Having a great idea really doesn’t mean much – it’s all in the execution.
Scott Goldman is a veteran of the wireless industry – a dynamic, entrepreneurial executive with deep knowledge and personal contacts at the highest levels. He has worked closely with companies globally in the development, planning and launch of advanced wireless technologies and services.
For years Mr. Goldman has been conceptualizing, launching, building, operating, licensing and, in several cases, selling wireless businesses around the world. During his time in the wireless industry he has traveled to more than 20 countries to assist governments and enterprises, has written books, magazine articles, blog posts, given keynote speeches at major industry events around the world, been interviewed more than 500 times in print, radio, TV, live webcasts and much more.
Where did the idea for TextKey come from?
Most of my business ideas start on bike rides, usually while climbing a long hill. Your heart gets pumping and the adrenaline has a way of clearing your head. That’s where the original idea for TextKey, our website security product, started. The unique aspect of TextKey that makes it incredibly secure (and patent-pending), though, came during a company lunch when we collectively had an “Aha!” moment realizing that sending text messages *from* a phone was infinitely more secure than the way that everyone else’s method of sending text message *to* a phone.
I’ve often used the example of when basketball or Post-It notes were invented. Legend has it that when basketball was first invented a peach basket was nailed to a pole and a guy stood on a ladder retrieving the ball from the basket whenever anyone sunk a shot. One day, after years of this, the bottom fell out of the basket, the ball went straight through it and everyone looked at each other and said, “Duh – so simple! How come nobody ever thought of this before.” The same thing happened with Post-It Notes. The scientist who created them was actually trying to make a permanent adhesive and thought he had failed. He took all the pads of paper he had made with the remainders of his experiment and passed them around the office in an effort to get rid of them. Within days there were yellow “stickies” all over the place and Post-Its was invented. Another “Duh – so simple!” moment.
The point is that the scientific theory called “Occam’s Razor” often applies in business. It says: Often the most simple and obvious solution is the best. TextKey is simple and incredibly effective.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Don’t freak out – my day starts at about 5:30 AM. After living on Pacific Time for all these years I’ve gotten accustomed to working on East Coast hours. It’s just a necessity or you lose half the day. I typically start by checking email and there are about a dozen standard reports and updates that arrive overnight – server status, news updates, competition-tracking alerts, and so on. That usually precipitates a bunch that I send out and the volley begins.
I typically work for a couple of hours and then continue reading and working through breakfast. I take an hour in the kitchen but there’s probably only about five minutes of actual eating in between the tapping, swiping and scrolling. I swear I think I’ve swiped my toast and buttered my iPad at least once by mistake. But that’s the first time each day that I catch up on RSS feeds (usually 100+ articles twice a day), the three Twitter accounts I manage and monitor and see if there are any messages waiting on Skype. Email keeps chiming in all the time so I hardly even count that as an activity anymore – it’s more like a pulse: if it stops, I’m dead.
Conference calls and presentations are usually scheduled for as early as I can get customers and prospects to do it. Any later and you run the risk of people getting distracted with other problems and running out of time in their day. My advice: set phone/Skype/conference appointments for as early as you can. It’s the same theory as catching the first flight out when you’re traveling… things are a lot less likely to be screwed up or stacked up when you’re the first one out of the gate.
Being productive means being efficient so I use every computer shortcut known to mankind. Keystrokes, not mouse clicks, scripts instead of repetitive tasks, tons of memory to keep a dozen applications running and a big screen to see it all. Don’t skimp – these are your tools – buy the biggest and best computer you can afford. If you were a carpenter you wouldn’t buy a small, cheap hammer. When you’re running a company and helping out in sales, marketing, support, strategy and operations you need a BIG hammer. Invest the time to learn the fastest way to do things. It pays dividends forever.
Productivity also comes from clarity. Between customers, pending sales, support issues and forward-thinking it’s easy for your brain to get fogged. Clear it. Find out what works for you – running, yoga, knitting, singing or cooking, it doesn’t matter – and do it at least a couple of times a week and on the weekend. For me, it’s cycling. I clock 150-200 miles/week and my brain knows when I’ve slacked off more quickly than my fitness does. I have a Wednesday morning ride that’s sacrosanct to the point where my entire team knows where I’ll be and not to interrupt me unless the building is on fire (metaphorically speaking, I mean – we’re a totally virtual company) and I sneak out for a quick ride on either Tuesday or Thursday instead of eating lunch. A clear head is a productive head.
