Three reasons it’s okay not to follow your dreams.

Those of you who know me, know that I am being facetious. I really do want you to follow your dreams, succeed, and live an awesome life. Put me in coach!

That said, I think there are actually real, serious reasons to sometimes not follow your dreams. If one of these reasons applies to you, I give you permission to take the easy way out and not work hard, not take risks, and/or not care. For the rest of you, what’s stopping you? Seriously, what is stopping you? No, really, tell me, hit my contact form and tell me, and I’ll see if I can help.

So here is the three excusable reasons.

1.) You are sick or a close loved one is sick.

It’s sad, but it happens. If you need to take time off from chasing your dreams to care for yourself or a loved one, I’ll give you a pass. Better yet, you can give yourself a pass. It’s totally understandable and acceptable. Hopefully there will be time in the future to chase your dreams, but putting them on hold now is okay by me.

That said, it’s my opinion that having children doesn’t “always” qualify. I mean once they hit a certain age, they could even help you achieve your dreams. Enlist them in your dream. They could help you study, help you make fliers, or help push you to keep going. Use that energy! Of course, kids get sick too, and that takes priority. Don’t get me started on babies!

2.) You are in school or serving your country.

Listen, civil service is important. I’ve done a little (not as much as I would have liked) serving as a civilian contractor to the Navy. That said, I applaud and appreciate the men and women of our armed forces, and yes, even the politicians.

If you are deployed or otherwise it is illegal for you to pursue your dreams, I’ll give you a pass for now. It’s only a respite, you’ll be back in country soon enough, and it’s never too soon to start working on your dreams, even while you are serving.

If you are in school, that needs to take priority. That said, why are you in school if not pursuing your dreams. You don’t really get a pass; I challenge you to study, and study some more. Study what will help you achieve your dreams (plus your other required boring classes). Be sure your major relates to your dreams or is part of your pathway.

3.) You are struggling to feed yourself or your family.

Yes, the struggle can be real. If you’ve never had to live off of food stamps or welfare, you might not understand, but it is real. As a child, my family was here. My mom and dad both would take any job, apply to everything and accept anything, that would help keep the family fed. They literally had concerns about our next meal, if we could pay rent, and if we would survive.

That said, most of us are not here. We have family to help us, we have friends who will take us in. We can get a job, especially if we are able and willing to move.

I know you are expecting me to say, if you are struggling to feed yourself or your family, you get a pass on chasing your dreams. You don’t.

Dreaming can be done with no money. While you are looking for a job, you could be going to the free library and learning to code Python. Chasing your dreams is possible, although, understandably, I give you permission to take that intermediate job to take care of you and your families needs. But while you have that temporary job, keep seeking, keep dreaming, study on. Don’t give up.

For most of the rest of you, having a “low” bank account, or “not being able to buy a house yet” are not valid reasons not to chase your dreams. If you are “struggling” but have food on the table, then, no, you don’t get a pass. Get to work! Keep on struggling WHILE chasing your dreams. It’s achieving your dreams that will get you out of the struggling phase. After all, chasing your dreams IS struggling.

So, that’s it, if you don’t have one of these three reasons, I challenge you, what’s stopping you from chasing your dreams, right now? Tell me.

Never say no to an offer you have not heard.

What if that job you proactively turned down was actually going to pay really well, or be an offer for a position above what was listed?  If you say no before you get any offer, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

This is for startups too.  Why say no to an investor you haven’t heard back from? Why say no to an idea you haven’t heard yet?

All too often, I am in meetings where the leader of the meeting is in a rush, or can’t possibly imagine that someone else’s idea could be better in any way… so they don’t bother to ask or listen to other opinions.  This is the path to failure: of our team, of your company, heck, you may just be alienating yourself right out of any friends you think you had.

Stop. Listen. Be OPEN to new ideas.  It’s the least we can do for each other as humans.

10 Good Startup Ideas for 2017/2018

It’s that time of year again. Time to start a new company! No, not me, not yet… I’m still working on http://freebeer.ai, which by the way just made some real money last week (our first time asking for money generated about a 2% conversion rate).

Nevertheless, here are 10 Good Startup Ideas for 2017/2018… according to, well, me.
Why are they good, you might ask?
“Why are they good Dr. Beverly?”
Well…
I have no idea if they are actually good (e.g. will generate sales), which is how I usually determine goodness… but…
These ideas seem: a.) to solve a real problem. b.) to be easily testable c.) to be scaleable and d.) be able to have something that is protect-able.

