest go. Resolve what you can quickly, and then move on to other things where you can make an impact.
Trust that each morning everything will again be new.