Author Archive

Have your Ark Ready

Posted: June 28, 2015 by Tim Metzner in Leadership, People, Startup

TIM-METZNER-BWAs I was reading one of my favorite business/leadership books, The Bible (seriously, you’d be amazed how much relevant and insightful stuff there is for entrepreneurs), the story of Noah struck me as particularly relevant today.

There is no shortage of articles out there today about what Millennials are looking for in work/life, so let me summarize it for you: they want to do stuff that matters. This statistic from a CNN Money article is pretty telling: “A full 60% of 2015 grads — and 69% of 2013 and 2014 grads, who were also surveyed — said they’d rather work for a company that has a “positive social atmosphere” even if it means lower pay.”

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What Great Companies Excel At

Posted: March 29, 2015 by Tim Metzner in Innovation, Leadership, Startup

Tim-MetznerWhile companies are incredibly diverse, it occurs to me that successful ones tend to have (at least) three things in common; clear vision, great culture and exceptional execution. I believe the more consistently a company excels in these areas, the more likely it is to become a lasting company that will thrive.

Vision

Your vision must be clear, focused, meaningful and well communicated to the team. Everyone from CEO to interns understand where the company is going and how they are to help.

Culture

Employees spend more time at work than they do with their families. People need to genuinely believe the company is working on things that matter, feel challenged and appreciated and enjoy the people they work with.

Execution (more…)

Are You Really Solving a Problem?

Posted: September 14, 2014 by Tim Metzner in Innovation, Marketing, Planning, Startup

TIM-METZNER-BWOver the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs at the very earliest stages, including many Startup Weekend events. One common pitfall that I see many teams fall into is starting with an idea for a “great product” versus a specific problem that they are trying to solve.

What’s the difference? Glad you asked.

Starting with the Solution

I understand why most people tend to start here, it’s how most of us think. The high profile successes seem to be from “inventors” who are creating things so new and different that the world doesn’t even know they need it. Quotes like Henry Ford’s classic “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”, and iconic leaders like Steve Jobs, perpetuate the belief that this is how great companies are started.

The trouble is, most companies aren’t Apple. Sure there will always be room for highly disruptive companies that are reinventing entire industries, but this is unquestionably the exception. The reason starting with a solution is so difficult is you literally have to create demand for a product; it’s a solution searching for people with a problem to solve. (more…)

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons

Posted: June 22, 2014 by Tim Metzner in Culture, Leadership, Startup

Tim-MetznerEarlier this year 3,500 people had the unique pleasure of welcoming TV’s most influential reality TV producer — Emmy-winner Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Apprentice”) — to Cincinnati’s largest entrepreneur group, Unpolished, at Crossroads church in Oakley.

In addition to promoting his upcoming movie, Son of God, he dropped some serious entrepreneurial wisdom on us.

Turns out, though now a huge success, Mark showed up to America (from England) with only $200 in his pocket and started out in LA as a live in nanny. He’s come a long way since then, and shared some great lessons with us. Here are my favorite nuggets.

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Mark Burnett

  1. “Those who need to be certain about everything never end up doing anything.” You can be pretty certain that you’re never going to reach a moment of complete clarity and confidence about an idea or opportunity, which means at some point you just need to take that leap of faith.
  2. “Pray, pray, pray… but also get off your ass and work!” Mark was very open about the fact that a strong faith and prayer life has undoubtedly been a huge part of why he is successful, but make no mistake about it, so has good old fashioned hard work and hustle.
  3. “Naiveté is one of your biggest assets.” Simply put, sometimes it’s what you don’t know that will give you the edge. Those who have been hardened by an industry or past failures will not only be facing the real challenges ahead, but also the assumed ones.
  4. “If you don’t love it, don’t do it.” We’ve all heard this a hundred times, but it can’t be stated enough. Life is too short to be spending most of our waking hours pursuing something we’re simply not passionate about. And while there are always exectpions, you have a much higher likelihood of success if you doing something you truly care about.
  5. “Be open to change, but not to giving up.” When asked to talk about any failures he has experienced, he responded that there were certainly some less successful projects than others, but to him, failure would only have come if he had given up on things that he believed in. In other words, he was OK with a project not being a runaway hit, but he would not have been OK with not trying (if he truly believed something had potential).

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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 .