Category Archives: Startup Best Practices

The Hardest Skill To Master – Empathy

Empathy and EncouragementAny growing venture is hard. My last three years have been at an incredible pace with days blurring into weeks and months. It does not have to be a startup, it could be a lifestyle business, it could be a mid-size business. The faster the growth, the more extreme are the swings and tensions. It is way too easy to lose sight of what matters, end up with agenda, and kill your relationship.

So how do we survive and thrive?

It all starts with empathy. The more the person you should be supporting is different, the harder it is for you to relate and understand where the other person stands. You are ineffective without the empathy. So you must try to gain understanding about what is affecting your colleague. Maybe something in personal life is bothering them, or they are at the edge of their wits at work, or maybe there was a string of setbacks or lack of progress, etc. You have to care about their pain to be effective. There will be a day you will need their empathy.

What you may think are variables within their control, might not be the case at all. Let me use sales as an example. There are certain times in the year (usually clustered around holidays) when hitting those sales numbers might be much more challenging. Even the best seasonality models are off almost all the time. You thinking that if this person “makes the calls and will make the sales” may make sense during your typical month, but not when the school is out, or storm screwed up daycare plans, or market developed some macroeconomic fears. Understand and embrace that. Then you may end up with a much clearer view of what can this person affect and that is where your help and motivation are most valuable.

Create new options instead of poking holes. I know I sometimes really stumble on this, being extremely pragmatic. Criticizing is the easiest option with highest social cost. You can insert your opinion until your face is blue and do nothing but waste time and cause further demotivation. Likely, if this person knows their craft, they already introspected and are dealing with the issues. To be most effective, you have to create new options. Think of new concrete suggestions you can provide. Maybe this person was so in the weeds, they weren’t able to see that one additional option you noticed. Be generous with help. You may not always get the credit, but you will always gain appreciation. At the end of the day, having someone to go to, when you are stuck, is invaluable.

Dismount that “high horse”. The biggest fallacy is to assume the other person has an easy problem. Likely that is just an opinion not based on actually doing the job. And if you think the problem is easy, get off your high horse and get your hands dirty. You don’t get to say “that is an easy problem to fix,” one doing the job is the only one entitled to make the statement. Either help do the job or move along.

Look for wins other person is not seeing. If you ever read the “The Progress Principle,” you know how important it is to recognize even small milestones/wins. Recognition breeds motivation. When you are “in the weeds”, you lose sight of your wins, because survival instincts kick in.
Conflicts are not inevitable. Conflict, at times, is good between people who respect and value each other. But in the end, if you are in the same battle together, compassion goes a long way

Scalable SaaS Best Practices: The Legal Agreements Discipline

SaaS is a beautiful business model. Most modern companies owe their efficiency to cost savings that services provided under SaaS model bring to the table. But sometimes week or day does not pass without someone sending me back marked up MSA (master services agreement). And every time my answer is the same: “I am sorry,… Continue Reading

3 Questions 90% of Sales Job Candidates Fail

I have started my career in sales as a talent agent. Selling to college market, which is more brutal than selling enterprise SaaS, gave me an immense appreciation for the job of being the sales rep. I also had the pleasure working with some founders early on, who had the same appreciation for art and… Continue Reading

Reflections on Raising Money and Fetishes of Those Watching

For those of us in startups, opening up Twitter means seeing at least 1 or 2 funding announcements every couple hours. And the congratulations and retweets roll in, if you are any good, journalists and bloggers need a piece of you too. But the fanfare and congratulations fizzle out, and you are standing there with… Continue Reading

Myths Why Startups Don’t Need COOs and Operations Executives

As my regular readers know, I am a startup operations veteran with “battle scars” from 9 startups (co-founder in 2 and early employee in most). I have acquired a PhD in operations from the school of hard knocks after years of being around some very smart people and working on difficult problems. Today, I am… Continue Reading

Better Solution to Outdated One Time Employee Referral Bonuses

One time employee referral bonuses need to go the way of the dodo. They are an antiquated reward system that motivates the wrong things. Yes, some of the most well known companies use them, but these companies end up hurting both themselves and also the business community. Even the biggest morons can waste investor/company money,… Continue Reading

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