Afternoons are for the team. Discussions, planning, helping, cajoling and acknowledging are all part of leadership, management and business. Productivity can’t just be about yourself – it’s got to be about everyone else, too. Getting the most out of the people that you work with is the most effective way to be productive. I try to accommodate other people’s schedules and juggle morning activities if they prefer to work that way but it’s a moving target. Having a day that runs completely as planned is like seeing a white unicorn – pretty rare and you’ll remember it for a long time.
Evenings are family time. Get a grip on reality, people – what are you doing this for other than for your family’s future? And what good does it do to work towards the future when the present is slipping away? Spend time with your spouse or significant other, kids if you’ve got them and find out what’s making them tick or boiling their blood every day. It’ll bring perspective back to your life in a way that no proposal or Powerpoint ever could. After everyone is done for the night I do pop into the home office, answer email and clear the desk for the next day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a collector of great quotes and there are two that apply here, oddly from the same person – Thomas Edison. The greatest inventor of our time said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If you can’t figure out a way to make it work you need to look at it differently. Repeating the same process over and over again often leaves you drained and frustrated. Take a break and talk to some colleagues or friends about it. You’ll get a different perspective and will be surprised by their smarts. They may think that what they’re saying is just everyday knowledge but to you it could be the key to a problem you’re working on that you couldn’t solve yourself.
Edison also said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Having a great idea really doesn’t mean much – it’s all in the execution. What this means to me is that you should respect the other people on your team that make the trains run on time. No matter how many patents you get on your left-handed-purple-skyhook you still need to sell it, collect the money, get them shipped, handle the returns, etc., etc. The people on the assembly line, the code warriors, the assistants that keep the coffee cabinet stocked – everyone – is essential. Don’t ever overlook anyone on the operational side and make the mistake of thinking that success is all thanks to you.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Going mobile. It’s a life-changer. I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and was shocked that the average home or apartment in Japan, for example, didn’t have room for a desktop computer. We’re accustomed to big here – big everything – and small is more common around the world. With little space to dedicate for a computer room or home office a lot of people’s *only* access to the Internet was via their mobile so they were, for the longest time, light years ahead of us in that space. We’re catching up quickly and the shift is unstoppable. Tablets are killing desktop PCs and smartphones are killing flip-phones. It’s the Internet everywhere. I’ve heard people talk about the “Internet of things.” It’s not that, really, that’s changing the world – it’s the Internet of *places*. The grid is everywhere and that is what allows the Internet of things and the development of incredible products and apps.
I’ve asked lots of seniors who have seen the popularization of phones, cars, jets, computers – even electricity in some cases – what has been the most significant change that they have witnessed during their. Without exception they’ve all said the Internet. It’s the equalizer that puts Joe’s Garage on the same playing field as the Exxon gas they pump. But putting the Internet everywhere, all the time, is the shift that will put a dent in the universe.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Insisting on keeping the things that customers see as simple as possible. It’s so easy to let the complexity of products and services get out of hand but if you can’t explain it to a prospect in a sentence or two you’ll never sell it. Keep the tech-speak to yourself and the inside of the company – speak in plain language to everyone else. Part of the benefit of doing this is that when you talk to people who are not prospects but are well-connected to others they’ll be able to relate what you do. Speak to people as if they’ll have to tell your story to someone else. My company provides an SMS-based authentication system using a patent-pending mobile-originated message model for multiple factors of protection – but that’s not what I tell people in casual conversation. When they ask I tell them that we make websites safer just by sending a simple text message. They get that. If they ask for more I give them one more layer of the onion. If not, they can relate it to someone else and if the other person is considering authentication or security for their website or VPN my contact will know enough to get them to speak to me.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Working at a gas station during the summer. I wanted to stay away from home during the summer break while I was away at school. My Mom thought it was perfectly okay to do that she wasn’t about to support me and told me I needed to get a job. The only one I could find was at a gas station. The manager was a good guy and was able to see past my hippie-standard pony tail… as long as I was willing to tuck it under my official Hess-branded cap all day.
