Monday, April 25, 2011

High Achievers and their secret

How is it that high achievers are capable of doing so much?

Seth Godin has started several very successful businesses, has written 16 books since 1993 and continues to be a pioneer in marketing philosophy.

Bill Gates founds a company that becomes unanimous with personal computers. And then founds the worlds largest privately owned foundation with an endowment of 33.5 billion dollars.

Seth Godin and Bill gates are high achievers for a plethora of reasons, but I want to talk about one facet of theirs and other high achievers success – Time Management. A well organized and well thought out use of ones time can be the difference between being a high-achiever and not.

Time Management is giving yourself enough time to get from one place to another and in the likelihood of arriving early, you have something else to work on. Five hour plane ride? Use that time to write a chapter for your book, work on a upcoming project or presentation. 

One of the best ways to get better at managing your time is setting small achievable goals.

For example – imagine that you have two months to do a project. 

What usually happens: We often start working longer - harder hours as dates impend. But by setting small achievable goals for yourself and your team as the date progresses (finish idea/concept) by week 1. Finish your strategic vision by week 2 etc… Your making better use of your time, and you’ll find this project doesn’t disrupt you from the rest of your life. One of the most disruptive things is HUGE last minute changes – commit to it and don’t stress to change HUGE things in the last minute. Get approval from your boss in week 1 and ask him to sign off on it – that is the period for pruning!

Second. Think of your daily schedule – where are you wasting hours, what could you be doing otherwise?

Third. Don’t put things off. There are always a few things nagging at the back of our minds causing us subtle grief. My advice – do them! For example - We hate paying credit card bills and may put them off for a while. Think of them as urgent and choose a certain day of every month to pay all your bills – you’ll never have to stress about paying on time again. Allowing you to spend time doing the things your most productive at.

What are some ways you manage your time?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Be an Innovator

“If you want to be an innovator, you have to work like one, think like one, listen like one, ask questions like one, learn like one. Innovation isn’t a thing; it’s a way of being.” Alan Webber

Innovation: it can be trained, it can be practiced, it can be honed, but you need to recognize your passion. A professor once told me “surround yourself with people who you want to become like” – words I will never forget. So much of innovation comes from keeping an open mind – from connecting ideas which can look seemingly trivial. 

Think of our society as an external hard-drive. We constantly build upon other peoples ideas, improving them slightly – sometimes drastically. Ideas are there to be shared and there to be built on, that’s why I always question “perfect” and “impossible”. Nothing will ever be perfect – there’s always someone creating something better, and with the exponential change in technology – nothing will ever stay impossible for long.

Expose yourself to different ideas, take every opportunity to learn, and question the status quo. Question commercials – ask yourself if their effective, and how can they be better at it. Once you start questioning, and exposing yourself to knew theories – new areas of thought a whole world of possibilities will become available.

How are you an innovator?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Find a niche

“Don’t spread yourself too thin” Great military leaders have said this phrase and followed these principles for millennium. Why don’t the rest of us?

It’s alluring to do everything at once because the dream of capturing a number of different markets on one front would be incredibly profitable. The problem is, that never happens. If we spread ourselves thin, we are sacrificing the opportunity to become a market leader in a certain area. Being a market leader is substantially more stable than not being one and we need to become market leaders in order to establish a base to expand.

For example, if I were to create an audio equipment company. I’d be up against some tough competitors in the general market, but because I am smaller it is much easier for me to customize my products to ONE certain niche. I might customize my sound equipment to become pre-loaded with all the jacks for movie equipment. Assuming my product and company are competitive, the movie industry will begin see that I am committed to them and that they’re not just another piece of my market – they are my market.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Elevator Test

Many of you have probably heard of the elevator test. But do you know why it is so important? Simplicity. We need to be able to describe our products and services in the length of an elevator ride to keep it simple. We will never have five minutes to describe to someone what our business does, and it should never take that long. If you can’t explain your business in 30 seconds, re-evaluate what is you do. Long descriptions shouts over-complexity and uncertainty ---customers hate both.

This is what I envisioned Apple's marketing managers said in their elevator pitch for the Iphone.

