Entrepreneurs: Get Your “Chickens” and “Pigs” in a Row or Else…

May 13th, 2009

We’ve all heard that we need to get our “ducks in a row” if we want to succeed as entrepreneurs. This is certainly true, but…

Chickens and Pigs are even more important to your business.

There’s an old farmer’s parable that talks about the difference between the “chicken and pig at breakfast” - the moral being that the “chicken” is a participant while the “pig” is committed. I.e., the chicken lays an egg and can then go on his merry little way. The pig has become ham or bacon and is therefore fully committed.

Take stock of your Chickens and Pigs.

If you look at all of your customers, partners, employees, investors, coaches - or anyone else you engage with in your business - and then you compare the nature and quality of your interactions with each of these parties, you will quickly realize there is a huge difference in motivation, commitment, and dependability among them. Some are clearly “chickens” (casually participating in your success and failure), others are “pigs” (committed to your success).

You need both to succeed.

It would be nice if everyone we interacted with was a pig - but unless you’re preparing the cult for ascendance to the mother ship, this probably isn’t the scenario you’re in. In the real world, we are surrounded by both chickens and pigs - and the key is to 1) know which category each person falls into, 2) make sure we treat them accordingly, and 3) realize that they are both critical to getting to the end goal.

As a general rule, a company’s initial traction is hugely dependent on pigs (i.e., your initial supporters, evangelists, etc); and its ultimate growth depends on getting lots of chickens (i.e., the mainstream)  involved along with continued commitment from the pigs.  Treat your chickens and pigs as you should - and the growth will be smooth. But get it wrong and you are in for some serious pain…

Beware the Chicken that Oinks.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment that we ever experience as entrepreneurs comes at the hands of chickens that we mistake for pigs (through their fault or our own).  They seem excited, they agree to get involved, they make some promises - and then… nothing. Even worse - maybe we acted like pigs and wasted our time, money, or energy catering to their “needs” or following through on our side of the bargain with them - but still, nothing.

Meanwhile, (and fortunately)…

The pigs deliver the goods.

Any entrepreneur who’s experienced success has had fortunate encounters with some pigs along the way. They seemed excited, they agreed to get involved, they made some promises - and then they delivered. Maybe it was the initial customers who became avid evangelists and sang your praises as you were getting your concept nailed down, maybe it was the investor who got involved in your business and worked alongside you to get it done, maybe it was the employee who bought into the vision and then did her part to push it forward. It’s the pigs that get you off the ground, but…

Treat Your Pigs Right or Else…

Pigs are special, and they should be treated as such. If you treat them the same way as chickens they will quickly lose steam, feel hurt, and maybe even get disillusioned and shift from your strongest asset to your biggest headache. If you treat them as special, and acknowledge their commitment, they will continue to match you with their own commitment; and they will continue to rally alongside you to help you grow. Then all that’s left to do is…

Bring chickens into the game while continuing to treat the pigs as special.

For most meaningful market plays, there simply aren’t enough pigs in the world to achieve the growth you want. At some point, you need to bring chickens into the mix - and you need to satisfy the needs of the wider chicken audience while continuing to engage your pigs so the momentum continues.

In terms of company growth, you will likely encounter more pigs when you are targeting “Innovators” and “Early Adopters”, than when you are rolling your concept out to the mainstream market (which has very different needs than the early market). We’ll save that post for another day - but in the meantime, you can read “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore for more detail, or read this excellent summary of Crossing the Chasm here.

Author: Jeff D'Urso Categories: Startups Tags:

“They Loved It!” and other dangerous entrepreneur traps…

May 8th, 2009

One of the funniest scenes in the 1999 movie classic “Office Space” happens when Tom Smykowski lets Peter, Samir and Michael in on his great idea for the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” - which is a “mat, with a whole bunch of conclusions on it, … that you jump to!”

Not surprisingly, the reaction was that it was “the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Unfortunately, not all ideas are so black & white; and not all people are so honest with their feedback.

