We have done over a thousand interviews here on IdeaMensch. If you have the time, I recommend you read them all. I did. You are going to learn so much from people who’re more or less just like you and I. Plus you’ll have something to do for the next month or two.
Instead, I am going to make it easier for you and write a monthly digest of the best lessons I learned that month. Also, if you signup for our email newsletter on the right, you’ll be the first to receive these as well as other free and awesome content.
Here are the best lessons I learned in July.
Enjoy. And implement some.
1. Get 5 tasks done by 8am
Nancy MacIntyre gets up at 5:45 every morning, reads her emails, drinks two Diet Cokes, drives to work and makes her east coast calls. Her goal is to have 5 tasks done by 8am, which must feel awesome. Truth be told, I am happy to get 5 tasks done in an average day but doing it by 8am certainly would make the rest of the day much more fulfilling.
2. Adopt the build/measure/learn feedback loop
When it comes to identifying a habit to pass on to other founders Mac Gambill would strongly encourage adopting the build/measure/learn feedback loop proposed by Eric Ries in “The Lean Startup.” Few decisions he makes with his platform are perfect from conception, so they are constantly looking for ways to test their hypothesis and gather feedback before investing time into an initiative. Once they have gathered feedback, they are able to make the decision to scrap, iterate or move forward accordingly. The idea is to constantly be testing in order to ensure they are providing value with everything they release.
3. Build small experiments
John Bodrozic recommends to build small experiments to measure and validate your business assumptions. This applies to building a product or a service, to determining a customer acquisition approach, to testing various monetization approaches. They have done this at HomeZada where they did multiple experiments for their product, experiments on where to market, and best of all, experimenting and proving that homeowners are willing to pay a subscription fee for a service that helps them manage their home.
4. Start with a solid accounting system on day 1
Jasper Mutsaerts tells us to focus on a solid accounting system from day 1. There is no agony worse than repairing your accounting system retroactively for a 6-month period. Speaking from personal experience, I couldn’t agree more.
5. Pick the hardest thing on your to do list every morning and get it done first
In other words, every morning you should pick the hardest thing on your to do list and get it out of the way. It’s counterintuitive, but I find that the sense of relief of eliminating a difficult item gives me incredible momentum throughout the rest of the day. Says Ian Ippolito in his IdeaMensch interview.
6. Constantly do things that you aren’t good at
Seibo Shen recommends to constantly do things that you aren’t good at. In doing this, you continue to develop your skill set, while keeping yourself humble. As you progress and refine different skills, you will discover that there are universal rules as to how one can become successful just by having the proper approach.
7. Ask the right questions rather than have the right answers
Jason Halstead is addicted to asking questions. Here is what he says about that.
“I’m addicted to asking questions. In fact, in my job it’s hugely more important to ask the right questions rather than have all the right answers. I’m an innately curious person. I’ve always asked, “Why?” I think every entrepreneur should back up the bus and look at the real reasons and roots behind the current change, need, idea, or initiative”
8. Find a niche and work the hell out of it
Find a niche and work the hell out of it. I hate being a “me too” product and absolutely refused to give in to that. When we started this company, TextPower, five years ago, text messaging services were really starting to ramp up for marketing – coupons, promos, VIP clubs, etc. – and we were determined to carve out a different niche and focus on that. We picked a very un-sexy market – utilities and municipalities – with the knowledge that other companies didn’t want to touch them because of the long sales cycle involved.
From past experience my partner and I knew that those long sales cycles lead to long-term clients. Once you sign a utility or municipality it means that they’ve gone through a rigorous and thorough examination and approval process. That leads to a long-term relationship. Treat them well, price your service fairly and provide the world’s best service and you’ll have those customers a long time. Had we taken the same approach as everyone else took at that time we’d be in much the same position as many other companies like ours that started then – broke and out of business.
In short, if everyone else is selling black shoes, you should sell brown shoes.
Well said, Mr Scott Goldman.
9. Never re-invent the wheel
This seems basic, but is awesome. Ashley Crowder tells us to never re-invent the wheel, always start by researching what already exists to solve similar problems. This will consistently save you lots of time and headaches.
10. Use incentives to grow your business
Fabian Dudek encourages us to use incentives to grow your business. Make sure to give everyone on your team to do exactly the job you hired them for. In small businesses things can get messy quickly, incentives can help to keep the focus of everyone on what is actually important.
11. Turn every meeting into another meeting
Frankly, this seems exhausting but if you’re serious about growing your network, do what Jordan Passman tells us to do. Turn every meeting into another meeting. And repeat. Then you are expanding your network infinitely. Also, be nice to every one and reply to every email as quickly as possible.
12. Write immediate follow up emails when you meet someone
Ok, I promise this is the last piece of networking advice. But being someone who isn’t very good at exactly this and consequently never follows up properly, I can tell you that it makes a lot of sense.
Every single time you meet someone and get their business card, write them a follow-up email that same night. It doesn’t matter if you barely have a useful reason to connect with them. If you liked them, and you spoke for more than 5 minutes, then you can write them a short email offering to help them with [however you can add value]. If you end up having a good exchange after that, suggest migrating the discussion to coffee and scheduling it right there on the spot. And after that coffee, it is appropriate to connect with them on LinkedIn.
Thanks Andrew Cohen.
Ok, let’s move on to two great pieces of management advice.
13. Complement your team members often and at random
Kevin Shaw recommends you compliment your team members often and at random. You’d be surprised how many times an encouraging word, text, email, phone call or tweet will get your team member to do their best work. I make it a habit to shoot a quick email to people telling them how much I appreciate their effort or to complement them on a job well done.
14. Move the desks around in your office
Move desks around in the office. It annoys everyone to no end, but it’s a very easy way to have different groups and people work together. That makes sense Hagan Major.
15. Focus on a specific problem and solve it
This advice is crucial if you want to have a successful business. Aziz Lalljee says:
“I tend to fixate on a specific problem or task until I solve it, or at least until I reach some terminal understanding of the issue. At a startup, different people, tasks, and ideas constantly vie for your attention – it’s so easy to engage superficially and move on. You end up with a very large pile on that mental back-burner!”
16. Focus on revenue
While we’re talking about focusing.
Focus on revenue. This runs contrary to the traditional Silicon Valley mindset of “build something cool with a large audience, and the money will come later.”
We decided that we wanted to be a product that people would pay for early on. That enabled us to do “crazy” things like, say, only build things people would find valuable enough to pay for and only sell to people who would pay for it. It seems insane, I know, but I believe that’s a huge reason why we’re still around today.
Ok, let’s do four more and see if we can get this list to twenty.
17. Don’t read about business
Peter Manning recommends you don’t read about business, read a novel or history that interests you. There is so much to be gleaned from the human condition and the best novels and history can teach you more about how we behave and think and conduct ourselves than a business manual.
18. Mention your ideas to others
Want to know if your idea is a good one? An easy way to find out is to just tell others according to Clay Bethune.
“Most ideas sound good in theory — until you mention them to others. So I like to bring my team together a couple of times each week to throw out new ideas. Almost instantly, you know if you have a winner or a loser.”
19. Remember, hard work will eventually pay off
Hard work will always pay off. You have to believe that if you put a great amount of time and effort in something, sooner or later you will see the results. Thanks Sara. You are right.
Ok, this last one is the key to all the above. Because if you never get started with your idea, you will never know.
20. Get started now
Here is what Jennifer Aubin tells us about that.
If I were starting over today, I would have jumped into it faster. My partner and I took our time getting started. I think we were both afraid of the commitment, but we quickly realized how committed we wanted to be and we haven’t looked back.
Thanks for letting us use this really cool photo.