entrepreneurship

Around the web: Coaching and costs

by Jason on August 9, 2012 · 0 comments

A few links with commentary for today:

Chris Brogan: What do Coaches Do?

I’m letting the video play in the background while I write this, so this link was more of a prompting to get me talking about coaching rather than commentary about Chris’ post itself.  I’ve used a variety of coaches over the past few years, and I’ve always found it a good value, though in some cases I’m finding increasing value from old sessions as I get more experienced.  Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I’m discovering that fundamentals have value at different levels. Same concepts applied at the 101, 201, 301 levels etc.

This year my coaching has been physical, and it’s probably my best recommendation to people in business who want to dip their toe into coaching.  I started with a personal trainer in January and have been working hard three days a week ever since (I think I missed 3 sessions due to illness, and one due to a client emergency.)  I thought this was just an investment in stress relief, but I’ve found my business has skyrocketed this year.  Some of that might have been the result of lots of hard work lining up at last, but I think the real value was the environment of continual goal achievement – hitting a new personal record on a lift pretty much every week, if not every session has reframed my sense of ability to produce.

I’m also in a group coaching program for business right now, but it’s harder for me to engage – I typically skip the calls and grab the recordings (which I’ll listen to someday) and don’t ask questions. Previously I was doing one on one coaching with scheduled calls, and I made more use of that, so I’ll probably seek out a new coach once my goals are better defined.

What’s interesting to me is that the accountability aspect of coaching is so necessary for me, based on the results I just outlined above, but it’s such a minor part of the value.  “Making sure I show up” is just a fundamental part of coaching, at least the kind of coaching that works for me, but the benefits I’ve gotten are so much more than that that.

Rae Hoffman-Dolan: The Cost of Entrepreneurship

This is a great intro for non-entrepreneurs about the realities of our lives, but I don’t think it’ll help.  The idea of missing a wedding (without judging that particular decision) is a great framer to give a concrete example of the kinds of decisions and sacrifices that get made, and might take people from the “oh yeah, you work hard and there’s no guarantee of a reward, sure, I get it, but anyway, let me tell you about these TPS reports” phase of understanding. I’d share it with some friends and family, but I think the end conclusion would either be more nodding, or at best/worst, “are you sure it’s worth it?”

And the reality is, no, it’s not worth it for a lot of people, and yes, there are times where I question it too.  But I’ve learned to see things how I think they should be, and I’m in a position where I can work towards that, so for me, right now, un-seeing that isn’t an option.

Loneliness and entrepreneurship

by Jason on November 4, 2011 · 0 comments

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Son of Groucho

Starting a company can be lonely, lonely work if you’re not careful.

If you’re in bootstrap mode, with the majority of the work falling on your shoulders, there’s often not a lot of time to spend doing other things.  Like, say, socializing.  Years ago when I worked from home, I found myself going out for coffee when there was perfectly good (and cheaper) coffee in the kitchen, simply for the social interaction of saying “grande mild in a mug, please” to the barista.

This year I’ve been in an office environment, so I get the change of scenery, but it’s an office with a door that I keep closed so I can focus on my work.  My staff are all remote and we communicate by email.  The end result is I can go 8-10 hours at a stretch without talking to a single human being.  For multiple days in a row. It’s a kind of loneliness that’s easy to miss when you’re staring intently on the screen, but it seeps into the rest of the day.

It used to be much worse – my first office didn’t have any windows.  I started in the winter at the height of SAD season.  That was really, really dumb.

So what, right?  Boo hoo, a bit of loneliness doesn’t really hurt anything more than your feelings, right?  I’m not so sure.  I was reading the latest Wired feature on the six “fake cosmonauts” who spent 520 days simulating a trip to Mars by living in a mockup of a space capsule with just 775 square feet of space (interestingly, they’ll “land” back on Earth on Saturday.)

Here’s the money quote from a doctor who works in Antarctica, where people are similarly isolated (emphasis added):

“I was busy all the time with mental health issues,” he says. “Over time, isolated people undergo social narrowing. They stop eating in the cafeteria; they just take food back to their rooms. Their IQ goes down 5 to 10 points. They lose all affect. There’s little inflection in their voices. You look into their eyes and you think, their lights are on, but they’re not home.”

And here I thought I was doing well by not falling into the 20 hour workday trap by focusing on being as productive as I can be from 8-6.

Photo by Son of Groucho

Embracing inbox infinity

by Jason on October 27, 2011 · 0 comments

binders

It’s funny to read my thoughts on achieving inbox zero three years ago.  While I generally keep my inbox pretty empty, lately it’s been slipping out of control again.  The thing is though, what was fine back when I was an employee isn’t necessarily the best strategy for an entrepreneur, and I need to be OK with the idea of being, essentially, eternally incomplete.

One of my mentors once said something that I won’t directly attribute because I might have gotten it wrong, but basically, “as an entrepreneur you need to get comfortable with the idea of never being caught up.”  Maybe I’m just seeking validation or justification for the current state of things, but this makes a lot of sense to me.  The only time everything should be on track for timely resolution of all outstanding issues and plans should be, well, that’s something for the executor of my estate to handle, probably.

