Repetition is Key in Leadership

Repetition (album)

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One of the best practices that took me several years to learn is that of repetition. I always assumed that I’d only need to say something once and that was it. It isn’t that people don’t hear or understand it but rather that there are so many things going on that create noise.

Here are a few tips around repetition:

  • More important items need to be repeated more often (e.g. core values, corporate culture tenants, etc)
  • Different methods of communication like in-person, email, and voice should be employed to resonate with different team members
  • Only after you’re annoyed with repeating something so many times have you actually started to build recall in the minds of your people

Repetition doesn’t come naturally to me but I’ve found it to be critical to reinforce key messages.

What else? What other thoughts do you have about repetition as a leadership tactic?

Thinking About Goals for 2011

Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

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With the new year right around the corner it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and goals for 2011. For me, I like to create goals in several buckets: family, personal, professional, and community. Some of my goals are specific (e.g. X amount of revenue) and some of my goals are really habits (e.g. exercise twice a week).

Here are a few previous posts to get you thinking about goals for 2011:

What are your goals for the new year?

Answering the Competitive Differentiation Question

An unidentified seller in an unknown location....

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One of the most common questions I get when talking to someone who is familiar with one of our competitors is “How are you guys different from xyz?” Naturally, as with most industries, there are a multitude of competitors out there, most of which we never compete against. Here are a few approaches to the competitive differentiation question:

  • Focus on target company size, industries, and verticals (e.g. SMB vs enterprise or healthcare vs financial services)
  • Address specific product functionality and use cases (e.g. feature X vs feature Y)
  • Talk about customer acquisition (sales) and service approaches (e.g. insides sales vs field sales)
  • Articulate the different corporate cultures, fundraising, and other strategies

The most important thing to do with the competitive differentiation question is to answer it concisely and clearly. Too often when I ask others that question I get a long answer that doesn’t leave a memorable hook in my mind. Keep it short, simple, and memorable.

What else? What other recommendations do you have for competitive differentiation questions?

Quick Specifics on a Newly Formed Startup

No Software:  Getting Ready For the Dreamforce...

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Earlier today I was talking to an entrepreneur that had just started a new business this morning. He’d filed the incorporation papers and wanted to clarify a few items he was thinking about with me. Here are some of his specifics around the details of the business formation without getting into the idea of the actual startup (it’s a SaaS product):

  • Incorporated in Delaware due to industry-standard laws
  • S Corp instead of C Corp or LLC due to desire to not have double taxation but still can relatively easily switch to C Corp if decides to raise money in the future
  • 10,000,000 authorized shares with no stock option pool yet but thinking about a pool representing 10% of equity
  • Single founder (tried to recruit co-founder but the one he wanted needed more financial stability)
  • Capitalizing the business with $10k of his own money and going to loan money to the business as it needs more (initially budgeted $100k and he’s not going to take any salary)
  • Paid a corporate lawyer that specializes in startups a flat fee of $900 to take care of everything (the lawyer charges this low amount as a way to build relationships for more lucrative work in the future)
  • Paid a trademark lawyer $17 plus the cost of filling ($350) to do a search and trademark the name (the lawyer normally charges $1,800 for a trademark filing but does the first one for next to nothing as lead generation since most startups need 3-4 trademarks over time)
  • Bought the domain name off for $200 and paid an extra $350 to register several variations of the name as well as other top level extensions
  • Hired an off-shore development firm out of South America to build the app at a budgeted cost of $30k representing two full-time engineers for $3k/week (so 10 weeks to get it done)

This should provide some more color and specifics to entrepreneurs thinking about starting their own company. It isn’t necessarily the way I’d go about doing things but I find it instructive to understand other approaches.

What else? What other questions about forming a startup do you have? Does this help?

Web App Security Considerations


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With the prominent security breach at Gawker and a major email marketing vendor recently having similar issues, web app security has been brought to the forefront. Web app security is a real challenge due to the continual arms race with crackers and all the technology plus process issues related to a large scale SaaS product.

Here are a few web app security considerations:

  • Encrypt passwords one way as a hash with a salt in the database
  • Require passwords to be more complicated than simple words (e.g. minimum of eight characters, minimum of one number, minimum of one upper case letter, etc)
  • Provide IP address checks via email confirmation for user authentication and allowed IP ranges
  • Enable secondary authentication like PINs and challenge questions to go along with a standard password
  • Track failed sign-in attempts and expire passwords based on policies

Of course, there are many other considerations but this is a starting point for web app security. My recommendation is to consider this type of functional early on in the engineering process.

What else? What other web app security considerations would you add?

Packaging the Same Product into Multiple Products


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One strategy startups should consider is packaging the same product into multiple products. There are three common ways this is accomplished:

  • Segment the same product into different editions where features or usage rates are changed (e.g. group, professional, enterprise, and ultimate editions)
  • Apply an industry specific name to the product (e.g. technology, healthcare, financial services, etc)
  • Make the platform (same code base) divided into separate, but related products, available independently or combined a la carte (e.g. marketing suite, sales suite, and support suite)

Most often, one size does not fit all and buyers like to buy when a company speaks their own language. My recommendation is to consider ways to package the same product into multiple products.