Talk is Cheap

It seems everything I read these days has one underlying message: stop talking about it and go build it. Clearly a lot easier said than done or everyone would be selling books and not reading them. The most ironic thing is some of my friends will talk to me about ideas they have and I’ll give them the same advice. It’s good advice but without ever having launched something myself I was being a bit of a hypocrite. I talked in my first post Career Hacking: Step 1 about the long term project I’m working on, I even said I would be launching it this month. Needless to say that isn’t happening, the date has gotten pushed back to January (another two months ish).

This brings me to the reason for this post. I tend to talk about doing stuff a lot, or used to, now I try and wait until I have something to show before I talk about it. But even still, I realized I shouldn’t be offering the “go do it” advice when I haven’t pulled the trigger myself. I have good intentions believe me. You know what’s a lot easier than actually doing something? Reading somebody tell you that you should do something. I don’t know whether it’s a human instinct to look for that encouragement or whether it’s procrastination but I’m a victim of it either way. I’ve watched Gary Vaynerchuk inspire audiences to the point of them cheering, I’ve read Mark Cuban talk about learning through failure on the job instead of in a classroom, I’ve even read James Altucher talk about acting on ideas (among many other things) yet I was still a virgin to launching anything other than this blog.

Enough of that. I’m about to go on a launching spree. But in my new fashion I’ll only talk about what I’m actually doing today. A little synopsis: I started thinking about what kind of product I could get out quickly a few weeks ago while lying in bed (I have a broken leg… that’s another story). Ideas aren’t the problem, It was making it simple enough that I wouldn’t have to deal with extensive outsourcing etc… since I can’t code. A blog post I had read a while back called The 9 Skills Needed to be a Super Connector  (ironically enough it’s by james altucher and has a picture of mark cuban in the heading) sparked my creativity. I loved the thought of being a super connector, I know some friends who are bar managers who have 5000 Facebook friends and it seems pretty fun. A page of jot notes later and I thought a business version of eharmony with me playing matchmaker was a good enough idea…. no joke. The beauty of actually starting something is you get to quickly see if it was a good idea or not. Implement, test, either pivot or move on to something else. If you can get the “product” out with next to nothing invested what’s the harm in trying out an idea? Nothing. The hypothesis behind this idea is that A. more businesses would get started if you linked people together who had similar ideas/passions B. people in general want to meet new people, especially for business purposes and with a third party intermediary the stigma of the initial introduction is taken away.

In my head it seems rational and with this new strategy I’ll be able to find out without spending thousands of dollars and wasting months of time. The product is painfully simple. It’s a premium wordpress theme with a facebook plugin. Domains were a little bit of an issue but I liked the idea of incorporating the suffix to the url so I called it youherand.me. Obviously you can’t just make a site live and people will magically find their way to it, unless you have some amazing SEO I guess. But i don’t. I’m forced to use twitter and basically any other way of finding people I think might be interested.

Getting something to mass market these days doesn’t seem that hard, especially with something like this because there is very little  resistance to signing up. My plan is to use guerilla marketing but not in the sense of spamming telephone poles with flyers. Guerrilla marketing has taken on a whole new meaning, maybe it should even be changed to Owl (they have good hearing) marketing because the goal is to listen for every conversation that is going on about your product/service/industry and be a part of it. These conversations could be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or focus groups other places on the web, it doesn’t matter where it just matters you are a part of it. Not having time to interact with all these conversations is the number one complaint I hear from businesses. I don’t doubt that you are busy but like @Garyvee says; if the phone rings in your office your probably going to answer it, ignoring these conversations online would be like trying to run a business by constantly ignoring your customers.

Continuing with the do don’t tell mantra, I’ll be using mostly Twitter to start joining these conversations. The twitter account for this site is @youherme so if your calling my bluff you can see the ground work I’ll be putting in on that profile. Side note: the conversations won’t be completely open because If you just @ mention someone without them following you first it can be related to yelling at a stranger on the street, not very effective. My goal is to follow people who are talking about related topics such as networking, creating jobs etc and do quick research on the people who end up following me. I will then direct message them with something actually relevant to what they are doing and ask them to check out my site.

Before you can really judge whether something will catch on at least a few thousand people need to check it out. If the people who sign up have a positive referral ratio to their friends, you have something. If not it probably will never be mainstream. In this case having millions of users isn’t crucial and the service could be beneficial no matter how few of users however the more the better.

Let the sweat equity begin.