Here they are, steal them please!

1.) Solar Computers
2.) AI for exercise/fitness (maybe even a martial arts bent to it)… the AI personal trainer.
3.) Solar Bike
4.) AI for price-matching
5.) Solar Gameboy
6.) AI for research (market research, topic research, searches, etc.).
SENSING A THEME OR 2 HERE?
Okay, here is a few more…
7.) VR Cafe / Gym
8.) Smarter Microwaves
9.) VR College
10.) Smarter Dishwasher

More themes? Well, yes. 2017/2018:
AI is exploding
Solar is burgeoning
VR is popping
and Smart is here to stay.

Get crakin’
Oh, and please buy my new book… Lean Startings – a novel about the life of a Lean Startup

Austin Ride-sharing is a micro-monopoly

Regulation in Austin, TX is preventing a free market to exist for ride-sharing. The best companies (Uber and Lyft) cannot compete here because of an onerous regulation put over the town like a dark cloud. Dark indeed, for it creates a micro-monopoly for Fasten and RideAustin, who by their strangeness (and willingness to operate more like a cab company), are allowed in Austin.

I was recently quoted on NPR radio on this topic, and I argue that this micro-monopoly is the only reason they can compete in Austin right now. This monopoly does not exist outside of Austin (except a few other weird cities). As a result, for Fasten or RideAustin to work beyond Austin, they would have to compete in the “REAL” market against Uber and Lyft.

A monopoly gets established whenever there is regulation, unique capability, or brute force creating a disturbance in the natural order of modern economic forces: e.g capitalism. In fact, monopolies are the opposite of capitalism which emphasizes the concept of creative destruction to encourage entrepreneurs and what today we call “startups” and we once called “business” to flourish and compete against each other.

The loser in this war is the consumer, and always is. We are forced with sub-par ride-sharing experiences and higher prices. That’s what happens in a monopoly.

So… catch a ride; kill monopoly! Compete without a monopoly and you will find there are bigger markets than just Austin, waiting for you to come help.

Rural Ride-sharing anyone?

The amazingly good feeling of shipping.

Do you like to check boxes?  I sure do. Recently, I started using trello to organize and run scrum/agile at the Texas Venture Labs.  We all love scrum and I can tell you why: it feels good to ‘move a ticket to done’, e.g. to check the box.  Done.  Shipped.  Over.  Fini.

What else is done? My book, Lean Startings, is done!  I shipped it yesterday 3/16/2017.  To Amazon.  It’s available now for Kindle ($9.99) or Paperback ($24.99) on Amazon.  It feels oh so good.  Ahhhhh, shipping!

So, how did I do it?   How did I write a book while raising a family, working full-time, and working on my own startup?  The same way that I got my PhD while working 2 full-time jobs and raising a family: persistence and daily progress.  In fact, I broke the book down into 36 chapters, and wrote a chapter a day, skipping weekends.  I finished the book in about 3 months (a few days I was traveling and couldn’t write).  Yep, in one summer, I created something, something that could help people succeed in startups better than ever.  Along the way I got to check 36 boxes (each chapter), and just now, the final checkbox (shipped!).  Shipped is the best one to check by the way, and I’m only sad I didn’t check it sooner!

So, what are you sitting on that you could ship?  Don’t wait for perfection, ship it now.  You can always revise it later.

Cheers!

(My reward yesterday for shipping was: gaming, beer AND bourbon)

p.s. Got feedback on my book? I welcome it here or directly to me by email.

Finding Product Market Fit

The idea of product market fit is actually pretty obvious.  What it means is that your product (or service) fits a need in the market (or target market), and you found it because you are getting traction (or sales).

For you tech minded folks (like me), here is a formula for you:

fit = traction(product)

So, what is traction then?  The easiest way to measure traction is by sales.  If you can get sales, you have traction.  How much?  It depends on the amount of effort and cost associated with getting the sale.  The easier the sale (and happier the customer) the more traction you have.  Sales is not the only way to measure traction.  You could measure it by ‘free trial subscribers’, by ‘letters of intent’, or even by ‘customer surveys’.  However, sales with positive customer feedback is the highest level of traction.

