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Tech and Strategy for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs have big ideas.

AP Logic helps build them.

Meet Gretta Brooks Founder of Salesboost.com

Gretta Brooks Gretta Brooks
  • Gretta Brooks
  • Salesboost Founder
  • Machine Intelligence Teaching Sales Communication
  • Former Hotel Industry Exec
  • 24 Months From Start to 1st Enterprise Sale

SalesBoost and Gretta worked with AP Logic from idea to finished software project. Gretta and her team focused on business development. AP Logic focused on software development. Here's how do it.

But first, we need to clarify.

1
Clarify Project Objective

See how SalesBoost found the right platforms, nailed down key features for launch, and determined their budget and timeline along with the key team members.

2
Visualize the Software

Start tapping and clicking through fully-interactive screens with sample imagery, data, and true-to-life features ready to be built exactly as you see them.

3
Build the Final Product

Gretta and her SalesBoost team watched the dream coming to life. They focused on their business and their growing customer base, not bug-fixing!

Ideas We all have them. Here are ours.

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Leadership: The Invested Executive

A few years back, I was out of town visiting a national distributor to sort out an eCommerce project. Driving to their office, I was on the verge of a breakdown because we were caught in between two warring factions in the client’s company – the engineers versus the sales and business team. Then it hit me: the project was going to fail. As I walked in the front door, I managed to secure a 5-minute meeting with the CEO. “How important is this project to you?” I asked, to which he replied, “It’s probably going to be 50% of our sales in the future.” I proceeded to ask if he and some key team leaders could spend an entire day reviewing the website’s feature list in order to get everyone on the same page. Three weeks later, 20 of us spent an entire day in a conference room. The result? 75 features defined and a direct increase in the company’s online sales: from 37% to 65% of total – an 85% increase in under 2 years. My conclusion? There was a direct correlation between the CEO’s involvement and hitting his ambitious goals.

When people ask us “Why do you work with startups and entrepreneurs instead of larger, more-established companies?”, the answer is simple: the entrepreneur is more directly invested in the outcome. And they are not afraid to make hard decisions, quickly.

So why aren’t executives of larger companies invested? And how to entrepreneurs avoid making the same mistake? Working with both types, AP Logic has found three biggies:

Fear of wasting time.
Belief that the issues are handled by others.
Fear of alienating key team members.

Addressing each of these:

1. This one is not shocking. There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over! I’ve done it, you’ve done it. Every executive I have ever queried about a failed project wishes that they had known more about what was going on in the trenches. Fortunately, in this case, it only cost that CEO about 8 hours of his time. What it returned to him was far more valuable than hours: the fact that he took an entire day told his team how valuable the project was to him and how valuable they were to him! From then on, the team compromised and prioritized like never before. And the CEO’s outcomes were able to be articulated because he understood the problems and heard the team regurgitate the issues. That never could have happened via email or written requirements.

2. This one amazes me. Who is positioned to make decisions BETWEEN departments if not the CEO (or division leader) or possibly an ops manager/COO? Consider the following situations:

      • The IT team is tasked with making things reliable or secure – not taking on additional risk to boost sales
      • The VP of sales is tasked with reaching out to prospects and clients in new ways – not with security and cost efficiency.
      • The CFO is tasked with managing a budget in some predictable way.

    How do these three decide to take a risk on a new technology? They can’t because that’s not their job. The VP of sales isn’t equipped with the knowledge to make the network secure and won’t know what the right tradeoff is in terms of mobile accessibility for his/her team.

3. This is my pet peeve. Too many leaders are held hostage by their tech teams. “I don’t understand that stuff” doesn’t equal “therefore I cannot evaluate options and make decisions”. Leaders fear disenfranchising engineering staff or just flat-out losing them. I see it constantly. And I’ve done it. “If this vendor or employee gets angry, nobody else can do this!” Of course, the alternative is that the wrong individual or team is given permission to deep-six the project – usually with tunnel-vision or over-focus on one goal or area. Again, I’ve seen it dozens of times. None of us is irreplaceable – from the CEO on down. It’s amazing how the world keeps turning after people leave. You’ve already lost the negotiation if you’re deathly afraid of losing someone.

So what are the take-aways for startup CEOs and entrepeneurs?  I’m talking to you.. The most successful tech projects we’ve been involved with all share one common factor: The final decision-maker was involved in the key decisions from start-to-finish.

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  • entrepreneurs
  • leadership
  • project management
  • roles
  • software projects
  • team building
  • team composition
477

Top 7 Entrepreneurial Trends for 2017

1. Female Entrepreneurs Rising.

Last year, for the first time ever, we did more business with female entrepreneurs than with males. While we’re a very small sample size, we still think that we represent a larger trend in the economy. Our female clients often perceive nuances in how people learn and buy that help them build software which is more human and “relatable”.