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Taking advice from a Jets fan

@garyvee might be just as well known for being a Jets fan as he is for WineLibrary. If you haven’t heard of Gary Vaynerchuk yet your not as up to date with tech as you thought. Gary is in absolute beast mode right now, as Justin Bieber would say. In 2009 he signed a seven figure book deal with HarperStudios for 10 books! He’s published two since then that are both best sellers: Crush It and the Thank-You Economy. He’s had everyone from Wayne Gretzky to Jim Cramer of Mad Money on his Wine library video blog. To top it all off he just launched a newly branded wine review site called daily grape.

If you haven’t guessed already  he’s basically the definition of hustle. Gary has almost a million twitter followers and replies to every @ mention personally. Insane. If you learn nothing else him remember that hustle gets you places and this doesn’t have to mean breaking your back. But it does mean starting conversations with every customer, interacting with every set of eye balls that views your page and searching out every person who is talking about or might be interested in what you have to sell them.

This theory is the fundamental message behind gary’s brand. If you watch one of his video’s, he gets fired up to say the least. Sometimes he can be a little controversial with profanity but he’s unapologetically real with his delivery every time. Whether you like the presentations or not you can’t argue he’s great at promoting his personal brand.

From the first time you post a tweet or status to a social network you have began creating a personal brand, it is inescapable. The power of these social networks is still unfathomable and if you can harness it enormous wealth will follow. Eye balls = cash, period.

The keys to succeeding in a social world.

1.) Find a niche… this better be something you love doing/talking about/writing about every day or you will give up.

2.) Create content… you are the expert (if your not pick a different niche, or become an expert) create something worth watching, readying, or listening to. Ideally video just because it is the easiest content for people to consume but writing or taping your content works too.

3.) Get it out there…. create a website, sign up to every social network you can think of and link them all back to your site. Use twitter search to find people who are talking about what ever your product is. Follow them, if they follow you back then DM them how you can help them, maybe offer them something for free. Even if this free offer is small you will have earned yourself a customer and that person is likely to tell their friends about their experience. Don’t just use twitter, find any platform you can to teach/interact with people talking about your niche. This is where the hustle comes in.

4.) Repeat step 3 then repeat again and again…

 

Simple right? Not necessarily but its completely possible.

I’m taking his advice with this blog. I may not be an expert self promoter yet but I love marketing and especially the idea of marketing yourself as an asset. I feel in the future resume’s will go the way of blockbuster and people will hire purely based on how you promote yourself and what your personal brand represents. This type of self promotion is more than just marketing, it includes; networking, selling yourself and even leadership qualities. This skill is something not taught in Universities and yet probably the most important skill to learn. What good is qualifications if you can’t sell the fact that you are the best at what you do. I want to help people become shameless self promoters by combining all of these skills to the point where they no longer seek employment, employers are finding them. Personal brands are no longer just for the Kardashians and Oprah Winfrey’s of the world, anyone has the power to be an influencer with a little hustle.

How to embrace entrepreneurs as employees

I had just finished placing the order of all the supplies that would fill the Proshop that summer. It was my first week on the job as Proshop manager. The golf course was more or less a dump but I loved golfing so I figured why not spend my summer hitting balls on the driving range and getting paid for it. My boss wanted me to fill up the shop with “the usual stuff” and an inordinate amount or head covers. No budget. No past records. No prior knowledge. Just whatever I thought was necessary.

I used my best judgement based on the demographics of the members but come middle of the season anyone could tell I was clearly off point. The give aways were untouched Prov1’s (expensive golf ball) and the obvious shortage of animal head covers. The owner would run comparison reports of last years sales to that current year and be furious every time. My coworker and I tried to explain that there weren’t even the same products in the shop not to mention there were multiple rainout weekends which clearly affected sales. He didn’t want to hear it and because of that I almost got fired.

At the time I knew he was a bad manager but I never took the time to think about what actions he could have taken to set me up for success. I ended up taking the blame and chalked up the shortage of sales to a learning experience that everyone in that position would of had to go through. This is exactly the excuse that Eric Ries tells you to avoid in his book “The Lean Startup”. This personal example doesn’t have anything to do with Startups but the principles can be used in existing businesses as well. His model for Startups is simply build, measure, learn where the amount of learning being done is what your growth is based on, not user statistics. The idea is to go through this process as fast as possible with small changes each time. In this type growth model everyone is affected by the progress of each new task because they each see it all the way through, no matter what their job title.

This idea of lean production has been taken straight from the Toyota manufacturing plant. Their employees don’t pass problems on down the production line to make it look like they’re making progress. If anyone see’s a defect on a car they have the ability to shut down the whole line. The problem is addressed then and there even if it means holding everyone else up. Their philosophy is “we’re ok with having every possible problem happen exactly one time, having a problem repeat itself is unacceptable.”

