Starving, Excruciating, and Fair

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Tracy and I have banned a few words from use by our three kids (12, 9, & 7) when describing their personal situation or present difficulty. In our household starving, excruciating, and the phrase “it is not fair” are not permitted.

Here is our thinking.

Starving — I’ve been around the world, and I have slept on a dirt floor of an orphanage with a group of beautiful children — looking into their eyes, I’ve seen starving. And while my little ones might find themselves hungry and we may eat a little later than usual sometimes, these fair skinned American kids do not know starving. And for that I’m grateful. But let us not forget those who are starving for real and reserve that word for them. And furthermore, let us give to a well-managed charity on behalf of children who are in need both in this country and abroad. They are precious, and it is our responsibility as a community to make sure they too are not starving.

Excruciating — A word literally created to describe the agony of crucifixion on the cross. Again, I know my kids have never suffered such pain. And while I understand falling into a cactus hurts and it is most certainly painful when you go down hard on a bicycle, I contend that in measure to the cross, it is nothing. For one, they will never find themselves in agony alone having been rejected by their father — I wouldn’t dream of it (although they usually just ask for their mother). And second, the pain — it just doesn’t come close. Continue reading “Starving, Excruciating, and Fair”

Who’s the half-wit?

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If you’ve ever worked in B2B, selling into larger companies (middle market), you know the importance of getting as much of a view into your customer’s team and processes as early and as often as possible. They are very complex.

Obviously, this can be a bit of a challenge.

Recently, I was in a meeting with a large prospect, and we had successfully walked through their company and identified several of their stakeholders. The core of our offering is to help them better understand their customer’s journey through their entire enterprise from marketing to customer support.

A tall order…

We love mapping journeys so getting through our customer’s enterprise should be no problem, right?

Continue reading “Who’s the half-wit?”

Just the right amount of throttle.

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I love motorcycle riding analogies. I hope it’s my love of the open road, but maybe it’s just my simple mind.

Either way, here’s another.

If you ride, you know the importance of balancing the road speed with your bike’s engine speed for the most optimal performance. When out of balance, you feel the machine below you laboring or even losing power and traction. At the wrong time, say in the lean of a sharp curve this can be dangerous. Or simply just distract from the pleasure of the moment.

But when it’s right… a tight curve on an optimized machine, WOW. The tighter the curve, the greater the lean and the potential for a better experience. Being in the moment with the road moving beneath you as you glide, aware of what is happening around you and fully in control. What a thrill.

Just close your eyes for a minute and imagine the feeling. Pretty amazing, right? Continue reading “Just the right amount of throttle.”

Pulled by vision, Pushed by pain

Often we are either pulled by vision or pushed by pain. It has been my experience that I can sometimes switch between the two, or even be driven by pain until I develop a clear vision.

 

This is true in much of life and in business.

As for business, there is profit to be had in solving pain for an identifiable customer or better yet, developing something that solves a pain one has personally experienced as it yields both compassion and passion. And that is very rewarding.

There is even greater joy in developing past the pain and into a vision of what was previously unimaginable. Not just the absence of pain (as that is rarely, if ever, possible), but more excitedly the crystallization of a vision that is much much bigger.

The power of vision is that it is compelling and sustaining when times get tough or new problems develop, as they often do. Continue reading “Pulled by vision, Pushed by pain”

A little root, a destructive path.

This weekend my son and I were working in the yard when we uncovered a massive root that appeared to grow between the bricks of our planter and under the back section of the patio. We were both surprised at how big it was as it snaked its way through layers of brick and concrete, Jameson was sure the root had to get smaller as it went on below the concrete. So we kept digging, and in fact, it was just as big.

I explained to him that at one point it was tiny, and that allowed it to spread out and grow in all directions making its way through the cracks and crevices. Once there, it grew and expanded pushing everything else aside. By starting small it grew along a path, becoming quite destructive.

It was a perfect opportunity for us to talk about how anger and hatred grow similarly in our hearts. It starts small and subtle, but it stretches out in all directions and if left unchecked it will only increase and cause great destruction.

We went on in our work discussing the importance of keeping short accounts; that is to say, the importance of talking often and honestly when someone hurts or upsets us. Not allowing destructive bitterness or anger to grow.