2. Mid-Life Entrepreneurs Trending.
There are a surprising number of middle-aged and older people getting into entrepreneurship.

We’re talking about people who’ve never started companies before and are not serial entrepreneurs – but do have business experience and savvy.  I think economic optimism and the idea that “you only live once” is driving this phenomenon. Also, the desire for working independence which has been propagated by millennials is making its’ way upstream.  Add to this the fact that older people are willing to stand the test of time and follow-through and often have more connections and resources.

3. Adversity and “hard work” are going away. Not.
I don’t buy the notion that as the technology advances, we won’t have to face adversity.

In fact, I think that if we don’t have to work, technology will quickly slow down and stall. Adversity is necessary/good for us.  The entrepreneurs I know who faced huge obstacles and dealt with chaos or unfairness earlier in their lives tend to push through “impossible” situations later in life. And I say this as someone who had some obstacles, but nothing like the people I’m referring to. We can’t and shouldn’t try to program risk and adversity out of everything we do no matter how sophisticated out technology becomes. I have to remind myself that if I haven’t scared myself recently, I’m probably not pushing hard enough.

4. More Re-training Workers for Tech.
This is finally happening and I’m excited to see it!

As an example, many organizations are training former service-industry workers to perform QA and software testing. These entry-level positions can earn far more than service jobs and pave the way for individuals to move up in tech companies. College degrees are not a barrier, here. We don’t look for them. I think we need to give people a serious chance – but in order to give people them that chance, we also need some safeguards – see the next item.

5. Increasing Working Restrictions.
Technology startups need flexibility in structuring working relationships.

I call this a negative trend. The regulatory environment needs to be as creative as the businesses we start. For example, we have team members who want to own some of the risk and rewards of their work.  Others ask us to take 3 hours off on a Wednesday to do a project with their kids and make it up on Thursday – but that pushes them into overtime. Still, others want to be paid for a project outcome. There is some reason to believe that less than 8 hours per day is more productive in certain fields or on highly abstract work, which potentially trashes the notion of “full-time”.  What if we focused on regulations that allow parties to construct agreements in simple language and receive justice quickly when they are aggrieved?

6. Smaller Geographies getting into the mix.
Smaller cities hosting new startups are developing their own unique value propositions.

In 1903, the Wright Brothers’ “startup” was founded in Dayton, OH and on the sands of Kitty Hawk, NC. Today, Silicon valley and a few of the larger cities call themselves the center of the startup universe. In a way, they’re right – its simple math: $50k in seed money can’t compete with $500k. Or can it? From Knoxville TN to San Luis Obispo, CA, small-town startups play to a lifestyle, a creative element and the rebel in us. Entrepreneurs in these places are often very pragmatic, feet-on-the-street types who are willing to test and try anything, drive any car and live anywhere. Nothing is beneath them. The Wright Brothers were small town Ohio boys who went to an even smaller strip of sand in North Carolina with a great big idea, tested every assumption, worked with their hands, recruited unlikely talent and ultimately crushed their well-heeled Washington, DC-based competition. My advice – if you’re in a smaller area, play to your strengths. You can’t beat the valley at its’ own game, but you can play a different game.

7. Coworking/shared office spaces will wane.
I call this the “introvert re-awakening”.

Shared working spaces are all the rage and nice for helping startups get going, providing good economics, collaboration, etc. However, consider that the very first thing many startup clients want us to do is to sign an NDA. Obviously, secrecy is important to them! Also, almost every introvert I talk to (and most engineers fit that category) wishes they had more privacy at work. Lacking that privacy, these team members tend to subconsciously “look busy” rather than focusing on thoughtful production. And finally, there is politics: I was in an office of a business partner recently where we couldn’t speak candidly about a technical problem because the problem’s creator happened to be another company which was right around the corner in the same room of a shared workspace. Open space is great and every office should have some, but privacy is also natural and its’ returning.

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  • entrepreneur
  • Management
  • trends
1055

Guest Blog: Should your company encourage employees to quit?

I know what you’re thinking: “Encourage employees to quit? That’s ridiculous! Everyone knows how stressful and expensive it is to deal with high turnover!” Stay with me for a minute. Encouraging employee turnover at your company may be the best move you can make to build a hard-working team culture, and it might just boost your bottom line.

My brother and I started a moving company when we were in high school. Because of our school and athletic commitments, we had a hard time finding part-time work that fit around our schedules. We started helping friends’ families move, and soon word began to spread. Years later, we now handle more than 13,000 moves per year, making us the largest independent moving company in California. Our business model remains true to our origin – we hire college athletes as movers and allow them to build their own schedules, affording them the opportunity to work their way through school.