The real reason this book reminded me of my golf course experience was because of his major point of how important it is to always be testing and learning. When you input a change and you have no way of knowing how it has affected your customers decisions what good was it? Your product may look better but is it more functional? …In comes batch theory. The smaller the batches the more efficient the testing. In the chart below each letter represents a batch.  There is a limit of 3 open batches in each bucket at any given time. This format of implementing new changes forces you to build in metrics for validating hypothesis before starting new ones. Remember each change should come with a hypothesis of the positive effect it will have on the customer, basically whether or not this was a good idea to do in the first place. The metrics involved can be as easy as split testing (running the product with the new change to half your customers and leaving the old product to the other half, measuring the results)

Backlog In Progress Built Validated
A D F
B E
C

In my example I was ordering products, from a Canadian supplier, to fill the entire Proshop. The demand for products was low and  the turnover rate was only twice a season. In retrospect this was an absurd process, it’s not like the products would take weeks to arrive or we were paying huge amounts for shipping. This one big order could have easily been cut down into smaller batches with the ability to measure and learn about the customer needs before placing the next order.

In a retail sense this process might seem obvious, however in web business it is an all too common mistake. People build products for an unknown customer all the time. They either don’t know who their customer is or the customer doesn’t know they need the product. Because these companies don’t practice this lean development process they haven’t done any testing to prove their hypothesis about whether their customers want the product or not, therefore the product usually fails. Eric encourages companies to build minimum viable products (MVP’s) which have the least features possible to accurately test the hypothesis. This product might not look good or function great but after testing your idea is either validated or it isn’t. People worry about tarnishing their brand by releasing a bad product but the reality is not that many people will see it anyway but if this still bothers you, you could launch under a different name. Based on the success of the MVP your team can then make an educated decision on whether to preservere with the original idea or pivot. There is no shame in pivoting your business in new business if it means it can be viable. There is shame however in keeping the company in limbo where your neither dying nor growing at the rate you had intended. If you are constantly testing ideas and seeing how customers respond you should never find yourself in this situation because you have the data to know when something isn’t working and to continue in that path would be a waste of time and energy.

The idea of testing an MVP  before developing a prototype or a ready to launch product is a mistake I’ve made myself. Even before reading this book I had realized that the easiest way to know if there was a market present was to get out on the street, talk to potential customers, make a basic product and charge from day one. This seems like such an easy concept but when you have ideas that you think are great in your head part of you doesn’t want to be realistic and even have the opportunity to hear that no one wants your product. This a huge mistake because you just keep your head down wasting time and money on something that is destined for failure. If you cannot fail you cannot learn. I encourage people to fail fast and fail often because if you aren’t learning you aren’t growing. The hardest part is taking my own advice.

Before you decide to go to College..

If someone would have presented these facts to me 4 years ago the decision to go to University would have been much harder. I was one of the lucky ones, I didn’t have to pay for school with student loans, but I have witnessed family members with student loan debt that followed them well into their 30’s. The sad thing is this situation is only going to get more common. I might do another info-graphic on jobs and unemployment there are a lot of astonishing facts in that category as well. Coming soon…

Real talk about startups and VC

Before I watched this interview I knew Chris Sacca was a big player in Venture Capital and that he was a popular guy in the valley, now I can see why. For being so successful I don’t think someone gets any more down to earth. Im sure that there is another whole lavish side to silicon valley that most people don’t see from the outside but it seems that a lot of the really successful people don’t change once they make it, something to aspire to. Anyway, this guys story is incredible. Day trading a leveraged portfolio (to pay back student loans he used trying to build a startup) up to $12M then within 72 hrs being $4M in the hole! Definitely some cool stories. If you don’t have time to watch the whole video here are some cool take aways:

– be helpful. As a rule create value before you ask for something. For example they talk about people going out and hustling clients for a company they don’t even work for. Then taking these clients in to head office looking for a job. There’s a million ways you could do this for a company your looking to work for. These companies get thousands of resumes, the CEO’s get hundreds of emails of people looking for a job.. good way to stand out.

-they talked about the marketing spectrum based on measurability which was pretty interesting. From billboard ads to coupons, delivering a sale and actually being the point of sale payment processor. Every step the ads get more measurable, they cost more money. For example as you work backwards; Groupon wants part of your sale, Cost per Action (less expensive but you know you brought a customer there), Cost per Impression (someone’s eyes saw it but they didn’t convert or you don’t know) ..and so on. Funny quote from this part  “If I deliver someone into your physical store, fu*k you pay me” lol.

-VC strategy. Chris mentioned that VC’s make their big money doubling down on their winners in second rounds. Also they know that a lot of their deals are going to suck but when their right they need to be really, really right.