I love my son and want the very best for him, and I know life will give him a lot of difficult times and broken relationships. And it is important for him to learn, for us all to remember that it is never about avoiding pain. But rather dealing with it as it comes, quickly — and never alone.

To build, or not to build… that is the question.

As an entrepreneur, I have a lot of ideas. Some might be the next “great” thing and yet most, well they are probably just crap. And as an investor, I sit in a lot of meetings with early-stage companies who want to be convincing.

And yet, when it comes to informing the product roadmap or determining which half of the marketing budget is working, we are often at a loss. At least initially. And we are left making educated guesses.

And all of this while burning cash and time.

Of course, we’ve read the right books, and we have our Lean processes, but in practice, we have to decide quickly and iterate often. And getting a team to agree which version of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and which user/market inputs we start with can be a challenge. The same goes for our Business Model Canvas, as initial assumptions and iterations matter. A lot.

The real opportunity may just be in getting a group of unbiased users at scale. Yesterday.

So, to quote one of my old professors with crazy hair (mumbling over and over again), “what to do? … what to do? …” Continue reading “To build, or not to build… that is the question.”

Look right, go right. But be sure to steer left.

I have been riding motorcycles most of my life. And one of the early lessons I learned (painfully, I might add) was the idea that if you look right, you’ll go right. And if you look left, well you guessed it; you’ll go left.

Especially at highway speeds and around sharp corners.

What made this confusing at first was the idea of countersteering. A concept you’ll learn early in a motorcycle safety course if you are smart enough to take one.

Simply put, that’s the idea “to initiate a turn toward a given direction by momentarily steering counter to the desired direction (“steer left to turn right”). Thus, to negotiate a turn successfully, the combined center of mass of the rider and the single-track vehicle must first be leaned in the direction of the turn, and steering briefly in the opposite direction causes that lean.

Simple, right?

The first nickname my fellow riders gave me was “Kickstand”. However, shortly after that I became known by my club as “Road Rash” — Don’t ask.

I have often used these concepts in leadership and business because we go in the direction we look, and most often balance best and execute less painfully when we do so counterintuitively.

Simple examples include; “The way up, is the way down” (to quote Heraclitus as well as much of Jesus’ own teaching on humility vs. pride and the Kingdom of Heaven etc).

So, in life, in business, and in leadership; you’ll go in the direction you look. And it might just be a counterintuitive move to get there.

Let’s ride.

This post first published at medium.com/@mrjamesmartin

How to plan startup development with Happy Startup Canvas

In this article Dasha makes this statement;

Have you noticed that many young entrepreneurs make more efforts to attract investors than get users for their product? Don’t be like them. It sends the wrong message of you caring more about how much your startup makes than how you can help people to address their pain points.

I could not agree more.  It really comes down to how clearly  founders understand their customers and their pain. And their ‘soft’ or systemic thinking, which is needed to build a sustainable business. The author goes on to make a case for finding purpose, vision, and values for your startup.

She nailed it. Well worth the read.

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How To Convince Leaders To Avoid Business Plans When Validating New Ideas Strategyzer

In this article Kavi makes the following point;

A business plan assumes you know all the answers for a given idea. That’s hardly the case. Teams spend hours and hours compiling fantastic forecasts, and will spend tons of money hiring people to build technology or products that have no evidence to support their success. You can always make the numbers look good in a plan and argue how well it will work, but the plan will mean absolutely nothing without rigorous testing and evidence. It’s a fine line between vision and hallucination.

I can not tell you how many times I have made the same mistake. It is dangerous to believe your own bu!! $#it.  Experiments over experts.  Simple.

Obviously, I have never developed a business plan I did not initially believe in and I have quite the collection of spreadsheets that prove the author’s point.  Over time, I have learned to develop processes that allow our team to quickly validate and iterate on our ideas. Using tools like Strategyzer’s  Canvas is a big part of that process.  The quicker we can get an idea off the board and into a system that allows us to build on and test/validate the plan the better. And keeping it “cheap” just means we can invest in and diversify our portfolio of ideas on our way to innovation.

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Read the full version from the author’s website.