For all individuals challenging the status quo

Who are dissatisfied with others deciding what it is they can or can’t do.

Our product is a phone that gives you the control you desire

That provides the user with thousands of free applications

Unlike blackberry, a business phone.

We have assembled a phone that is powered by the user and makes it easier for programmers to create applications.


Try it out  on your own company, and develop your own elevator pitch.

For (target customers)

Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternatives)

Our product is a (new product category)

That provides (key problem-solving capability)

Unlike (the product alternative)

We have assembled (key whole product features for your specific application)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Curious Business–Zipzshoes + Interview

Zipzshoes is a good example of a company that noticed a tendency among a certain market and created a way to capitalize off of it. In this instance, John Stefani and his father started talking about the frequency in which teenagers change their shoes, and soon after Zipzshoes was born.

A general rule as an entrepreneur: stay alert, observe, and constantly question if there are ways to do things betters. In John’s instant, he and his father observed the habits created out of a consumerism society. They isolated the importance of style for teenagers and the flexibility needed to change shoes wherever and whenever they want. They realized that there is an untapped market available, and they just need to create it.

Be an entrepreneur, and observe.

My interview with John Stefani can be found below.

How long have you known traditional style shoes just wouldn’t cut it. When did this idea germinate and how did you take the first step in turning it into an actionable business? I’m not sure traditional shoes won’t cut it but we did see a unique opportunity to completely revolutionize the way people buy and wear shoes which was really the spark for starting Zipz.  The idea was formed at a family BBQ after some observations my father made about kids changing their shoes all the time.  Being we are both serial entrepreneurs we discussed ways to accomplish an interchangeable shoe.  After a few weeks of deciding a zipper was the best fastening system we immediately moved to do a patent search to see if the idea was in fact available.  Once we had a green light on the patent being available we immediately filed for it and began the ground work with setting up the company and heading into R&D to build prototypes.  That was 2004 so it took quite a bit longer to get the idea from concept to market than expected but there are always challenges.

What kind of previous back-ground did you have that enabled you to develop the concept? We actually had no experience in apparel going into the project.  What we did have was a long track record of previous start-up’s that had been successful and from that a great knowledge of how to bring concepts to market.  We immediately sought to surround ourselves with solid people in the apparel business and we did a lot of focus groups to help point the product in the correct direction during development.  Sure we made some mistakes along the way but again that’s all part of the process.

Do you design the shoes yourself? No, we sought the services of an experienced footwear designer to help with that process.  We knew what we wanted but needed someone to translate that idea into a factory file to be manufactured.  We can do the pattern and color work ourselves no problem but the actual “style” of the shoe was beyond our skill sets.

Who is your target audience? We’re squarely focused on teenagers 13-19 years old as our core segement.

What has been the most difficult stage for zipzshoes? Well nothing is ever easy that’s for sure.  I wouldn’t know what “easy” looked like.  I think for this project the fact you manufacture overseas is really the most difficult thing to tackle.  You have limited control and you have to depend on a lot of people you can’t manage to bring you to market.  Conditions can change quickly so anything with manufacturing is just a pain in the butt.

How long have you been an entrepreneur? I’ve been working for myself since I graduated college so 19 years now I’ve been an entrepreneur.  My dad used to say, “There’s no security working for someone else so remember that” and I always did. do you have other ventures? Zipz is actually my 6th start-up venture of my career.  The early stages are always the most challenging but also the most fun when you look back.

“I’m Scared every day”

Have you ever been scared? I’m scared every day.  I think any business owner can’t afford not to be scared, especially in today’s world.  Being in business for yourself is the scariest thing you can do and that never goes away when you’re a business owner.  If it does go away there is a problem someplace or you’ve sold the business and can relax for a minute until something else grabs you.

What are you most curious about?  I’m curious about everything, especially if someone is talking about it with passion behind it.  I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know which is a lot.  Pay attention to people with passion for what they know and do and you can always learn something useful that in most cases you probably didn’t know before.

Favorite Book? I’m still partial to The Great Gatsby and The Great Santini so I guess anything with “Great” in the title is good.  I also love anything by James Patterson. Talk about a guy who can create amazing stuff from his mind.  Wow.