Category Archives: English Posts

Grain of Salt

In Business Development take everything with a grain of salt

The more I collaborate with the business development team, the more I understand that as a buyer, one needs to be careful about what he agrees on.

Usually, I see things only from our perspective, the company that slightly exaggerates in its promise whenever selling something to a customer. Well, maybe not exaggerating, but making a donut look a lot like a wedding cake.

However, in business development there are always at least two parties that have an interest in the deal. This means you never know whose wedding cake is actually a donut; and that can happen even when you least expect it.

I can’t really talk about what made me write this post but I can talk about numbers out of context.

Imagine you told me that there are virtually 10.000 units to which we can provide our service and after we sign the agreement (an agreement that doesn’t specify that number). Once it’s signed you tell me that I misunderstood it, what you said is that the plan is to get to 10.000 units, but for now there are only 400 units.

While for me that is borderline frustrating and I am not sure I could be on either of the sides for too long, for some is just the way life goes.

Anyway, the key learning point is to always be extremely inquisitive before you go into an agreement and put stuff on paper.

Photo by  ulterior epicure

 

The first draft phenomena

You know what grinds my gears? Management Issues

Here is a weird trend I noticed lately: the first draft is not the first draft anymore. The first draft is the final version. Drives me crazy!

So this is what happens:

First people will tell you things like:

  • “Can you please quickly draft some ideas. Nothing big, just so we have a start for our conversation”
  • “Can you please send me a short list of things that we should include? Be careful, don’t make it science project.”
  • “Can you take a few minutes to draft a press release. I just want to see the direction you are going with this. Don’t spend to much time on it.”

Then you send the draft and all of a sudden you hear things like:

  • “Cool. I am going to present this in the MT meeting tomorrow.“
  • “Ok, sounds good I will send this to IT. They will build it.”

Noooooo! Noooooo! Noooo! This is not meant for that. 15min is not enough to come up with the whole thing. Stop treating it like the final thing.

OR

The other equally annoying part is when people forget this is supposed to be a “quick thing” and start saying things like:

  • Why did you use this word?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to reverse these paragraphs?
  • Why didn’t you mention the other thing?

Grrr!! We just agreed this is going to be a conversation starter not the bloody “Declaration of Independence ”. Stop treating it like the final thing. Work with me. Don’t attack my 15 min work!

Key Learning Point

My advice?

1. Try not to treat your first draft like a … first draft, but as a proposal that will represent you going forward. At least this is what I am doing from now on.

2. Spend more time for your first draft and review it yourself a few times.

Just remember, in many cases, your first draft is the first impression. Whatever you present to your team will influence the discussion. It will be a huge brick to the foundation.

Basketball Training

StartUp Mentality: Failing vs Training

“FAIL fast, FAIL often and FAIL early”

If your kid would like to start playing basketball or start playing an instrument what would you tell her or him?

I doubt that you first thought would be: “hey kiddo, listen to me if you want to be number one you gotta FAIL fast, FAIL often and FAIL early”.

I think you would rather say something like “I am proud of you kiddo. I am sure that if you TRAIN you will become very good at it and I will be there to support you.”

Am I right? Mkay, now let’s think about starting your first business.

You are about to create something new. You have no prior experience but you just love the idea of making it happen.  You create your startup and score a lot of points like:

  • Finding an a office
  • Hiring your first employees
  • Taking care of all the paper work
  • Getting better at marketing, sales and business development

After a while you realize you can’t make and you have to close down the project.

If you would have to assess your results, this would be like going to your first basketball match and scoring 50% of all your shots.  Damn, that’s a pretty sweet achievement. You did some cool stuff, you tested some theories, you have an initial benchmark, and if you keep training you will only improve yourself.

For me, telling someone he failed after his first try is like telling a little kid he failed at walking after his first attempt.

 A closer look at failing

Let’s put failing in perspective shall we? For that I would like to share my thoughts on: the definition of failing and how our goals determine if we failed or not.

If you search for the definition of failing you will get something like: “to end without success” or “be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal”. I believe this is a very important piece of the puzzle.

So, in order to fail, firstly you need to END your journey. Once you stopped you must not continue. You must not take another shot and you must not try anything else.  If however you decide that this is not THE END but only a pause, then I would say you didn’t failed …not just yet.

Secondly, you need to not reach your GOAL and this has to do a lot with how we set goals for ourselves or how we perceive other people’s goals. There is a big difference between: my first startup will be a success and I will build a successful company. (Regardless of how you choose to measure that success)

Do you see the difference? In the first example you want to be the best basketball player in the first tournament and in the second example you want to become the best player no matter how many times you try.

Here is what you can take away from this:

  1. As an entrepreneur: set you goals right, as these will influence your expectations. Focus on training not on failing
  2. As the judging public: look beyond the first trial and see what else is coming. Don’t label just yet.

 What clay pots can teach us about failing?

A few days a go I stumbled across a story that really made a mark on me. I keep thinking and thinking about it ever since and I believe it can add a lot to my point about failing.  This story is from a book called: “Art and Fear” and it goes like this:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Here is what you can take away from this:

  • Fear of failing is very real and affects our work, even though we try make it cool by saying things like: “FAIL fast, FAIL often and FAIL early”.
  • By failing many times at something you get more experience. Again, isn’t this the pessimistic view on training? So why not focus on the optimistic part?

They say it takes 10.000 hours to become an expert at something. One surely cannot expect that to be different for starting a business. If anything I think it takes even longer.

Why should we use Training instead of Failing?

My first point is that failing fast and failing often is actually the pessimistic perspective of looking at all you things you have learned. And if your goal is to create a successful business, as long as you don’t stop you did not fail.

I think it is extremely important to focus on the positive aspect of your work. Either we want to admit it or not, the way we talk influences how we behave (think NLP). By using a different lens/perspective to analyze your achievement you are encouraged to continue instead of quitting. No matter how much we want to change the meaning of what failing means in a startup world, the truth is that everywhere else failing is still bad.

My second point is built on the fact that in many cultures/countries failing is bad.

Not all entrepreneurs have the privilege to start their own company in a country like the US, which understands the meaning of “failing in business”.

I know that the general feeling is that in Europe failing is frowned upon and as a consequence there are less people trying to start their own thing. Imagine the impact on a global scale if more people would be encouraged to follow their passion and start their own company. Imagine if entrepreneurs all over the world would be encouraged and they would focus on the experience gained instead of the wasted time & resources.

Well, that’s about it… Now I am really curious to know what you think about my theory.  Is training a more appropriate word for working on your ability to create startups or should we keep calling it failing?

Photo by ryan_fung