9 unusual, effective rules for successful meetings

I love Scott Kveton, the CEO of Urban Airship. He and his team are building an amazing company in Portland. If you do anything mobile-related and use push notifications of any sort, or real-time location targeting, you need to be talking to them. But even more impressive is how Scott leads his company.

The other day, I got an email from my partner Jason with a photo of the Urban Airship Meeting Rules posted on the wall. They are so logical as to be rules that should apply to every meeting at every startup from now until forever.

0. Do we really need to meet?

1. Schedule a start, not an end to your meeting – its over when its over, even if that’s just 5 minutes.

2. Be on time!

3. No multi-tasking … no device usage unless necessary for meeting

4. If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave

5. Meetings are not for information sharing – that should be done before the meeting via email and/or agenda

6. Who really needs to be at this meeting?

7. Agree to action items, if any, at the conclusion of the meeting

8. Don’t feel bad about calling people out on any of the above; it’s the right thing to do.

I particularly love 0, 1, and 4. I rarely walk out of a meeting when I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m going to start paying more attention to this one.


Explaining Customer Centricity With a Diagram

What does it mean to be “customer-centric” as a business? Assuming that you start with a quality product and service, being customer-centric means understanding the customer’s point of view and respecting the customer’s interest. You fix problems, handle complaints, and remember individual customer preferences.

But customer centricity isn’t merely a matter of adding up these different components of quality, service, insight and responsiveness. You can introduce all these ideas into your business model, but if you don’t grapple with your company’s most basic strategic objective, then sooner or later your efforts will fail.

In the past I’ve found it helpful to explain the contrast between customer centricity and product centricity by using a diagram, illustrating visually that these two strategies actually represent different “dimensions” of competition. If you think about it, for a business to be competitively successful, it must meet two conditions:

  1. It must be able to satisfy a customer’s need, and
  2. It must have a customer who wants that need satisfied.

So first we should visualize a “marketing space” defined by the customer needs a business can satisfy (the vertical dimension) and by the number of customers it has (the horizontal dimension). Then we can map customer centricity and product centricity on the same diagram:

Product-centric competition is based on having a product that meets a certain customer need, and then trying to find as many customers as possible who want to have that need met. Success is measured by the length of the horizontal arrow (i.e., how many customers are reached). In competitive terms, this would represent your company’s market share.

But customer-centric competition starts with an individual customer and tries to meet as many of that customer’s needs as possible – across all the company’s divisions and business units, and through time (i.e., meeting a customer’s needs week after week, month after month). And the length of the vertical arrow represents your share of customer.

From this diagram it should be clear that customer centricity doesn’t actually conflict with product centricity, because they aren’t opposite in direction but orthogonal, so they have little or no effect on each other. That is, the strategies and tactics you follow to be more product centric will have little effect on your share of customer, while customer-centric strategies will have little effect on your market share.

By using the graph to contrast customer centricity and product centricity, the difference between these two competitive strategies is now obvious:

A product-centric competitor focuses on one product at a time and tries to sell that product to as many customers as possible.

A customer-centric competitor focuses on one customer at a time and tries to sell that customer as many products as possible.

But there are two more points worth explaining about the diagram:

First, on this two-dimensional marketing space, the vertical dimension isn’t defined by products, per se, but by customer needs. So when you think about your “share of customer” don’t just think about it in terms of wallet share. Instead, ask yourself what share of this customer’s needs are you actually meeting? What share of the customer’s life are you participating in? And what additional products or services might allow you to increase your participation in the customer’s life, overall?

Second, the financial objective for a product-centric competitor is to maximize the value created by each product, while the financial objective for a customer-centric competitor is to maximize the value created by each customer. But unlike products, customers have memories. This means that the business a customer generates for you tomorrow, either as a repeat customer or as a reference for other customers, is based largely on their memory of how well they were treated today.

The implications of this final distinction are very important, because customers are the link between the profit you make today and the profit you are likely to make tomorrow. The customer relationship directly connects today's profits and costs to your company's overall shareholder value.

Another way to think about it: Tracking a customer relationship is like watching a movie in progress, while tracking your product sales involves taking snapshots of the business situation at different times.


11 Ways Successful People Start Their Mornings

11 Ways Successful People Start Their Mornings

by Sam of Financial Upside

The day may have 24 hours of equivalent length but every hour is not created equal.  Beginning the day with a purpose and a plan increases your chances of success.

In her book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, Laura Vanderkam writes, “Seizing your mornings is the equivalent of that sound financial advice to pay yourself first.  If you wait until the end of the month to save what you have left, there will be nothing left over.  Likewise, if you wait until the end of the day to do meaningful but not urgent things like exercise, pray, read, ponder how to advance your career or grow your organization, or truly give your family your best, it probably won’t happen.”

Here are 11 smart ways to start your day.  I would suggest that the most successful people do the majority of these things during the first couple hours of their morning as part of their daily routine.

