Start Up Blog

Relearning what we already know

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 17, 2014

I was recently in an office where there happened to be a couple of Rubik’s cubes laying around. Once upon a time I wasted an inordinate amount of time learning how to solve it. So I said: “Oh, I can solve that.” Adding further that I could do it in 3 minutes, but my best time is under 2 minutes. The cube was quickly handed to me to prove my lofty statement. So I start the solve, got halfway through and completely forget the algorithm – and in ‘under 3 minutes’ I look like both a fool and a fibber.

It reminded me of something important. Just because we have been able to do something in the past, it doesn’t mean we can do it now. Just because we knew something once, it doesn’t mean we know about it now. They only way to stay on top is to continue to practice and relearn what we already do and know. Just because someone ran a marathon once, doesn’t make them a marathon runner now. The things we need to practice the most should be the things we are already good at. Especially when it is a craft we use for income generation.

So after this embarrassing little moment, I went and bought a new cube and got my mojo back. I’ve also made the decision to solve it once a day – just because it’s fun and worth remembering. A bit of grey matter exercise. And for those doubters out there here it is being solved in 16 seconds… ok ok I sped the film up just a little.

For those who are wondering the current world record time for solving is 5.55 seconds.

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The Wealth Equation

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 9, 2014

In terms of financial wealth there is an equation which determines the amount money people acquire over their lifetime. And while monetary wealth is only a small part of living a life of great wealth (I prefer the 12 enduring riches) it is certainly worth knowing this equation and applying it to our daily economics. In a modern society a financial existence is unavoidable, and so it make sense to keep tis equation in mind. So here is the Wealth Equation:

(Income – Expenses) x Investment = Wealth

When we look at it like this in such simple terms, it reveal the current path we are on in the most immediate way. We know if we are spending too much. We know if we are not investing at all or in great enough quantity. What’s interesting is that the first element in the equation ‘income’ is not nearly as important as the second two. When we invest in a startup we are sacrificing the size of first number to go big on the investment multiple. Higher risk and higher reward. There are also many examples of people who became rich with low incomes, frugal spending habits and consistent long term investing. It’s all a game of risk tolerance, time and desired reward. One thing for sure is that wealth is impossible when expenses are greater than income. The important thing to know is which path we are chasing before we being the journey.

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What to do when someone falls asleep during your presentation

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 6, 2014

I do a lot of public speaking. When I am presenting to a large audience there isn’t a presentation where I don’t spot a person who has actually fallen asleep. Now you might think I am crazy admitting it here, but I know it has nothing to do with me. In fact, I’ve had people fall asleep and after the talk others come up and tell me it was the best presentation they’ve ever seen. Every experienced public speaker also knows this to be an inevitable reality when they hit the stage – even during the performance of a life time. The weird thing is that anyone speaking always spots the sleeper – we must have some kind of genetic disposition to finding closed eyes, even in a sea of people.

So, what to do about it when someone does fall asleep during your presentation?

Rule Number 1: Remember it has nothing to do with your talk.

We need to remember the the reason people fall asleep when sitting, standing and not lying down is because they are exhausted, not bored. Some things to remember on this point: They have probably had young kids screaming late at night and didn’t get any sleep. They might have had to catch an early flight to get there for the day. They might have been up socialising at the conference to the wee hours of the morning. They probably haven’t had any fresh air all day being stuck in hotel conference rooms. They have a stomach full of heavy food. The venture capitalist has probably sat through 24 other pitches back to back that day. And they probably had some other factor which made them exhausted. Boredom leads to imagination, distraction and people talking among themselves, not sleep. The evidence will most often be the 99% of people loving your talk, while at the same time this person sleeps. I can remember 2 times I fell alseep while listening to two of my favourite public speakers; Steven Wright the comedian who I absolutely love and Will Ferrell during his broadway show on George W Bush – You’re Welcome America. Which both were absolutely hilarious. But both times I happened to have jet lag, and the jet lag won.

Rule Number 2: Don’t obsess over them – ignore it.

No it won’t go away if you ignore it. But your performance will go away if you don’t ignore it. Remember it is not their fault, or yours, it just is. The presentation is for the person nodding their head, looking you in the eye, the person on the edge of their seat. They deserve your full attention and continued focus on the job at hand.

In the end, what we need to focus on is what we can control, and rarely is this issue something in our control. Sure, if an entire room disengages, go back and work on your speaking craft, get better. But the most important thing we can realise when dealing with people and audiences is this: we are not the only force impacting peoples reactions to immediate world around them.

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The Employee to Entrepreneur conversion

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 15, 2014

If you’re reading this and you currently work for a company you don’t have an equity stake in – I reckon there’s a pretty good chance you’re planning your cubicle escape route. Today I wrote a post for Pollenizer on my Top 10 things employees need to know before they jump ship. The thing about entrepreneurship is that it is a change in environment. And like all new environments we enter the biggest challenges we face are never intellectual, but cultural.

You can read it here.

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When innovation is not really innovation

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 6, 2014

Innovation is an interesting word which gets thrown around lot in organisations. No one seems to disagree that it is the life blood of long term organisational survival, but I think it’s clear that the definition of what it actually is happens to be wrong. The definition tends to be most wrong in large stable industrial companies. I should know, once upon a time I was the ‘head of innovation’ in one such large organisation. I was recently pointed to this article which goes a fair way to demystifying innovation, versus novelty and invention. But for me it doesn’t go far enough. I think the problem with innovation in many large companies is this:

They confuse Asset Utilisation with Innovation.