– My favorite insight was about what he looks for in founders when he’s investing in companies. In retrospect it’s so on point. Here’s his five standards   1) Doesn’t like hiring someone who hasn’t had a brutal job, or basically can’t prove they have a work ethic. Watch at 47:40 for about a minute it’s hilarious. 2) Prefers people who have travelled or studied abroad. You need to be resourceful when your out of your comfort zone, it’s a great skill to have. 3) Plays sports, or at least has a balance in life. He finds these are the most creative people. 4) College degree isn’t a pre req but he finds the people who did really well in college are proportionately successful. 5) Finally he just looks for interesting people in general. He bought the house next to his in Truckee where he brings the founders of some investment companies up on weekends to “break bread” with family and friends. He basically just wants to know that he would enjoy spending time with those people, be able to have some good conversation and have fun.

If you have time I encourage you to watch the whole video, I’m now a big fan. Kind of like how Never Say Never transformed people into beiber fans, maybe not quite ha but similar. Enjoy.

A stripper in a clown suit, tweeting in a library

If that paradox didn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. I could have labeled this article The Power of Twitter but no one really cares about that. So strippers it was, plus the thought of such a sight made me laugh. Although, it’s not that unrealistic. Many post grads have confessed to being strippers or call girls to pay their tuition and with Halloween being yesterday it’s actually quite fitting.

Either way I watched a video on the new stories.twitter.com site and it made me think about what type of information gets spread. The story was about a kid who wanted to help save his mom’s book store so with $1000 worth of credit on his visa he took to his blog and promised to buy anyone who bought a book from his mom’s store a burrito. He tweeted the link and shockingly a blog that usually got a few hits a day got hundreds, the tweet was retweeted and retweeted and he eventually not only saved the store but they had their best quarter ever, literally running out of books to sell.

This goes against a lot of principles. If this guy ( btw his handle is @everydaydude) had a small blog I’m guessing he didn’t have a huge klout score. Albeit he now has over 5,000 followers and works for twitter so looks like the story helped him out. Anyway my point is, common thought about how to be influential on twitter or just in general is to be an expert in a field, interact with your audience and people will gain trust in you.

Exxcept.. if you are doing something remarkable. You might not instantly have a loyal following but it shows you can make a big impact quickly even if your network isn’t that big. The difference is what your spreading and how that will reflect on other people if they share it with their friends. Lets face it, anytime you share a link, especially on facebook, you take into consideration whether your friends will like it or not. If you like it and you don’t think your friends will, you probably won’t share it. If you like it but aren’t sure how you will be judged on it you might DM it to a couple close friends. Twitter is a little more care-free where people usually just speak their mind but you still know your friends are going to see it and consider how each tweet will portray yourself. Have you ever noticed when you get together with your friends in person you will be talking and mention a tweet you sent out or read a while back, almost everyone will have saw it or know what your talking about but why didn’t they say anything about it earlier? Basically the theory is; it’s easy to get your network to look at something, people are bored. But for them to take action, stick their neck out to their network and repost something as their own, that is difficult. It is especially difficult if the topic is something controversial where people have to take one side or the other.

So how do you do it? 3 ways:

1. If people already trust you. You are already a respected member in a niche and because of your accomplishments people aren’t afraid to support you because there isn’t really an argument that you are good at what you do.

2. Be selfless. If you are posting something in order to help someone else people are much more likely to support that. This relates to a quote from Simon Sinek’s book that I have mentioned in earlier posts ” When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.” Of course by retweeting a good cause on twitter you are not necessarily competing against your self but you are working as a group not an individual and that’s partly why you will be more likely to be supported.

3. Do something remarkable. (that will cause people to remark about) …If what your doing is truly different or amazing in someway people will love to support you. Have you ever noticed if some of your old friends on facebook are doing something really awesome, maybe they started a cool company or made some music that was really cool, their post will get 3 times the likes and comments of any other random one. Why? Because if your not supporting that person whether they be a good friend or not you are seen as being a little bit cynical. (yup unwritten rules of facebook) If what they are doing is actually cool and you have had at least a couple chats with that person in your life you owe them at least a like.

This list isn’t rocket science, it is also not written in stone but those are the main ingredients I have seen in posts that have attracted the most attention. I wonder if @Jack and @Biz knew the kind of impact their service would have even after a year of it being live. Twitter is so powerful it’s unfathomable. Think about this: twitter has about 50 million users who log in daily and with one tweet justin beiber got 20 million views on his you tube video for mistletoe in 10 days! Crazy. Youtube videos have been going “viral” for years and in the early days they would go viral literally by word of mouth. Even with that form of sharing things spread fast, now with how mainstream twitter is and being a catalyst for sharing cool stuff things can spread exponentially quicker. It’s cool to know that if you make something worth talking about these days, you will get noticed.