  1. Get an early start.  This extra time will help you avoid speeding tickets, tardiness and other unnecessary headaches.  In addition, most markets and businesses open by 9 A.M.  Whether you work from home or commute to an office, the more time you’ve had to digest the day’s news and obstacles ahead, the greater advantage you’ll have over your competition.
  2. Review your Focus list.  What is your number one goal right now?  What’s most important to you?  What makes you happy?  Design your time around these things.  Remember, time is your greatest limited resource, because no matter how hard you try you can’t work 25/8.
  3. Review your TO-DON’T list.  A ‘TO-DON’T list’ is a list of things not to do.  It might seem amusing, but it’s an incredibly useful tool for keepingtrack of unproductive habits, like checking Facebook and Twitter, randomly browsing news websites, etc.  Create one and post it up in your workspace where you can see it.
  4. Exercise.  Other than the obvious health benefits, movement increases brain function and decreases stress levels.  Developing a consistent habit of exercising is a discipline which will carry over into your business day – Apple CEO, Tim Cook, is in the gym by 5 A.M. every morning.  If you can, go outside for a walk, or jump on the treadmill and start out slow.  This will jump-start your metabolism and your day.
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast.  Your brain and body speed are a function of what you intake.  Bagels, muffins and sugars have the tendency to slow you down.  Fruits, proteins and grains help provide a consistent stream of energy without the sudden drop-off.   Try a mixture of orange, apple and lemon juice with a spinach omelet one morning and let me know how much better you feel.
  6. Kiss your partner goodbye.  It sounds cheesy, but most truly successful people have a great home life.  Acknowledging your partner (and kids) mentally relaxes you, allowing you to focus on the day ahead.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re striving to be successful so they may benefit as well.
  7. Practice 15 minutes of positive visualization.  In his program Get the Edge, Tony Robbins explains the importance of gratitude visualization first thing every morning.  In a nutshell, spend roughly 15 minutes thinking of everything you’re grateful for: in yourself, among your family and friends, in your career, and the like.  After that, visualize everything you want in your life as if you had it today.  The effect?  Elevated certainty in everything you do, and always being in peak state.  Despite how ‘new age’ it sounds, it’s had incredible effects on associating success into my every-day life.
  8. Put first things first.  Successful people recognize that not all hours are created equal, and they strategically account for this when planning their day.  For most of us, our minds operate at peak performance in the morning hours when we’re well rested.  So obviously it would be foolish to use this time for a trivial task like reading emails.  These peak performance hours should be 100% dedicated to working on the tasks that bring you closer to your goals.
  9. Eat that frog.  Brian Tracy’s classic time-management book Eat That Frog gets its title from a Mark Twain quote that says, if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you’ve got it behind you for the rest of the day, and nothing else will be more difficult.  In others words, get the tough stuff done first.
  10. Connect with the right people.  Relationships are the basis of business – communication is the basis of relationships.  Successful people associate with people who are likeminded, focused, and supportive.  These people create energy when they enter the room, versus those who create energy when they leave.  Connecting with these positive people in the morning can set you up for a positive day.
  11. Stay informed.  Whether you prefer National Public Radio or the Wall Street Journal, spend a few minutes each morning learning about what is going on in the world.  Not only will it educate you, it may change your perspective or inspire your actions for the day.

"Aha" Moments from Traffic and Conversion Summit in San Francisco This Weekend!

Growthinkers - this is a blog post I wrote regarding the Traffic and Conversion Summit that Dave, Pete, and I attended in San Francisco this past weekend (along with 2,000 others).  I think all of it is highly relevant to Growthink's business challenge and opportunities now, but especially the component in regards to resisting the "false siren" of new client acquisition as opposed to working with clients now (in bold below).  GREAT advice both for our firm as well as our clients!!!


This weekend I had the very good fortune to attend Ryan Deis and Perry Belcher's Traffic and Conversion Summit in downtown San Francisco.

 Headlined by speakers including Guy Kawasaki and William Shatner, it was an awesome gathering of 2,000+ of the best, brightest, and most accomplished from the worlds of online marketing and sales.

“Aha” moments were aplenty for all who made the effort to attend.  Here were a few of mine:

These are the Worst AND the Best of Times for New Client Acquisition. 

To large part because of gatherings like this - where the best SEO, SEM / PPC, landing page, copy-writing, and e-mail marketing strategies, tactics, and techniques are shared and then used (and in volume) by creative and aggressive marketers worldwide - it is more challenging than ever to attract new customers online.

Today’s online buyers have developed a killer combination of hardened skepticism AND sky high expectations as to pricing, product and service features and benefits, and to performance guarantees.

Now for the ambitious online seller this represents not just a great challenge, but an incredible opportunity as well.

You see, while these expectations have driven up customer acquisition costs, they have also driven the cost of a competitor acquiring that customer away from you even higher.

Now, this is where most companies who sell online get off track.

The very nature of the web - with its seductive ease of marketing to prospective customers worldwide - often causes the very dangerous myopia of neglecting those so good and honorable folks that are your customers now.

It is a bit funny that this was my big "aha" moment from a conference gathering of the some of the world’s biggest, baddest, and most aggressive online marketers.

And this led to my second aha.

The truth is already out there.

