The 3 Things Great Managers AND Employees Do ~ Consistently

When it all comes down to it, great managers get results.  How do you get results?  It’s not planning, it’s not charisma, it’s not even passion.  All of those things are great but useless without these 3 things.

If you are not doing these 3 things, and doing them well, you are probably going nowhere fast.  That’s a strong statement, let’s see if you disagree… comments welcome!

1. Prioritize

If you just do whatever you think of, you are going to get behind.  You MUST prioritize those things you KNOW will get results above those things you THINK will get results.  And even those things you just think will get results, prioritize those too, to the ones you think will be most likely to get the results.

PRO TIP – Every morning, get on an exercise bike and open or  (2 good online tools). Prioritize tasks to ones you think are most important to get results.

2. Draft Quickly

 If you aren’t getting things done quickly, you’ll never even get through all the important things, let alone to those things you think will get results.  The best managers and employees create drafts of stuff (whatever it is) very quickly.  Then, they refine the draft later up until the point where the quality meets expectations, then stop.  They don’t over-engineer, over-design, or over-think their work: it’s done it’s done.  Ship it.  This is a key to shipping, get to a draft and see if it’s good enough.  Ship when it is.

PRO TIP – Writer’s block?  Just write it in super simple plain English.  That usually reads better anyways.  Remember, emails should be 2 or 3 sentences MAX!  I like to send emails of 4 or 5 WORDS when I can.

3. Delegate / Get Help Fast

Overloaded managers need to learn this trick: find someone you trust and ask them to “own” part of your project.   This is not asking for group-work, this is asking them to “own it” and get it done.  I’ve blogged a lot about ownership, and for good reason… it’s been a key to my personal success for years.  Not having it, but giving it out!

Not a manager?  This applies to you too.  Delegate ownership of your work if you are overloaded.  Even better, ASK FOR HELP FAST!  If you are blocked, even 1% blocked, asking for help to get unblocked will keep you moving, make your boss happy, and more importantly, teach you something that will probably prevent you from getting blocked again in the future.

PRO TIP – Develop skills that help you get unblocked.  For example, learn how to Draft Quickly!  Also, learn how to “make a simple website“.

Harlan T. Beverly, PhD on a Business Trip to Mexico

Speaking Opportunities Help Your Personal Brand

What do you want to be known for?  The guy or gal that never shows up? The friendliest person who never sparks controversy?  Or, maybe the most energized and opinionated person in the room?

Me, I have opinions.  The only way anyone will care about them though is if I show up.  And the best way to show up is for a speaking opportunity.  That’s why I try to accept as many as I possibly can.
Do you have a unique brand to yourself? Do some volunteering, and let people know, You’d love to speak.  It will help your brand grow!
Recently l, I spoke at Sartup Grind Austin.  I got extreme.  I know, maybe too far?  It’s okay, I will hopefully be remembered as a result!  Don’t just have an opinion, have a FUCKING EXTREME opinion.  If nothing else, it will spark discussion.

A few “extreme points” I made:

1.) Austin is great because we genuinely want to see each other succeed.  We can celebrate successes of our peers and it motivates us more!
2.) California sucks because it is the opposite of Austin.  People there engage in success theatre, and then make Each other feel bad to get motivated.
3.) Just do something!  Stop making plans and instead, launch something already!  Lean Startup trains this, and my message, now part of my new book is that you can learn to launch: my book teaches you how to build a webpage and collect money in about an hour.  No More Excuses!
So, get out there, show up, volunteer, have a message, and speak when invited. I do!

See me next at Austin Game Conference on Sept. 21st!  Game Funding Panel!

The Lean Startup Toilet Bowl Trap of Getting Nowhere Slowly

Progress.  That’s a nice word.  “We’re making progress…”, says the workers cutting the road through the forest.   Then, a wise leader climbs a tree and says “but you’re going the wrong way!”

That’s all fine and good, and a good lean startup does this often.  It’s called “Pivot” and it’s central to the Lean Startup concept.  But what happens when you just keep pivoting?  Aren’t you chasing your tail?  Suddenly, you have a road to nowhere, or worse, a road that goes in circles.

This is a TRAP!  Your “lean startup” just got into a slowly dieing spiral of doom.  Your dream is getting flushed in the toilet because you keep climbing that tree and realizing that you’re going the wrong way!

Here’s an example of the Lean Startup in the Toilet Bowl Trap:

  1. You build a website and collect some preorders (yeah, progress!)
  2. You ship the preorders and get feedback from customers that they love/hate certain features (yeah, progress!)
  3. You fix the product based on the feedback, and nobody buys it (yeah, progress!)
  4. You PIVOT to a new product and collect some preorders (yeah, progress!)
  5. Jump to step #2, repeat, all the way to the toilet’s flush.

So, how do you get out of this toilet bowl trap?

First, remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results.

You have to do something different!

In many cases, the problem is not ‘your product’ or ‘your idea’, but the marketing instead!

Instead of constantly pivoting on “product” you might need to pivot on some of the other 4 P’s of Marketing:

  1. Place: Maybe your lack of orders is because it’s not available where the customers are… and particularly where the customers are that are in the buying mood for what you offer!
  2. Price: Maybe your lack of orders is related to the pricing or pricing structure of your product.  Maybe you need to sell it in parts, or with different options.  It could even be too low!
  3. Promotion: Maybe your lack of orders is related to how you are attracting customers.  Sure, you’re getting a lot of ‘views’, but are those customers: the right ones, in the right mood (buying), with the right goals, with the right problems, with enough education about your solution, etc.?  Or Maybe, your just not reaching your right audience, or just not ‘appealing’ enough to their needs (messaging).
So, avoid the Toilet Bowl Trap: run Lean Startup Experiments on more than just ‘the product’…

Patent Thoughts for Startups

Patents are an odd thing… if you might have one, it’s valuable.  If you do have one, it’s of little more value than maybe having one.  Writing one is hard.  Getting one is hard.  Using one is nearly useless.  So what should a startup do?