So, go out and get some.  Traction that is.

And this book is a great place to learn how to do that:

http://tractionbook.com/ 

 

Harlan’s New Blog!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!  I will be importing most of my old blog articles into this new blog site, but the original blog is also still alive at http://tytusblog.blogspot.com.

Why did I create this, well three reasons actually.

1.) I am experimenting with multisite wordpress for my classroom purposes.  I needed a site that could be used with all the real wordpress features for my students.  So I created this wordpress multisite account.

2.) I am looking to expand my consulting practice, so I’m setting up new pages here to describe the various consulting that I do.

3.) I wanted more control over my own blog too.  Blogger had become too restrictive of late, so here is this new platform: wish me luck!

Thanks for stopping by,

Sincerely,

Harlan T. Beverly

New Year’s 2017: Startup Resolution Revolution

This is an opus, a plea, a dream. This is 2017.
Let us agree to put an end, to the old startup trend.
Old startup was weak, it had a faint reek.
It smelled of false hopes, of untested dreams.

In 2017, we dream big still, but without the frill.
We dream and we test, and leave out the rest.
We give all we have to Lean, Lean Startup I mean.
No false hopes, just tested and true.  Lean Startup starts with you.

It’s a revolution, not just a resolution.
It’s a way of life, not just a passing trife.
Your way is simple, if you choose to accept it.
Just test your idea, before you reject it.

Get started today, if you want to, you may.
Don’t fear the failure spider, to fail is more righter.
It’s right to fail small, so try it all.
Lean Startup is trying, with the minimum of lying.

If your a funder, I plead. Demand more than greed.
Demand proof of their traction, before you do the deed.
Make sure they are tested, and validated and nested.
Make sure their growth, value, and problem, are all three fully vested.

So, this opus to you, this silly sentence so true?
It’s about you and your startup, and starting up too.
Get started with Lean, buy my book to help the team.
Make progress without funding, and deliver the dream!

Harlan T. Beverly, PhD
The University of Texas at Austin

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 http://toodledo.com or http://trello.com  (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

5 Ways to Empower Employees

What is empowerment?  To empower is to give power to someone else, hence taking it away from yourself or someone else, and giving it to them.  In the context of a job, it usually means giving ‘ownership’ of a task or project to someone and then stepping back.  You will still have to do work, but you will only do work that the empowered one asks of you.  There  is plenty of research that shows the benefits to Morale, Productivity, and Results by empowering employees.  In fact, I’ve written about this before in my green & clean post, but this article will give you 5 methods to empower employees, that maybe you never thought of before.

1. Be Explicit
You can’t empower someone without both letting that person know, they are in charge, and really also the entire organization.   Here’s a great way to do it by email:  “Hello everyone, just want everyone to know that I’m stepping away from Project X and putting XXX in charge.  She/He’s empowered to take all actions necessary to get the job done within the approved budget.”

2. Set Boundaries
Empowerment can be daunting, especially when it’s used infrequently, for the first time, or with new employees.  In these cases, it’s best to set boundaries!  Set a budget, explain the goals very clearly, explain what all the resources available are, and be sure to include yourself in those available resources.

3. Help Prioritize
In any organization, there is usually a lot going on, so much so that many employees feel overwhelmed and not sure what to work on in any given moment.  You can help by being clear with each individual what their priorities should be.   If you have projects that just need “a little attention each day” set a specific amount of time you think would be appropriate.  In general, set a clear priority to all work/tasks and try not to change it.  Remember, something you are empowered to do, will naturally be a higher priority.

4. Be Supportive
Supporting means touching base and reminding the person who is empowered of their resources (including you).  The more junior the empowered person, the more you should touch base.

5. Don’t Take it Back!
Yes, you should be measuring and tracking results, but when things aren’t going how you think they should, RESIST the temptation to jump in and take over.  If you do, you’ve destroyed empowerment, and it’s hard to get it back.  They’ll always know that you could jump in at any time, and start to expect it if they fail.  You have to let them fail, if its going to fail.  This is the hardest, why?  Because you know you can do it, and probably better… but YOU MUST RESIST!  Just offer support, help prioritize, and get out of the way.  Long term, if there is a performance issue, you can address it later, for now, don’t break the empowerment you gave, or it will kill your credibility.