The leadership secret no one ever talks about

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And it is this simple maxim:

If you want to be leader of many, then you must first be faithful with few.

One of the most important sentences I learned from the late great Jim Rohn. And it matters in all walks of life and business regardless of our ambitions. The picture above is from an after dinner talk I did recently at a local Rotary Club. One of the things I have done a lot lately is deliver speeches on the technology revolution we are all living through. This is mostly the result of my book. Sometimes I get lucky and get paid to do it at a conference. But often I am also asked by local community groups who are interested in some of my stories. Which is what happened with Essendon North Rotary. It’s events of this size where I first got asked to share a few ideas and learn the craft of public speaking. In the startup community many times I’ve shared some lessons with new entrepreneurs. For more than 10 years I did unpaid speaking with tiny audiences… that is, the few people who had enough faith in me to give me their time so we could both have a valuable exchange. If it wasn’t for this, then I’d never be able to present in larger audiences like this. But on the flip side, we should never forget the few, even if we have the attention of the many.

It raises a few question of how we might behave in a startup:

Do you love the customers you do have? Are you faithful with those who gave you a try before you have any scale? And if you have many followers, do you still take the time to reply to the few who reach out? Do you still support the low profile few who made what you do possible, or just gravitate to the high profile few who you now have access to?

An easy way to test this is to tweet a famous person or brand and see if they respond. If they don’t, then they should be clear they won’t on their profile. I’m not saying every web tool can scale, I’m just saying we should be clear with our audience on what to expect. If you think it isn’t possible, I can tell you that Seth Godin still answers every email himself (he doesn’t tweet). I can also tell you that Cory Doctorow advises in his twitter profile of better ways to reach him. I can also tell you that Skype answers every tweet you send to them.

In the end leadership is about giving thanks and paying homage to the trust you’ve been granted by those prepared to take the journey with you, from the start. But it’s also about not be too ‘big’ to engage with those who helped you get there once you’ve arrived. It’s not easy, but the real job of leaders in the pre and post success era is to bethink both the few, and the many.

Twitter vs Facebook vs Linkedin – is the medium still the message?

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The medium is the message, first coined by Marshall McLuhan has been a staple belief in the world of advertising and communications for a very long period. During the heady days of Mass Media, being seen on TV itself was beacon of success. Products on the shelf would proudly beam ‘As seen on TV’ on their packaging. For only those who sold a lot of their product could afford it, or was it that if you were on it, you’d sell a lot of product? Regardless, the channel a brand appeared in said a lot about its place in the commercial world.

While, it feels like the now infinite number of media channels might make this maxim less true, I’m certain it still applies to a large extent. Ofttimes the context shapes the content.

As far as this blog goes there are some clear patterns. If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice that I have only 3 social sharing buttons at the bottom of a post. One for Twitter, one for Facebook and one for Linkedin. I ditched Google+ because it was just too embarrassing have a share button with no shares. Here’s what I noticed with the sharing of my posts:

Twitter – always gets more shares if the post is tech, startup heavy, recent news commentary or political in nature.

LinkedIn – always gets more shares if it’s about escaping a corporate position, about becoming an entrepreneur, industry disruption, human motivation, selling and horrible bosses.

Facebook – always gets more shares if it’s about personal finance, goal setting, hope, criticism and social issues. Yet, I’m connected to the same people in all these channels.

My takeout of all this? For startups or any business using social forums trying to reach an audience, it is far less about the demographic and for more about the ideology and topic of the particular post. The interest graph is far stronger than the social graph. Now the only question on my mind is what category does this post fall into?

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

One thing in tech every business or entrepreneur with global ambitions should remember

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While only 39% of the global population currently have access to the internet, 73% of the global population (5.2b people) are already mobile phone users.

This means that the majority of the adult population will never use a desktop computer. They may never use a laptop. And that their world will inevitably be a small screen, wireless one. With the law of accelerating returns on our side, we must assume that within probably 2 years, all of these phones will become smart phones, and the number of people with them over 90% of the population. Already, many mobile subscribers are still yet to have access to running water, indoor plumbing and other technologies we’d falsely assume ought to come first. The order of things in the past, is not always the order of things in the future.

If there was ever a case for a business strategy which is So Lo Mo Me…

Social / Local / Mobile /  Me (as in the end user)

… then that time is now. Add to this the change of the Google search algorithm to mobile friendly and the pattern is clear. The small screen rules, even if it seems to be growing!

If the aim in business is to go global, it’s more important than ever to be mobile oriented, as the developing markets we seek to enter know of no alternative. Mobile is not only first, it is the only. If you want to see the state of the internet which includes these stats and more, I can’t recommend highly enough the annual state of the internet report by Mary Meeker – here.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

This is still everyone’s favourite radio station

Ghetto Blaster

It’s not Rdio, Pandora, Spotify or iTunes – it’s still Wii-Fm.