If things stop coming into play, there’s something wrong, basically, and as long as new items come in, you’re never done.  Lots of open items is a sign of health for an entrepreneur, whereas it might be a sign of overwork or poor organization in an employee.

That said, knowing a concept to be true is a lot different than living it.  I’ll confess to more than a few lost weekends spent just trying to find some kind of order in the chaos, knowing full well that it wasn’t the highest and best use of my time but “letting myself have this” so I wouldn’t be stressed over the number of open items going into something else I knew was going to need my full concentration later in the week.  These happen less often now, but when they do at least they’re becoming conscious decisions.

And cue the obligatory clarification: meeting client obligations, performing above expectations, and paying people on time aren’t optional things that can be shuffled off on the basis of embracing chaos or whatever.  Systems are more important than ever to make sure things get tracked and implemented (automatically, if possible.)

It’s just that there’ll never be a point where everything’s 100% caught up, your business will be eternally incomplete, and it’s super important to realize this or you’ll never overcome that urge to finish one thing before starting the next one, and then nothing will get started ever again once you reach a point of sufficient inputs.

Inbox infinity can be natural and welcome. Just don’t actually use your inbox to hold all the action items, OK?

Photo by ThrasherDave

That sequence from The Wire pops into my head more times than I’d care to admit, and I have no idea what it means 🙂

I’ve spent a lot of money on coaching, business services, training, and other stuff that’s not in the food, rent, or entertainment categories over the years.  Basically, things that’ll help me get closer to a goal.  If you’ve ever joined a gym, you’re in this club too.

In the sales pitch for these things, there’s a common thread of resistance that I think most people encounter, myself definitely included: is this person or company just trying to get as much of my money as possible, or are they genuinely trying to help me achieve my goals?

There are lots of scam artists out there, and if you watch the news or shows like Marketplace (aka Jason’s favourite yelling at the TV time,) you’ve probably been poisoned to some extent by exposure to the extreme cases, so it’s natural to have some skepticism during a sales pitch.  And then there’s the “wife test” (insert your significant other there) – what will they think when I tell them? But here’s something I realized a few months back:

We can both be right.

Is a business trying to take as much money as they can for what they’re offering? Very probably. It’s what businesses do.  Is their product or service a scam? That’s up to you.  I believe that two people with identical backgrounds and needs can sign up to the same program with an identical curriculum or offering, and one of them can end up wildly happy and successful while the other can complain for the next ten years about how they got “taken.”

It’s really up to you, and it’s one of those cases where you can pick your outcome in advance.  I’ve been in situations where I felt a little like Schrödinger’s cat, flipping rapidly between “scam” and “value” states, until I broke the pattern by deciding whether or not I was going to apply the process and maximize the value I could get, or if I was going to sit back and do nothing and then act surprised when I didn’t get anything out of it except a little poorer.

Now let’s take this back to marketing in general: so many businesses drop the ball in the post sale phase by not even recognizing that there’s a post-sale side to marketing.  A systemic, reproducible sequence needs to be in place to reassure the customer that they’ve made the right choice (and this needs to go beyond the refund period) and to inspire them to take action based on their purchase.  This is what’s going to get the referrals, and more importantly reduce the negative referrals that come from an unsatisfied customer who’s happy to tell everyone they know to steer clear of you.

(And no, this isn’t about the Bernie Madoffs of the world doing actual “you’re going to jail” scams. That’s a different thing entirely – I’m talking about education and training for the most part here.)

iOS sightings: the iPad as PowerPoint killer

by Jason on December 10, 2010 · 0 comments

Not to get repetitive, but if I don’t monitor these things I won’t be able to tell if I just think I’m seeing more of them because I wrote about them (like that thing where you buy a car and then all you see is that model – and colour – on the road,) or if it’s an actual trend (which I suspect it is, because duh, Apple is so cool.)

Medical device firms are giving iPads to their reps, claiming it’s a more engaging way to pull out sales data for prospects that beats out sheets of paper or waiting for a laptop to start up to run a deck.

It’s not clear in the article how many sales presentations are custom apps and how many are simply Keynote presentations.  It’s possible that some are using special sections of the company website, which would allow for quick distribution but then you’ve got latency and possible network outages. I know I’ve seen a few sales presentation apps in the store (not tools to make presentations, actual presentations,) but one would think that these things would be best distributed internally to avoid competition.  But hey, what do I know.

I’m also curious what the going rates are for custom-built sales presentations for companies going the app route.  We’re at a weird nexus point in time here, where development costs are still high (for good development, anyway,) but you could literally (badly) photograph a pile of poop and show that on the iPad and prospects would still oooh and aaah over the device, and probably buy whatever the poop’s covering (or the poop itself.  Note to self, contact fertilizer companies for sales pitch.)

The other angle would be the divide between good salespeople and good sales tools.  I’d wager that good salespeople could compete against poor salespeople with an iPad, but as a retention policy, companies would be well off to equip their people with every tool they want.  Closing rates might not justify the deployment and maintenance costs in themselves, but the HR savings might make it work.