Most ideas fall somewhere in between the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” and “Google” - and so in the real world it can be a bit more difficult for an entrepreneur to get honest feedback from others. The popular business literature often tells you to “not let all the no’s and negativity dissuade you from going after your dream.” 

Obviously, most of these authors and armchair entrepreneurs have never been involved in the building of a startup, because in actuality you are far less likely to encounter direct negativity as you are to discover that…

“They Loved It!”

And therein lies the problem, and perhaps the single most deadly trap to an entrepreneur. When someone tells you they love the idea, it either means 1) they love the idea, or 2) they really aren’t all that excited by the idea, but are too polite to tell you - or are holding out to make sure you keep them in the loop “just in case” it turns out to actually be a good idea.

The problem is - it feels really good when someone tells you they love your idea, and it can be very addictive. And if you buy into the BS too deeply, you may find yourself spending a lot of time continuing to present to new people who “love the idea”, rather than actually moving the idea forward. I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs fall into this trap and lose weeks, months, or even years in the “love cycle” without moving forward on their actual dream. (Yeah okay, I may have done this once or twice before too :-)

The moral of the story.

You have the ultimate responsibility - and the reward - of determining whether your good idea will become a good business. It’s good to get feedback from others, and great to hear that they love your idea - but you must be a vigilant prober. Dig deep to get more honest and specific feedback from others - don’t just take the generic line. Judge people’s actions (i.e., do they use it, buy it, recommend it) as about 1000X more valuable than their words.

And finally,  spend your time building the dream - not just presenting it to people who tell you how great it is!

Author: Jeff D'Urso Categories: Startups Tags:

The Future of VOIP - where’s the Innovation coming from next?

May 7th, 2009


When I first heard about Voice over IP circa 2000, my initial reaction was “why would you want to do that?” Phone service was already relatively cheap and reliable at the time (remember the pin drop :-), and I couldn’t understand all the excitement around this VOIP thing. But the experts at the time talked about all the amazing new workflows and “things you could do” once VOIP was deployed.

It was intriguing if nothing else.

Then Came VOIP 1.0

Though it didn’t offer much more functionality than Bell did in 1876, the first rollout of VOIP certainly came at a cheaper price. Vonage and other unlimited calling services clobbered the price of phone service for homes - and the release of the open source Asterisk phone server brought down costs for small and medium businesses. I certainly had no love lost for the PBX industry. When I was building my first company, our PBX was a ripoff at ~$10,000 (and we were fortunate enough to lock in something like 30% interest on the lease).

So we had dirt cheap phones, but…

What about all the other cool stuff VOIP promised???

When I went to the VON conference in late 2007, it seemed like all of the “me too’s” at the conference were hawking some variant of VOIP 1.0. I couldn’t find anyone there delivering any new innovative workflow, and Jeff Pulver’s keynote plea to the audience of “do something cool with this stuff” seemed to land on deaf ears. Except mine.

I was excited because we had just built the alpha prototype of BlitzTime, and I couldn’t wait to see how our new telephone “speed networking” tool would impact the world of business networking. Since that day, we’ve never looked back, and it never gets old hearing someone tell me how they “made a great partnership” or “found a new opportunity” from someone they met on BlitzTime.

Onward to VOIP 2.0

And so I echo Jeff Pulver’s keynote from VON 2007 and ask - what other cool VOIP 2.0 applications are there out there? What is the next big exciting thing in the space - or is it going to be in some super-mashup of Web, VOIP, and Mobile? What’s Next? …

Author: Jeff D'Urso Categories: Innovation Tags:

Jeff’s Famous(1) Super-Goop Recipe

March 26th, 2008

Last year I went on a diet and lost 40 pounds over the course of 5 months. Though my original goal was to lose weight and become healthier, the more exciting outcome for me was the huge increase in energy I was able to achieve by replacing essentially garbage what I used to eat with more healthy options.

The MVP of my diet started out as a simple lunchtime replacement shake and has evolved over the course of a year into a finely engineered concoction I call “Super Goop”.

Why Super-Goop?

