Here in the U.S. we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today. As part of our family tradition we like to talk about what we’re thankful for and spend time with each other. On the startup front, I think it’s just as important to give thanks on a regular basis.
Here are a few ideas for giving thanks in a startup:
- Have a quarterly celebration where the entire team gets out of the office together for an afternoon and does something fun (baseball game, picnic, whirly ball, etc)
- Recognize a team member as the hero of the month based on feedback from their peers
- Send a handwritten thank you note every time a client provides a referral or testimonial to a prospect
- Take time at weekly team meetings to highlight a recent success story and give thanks to everyone involved
- Volunteer as a company on a regular basis to give back to those that are less fortunate
Giving thanks is a healthy and powerful part of building a successful startup.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
What else? What are some other ways to give thanks in a startup?
Inc. magazine’s latest edition has a great article up titled How to Sell to Humans where the author Jeff Haden interviews HubSpot’s Dharmesh Shah. Here’s one of my favorite passages:
A delighted B2B customer is a long-term customer: He will tell friends and colleagues (boosting your algorithmic brand), and if he leaves his job, he’ll take your business with him. But forget about Customer Lifetime Value. Person Lifetime Value matters most.
Over the years I’ve seen the power of a happy person repeatedly occur in three common use cases:
- Referrals – Word of mouth referrals are the best sales introduction possible, and happy people are most likely to make referrals
- Job Changes – When a happy customer changes jobs, it’s one of the best opportunities to earn a new customer
- Account Cancellations – Even with a seemingly successful account, everything can change when the cheerleader for the product leaves, demonstrating that people drive decisions, not companies
The next time someone brings up customer lifetime value, take it up to an even higher level and think about personal lifetime value.
What else? What are your thoughts on personal lifetime value instead of customer lifetime value?
With the Thanksgiving break right around the corner it’s a great time to settle in and read a few startup books. While there are a number of great entrepreneur books, let’s choose three geared toward startup entrepreneurs:
- The Art of the Start – Guy Kawasaki is the king of startup stories and sayings, and this is one of the best books on the market in terms of wisdom and energy.
- Getting Real – The 37signals guys know what they’re doing and this book lays out a great approach to building a strong company with an opinionated product.
- The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni is my personal guru when it comes to strategy and culture and this book doesn’t disappoint by building a case that corporate culture is an entrepreneur’s most precious asset.
So, there you go. Three quick startup reads for the Thanksgiving break.
What else? What are some other good startup books to read over Thanksgiving break?
Luck plays an important role in successful startups. Whether it’s serendipitous interactions, amazing market timing, or coincidences that are just too good to be true, luck influences things more than people would like to admit. I was reminded of this today when reading Allen Nance’s excellent post titled Startup Grind: Allen Nance @ATLTechVillage. Near the end of the post Allen delivers an excellent line:
Luck doesn’t see an opportunity, luck doesn’t build a team, luck doesn’t deliver value to a customer, and luck has never taken a risk: people do.
Well said. Luck is critical, but without taking a risk, there’s no luck.
What else? What are your thoughts on luck’s role in a startup?
Quick, what are some common tasks you do regularly on both a native mobile app and in a standard web browser? Now, do you favor one interface over another? I’ve found myself using the native mobile apps more frequently than the web apps, even when sitting in front of my laptop.
Here are some example services where I prefer the mobile app over the browser interface:
Looking at the apps, the main reason I prefer the native mobile version is due to the streamlined nature of the user experience. The web apps work fine but they’re a combination of full application and marketing site, making it more cumbersome to complete the most common tasks. With a native mobile app, there are fewer features compared to the corresponding web app and use of context-aware features like the phone’s GPS improve the experience even more. Over time, look for mobile apps to grow even more important as the go to way to get things done.
What else? What are some native mobile apps you prefer over the web version?
Last week I was talking to an ambitious young professional that wants to get into the startup world. We were discussing ways to evaluate the potential of a startup — how big and successful it might be. In terms of evaluating startups, he offered up a serious concern of his saying that it’s easy for a big company to just knock off the software once a startup proves the need. With a background in real estate, he had seen ideas and strategies knocked off repeatedly.
Building a product that offers similar functionality to another product is straightforward. Building a successful startup or product line based on another successful startup is incredibly difficult. Here are a few reasons why software can’t just be knocked off to have a successful business:
- Switching costs and the network effects of using a product are significantly more important than one can appreciate without being in the industry and seeing it play out (think of salesforce.com as an example with high switching costs and Snapchat as an example that benefits from massive network effects)
- For each visible feature there are hundreds of behind-the-scenes features that can’t be seen or accounted for unless you have hundreds or thousands of customers (think of the iceberg example where only a small amount of the iceberg is above water and the majority of the iceberg is below water — unseen functionality)
- The Mythical Man Month still holds true whereby adding new software engineers to a project to speed it up actually slows it down (e.g. if a big company threw a bunch of engineers at a new product to get it done quickly, it would be worse off than a smaller team working in conjunction with customers over a much longer period of time, which is what a startup does)
So, it’s very difficult to copy a product and make it as successful as an already successful product with the same market and buyer.
What else? What are some other reasons why it’s so difficult to just knock off a successful software product?
Earlier this week I talked about the 3 Next Steps for an Entrepreneur Without an Idea. Now, the next logical topic is what entrepreneurs should do when they have an idea but don’t have any software engineers to help with a minimum viable product (assuming market demand has already been confirmed with eager prospects ready to sign up).
With an idea, committed prospects, and no software engineers, an entrepreneur should build wireframes using Google Drawing with Morten Just’s wireframe kit template (Balsamiq and Mockingbird are good choices as well but more specialized). Here are some items to keep in mind:
- Make a Google Spreadsheet with all the product screens including hierarchy, links, notes, etc
- Consider the minimum viable product and keep the screens simple
- Include as much detail as possible on each wireframe via notes but don’t clutter the user experience
- Share the wireframes with potential prospects to get their feedback
- Don’t set anything in stone and make changes in an iterative process
So, as a next step, an entrepreneur with an idea should start building product wireframes in Google Drawing and make the idea more tangible.
What else? What are your thoughts on next steps for an entrepreneur with an idea and no software engineers?