On Being Pushy

A couple weeks ago I gave a presentation to one of my networking groups, to help educate them on what Grouvia is all about.  The purpose of belonging to this group is to expand my salesforce, so it’s important that these people recognize an opportunity for me when it comes their way.  In order for them to do that, they need to understand what problems Grouvia solves.

I haven’t been getting much in the way of referrals from this group, so I really worked hard to come up with some compelling content to present, and at the end of the presentation I gave them a 10-minute homework assignment.  I provided explicit and easy instructions on how to sign up for Grouvia, create a group, and add two small pieces of content.

Guess how many people got all the way through my step-by-step 10-minute assignment?  Go ahead, guess.

TWO.  Pretty pathetic, right?  Out of 25 people, I think about five people actually bothered to give it a try.  Three gave up without ever asking me a single question.  One of the people who completed the task is my business partner.  The other person who did it is the secretary of the group.  So here’s my public thank you to Betsy and Tom for showing some spunk and commitment.

I have come to the conclusion that people will not do *anything* unless you push them.  And I mean really push hard.  I think in my case it’s because people are afraid of new things, web applications in particular.

Many of the people in my audience are not best friends with the http://www.  I would be willing to forgive those people.  But I’m talking about the ones who DO have Facebook accounts and Blackberries.  This should be easy for them.

Why do they resist?

Have they been fed so many bad complicated ugly web applications over the past 9 years that they expect everything new to be bad, complicated, and ugly?  There are many new Web 2.0 apps out there that are outstanding.  The problem is they are not ubiquitous.  The vast majority of web sites still suck.  But when the tides turn, and people start having confidence in the web again, Grouvia will be right there waiting.

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Sometimes Great People Will Work For Free

The headline is not a ruse just to get you to read this post. It’s really true, there are excellent people out there who will help you for nothing, or next to nothing, just for the benefit of being able to build their portfolio or resume or even just to keep up their skills.

In a deep recession, people do a lot of things they wouldn’t normally do, and if you’re smart and a little lucky you can leverage that.

I currently have no less than FOUR people working on Grouvia for free (if you count me it’s five), and I’d like to introduce them to you.

  • DK – 50-some odd years in sales and marketing. He’s helping me because he’s a family member and he loves me and wants to help me succeed.
  • RR – Consultant. 20+ years in IT, from programming to system analysis to user interface design. Smart, excellent communicator, highly organized and a super-nice person. She’s doing it because I ran out of cash to pay her and she wants to see it through and is not otherwise employed (but continues to seek a paying gig).
  • CT – young hungry self-taught graphic designer I met through LinkedIn. Needs to build her portfolio and add to her client list and willing to work pro-bono to get references.
  • DR – Marketing and Communications professional with 15+ years of experience in arts and non-profit sector. Currently not working and heard about the Grouvia project through a friend, and wants to help out as well as learn new skills related to the technology sector.

If and when Grouvia makes it to the big time I will give something back to all of these people. In the meantime, not a day goes by that I don’t realize how truly lucky I am that these wonderful talented people have seen enough potential value in Grouvia to give their time to help it succeed.

We should all be looking for every opportunity to utilize an untapped resource, with an eye toward giving back wherever and whenever possible.

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16 hour days? No problem!

As I was winding down my last project at Verizon this past March, in preparation for starting my new company I was doing a lot of research on startups. I was reading books, magazines, blogs, anything I could get my hands on. This helped me get geared up and stay motivated at the same time I was feeling a little sad as I was leaving a great group of people I had worked with for many years.

One thing that kept coming up in my reading was that successful entrepreneurs work a LOT of hours and don’t get much sleep. A 60-80 hour workweek seemed to be the norm, with 4-6 hours of sleep each night. I thought to myself, “I can’t work that many hours, that’s crazy, I would burn out. And I need more sleep…” Etc. With all the things I had to worry about, that was one of the thoughts that really scared me. How can I make this project successful without having to put in ultra-long days for months and months on end with barely enough sleep?

