The Week in Review #25: The Difference Between Culture & Values

Saying something and doing something are two very different things. Take Enron for example. The company had a 62 page manual on their code of ethics. They had aspiring values such as integrity, respect and excellence. Yet, everything they did within the company was completely the opposite. Defining values for your business is just part of the equation. The true test is how those values are manifested in the day to day operations of the company. Employees will make decisions based on the culture before identifying with the organizations core values. There in lies the over arching difference between the two.

A polar opposite to Enron is a company called Zappos. For the first 6 years of operation they did not have formal core values. It was actually the employees at the company that pushed to outline them based on their stellar culture. The company not only outlined their core values, they built a slew of reinforcing structures. This included training programs, paying people to quit and their own culture book.

Ultimately, the success of any company depends on the people. Having the right values and culture in place is usually a precursor to achieving great things.

The Difference Between Culture and Values This article inspired this week’s post. It is a very well written piece outlining the differences between culture and values. Brad Feld who is another great VC and blogger wrote a response on his own experience with this topic. It is also a great read.

How to Prepare For Any Accelerator Interview While this article is positioned to help entrepreneurs with their pitch at accelerators, it is generally good advice for pitching. The author breaks down the common mistakes made and what makes good pitches.

How Companies Can Avoid the Innovator’s Dilemma Disruption and business models is what is discussed in this article. It is a long read with several great case studies ranging from P&G, Facebook and Netflix. The primary take away is a set of rules that companies can adopt to avoid disruption.

The Art of Waiting I could relate deeply with this article. As entrepreneurs we are always in a rush to get to our destination. The only problem is that reaching it usually takes a lot longer than expected. With a mix of bad direction, delays and unforeseen disasters; everything takes longer. Learning how to wait it out is a key skill that every entrepreneur needs to have in their arsenal.

How Startups Should Get Their First 1000 Customers Customer acquisition is the life blood of every business. Knowing how to acquire your customer is key to your success. Dan Martell outlines the vital elements that your strategy needs to include.

Lessons from the front lines: building Fetchnotes This article is from the founder’s perspective after his company was acquired. This is a long yet very enjoyable and insightful read. Topics range from product development, managing cash, raising funding, marketing, people and most importantly being a founder. Take the time to sit back and read this post in it’s entirety.

The Inside Story on How SurveyMonkey Cracked the International Market SurveyMonkey has enjoyed phenomenal success expanding it’s product. However operating in new market’s isn’t as simple as just opening an office and hiring some people. This post outlines in great detail about their international strategy. What worked and what didn’t. Lots of great lessons to be learned.

Have a great week everyone!

The Week in Review #24: Forgetting Super Chickens at Work

As entrepreneurs, a large majority of us aspire to be superstars. It starts when we enter school and the teacher gives out stars to the best students. The cycle repeats itself endlessly as we move up the ladder. In our quest to reach the top, collateral damage is a necessary evil. We delude ourselves into thinking that this is the only way to reach the success we desire. However nothing could be further from the truth. These isolated examples of success cloak the larger picture. Research has shown, superstar status achieved at all cost is transient in nature. It is only when we focus on bringing out the best in others, is when we find the best in ourselves. This advice is contrarian to most that is given to ambitious entrepreneurs and individuals.

This week’s topic is around a brilliant Ted talk I watched this week by Margaret Heffernan. She shares her research behind what makes the best teams and companies. On the surface it would seem that having a team of all-stars is the best way to have a strong team. However the research suggests otherwise. She found that teams that had a high degree of empathy towards one another, far out performed those with a focus on individual stars. These teams had stronger communication and were far more likely to come up with innovative solutions.

As the world becomes smaller, the need for collaboration is key to our success. We need to change our focus of solely wanting to become superstars. By realizing everybody has value, we unlock the energy and momentum needed to achieve the extraordinary.

Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work (Video) This week’s top pick is a Ted video on how to create high performing teams. The speaker shares great insights with the use of vivid examples and stories. She shares the top three things that the best teams have in common and how we can build similar teams ourselves.

Good Work Isn’t Enough This article follows a similar theme to the highlighted video. Doing good work without having the right attitude is not sustainable. The best opportunities go to people who have great attitudes. This all comes down to how they work with others and their own disposition.

Why Successful People Focus on the Bottom End of the Funnel This article builds on the theme of doing good work. It is more tactical in nature and discusses specific strategies to achieve excellence. It all boils down to being proactive, starting with an end in mind and putting the first things first.

Isn’t LeBron Amazing? This article shows the flip side of the argument being discussed this week. Lebron James is one of the most valuable sports players in the world. His impact on joining a particular team is massive. To the degree that the success or failure is completely dependent on his shoulders. This extreme example shows that hiring a superstar on your team has a major impact. However, there are several trade offs when you become overly reliant on a single person.