Let’s use Meathead Movers as our case study. In an industry plagued by high turnover rates, we’ve adopted a process that we refer to as “encouraged turnover.” Here’s how it works: when we hire a new mover, we sit down with them to figure out what their long-term goals are. Our mission then becomes equipping them with the skills and mentorship they need to reach those goals. If they want to become an accountant, we’ll let them shadow our accountants. If they want to be a marketer, we’ll get them plugged in with our marketing team.

Along the way, these employees are also exposed to customer service best practices, executing contracts, learning how to manage their peers in high-pressure situations, commercial driving experience and even general professional lessons, such as learning how to tie a tie and balance a checkbook. Once they’ve graduated school and are ready to move on to their desired career path, we’re the first in line to recommend our superstar employees to companies in their field; we even take the step of calling their hiring manager for their next job to offer a recommendation. And when they get the job, we use our own company resources to throw them a celebratory BBQ.

So, how can “encouraged turnover” help your company?

One of the benefits of this managerial style is that it incentivizes employees to work harder. Companies are always trying to stimulate higher performance from their employees. If an employee knows that your desire as the employer is to help them reach their next goal, then it’s in their best interest to turn you into a raving fan. It’s a paradigm shift for the employee, turning a “stepping-stone job” into an important link in the chain to future success. Identifying and supporting employees’ future goals allows Meathead to give context to on-job situations that in other companies could cause an employee to become disgruntled or unmotivated. For example, if an employee comes back from a move super frustrated by a difficult client, our managers can ask “Hey, you want to be a firefighter, right? Do you think you will encounter high stress situations then? View this as an opportunity to learn the skills needed to deal with stressful situations and on-the-spot decision making under pressure.” This will fuel enthusiasm and a greater sense of purpose in what they’re doing. The result at Meathead Movers has been a workforce of people always looking for ways to go above and beyond, knowing their effort will be rewarded in the form of a strong recommendation when it comes time to transition.

Another benefit of “encouraged turnover” is that it lets your employees know that you care about their individual success, not just the success of the company. This will make your employees feel more valued and less dispensable. If you’ve ever worked for an employer that you knew truly wanted you to succeed, then you know how it affected your attitude at work every day. Now contrast that with an experience you’ve had working somewhere that made you feel more like a number than a name. I’m willing to bet that you were more productive for the company that really valued you. Productive employees eliminate waste, and efficiency increases profit.

When you have incentivized employees who feel like their employer values them, you create a culture where people are genuinely excited to work for your company. This is the “team” mentality that great coaches inspire in sports. Teamwork is what wins championships. Even the best athletes know they can’t win without the help of their team. When your employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, you’ll see greater synergy in the office that will lead to even more productivity. Now everyone is a winner!

Now, your employees may already be in the field they want to be in long-term. In that case, you could find out what position they hope to eventually be promoted to and work to prepare them for that role through mentorship, job shadowing, etc.

Through our own experience with “encouraged turnover,” we’ve seen employees go on to become business owners, lawyers, financial advisers and more. The key is communicating this message: “You can reach your dreams, and we want to help you get there.” Of course, they may like working for you so much that they never want to leave!
By: Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers
Aaron Steed is president, co-founder and CEO of Meathead Movers. He founded Meathead Movers at 17-years-old in 1997 with his brother, Evan. As CEO, Steed oversees all areas of the company – providing clarity, strategy and accountability for everyone on the Meathead team. He has established an open-door style of management, similar to that of a coach, and is well-known for being happily available to assist employees at their jobs or in their personal lives.
In 2015, Steed and the team at Meathead Movers launched the #MoveToEndDV campaign to encourage businesses all over the world to donate free products and services to victims of domestic violence – just like Meathead Movers provides free moving services to victims fleeing an abusive situation.

 

Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers
Aaron Steed is president, co-founder and CEO of Meathead Movers. He founded Meathead Movers at 17-years-old in 1997 with his brother, Evan. As CEO, Steed oversees all areas of the company – providing clarity, strategy and accountability for everyone on the Meathead team. He has established an open-door style of management, similar to that of a coach, and is well-known for being happily available to assist employees at their jobs or in their personal lives.
In 2015, Steed and the team at Meathead Movers launched the #MoveToEndDV campaign to encourage businesses all over the world to donate free products and services to victims of domestic violence – just like Meathead Movers provides free moving services to victims fleeing an abusive situation.

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  • Employees
  • Growth
  • Management
  • Quit
  • Turnover