This work was tough, demanding – and hot. Every single car that rolled in had to be gassed up (this was well before self-serve pumps were ubiquitous) and a litany of services performed: clean the front and rear windshield, clean the headlights and brake lights, both side view mirrors, check the oil and transmission fluid and ask the customer if they wanted me to check the air pressure in the tires. It was grueling, especially wearing a jumpsuit (also required) in the summer heat.
I learned that doing a thorough job matters and that even the little things matter. In fact sometimes customers look past some of the big things if you get the little things right. I’ve been a stickler for detail – like grammar and spelling in a company brochure and website – ever since then and it has served me well. I also learned that appearances matter; I wore a clean jumpsuit every day, painted the curbs on the pump islands bright white every two weeks and even kept the bathrooms clean. There were plenty of other gas stations in town but ours was, by far, the busiest. We looked after the little things and made sure we looked good at the same time. It matters.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d take more advantage of people who knew other people. Nobody called it networking when I grew up – it was just who you knew. I was stubborn and cocky and wanted to “make it on my own” and too dumb to realize that using connections like that *is* the way people make it on their own. I’d advise others to participate in things outside the office – charity events, neighborhood clean-ups, volunteering, sports, whatever – and get to know as many people as you can. Become a master networker but do things for others first long before you ever ask them to do something for you. It could lead to a much bigger break much sooner.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Test, test, test. When you are introducing a new product to the market you want to be sure that your demos, presentations and introductions are flawless. Test the product or the website dozens of times each day and at least several times before each presentation – even if you just checked it an hour ago. And rehearse a hundred times – in front of a mirror and in front of other people – so that you know your material cold. You could have the best invention since the paper clip and if you’re not smooth and articulate introducing it to people you’ll fail.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
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.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Years ago I wanted to control my travel and switched industries from wireless – which had me spending 100+ nights/year in hotels and flying 100K miles/year – to real estate so that I could stay local. The plan was to build a real estate company that would provide a different platform for agents instead of the traditional commission-split arrangement by using technology. It bombed. Totally. It was too far ahead of the curve; at the time most agents didn’t know how to attach a photo to an email, much less understand how to utilize the advanced technologies we provided for marketing. Moreover, it required me to start as a regular real estate agent showing homes, sitting in on open houses and giving up weekend mornings to drive people around town. I can’t remember despising anything more. I wanted to work ON the business, not IN the business. I hated it and got out as soon as I realized what a mistake it was. Had I spoken to anyone who knew me as a professional entrepreneur instead of just plowing straight ahead I think they’d have told me I was nuts. And I was.
I fixed it by getting out as fast as I could. I cut my losses – which were big – and restarted in the wireless industry. I still tried to minimize my travel by using more technology – video conferences, screen sharing, file sharing systems, etc. – but got back to what I knew and really enjoyed. If I had stuck with real estate I’d have probably made a decent living but would have hated every day for the rest of my life. Who needs that? Life is short so you better enjoy it every day.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I recently had the experience of making the rounds of several different doctor’s offices and found myself filling out the same forms over and over and over again for each doctor. Can’t someone put all of this in a central repository that I can fill out just once and then give people a revokable permission to access it? There’s got to be a huge demand for something like this.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’m a big fan of Bugs Bunny. There are cartoon cels, drawings, books and trinkets of the Wascally Wabbit all over my office. I’ve loved him since I was a kid and still keep about 20 classic cartoons on my iPad for travel. I usually watch one on each flight for total distraction; sometimes the funniest part is the look on other people’s faces when they see what I’m watching. It’s a great distraction for a few minutes and takes you about as far as you can get from business in a flash. If you ever get me on a video conference look closely over my shoulder – there’s a poster of Bugs right there.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
ScheduleOnce totally rocks. The ability to offer people a view of available times on my calendar and letting them choose one that works for them has been an enormous help in avoiding email volleys. It’s a great sales tool, too, when you can tell people to choose something that works for them instead of asking if they’re available Tuesday at 11 or Thursday at 3.