Overpriced Seth Godin talks about the value of assets in this article. We can apply a similar analogy to talent as well. Scouts are used in sports to look for the best undiscovered talent. All these teams make bets on people and their potential. Once a player’s worth has been validated, the market value adjusts itself.

Talent Hunt: Lessons learned about finding the right people This article breaks down 6 strategies you can use in finding talent for your business. The tactics shared in this post differ from the usual advice of finding talent. Recruiting top talent for your business is critical to your success. We have to do everything we can to ensure we keep our pipeline full.

Recruiting – The 3rd Crucial Startup Skill Wrapping up this week is one of the most comprehensive reads of recruiting. David Skok’s blog is a goldmine for information on running a startup. This post provides a complete overview of a recruitment process that every company should build. This is a must read for any business owner.

Have a great week ahead!

 

The Week in Review #23: In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist

The future of work excites me. Technology is rapidly breaking down barriers and changing perspectives. Millions of people wake up every morning and decide what they will work on today. Platforms like Upwork and Uber have freed them from the traditional concept of being an employee. They decide when to work, how much they would like to work and most importantly whom they would like to work with. While this is reality for only a select few people today, this is what the future is going to look like. This will require a fundamental shift in how companies attract, recruit and retain the people who work for them. The balance of power will now solely be with the individual. Companies will have to pay far more attention towards defining who they are and what they stand for.

For the individual, honing on your craft is now more important that ever before. What you do, how you do it and what makes you remarkable matters. In a sea of people all of whom could do the same job faster or cheaper, why would someone pick you? As these changes slowly permeate throughout our world, there will be a lot of disruption. The average companies and people will rally hard to maintain the status quo. A place where they can hide behind the covers, just chugging along. However, revolutions do not work that way. Just like the industrial revolution changed our world forever, we are on the brink of a similar event.

In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist This article talks about the rise of the on demand economy. The article mentions many platform that are enabling people to choose how and when they work. In the next 5 years nearly 40% of the workforce is projected to be contractors. This will radically change how organizations work and structure themselves.

The Freelance Economy This article follows a similar theme to the one above. It is based on a company called WorkMarket which aggregates knowledge workers and helps companies manage them. The most interesting part of this article is actually found in the comments. There is a very lively debate around this change and what it truly means for everyone of us.

What’s one thing you’ve learned at Harvard Business School that blew your mind? I learned a lot from this article. It breaks down the first 10 classes you take as part of your HBS curriculum. There is a single lesson from each class which breaks down the class in greater detail. For anyone who is interested in the inner workings of an organization this is a great read.

43 lessons growing from $0 to $1+ million in revenue, twice This article is full of useful gems. The author shows with clear examples how he was able to break the $1+ million revenue mark with two products. Key pieces of advice include charging straight away and what price levels you need to break. If you are a SaaS based business this has to become a book marked resource.

Performance Data and the ‘Babe Ruth’ Effect in Venture Capital Many people do not exactly get the economics behind a venture capital fund. This article provides some great insights into key aspects like the power law and other important aspects of how a fund operates. Understanding the workings of venture capital is important for any entrepreneur.

On writing Writing well is a skill I am working on this year. The internet is awash with advice for up and coming writers. Paulo Cohelo is a true master of this art. This article on writing was a very enjoyable and insightful read. This quote stood out for me “Above all else, the writer has to be a good reader.” If you want to get serious about your writing skills, I would definitely recommend this article.

Customer Interviews: So you’ve decided to take your startup seriously Customer validation is a critical component of starting a new venture. If you want to build something customers want, you need to speak with them first. Running a customer interview well is a challenging exercise. This article provides a great break down of how to run one well and what to look out for.

Have a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #22: Let me not die while I am still alive

In a past newsletter I wrote about the passing of David Goldberg. Earlier this week his wife Sheryl Sandberg wrote a very moving piece about her husband. The line which stood out the most was the headline of this post. Dealing with the loss of a close family member is always very difficult. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose your spouse. Throughout the entire piece you can see someone who is struggling intensely, yet doing her best to keep it together. Far too often we get caught up in the details of our lives and lose sight of the bigger picture. I know there have been several moments when I have been guilty of doing that. It is in these moments that we really aren’t living, just holding on until we get to the next goal.

Unfortunately, it takes getting the rug pulled out from under us to snap us out of this trance. All of us have the ability to make the necessary changes before that happens. The first step in doing that is to become aware of where we are today. Often our goals and priorities blind side us from paying attention to what truly matters. By taking control of our lives we give ourselves the best opportunity to enjoy the present for what it is.