Now it’s four months later, and I’ve been working 12-16 hours a day during the week, and at least 10+ hours on the weekends. I am not burned out, nowhere near it. I’m loving it. Every night I go to bed with a smile, thinking about all the things I accomplished that day. I get about 6 hours of sleep (I get in some extra on weekends), and every morning I wake up and immediately start thinking about what I’m going to do that day to keep the momentum going. Every problem I solve, every item I cross off the to do list, every page of requirements documentation I write, gives me an incredible sense of accomplishment. I am building something unique and valuable and worthy of my time. The sense of pride and achievement I feel every day gives me enough energy and optimism to keep me going and make me want to get up and do it again the next day, and the next. And the next.

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Fitness While You Work

I am a shameless multi-tasker, and that has both gotten me in trouble and served me well many times, thankfully mostly the latter. At my previous company we once tried to have a “no multitasking day” and we all failed.

As entrepreneurs, we have to step up the pace, even more than what we would normally tolerate. We have more to do in less time, and one of the things that suffers is our health. Specifically, good eating habits and exercise. I’m not an exercise fanatic or anything, but I’m in my late 40’s and I realize the value of a consistent exercise regimen and healthy eating habits. I refuse to let work get in the way of this. What good will it do anyone if I die of a heart attack or have a stroke when I’m 60. Right?!?!

So, I read business magazines while I walk on my treadmill. I listen to audiobooks while I jog, I watch CNN while I lift weights in my basement. I do isometric exercises while I’m listening to conference calls, and I stretch while attending webinars. And I change things around often.

Don’t laugh. It’s the only way I can make sure I do it. Some day I’ll also talk to you about how I manage to eat right. But for now, the next time you’re on a conference call, do a stretching routine – neck, back, arms, legs. If you’re sitting in traffic, start squeezing that pelvic floor — better yet, listen to an audiobook at the same time.

Audible.com has most books available in digital format that can be downloaded to your mp3 player. I’ve been a member for years and the monthly fee is worth every penny!
– Many local libraries have downloadable books for FREE!
– Google “isometric exercises” or “easy stretches” to print off a quick list of brainless workouts to do while doing other things.
Wal-Mart and Target both have cheap hand-weight sets you can buy to keep in your home office. Or use soup cans or bookends or cans of paint if that’s all you can find. Be creative.

Just do it.

Just Get the Train on the Tracks

My Dad has this analogy about starting big projects — just get the train on the tracks and get it moving and then you can start adding the seats and windows and lettering and whistle and all the other stuff it needs.

I have a chronic case of analysis paralysis.  Of course every large project starts with research.  The thing is… I don’t know when to stop.  When do I have enough data?  Every new finding generates more questions that need to be answered.  It feeds itself and becomes a project in and of itself.  At dinner the other night, I was telling some friends about this — how I am stuck in research mode and can’t get out.  They both encouraged me (strongly!) to just pick the most important feature and get it out there.

Yeah, good point.  Duh.  I knew that.It was already pretty clear that the Event Calendar would be Juntopia’s primary feature and so I started to design the database.  Doing this always gets me going in a good solid direction, and helps me put tangible-ness to an idea.  I started looking at my drawings from a month ago where I had identified all the “objects” I could think of that would make up this critical feature, and wouldn’t ya know it, I had it all done already!  So all I had to do was get it from the paper into the computer in database format.  EZ! Now, what to do with all that data we’ve been collecting?  More on that next week.  In the meantime, I’m on a roll.

Thanks Dad (and Patty and Kris).

Just keep your head down

Yesterday I went for a run after spending the day doing techy stuff like getting this blog up and running and tweaking the lame excuses I call web sites that support this project. I was getting discouraged because *everything* was taking 10 times longer than it should have and I have so much still ahead of me.

So I said screw it — I need a break. I had taken about 10 days off from running due to a nasty cold and then procrastination so I was not expecting much out of myself at any rate. About 2-1/2 miles into the run I was feeling ok and I realized something. I had my running cap on and it was pulled low and I could only see about 30 feet of the road in front of me (don’t fret I was running in my nice-safe-25mph-speed-limit-residential-neighborhood) and I looked up briefly. That brief look jolted me and I put my head down again. I did not even expect to make it the whole 3.1 miles, but I realized that if I just concentrate on the 20 feet in front of me I wouldn’t think about the fact that I still had another .6 miles to go (ugh!) and before I knew it I was at the end.

5K 37:20 blech

So, I need to do that with this project. I need to put my head down and just focus on the immediate task in front of me and not worry about the *scads* of work left to do before I can even think about going live.

Yup, that’s what I’m gonna do.