Archive for October, 2013

5 Startup Lessons From My Newborn

Posted: October 27, 2013 by Tim Metzner in Culture, Leadership, People, Uncategorized

Over the last 16 months I’ve had the fortune of being a 2-time new dad and new startup founder. I’ve learned a ton from both (including following either path is not for the faint of heart,) and recently realized there is much overlap in lessons learned from both worlds.

1. The right partner is everything.

Finding the right co-founder or spouse makes all the difference in the world. In fact, choose poorly on this front and eventual failure is all but certain. Things might not blow up right away, but as soon as times get rough (and they will), you’ll learn how well you chose.

So do yourself a favor and be diligent about the things that you can control. Pick a partner who complements your strengths, understands and accepts your weaknesses, and is ready AND willing to jump in the trenches when it’s time to do battle.

2. Output is important.

Every new parent tells you one of the most important things they do is meticulously monitor their output. Are they creating enough dirty diapers (both #1 & #2) to show that they are eating enough and making the transition out of the womb?

Tracking Owen’s dirty diapers, I realized the similarities to measuring early output in a startup. When launching, it’s easy to focus on the wrong things — branding, 3-year business plans, the perfect logo. Founders tend to avoid anything uncomfortable, or anything that might disprove their great idea. For this reason, focus on doing the right things to help you test and learn as quickly as possible.

3. Sleep: Take it when you can get it.

Most of us underestimate the value of sleep. Experienced parents advise you to “sleep when baby sleeps.” So when your baby decides to snooze, you seize the opportunity to get a bunch of stuff done (using both hands.) Before you know it, you’ve been non-stop since baby fell asleep and now it’s feeding time. The same happens with startups. At the end of the day and everyone has gone home, you know you should shut down.  You can’t help but think, “this is super productive time, I should just keep cranking for a while”– four hours later it’s the middle of the night and you have an 8am meeting.

Had you prioritized sleep, you’d likely be more productive today. If you get that next item checked off your list, a new one pops up. Just accept this.

4. Unplugging is underrated.

I’m terrible at this. My idea of a great family vacation includes getting up early (before everyone else) to get stuff done. The same thing happens as a parent. We love spending time with our kids, finding fun activities on the weekends, as we should!

But to be the best mom/dad/founder you can be, YOU NEED A BREAK. Taking a night off without the kids or laptop is not just selfish “me time,” it might be the best thing you can do for your family/business. Patience, understanding, and persistence are all vital to being great. So how do you keep your energy and enthusiasm up for this? Schedule weekly time away from work/family. Spend time with your spouse or co-founder doing non-work/family stuff. Schedule regular time alone for reflection, fun, and just relaxing–even if it’s just 30 minutes a week.

5. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

After the arrival of our first son, my wife and I were trying to figure out life as new parents when I turned on some music and start singing and having fun with Nolan. My wife instantly remarked “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to have fun with him — aren’t we!?” As new parents there is an incredible sense of responsibility. Those first days can be overwhelming and stressful, which is why a sudden burst of fun refreshes your soul.

The same applies to startups. Starting a company is just crazy overwhelming. Startup entrepreneurs undergo a ton of pressure and stress that often causes them to work their butts off without taking any time to celebrate.

But guess what… you should! It’s OK to have fun and celebrate success. In fact, You’ll have a healthier culture (both work and family) if you make it a habit .

What It Takes to Pitch A Winner

Posted: October 20, 2013 by Tom Heuer in Money, Startup

Tom Heuer, Miami University Center for EntrepreneurshipEvery day, I become more impressed by my students who are engaged physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in starting-up a business.  The New Ventures class grows every semester because of the very real roller-coaster the student teams will experience on their way to developing and delivering an inspiring presentation to venture capitalists, business executives, commercial bankers and entrepreneurs.  The Pitch – it is often their most memorable academic event in college.

So, how does every student team and most entrepreneurs arrive at the “memorable pitch.”  After being involved with the start-up process for years, I am not convinced that there is any one process that works better than others.  In his excellent book, Outliers, Malcom Gladwell pronounces that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.  Well, I may not have reached that level of expertise, but I have seen a pattern emerge as to why start-up student teams and certain entrepreneurs are successful.  They seem to focus their energy on three elements – the problem, the idea and the team.

The Problem

It is all about the problem.  Every successful start-up and on-going business owes its viability to solving a problem the target customer cares about.  This initial step in the start-up process usually has some emotional association with the entrepreneur.  The problem has happened to them numerous times and the frustration level becomes elevated.  The journey to search for a solution to the problem ends up being the motivation to start the business.


The Future is Bright

Posted: October 9, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Ecosystem, Planning, Startup, Technology

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

              — 1986 hit song by Timbuk3


sunglassessmallSara Specter, editor at Modern Materials Handling, asked me to review and give feedback on a draft of the US Material Handling and Logistics Roadmap, a synthesis of over 200 participants from all facts of industry, academia and government to predict the state of the industry in 2025. Since Material Handling and Logistics touch every facet of our life from what we eat and wear to how we drive and play, it makes sense to think about how our organization would fit into that world.

My first impression: Technology will disrupt the market more than we can imagine. At Promat 2013, a logistics trade show, the futurist, Edie Weiner, talked about the speed of technology change: “It is happening at an exponential exponential rate, and I did mean to repeat myself.”

The roadmap thinkers envision innovations such as “same day” and even “same hour” deliveries. While this seems like a ridiculous notion that we would need something the same hour, look back to the 1970’s where we thought next day delivery was limited to extremely urgent situations. FEDEX changed all that. And the thought of free, two-day delivery for everything seemed like a sure way to lose money, yet Amazon dominates a market where they have set expectation that everything is delivered in two days for free.


Grow Your Business By Taking a Break

Posted: October 6, 2013 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

BobGilbreathAhaLast week I had drinks with one of the country’s most successful and recognized entrepreneurs. Just a year ago he sold his 5-year-old company for hundreds of millions of dollars. I asked him for the biggest key to his success. The answer: “I worked my face off—traveling around the country for any opportunity and often working until 2am…but I barely saw my kids for 5 years.” The statement was something between regret, warning and statement of pride—and left me wondering if it was a success story after all.

It goes without saying that you will put in more hours as an entrepreneur than virtually any other career path. And it’s not the hours, but the intensity that takes a toll. When the buck stops with you there is no clocking out or calling in sick. Ironically, the people who choose the entrepreneurial path often enjoy the “always on” nature of the job. We love to work and build, and working for yourself can be addictive. But the addiction takes a toll when we let it rule our marriages, families and friendships.