A colleague of mine works in a large industrial concern heading up the product innovation area. Here’s a bunch of constraints they’ve placed upon him:

- All innovations must be able to manufactured in their existing factory.

- All innovations must use the existing machines in the existing factories.

- All innovations must focus on the existing core users of the brand.

- All innovations need to be able sold in the existing sales channels and retailers.

- All innovations should have a price point in and around the existing price points their range of products are already sold for.

- All innovations have exactly 13 weeks to prove themselves in market, because that’s what the reseller demands.

Clearly constraints like this prove that the core task is not at all about innovation and much more about business management within a set set of structured parameters. In simple terms it’s an asset utilisation program. There’s nothing wrong with asset utilisation. It’s a valid, profit centric, strategic imperative. It’s what companies must and should do to reach their financial potential. What’s foolish though, is confusing it with innovation. Such confusion can only lead to a long term displacement of brand relevance.

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I’m making some terrible mistakes right now

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 1, 2014

The problem is that I’m not exactly sure what they are. The passing of time is the only thing that will actually reveal them to me. As much I want to avoid making mistakes, I know I’m doing some things right now which will just look silly or uninformed once I look back at them. Last night I was looking back at my life in 5 year increments thinking about the things I’ve done, some of the projects I’ve undertaken and how I would have done things differently in hind sight I look back to what I thought was right 5 years ago, and it seems glaringly obvious what the mistakes are. The interesting part is that it is not a one off. It seems to be true again and again – as every period of time elapses, there in the past lies a set of errors. It’s not like I am graduating from mistake making either – granted, they are not the same mistakes, but the process of making them is yet to desert me.

My history is a constant reminder of the truth. Like everyone, at least I assume, I have clear strategic and tactical vulnerability. I used to worry about it, but now I realise if what I did then, didn’t seem stupid now, then personal growth would not have been possible.

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the end of Monday

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 28, 2014

I’m pretty convinced that a sign of us living a good life is when all days seem to be created equally. When a Friday is equal to a Tuesday is equal to a Sunday is equal to a Monday. Entrepreneurship is about a lot of things; achieving something, recognition or maybe even wealth accumulation. But surely it’s about what the actual days feels like. Does it feel good in itself, or is it only serving those achievement type things mentioned above? When generating our next startup idea maybe we need to add another criterion to the expected market demand and business model considerations:

Would we be happy spending the 300 Mondays doing this?

If the answer to this is yes, then maybe the other factors don’t matter as much as we thought.

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When receiving is better than giving

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 27, 2014

I’ve had a few discussions with friends lately about their social feeds. A few of them have mentioned that they don’t even read their twitter feed. That they don’t read other peoples blog posts, or tweets and they only pay attention to the attention their own content is getting. The views, the shares, the open rates, the followers, that’s what they care about. And I understand why they might do this. It’s only natural to see if we are having an impact. It’s natural to focus on the work we are delivering to the market, even if this work is content creation and curation. We’ve all heard the argument that much of the content is created by the motivated few. But in a world where content is being replaced by digital conversations I wonder if everybody is so busy talking that no one is actually listening.

What if we all did that? What if every one of us was so introspective that the only work that mattered was our own work?

If everyone is posting and creating and not reading where does that leaves us?

It leaves us in a place where the internet becomes a noisy auditorium of nothingness. There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as often as we speak. If attention is the asset in the modern economy we need to ask ourselves the question of how much we are giving others. Are we being generous enough with our own attention for others content? Are we respecting the gift of knowledge dissemination provided by others? I feel like this is becoming an important question in these times of data deluge.

It comes down to a simple fact which is as old as human language. If we want to be heard, then we first need pay our respects and listen first. People in our specific communities are making an effort with their thoughts and we should support it. Because the things that don’t get attention and support eventually disappear. Content is no different. We need to look at our physical make up and read 2 for every 1 we create. Answer 2 tweets for every 1 we send. Comment twice for every blog post we create.

This is one of the few times in life where it is better to receive than give.

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Forging ahead

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 11, 2014

When we are forging our own path in life and in business, doubt is the key enemy. It’s even bigger than fear. The reason it is a serious enemy is because doubt always happens before fear does. So when we sense self doubt, we need to fight it and forge ahead, or fear might just take hold. We must ensure we don’t stop what we are doing. We need to keep writing, keep coding, keep building, keep creating and just keep doing whatever it is we ought be doing.

Even when we are not sure of the next steps. Even when we can’t see where we are going – we must continue to move ahead. It’s a bit like walking in the fog – the path only reveals itself if we continue walking. If we instead stand still, nothing is revealed

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Startup Honesty

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 1, 2014

Old school, and still cool, business coach Brain Tracy has an important question we should ask ourselves:

“What type of company, would my company be, if everyone in it, were just like me?”

Now, on the face of it it seems like a simple prose. How hard do we work, what kind of effort do we put in, how do we treat people and would we like others to behave the way we do. Honest answers to this question can be revealing. And it’s a damn good question to ask ourselves frequently.

But it goes one layer deeper. When we bring in new people to our startup, do we really need more people like ourselves? Do we really want another person who thinks like we do, acts like we do, has the same skills that we do and approaches things in the same manner? Or do we really need someone who is juxtaposed to ourselves?

The real challenge here is knowing where the similarities and differences are needed. And while that is a decision that only the startup founder can decide here’s a nice starting point: Alignment of philosophy and attitude is far more important than that of capability and aptitude.

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