Tough Love

My problem is…. I’m a really nice guy. Really, I’m reasonably nice, just ask anyone who knows me….

Actually it’s more I’m not as smart as I’d like to think I am. You see, often I don’t do people any favours by trying at all costs to be, Mr Nice Guy. Even if it’s at the expense of helping them grow. The interesting thing is that I usually get what I give, and that is, people are generally very nice to me. Even if what I need on occassions, is some home truths to help me grow.

What I really need is tough love.

Turns out my team also need some tough love too.


Tough Love – Startup blog definition:

Having a team let each other know ‘in no uncertain terms’ when members are goofing off, at the expense of agreed upon and shared objectives.

It doesn’t mean we turn into nightmare colleagues or the boss we always hated.

It means that we have a culture where we don’t want to let each other down, but we pull each other up in tough times and provide mutual motivation. We give each other guidance when we need it.

Photo by Chuck Rogers

Words by Steve –

Simple Innovation

When we think about innovation, our minds get lost in big ideas and large investment. The Space shuttle, Electric cars, desalination plants, the Airbus A380. We’ve been influenced by mainstream business media, and the military industrial complex. As entrepreneurs we’d be much better placed to think as micro as possible when considering how to innovate. Because unless we are ‘inventers’ or ‘engineers’, the only innovations we need to care about are those which get to market.

Take this simple innovation from the publishing industry.


Magazine subscriptions which have been repacked to be sold in a new / yet existing distribution channel.

Before this shift in mindset, magazine subscriptions were only sold as in magazine leaflets, through call centers and via door knocking. Enter new packaging format, and all of sudden a magazine subscription is being retailed in newsagents and bookstores (This photo was taken in Borders). It becomes a simple ‘gift’ which provides us something we can hand ‘hand over’ to the recipient to touch and hold – we can even gift wrap it. It opens new revenue possibilities.

It’s clear that there is little capital expenditure with this innovation,  which is simply a widening of distribution. In fact – new forms of distribution are often the most profitable innovations.

Start ups – When innovating, think micro.

Steve – founder

Nature or Nurture?

I noticed this morning that a particular area of my box hedge isn’t growing as well as other areas. See the two photos below.

hedge1 hedge2

In order to remedy the situation I thought about what the different things I could do:

  1. Ensure the poor performing area was getting enough water
  2. Make sure the soil wasn’t poisoned in that particular area of the garden
  3. Remove the weeds from the periphery
  4. Add some fertiliser to the struggling area
  5. Aerating the soil with a hoe
  6. Ensure the area is getting enough sun

In fact, I’ll try the methods above. What I wont do is ‘remove’ the box hedge. I really need it because it forms part of the garden perimeter. It provides the required symmetry. It’s an integral part of the garden. I will give it the extra attention it deserves, and talk to it. I won’t pretend it will fix itself, because I know that is just a fantasy.

So, why do we take the opposite view with our staff / employees or business partners? We rarely ask first what we can do, and most often just ‘cut them out’, get rid of them, or even chastise their performance, before we look at the reasons for it. Maybe they:

  1. Aren’t getting enough cash to do their part?
  2. Maybe their part of the organisation has structural issues?
  3. Maybe they have non functional ‘hangers on’ stealing time & resources?
  4. Maybe we need to invest in some training or programs to boost the area?
  5. Maybe we need to give them more space & freedom to perform?
  6. Maybe we are not providing enough reward & recognition?

You’ve probably noticed how many of our people problems have strong analogies to my box hedge. In fact, both nature and people, need nurturing.

Steve – founder

Your worst nightmare

From a competitive viewpoint, imagine for a moment that our worst business nightmare came true.

Maybe Google decides to enter our market space. Or the Coca Cola Company launched a beverage with the same consumer benefit we’ve been bootstrapping. Or large company X decided to compete against “us” head on.


Well – you’d be surprised how that feels. How it makes us react, and how it very quickly changes our perspective on what is the most important element in ‘winning’. In competing effectively for our share of wallet.

All of a sudden many of the projects we are investing our time on seem far less important than they were yesterday. Maybe that front page redesign can wait, maybe the shiny new web 2.0 buttons are a little less important. Maybe our packaging will do for now and quite possibly every project we have on the agenda, excluding customer ‘centric projects’ can be put on hold.

Here’s an exercise worth doing with your team. Act as if. Act as if it has just happened. Have an ‘emergency session’ with your team on how you’d react if a more well resourced, financed and well known competitor came to play. Build your battle plan. Once your battle plan is drawn up – throw out your current business plan and work on that instead. Because they are coming, especially if your startup is in a fertile consumer territory.

After the intital fear, most entrepreneurs just get inspired, get angry and get on with it. A good scare never hurt anyone.

Steve – founder

Flying under the radar

Flying under the radar – actually has some real meaning. It was once the optimum strategy for a spy plane to fly as high as possible. This was thought the best way to get ‘out of reach’ of enemy and radar. The U2 spy plane did this by flying above 85,000 feet. When one was shot down during the Cuban missile crisis some smart people decided to flip their thinking.




The solution was so obvious in hindsight. Simply fly very low where the terrain blocked radar effectiveness. Underneath the radar!


Maybe it’s time to flip your thinking to solve today’s business problem.


One piece of advice

If you could offer entrepreneurs one piece of advice what would it be?


Start up blog’s is this:   Don’t die wondering.


I’m sure all 20,000 monthly startup blog readers want to hear yours. Add them to the comments or email them to me and I’ll post them on an upcoming blog entry with your name / blog beside it.