Google, of course, but I’ve set up my searches differently and recommend that others do, too. I’ve modified the Google search page by selecting “Time/Within the last year” for my searches and then bookmarking that page. It’s enormously helpful in having only recent results show up instead of links that are several years old; ancient by web standards. Your method may be to search within a specific geography or to otherwise filter or limit your searches somehow, but once you find the formula that works for you bookmark that page and use it instead of just going to Google.com for your searches – you’ll save a lot of time every day.
Applescript and FastScripts keyboard shortcuts. Like a lot of other people I do many things repetitively – like moving emails I’ve read from the Inbox to a particular folder, or opening a launching a particular application. I don’t like using the mouse or trackpad any more than I absolutely have to because it lacks the precision of a keystroke. Trying to move the cursor, for example, to the red button on the window that closes it isn’t nearly as fast or precise as using the keystroke “Command-W” which closes it immediately. Keystrokes save a few seconds here and there, a few minutes by the end of the day and hours by the end of the month. Anyone who isn’t using keystrokes to move around their screen, open and close applications and documents, perform repeating functions and other common tasks is just wasting time. That drives me nuts.
Pandora and iTunes radio are lifesavers for me. I use them all during the day when I need a quiet environment for thinking or just shutting out everything else. I pay the annual fee on both, too, and not because I don’t want the commercials, although that’s a nice benefit. I pay it because I believe you have to support the services you use and like. I probably invest $500/year in software subscriptions that I could get for free. It’s a cheap way to encourage innovation and support developers. They’re the unsung heroes of technology. Without them you could have the fanciest hardware in the galaxy without anything to do with it. With developers creating great apps and software they can make a cheap computer sit up and bark. Give them the support that they have earned and they’ll build more helpful apps and continue supporting the ones you use. The attitude of expecting to get everything for free eventually backfires because people can’t work for nothing.
Dropbox is essential for my company and for me personally. Without a simple service that gives me access to everything from everywhere we’d be lost. Using Dropbox puts the “mo” in mobility – mo places, mo time and mo access to everything. I honestly don’t know how a startup – or even an individual – can work without it.
Skype has helped me cut down on my travel, stay in touch with business people and friends around the world and cut back on email by having quick conversations instead of clogging my inbox with endless rounds of email volleys. Instant conference calls, file transfers, presence indication and consistently high audio quality have made it the communications tool of choice for our company.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Read “Unbroken.” It’s the story of a World War II soldier who was lost at sea for a hundred days and then brutally treated in prison camps. The perseverance, faith in his own ability to survive and determination to stay alive and make it back home is inspiring and adds perspective to your own problems. I’ve read most of the others that people recommend – “The Art of War” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless – Customer Loyalty is Priceless” both come to mind – that are excellent, helpful and worthwhile books, but if want something that makes you think about surviving and prospering read “Unbroken.” It’s one of those life-changing experiences that comes along very rarely.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Maybe this won’t go over big with the community here, but I don’t think that the people who really influence anyone’s thinking in a positive way can be of interest to others. That’s because the real influences come from people on the inside of your life, not the outside. Sure, Steve Jobs, Neil Armstrong, Sun-Tzu and Abraham Lincoln are all influential people whose methods and writings are important and prerequisite for business thinkers. But look inside your family and circle of friends to find the ones that can really influence you in a positive way. There have been several in my life whose influences have been everlasting.
My uncles taught me the value of hard work and ethics. My friend Mort taught me that it’s never too late to learn something new. My mentor, coach and friend Harvey has taught me about loyalty, how to look at problems from different perspectives and how to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable. And my mother, who has taught me that nothing is impossible even under the most trying circumstances and that you can never go wrong by doing the right thing.
Those are the influential people in my life – and I suspect that there is a similar group in everyone’s life, too – that really made a difference. Successful business people, sports heroes and great thinkers may be admirable or set a goal for you to reach, but a book won’t influence your thinking nearly as much as someone you’re close to who you trust. Seek out the right people and get everything you can from them. They are the true great influencers in your world that will keep you on the straight and narrow road and propel you to success.
Scott Goldman on Twitter: @ScottJGoldman
Scott Goldman on LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ScottGoldman-LinkedIn
Scott Goldman on YouTube: http://bit.ly/ScottGoldman-YouTube
Scott Goldman on Quora: http://bit.ly/ScottGoldman-Quora