In my 15 years and 21 patents worth of experience, this is what has worked for me.  As with all such thoughts, this is not legal advice, simply my experience; I am not a lawyer.

First, it is cheap and easy to file a provisional patent.  Just got to and file it.   Utility Provisional is what you want, and startups can usually pay even less by selecting small business option.  Less than $200 is all you should need.   Write it in plain English, what it is and does, and include at least 1 figure.  Easy-peasy.  Suddenly you get the MOST value out of a patent you can get, but it expires in 1-year so be careful!   During that year, you can say “patent pending” and that’s crucial for startups (sometimes).

Next, don’t bother filing the real (non-provisional) patent unless a.) you have the money [around $10K, because a patent attorney is a must].   AND  b.) either the product is somewhat successful or the patent seems really good to you.  Remember, you have 1 year to file it, and must reference the provisional… or you lose the date of the provisional filing.

Last, why bother?

Because, saying patent pending is good marketing (usually).  Also because investors like it.   After you are funded, they will like it if you keep building up your actual patent portfolio (of real patents, not provisional patents).

Now, get out there and LAUNCH a real product, stop worrying about patents, just write your own provisional and move on!  It won’t matter unless your product is a success anyway!

If you build it, they will come. Bad advice? Or maybe good!

The old adage that “if you build it, they will come” is usually considered very bad marketing advice.  In recent times, however, I actually think it has become Good advice, especially if reworded just slightly…

“If you build it, they MIGHT come” is probably some of the best marketing advice I can give.
In this world if lean startup, minimum viable product (MVP) and bootstrapping entrepreneurship, one of the most important things to do is to”ship it” and see if customers come and like it, and iterate quickly based on that feedback.
At Key Ingredient we recently formalized these concepts and declared ourselves an “Agile Company”.
What will you ship this year?
My thought?   See photo I took at CES 2015 below!

The Greatest Start-up Book Ever?

I’ve read dozens, maybe almost a hundred books on start-ups.  I’ve loved many of them, but none of them really seemed like ‘science’ to me, more like opinion.  After reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, I now understand what I’ve been missing!  I really do feel like The Lean Startup is the greatest start-up book ever.. and here is why you MUST READ THIS BOOK NOW!

  1. It teaches entrepreneurs the “Scientific Method” for building a startup.
  2. It teaches entrepreneurs the proper ORDER of building a startup.
  3. It teaches INVESTORS the propper criteria to evaluate a startup.
  4. It explains in detail the right time to ‘get funding’ and more importantly ‘spend funding’.
  5. It explains very clearly why so many startups fail.
  6. It has dozens of examples of the process being used successfully.
  7. It truly teaches you about scale-able business models.
  8. It builds a great foundation for managing people and teams in a startup.
  9. It even applies to big organizations that want to be more startup-y.

DO NOT WAIT, get this book now.

How to recognize a BAD/Small Business Idea & MVP

Knowing a bad idea is sometimes easy… check out this hellarious site:  What do these have in common? Simple: it is obvious that people are not willing to pay for it (or the market is VERY small).  But how can an engineer-type thinker discover if his idea (which isn’t so obvious) is a Bad (small) business idea?

I will outline 2 methods, which would ideally both be used.

The First Method P.O.D.C.
PODC is a qualitative tool that helps a person analyze if the 4 key components of a Business Idea make sense
P = People
O = Opportunity
D = Deal
C = Context
If you see green lights all down the PODC list, you are good to go to the next method (or take your chances if you wish).   Here is what Green Lights should look like.
P.  The people running the business and inventing the product(s) are experts in the relevant fields and have experience having done it before.
O. The opportunity (the problem you are solving/need you are satisfying) is large enough that a small market share is all that is needed for a viable business.  E.g. a 1% market penetration would lead to a $5MM+ business.
D. The deal proposed is not too small or too big and has milestones and success markers along the way before further investment is needed.  E.G> a small amount of $ investment $ is all that is needed to get to the first milestone.
C. The context (the world view) is fresh and new, not old and boring.. and the business does NOT rely on some obscure law or quick trend.  Competition may or may not be there, but this solution seems unique and could be a long-lasting business.

Did your PODC come out green?  Now the real test: will people pay?
To test this, Engineer-thinkers need to deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  This is VERY hard for Engineer-type thinkers, who want to solve the whole thing & get it working first.  WRONG.  You need to TEST to see if people will pay first.  
Some guidance may be found here:  and and of course

Here is my quick instruction manual to make an MVP.
1.) Find someone creative who will build you a 3-page website for cheap.  ($1000)
2.) Build page 1 that gives the pitch for the new product/service.  1-button: Order Now.
3.) Build page 2 that shows the price & looks like a shopping cart.  1-button: Proceed with Order
4.) One page 3, say: “Sorry, we are currently back-ordered.  You will be emailed when new inventory is available.  Thanks for your business.”
5.) Build some ads for your business idea on Google Adwords:
6.) MEASURE how much it costs to bring ppl to your site… how many are interested in Order Now… and how many “Proceed with Order” after seeing the price.
7.) Adjust parts 3-6… and see if you can make MONEY with the business.

If you can sell for more than 4x the cost (where cost is product cost + shipping + marketing cost)  you are in good shape.

If not, start over with PODC and see what was wrong.

Best of luck!

Now, get some good ideas!