What’s in it For Me?

I was reminded of this fact just the other week. I was talking to someone before I delivered a keynote speech. They told me they’d like to stay and listen as they needed a speaker for an upcoming event. We had a great chat, and exchanged details. After the talk I gave I never saw him, but to my surprise he sent me a text saying: ‘Great talk Steve, I’ll be in touch this week.’ A few weeks later I still haven’t heard from him. But because it was about me, it kept popping into my head every now and again. That’s cool, as we all know these type of conversations happen every day… we all have good intentions during such conversations but sometimes the day to day deadlines get in the way of opportunities.

I was clearly thinking about me. I was tuned into Wii-FM.

But just a few days ago, I was cleaning out my emails and I came across a number of things I’m yet to follow up on. Opportunities for others who are still waiting on me. So while I forget, I’m certain it pops into their mind and they’ll be saying – “Gee, Steve never got back to me on that. It’s a bit disappointing he has’t followed up.” It’s not that I don’t want to follow up, I just haven’t. And just like me, they’re also tuned into Wii-FM.

But have no doubt they are also are guilty of same thing. We all are. We all have our ‘oops forgot’ list. It’s no ones fault, we are all programmed to think about our world first, it’s a basic survival instinct.

For every opportunity we are waiting on, there’s probably more we can follow up on. We shouldn’t be ashamed if what seems like too much time has passed to actually do it. It’s better than never doing it. Maybe we can start the belated conversation with this little story, admit we are all human and start afresh.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Inverse goals & why you should set some

opposites

After about 15 years of doing work I liked in environments I didn’t like, I set myself some inverse goals. Inverse goals are the things we desire as a price of entry, as opposed to things we’ll acquire after the work is done. We might even call them unusual requirements for happiness regardless of monetary outcomes:

  • Not to have to shave everyday. (it really hurts my skin).
  • To be able to work when I feel like it, not 9-5 like the 200 year old industrial era said I should.
  • To wear whatever clothes I feel like, and not a uniform designed by someone else.
  • To be able to avoid peak hour traffic.
  • To be mobile and not stuck in the same location day in and day out.
  • To have my worked judged on its merits and not by my political performance.
  • To be able to actually read while working, without people judging this behaviour as flunking off.
  • To let the weather determine whether I work during the day or during the night.
  • To work in environments were I could be myself, and not a clone drone .

I literally tried to do work and be involved in businesses which would allow this kind of lifestyle. I feel like we often get things like this back to front. We aim for some kind of mythical economic success after which we’ll shape our lifestyle. But if we reverse the goals, we can have immediate success by first shaping our existence and then our economics around that. Life best lived, is life by design.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Ignore what the teacher told you, and just make things up

old school

Watch a 5 year old kid play for half a day and you’ll see levels of creativity that’ll blow your mind. You’ll wonder in awe where their natural ability to ‘make things up’ comes from. You’ll be inspired by how they see the world and what it makes them think and do.

We used to see the world that way too.  But what happened was for the first 18 years of our lives we got told how to see the world. In fact, the concept of making things up brings back some very strong and personal memories for me. I can remember when I reached High School (Grade 7-12 in Australia) and that it was no longer Ok to make things up. We had to reference where we got our ideas from. All of a sudden my opinion didn’t matter. What started to matter was researching someone else’s opinion, someone who had been ordained by industrialised society and had been published. It felt so weird. Why couldn’t I just write what I think? Why did it have to be a quotation from someone else? Why did what they think matter more than what I think? We all got taught  got taught stop thinking and start rehearsing. Rehearsing for what you may ask?

Rehearsing the lines for some kind of monetary industrial pantomime.

We were getting taught how to play inside the the modern economy.  An elongated economic play in which we would become ‘extras’ in someone else’s dreamscape. Someone else had the starring role, but they needed all sorts of support so they could be the stars of the show. And we went along with it. But now the exact opposite of what we got told, is where all the value is being created.

The trick they pulled on us to not have any original ideas, to not create anything new, to keep our opinion to ourselves is rapidly becoming redundant. And this gets me excited. We all still have the ability to just ‘make things up’. Now that we have access to the tools to create anything, now that the economy is being totally redesigned, we just need to forget what we got told, and start to write some of our own lines.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

You don’t need an investor

Venture Capitalist

Yesterday I got an email from Sam Birmingham from Pollenizer, and it’s message was so compelling, I had to share it here:

It is something we hear all too often… “I was wondering if you could help me find an investor?”

You don’t need an investor. You need customers.

You don’t need an investor. You need to prove that you are developing a sustainable business model.

You don’t need an investor. You need to focus on learning as much as you can with the finite resources at your disposal.

Sometimes having limited time / money / people can be an advantage. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Stop making and start answering the most important question in entrepreneurship – what comes next? 

For more startup goodness be sure to check out the Pollenizer blog. 

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.