Let me not die while I am still alive A moving piece by Sheryl Sandberg on the passing of her husband. The post talks about dealing with grief, gratitude and having the courage to moving forward. There is great advice on how to interact with people who have experienced tragedy in their lives.

The 9 Box Matrix Talent Model How would you categorize all the employees that work at your company? This post introduces us to a helpful 9 box model that can be used to answer that question. It provides employees with context as to where they are and how they can level themselves up.

The Organization is Broken The next 20 years is going to fundamentally change the way all of us work. With the current rate of technological advancements, robots are going to be taking over a large range of jobs. This post includes a deep dive into these patterns and where we are bound to see the largest changes.

Why A Values Fit Matters More Than A Culture Fit What are your organizations core values? This is a question that is usually very difficult for most people to answer. Very little thought is given to values in a majority of businesses. Yet, they form a critical foundation that is key to building a sustainable organization. This post talks about the importance of values and references some key examples.

The unproject culture (PDF) This is a fascinating presentation on project management. I specifically enjoyed the part where the author talks about the methodologies used by Spotify. If you are an entrepreneur or a project manager you should definitely review this presentation.

How to validate a startup idea? This post provides a great break down on how to assess whether a business has legs. The author used an actual example which made it more tangible. There are several great takeaways here for startup founders who are just getting started.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #21: Raising Kids to become Billionaires

Quora is one of my favorite websites. It is full of knowledge and insights that is usually inaccessible for most people. This week I stumbled across a great answer to a rather peculiar question. The question asked was whether there was a way to raise your kids to become billionaires. Every parent wants success for their children. The definition of success however varies from parent to parent. Some want their children to be happy and others push them very hard to achieve excellence. To become a billionaire it is not only a question of becoming the best in the world. Many people occupy the 1% of their respect industries and are not billionaires. Out of all the answers the highlighted one below really stood out.

The author provides a dozen points as to what he did to give his kids the best chance of becoming a billionaire. The list isn’t your usual work hard and aim to become the best. Rather it is contrarian in many ways to “good” parenting advice. The list includes not sending them to traditional schools, making them teen outcasts and making them feel worthy. I strongly recommend taking the time out to read the entire answer. In the comments his son has also responded to his father’s answer and the impact it has had on his life.

It was an inspiring read and the lessons within apply to each and everyone of us. Regardless if we become billionaires or not.

What are good ways to prepare my kids to become billionaires? The author provides 12 ways your children stand the best chance of becoming a billionaire. This isn’t your usual list of achieving success in life. Highly recommended.

Peter Thiel on what works at work Peter Thiel is the author a great book called Zero to One. He was also the first investor into facebook and founded Paypal. He is known for his contrarian way of thinking and this interview provides a great insight into his mind. The interview covers a broad array of leadership topics to what it takes to succeed today.

Skating To Where The Puck Will Be… Built Microsoft seems to be on a roll these days. Their latest operating system is getting rave reviews in beta. They have open sourced a lot of their technologies and tools. Lastly, there is a lot of hype about their foray into the virtual reality world. This article discusses the importance for business to skate to where the puck is going. Microsoft, Blackberry and a host of other companies made the mistake to ignore this during the last decade. They each paid a heavy price and now are doing their best not to repeat the same mistake.

The Metrics Every Entrepreneur Should Know by Heart If you have ever watched an episode of Shark Tank, you will know the importance of knowing your numbers. Being an entrepreneur requires one to work constantly with imperfect information. To do that effectively we need to make sure we know all the pieces of the puzzle where we know the answers. This post provides a good round up list of the metrics you should know.

Why you should make things no one will ever use This post has a lot of developer references to it. While the premise of the article applies aptly to developers, there is something we should all be able to take away from it. At it’s essence it is all about learning new skills and becoming proficient in them. When we stagnate that is when our life starts a downward spiral. We need to be constantly putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone and pushing ourselves to become better.

How to go faster Seth Godin wrote this brilliant piece of decision making. This short post talks about how we can stop dreaming and putting things into action. This is a key skill every entrepreneur needs to have.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #20: Leading with Values

This week I read the transcript of an interview with the CEO of Uni-lever which quite insightful. He is one of the few CEO’s of MNC’s that interviews entry level candidates. This showed the level of importance that is given to hiring at the company. During the interview he mentioned the one thing that he looks out for during interviews is the an alignment with company values.

Purpose and values go hand-in-hand. One states what you want to achieve, and the latter defines how you want to achieve it. Together they form the foundation on which a company is built. In the early days of a business, values are overlooked as a “nice to have”. They are left to be dealt with once the company grows to a certain size. This creates a large disconnect between the founders and employees as the business starts to grow. Primarily due to a mismatch in expectations between the founders values and those of the new hires. Whether values are formally expressed or not, they are at play from the first day a business is started. Setting them early pays huge dividends in the future.

