What is one time management “commandment” you use to stay focused?
Email is the single largest hindrance to productivity. I set aside 1 hour a day to focus on email. That’s it.
Remember, when you live in your inbox, you’re focusing your energy on accomplishing what OTHER people want you to get done instead of what is most imperative for your business.
Inbox zero is not something that you should strive for. Whenever I hear someone say that they are an ‘Inbox Zeroer’ I think to myself ‘Wow, I wonder how much more productive this person could have been if they weren’t putting all of their effort into clearing out their inbox’.
Instead, focus on what you need to get done to drive your business forward and stop wasting time on what other people are asking you to focus on. You know what your business needs better than anyone else. Trust yourself, and execute!
What’s one book every entrepreneur should pick up today? What was your big takeaway from it?
It’s by far the best book I’ve ever read about starting a business. The E Myth teaches entrepreneurs how to think about building their business so that they can turn their company into a well structured, systemized business.
Too many entrepreneurs do not follow the advice in this book, which is why 80% of startups fail. The largest take aways from this book is to spend time working ON your business, not IN your business. If you build your company right, it should operate WITHOUT you, not BECAUSE of you. I’ve used almost everything I’ve learned from this book while building CoachUp and it has paid huge dividends.
I list The E-myth in my resources section as a definite must-read!
Name one advantage or disadvantage to working in a co-working space as opposed to your own office.
When you work in a co-working space, you have the opportunity to network every day with your fellow co-workers. This is an extremely valuable aspect of the spaces. In my opinion, there is no better way to get to know the startup scene in a given town than working out of a co-working space. Our first several hires came directly as a result of working around other comapanies. It would have been much harder to get CoachUp off the ground had we not been able to use the network we built from being based out of a co-working space.
What is your number one tip for a student or recent grad who wants to spend summer launching a new business? Should they take a course, intern, or something else?
I would strongly suggest that students or recent grads first get some experience working at a company before trying to start one themselves. I would further suggest that they DO NOT work for a startup if they are planning to start their own business. The best thing a potential entrepreneur can do is to spend some time working for larger company that is well established in its field and has implemented company wide business practices.
When you’re building a company, you need to have an idea of HOW you want to build your business. Great businesses are created from day one, with processes that evolve over time. In order for an entrepreneur to know what type of processes need to be put in place and how to change them over time, he/she must have an idea of where the business is going over time. The only way a first time entrepreneur will understand how solid businesses are built is if they spend some time working for a well-oiled, hierarchal company.
What’s one question I should always ask my employees during performance reviews and why?
I always ask: ‘If you can change one thing about the company or your role to improve the company, what would you change and why?’ Each employee has a slightly different perspective on your business and everyone has an idea as to what their largest perceived pain point is. This is invaluable information that will not improve your company, but will also improve employee moral. Your employees are your most valuable asset! Invest in them and listen to them!
How can I get a big-name entrepreneur to publicly endorse my product / service?
Big-name entrepreneurs get asked to invest / endorse / recommend products and services all the time. So if you want to stand out, you need to set yourself apart from the rest. Do not ask for a recommendation or endorsement. Instead, find some commonality between yourself and the entrepreneur and provide some value before asking for something in return. Perhaps find a recent article they’ve written and engage in discussion, or find a way to add value to one of the entrepreneur’s existing ventures or initiatives. After you have a discussion where you have provided some type of value, then you can suggest that the entrepreneur take a look at your product and give you an endorsement if they find value in it.
To stay afloat, I want to start charging my early adopters, who have been using my product for free. What is the best way to approach this problem?
Just do it!
I’m a firm believer in charging for your product from day 1. No matter how un-polished you think your product is, the only way to tell if people derive value from what you provide is to attach a dollar amount and charge your customer. It’s difficult to make the jump from a free product to a paid product, so if possible charge from day 1 and avoid the problem altogether. If you’re already giving your product away for free, then use this to your advantage by making an educated estimate as to the value you’re providing your customers and use this data to set your pricing as you see best.
What is one out-of-the-box strategy you use to keep your team productive during the summer months?
Standups! And keep them quick! Every morning our team goes around and each person says what they did yesterday, what they plan to accomplish today, and mentions if anyone else on the team is ‘blocking’ them from accomplishing their tasks. It’s extremely effective, simple, and quick to implement. You can start doing it right now! This second!
I’m thinking of raising money from angels. What is one thing I should know?
When you take money from Angels, it’s far more important to consider WHO you are taking money from than HOW MUCH money you are raising. Angel investors provide more than just money to get your business to the next level. Most Angel investors are previous business owners or entrepreneurs themselves. Select Angel investors based on who you value feedback from the most. Having angels that are passionate about your business and willing to give you council and make connections for you is the most important thing to consider, as it will do the most to drive your business forward.
What is one unusual way you vet potential technical hires and why does it work?
There are 2 things we do: pair programming and temp to perm hiring. Pair programming is part of our interview process. We pick an actual task from our current sprint and pair program with the candidate. You don’t truly know someone until you code with them 🙂
This allows us to get an accurate assessment of technical ability as well as actually get work done!
The other thing that is effective is finding a small project and hiring the candidate for a temporary contract position. You’ll be able to see how that candidate works with your team for personality / culture fit as well as the quality of their work.