Although I pored over a lot of ideas, strategies, and advice before starting my diet - one of the most common themes (and common sense strategy) is that you need to crowd out the bad with good. I.e., to the degree you fill yourself up with good foods (that actually nourish your nutritional needs), you will have less need and burning desire to fill up on bad foods. As true as this was during the “weight loss” portion of my diet, it has been 10 times as true during the gain it all back ongoing “maintain a healthy lifestyle” period of my diet. Every day for lunch I look forward to Super Goop as much as when I was in the midst of my official “diet”, and that has helped me maintain my health and weight after the diet was done.(2)

Refining the Super-Goop Recipe

In the past 15 months or so, I’ve had Super-Goop between 5-7 times per week for lunch. At first, it was because it fit the goals of my diet - but over the course of making over 250 Super Goops, I’ve learned exactly what ingredients make it taste better (and which ones make it taste awful). Once I got the mix just right, I started looking forward to Super Goop every day for lunch - and I also noticed that the post-lunch-sluggishness I used to take for granted has been completely replaced by explosive energy (post-lunch is now the most energetic period of my day, even though I am a morning person). (3)

Preparation

In the table below, I list all of the ingredients that I currently use in my Super-Goop, including the amounts, where to get them, and the rationale behind putting the ingredient in. If you have any comments (or new ingredients I should add), please let me know!

In terms of preparation, I strongly, strongly recommend a blender that is up to the task. I burned out a NutriBullet 600 within 2 months, and a Nutribullet “Pro” (900) after another 3 months. Since then, I’ve been using a Ninja 1500 Watt blender for about 6 months, and it is fully up to the task.

Ingredients

Ingredient Why / Comments
Handful of Spinach / Kale / Spring Mix This is your salad - except when blended, you won’t even taste it
1/2 Avocado (freeze other half for next day’s Super-Goop) Makes the drink smooth, and gives you super healthy fat.
~5 Chunks Frozen Mango Balances out the avocado
6 - 8 cherries (frozen okay) Not surprisingly, adds a cherry taste to the drink
Shake in some Goji Berries Goji’s are great for you - and add a bit of texture to the drink
4 - 8 Strawberries Strawberries are good
Small handful Raspberries Raspberries are good
Small handful blueberries Blueberries are good
Tablespoon Chia Seeds Apparently, these are good too.
1 Scoop “Incredible Greens” Super greens are great for you (probiotics, etc), but most of them taste like are sludge. Incredible Greens taste good Get it here. NOTE: This are not gluten free.
1 Scoop “Incredible Berries” This gives you a nuclear serving of any berries you didn’t include above. Plus, it makes the drink taste better. Get it here
1 Scoop Raw Protein Not surprisingly, this adds protein to the drink. I like Raw Protein better than whey. Many of the vegetable based protein powders taste awful, Raw Protein is pretty good. Get it here
1 Teaspoon Psyllium Husk Powder This seems to add a, regularity, to the Super-Goop
5 ice cubes (or 4 on days with frozen avocado) Ice cubes make Super-Goop taste more slushy (and less sludgy)
8 oz water This serves 2 purposes: 1) makes it smoother, 2) makes you less likely to start a fire with your blender

Result

If you follow the recipe above, you will make one serving, 24 - 32 oz of Super-Goop. You can enjoy the whole thing yourself, or share. Do NOT refrigerate, always drink right after you make it (you can pack it in a cooler with ice for a few hours, but overnight in a refrigerator is not okay).

Bonus Shake

Do not put peanut butter, bananas, grapes, apples, or pears in the Super-Goop. I’ve tried it. It’s not good. If you do want peanut butter and bananas, here in 1 sentence is what I have for breakfast every morning: 8 oz milk (or coconut milk), 1 banana, 2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter (the one made from just peanuts), 4 ice cubes, 1 scoop of Vanilla 365 Whey Protein.

Closing Thoughts

Please let me know if you try Super-Goop and what you think, and especially let me know if you successfully try new ingredients!


Notes:

1) Not actually famous
2) I’ve gained back about 10 lbs, but would have definitely gained back all the weight without Super-Goop, and am in the (relatively easy) process of losing the 10
3) I’m a morning person when I wake up for it

Author: Jeff D'Urso Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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