The tao of Paul Polman Interview transcript with the CEO of Uni-lever. This article has some great insights on recruiting and managing growing workforces. The interview includes good advice on how to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.

Why we should aim to build a forever company, not just a unicorn Everywhere we turn these days, someone is discussing the rise of unicorns. With a staggering amount of companies raising funding at valuations past $1bn, this article puts it into perspective. While increasing the value of your company is beneficial, it should not become the only focus. Our goal is to create a company that creates sustainable value and makes the world a better place. Article is filled with great quotes and references on the topic.

A Different Take on Talent Acquisition This was an interesting read. The author was asked the question about passion and talent by her daughter. The posts discusses her answer and how she thinks about the word talent and what it means. The article ends with an interesting reference to Greek mythology and the history of the world talent.

How to Fire Someone: How to Decide, When to do it, and How to be Guilt-free I still remember the first time I had to fire someone, it was very painful. I don’t think it ever gets easier, however I wish I had read this article before I did. Like all the Evergreen articles it goes into detail about the process and how to approach it. Something every entrepreneur should be familiar with.

Kevin Rose’s top advice for founders I am a big Kevin Rose fan. He has done a set of awesome interviews at foundation.kr. If you haven’t checked this out you should. In this article he discusses the five pieces of advice he gives to all founders. He made a point that entrepreneurs tend to take on too much at once, something I have been guilt of many times. This is a great short read with links to his other shows.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #19: We Don’t Sell Saddles Here

One of the success stories of 2014 was the meteoric rise of the business communication app called Slack. Countless of articles have been written about its exponential growth. This week, I stumbled upon a letter the founder had written to his team last year. What stood out in the post is the founders understanding of the customer need. On the surface it may seem like one of the hundreds of chat applications that are available. However, Slack was positioned as a tool to reduce the information overload plaguing companies across the world.

This nuanced understanding of the problem is in my opinion why customers have signed up in droves. It shows the importance of positioning and marketing your product correctly. Too often entrepreneurs are busy talking about their features when the should be addressing the core problem at hand. Another company that has experienced similar growth is Uber. Instead of positioning them as a taxi hailing application, they talk about solving our basic transportation needs.

These two examples show the importance of truly understanding the market you operate in. Without a deep understanding we will never be able to satisfy a customers core need. This would result in selling ourselves short and not living up to our true potential.

We Don’t Sell Saddles Here The highlighted article of the week is about the rise of Slack. This article provides the back story that formed the foundation of its massive growth. The primary focus of the article is the importance of understand the core customer need. This enables the entrepreneur to position and market their company far more effectively.

How Do I Know If I Should Take A Job At A Startup? James Altucher shares another great post on whether to join a startup. The most important point shared is the one related to vision. If the companies purpose and vision doesn’t excite you, in my opinion that is a deal breaker. This advice is the same whether you are applying to a startup or hoping to join P&G.

36 Things I’ve Learned During My First Three Months Investing Reading articles from the point of view of entrepreneurs turned investors is interesting. This article provides a great set of lessons learned. Entrepreneurs who are raising venture financing would benefit from reading this list. Getting an insight into the mind of your customer is essential and this list is a great starting point.

The High Price of the Wrong Solution Articles which use stories to illustrate a point are very effective. This is a great example of such an article. The main takeaway from the article is about assessing how your solution is tackling a problem at hand. Far too often we get bogged down with the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. This story helps to bring some perspective.

Want to Hire More Diverse People? Raise Your Bar. A majority of companies treat recruiting as a one off activity. Without a process we are solely relying on luck to fill important roles. This post provides a brief overview of what some structure would like. The post also includes some links which are well worth the read as well.

Hope Is Not a Launch Strategy Launching your startup to the world can be nerve racking experience. This article goes through the exact launch process of a startup called Leanflix. It is full of detailed advice on what to look out for during launch. What I liked the most about the post was that they showed what worked and what didn’t. Lots of great insights to be learned.

Inside The Mind That Built Google Brain: On Life, Creativity, And Failure This article profiles the life of Andrew Ng. An engineer who is working in the field of artificial intelligence. I enjoy reading detailed profiles on successful individuals. One gets to learn the habits they attribute to their success and what truly drives them. This is a fascinating article and his thoughts on the future of artificial intelligence is well worth the read.

Little Lifehacks Guaranteed to Improve Your Existence If all of us aim to be 1% better everyday, we can achieve the impossible. This short article highlights 10 things we can do to make our lives just a little bit better. My favorite lifehack is to schedule walk and talk meetings. I look forward to each one of these and believe they are far more productive than your usual meetings over coffee.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!