In this brave new world of ours where tens of hundreds of thousands of online businesses worldwide put their best stuff online for all the world to see…

…that imitation is not just the highest form of flattery, but it is great business strategy as well.

 Now yes, what to do with all of this stuff can often feel overwhelming.

 And this is where events like the Traffic and Conversion Summit are so valuable. 

Ryan and Perry and their merry band curate and interpret this global treasure trove of strategies, techniques, and tactics for you.

AND they give you a framework for how to do so yourself.

And finally, the energy one draws from a gathering of 2,000+ of decidedly private sector, decidedly ambitious Internet entrepreneurs and executives…

 ...animates in one the energy and inspiration to take all of this knowledge and translate it into that most precious of all business assets.


The Art of Adding by Taking Away

NORMALLY I have more ideas than I know what to do with. Several years ago, however, I ran out of them.

At the time, I was working closely with the senior leadership of a very large and successful Japanese company. I had been hired to help it develop new ideas and strategies in the United States, but was struggling with a particularly difficult project that required me to reconcile two completely different perspectives. (Eastern and Western ways of thinking are often at odds with each other.) I found myself at a standstill.

I must not have done a very good job of hiding how useless I was feeling, because a 2,500-year-old snippet of Chinese philosophy found its way to me anonymously, via a handwritten note on a Post-it stuck to my work space.

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day,” it said, capsulizing teachings of Lao Tzu. “Profit comes from what is there, usefulness from what is not there.”

My first thought was, “Someone wants me gone — I’d be more useful that way.” But as I read it again and thought about it, lightning struck.

It dawned on me that I’d been looking at my problem in the wrong way. As is natural and intuitive, I had been looking at what to do, rather than what not to do. But as soon as I shifted my perspective, I was able to complete the project successfully.

Even though the idea of subtracting things every day was thousands of years old, it was still radical to me. I decided to explore the idea further.

I discovered an essay by the management educator Jim Collins, in which he confirmed the ancient philosophy: “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”

In reading several articles in scientific literature, I discovered that subtraction lights up a brain scan differently than addition does, because it uses different circuitry. In fact, accident victims suffering brain injuries often lose their ability to both add and subtract, retaining only one of the two. Subtraction is literally a different way of thinking.

While it hadn’t occurred to me to use subtraction in my own job, I realized that it is at the root of many professions. Scientists, mathematicians and engineers search for theories that explain highly complex phenomena in stunningly simple ways. Musicians and composers use pauses in the music — silence — to create dramatic tension. Athletes and dancers search for maximum impact with minimal effort. Filmmakers, novelists and songwriters strive to tell simple stories that foster both multiple meanings and universal resonance.

The principle of subtraction carries over to the corporate world. Here are some examples: W. L. Gore, recognized as one of the world’s most innovative companies, eliminated job titles in order to release employees’ creativity. When it started out, Scion, the youth-oriented unit of Toyota, decided not to advertise, and it reduced the number of standard features on its vehicles to allow buyers to customize their cars. The British bank First Direct operates successfully without branches, relying instead on Internet, telephone and mobile transactions. Steve Jobs revolutionized the world’s concept of a cellphone by removing the physical keyboard from the iPhone. Instagram, acquired last year by Facebook, grew quickly once its first version, called Burbn, was stripped of many of its features and reworked to focus on one thing: photos.

THINK about what you could do — or rather not do — in your own life that would put these principles into play. There are two easy ways to begin subtracting things every day:

First, create a “not to do” list to accompany your to-do list. Give careful thought to prioritizing your goals, projects and tasks, then eliminate the bottom 20 percent of the list — forever.

Second, ask those who matter to you most — clients, colleagues, family members and friends — what they would like you to stop doing. Warning: you may be surprised at just how long the list is.

The lesson I’ve learned from my pursuit of less is powerful in its simplicity: when you remove just the right things in just the right way, something good happens.

Matthew E. May is the author of “The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything.”


How To Be A Super-Achiever: The 10 Qualities That Matter

What do actor Alec Baldwin, game-show champion Ken Jennings and baseball icon Yogi Berra have in common?

That’s what husband-and-wife duo Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield set out to discover. For their upcoming book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, they interviewed 36 star performers that climbed to the tops of their various fields.

“We didn’t want to theorize about success,” says Gosfield. “We went straight to the source, finding the most amazing people in all fields and asking them, ‘How do you do what you do?’”

Interview after interview with some of the world’s most successful people—actress Laura Linney, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, crossword mastermind Will Shortz—they began seeing patterns emerge. No matter how diverse their goals or crafts, these super-achievers shared many of the same habits. How can you follow in their footsteps? These are the 10 qualities that will set you apart.

Dedication To A Vision

“Every great success starts with inspiration, but not every inspiration leads to success,” Gosfield says. “The most common thing we found was these people’s devotion to the day-to-day struggle.” Glossy magazine success stories often don’t show the dark moments, the daily grind or flagging energy that super-achievers endure to realize their goals. However, that dedication is essential to their success.

Intelligent Persistence

One thing successful people know: Dedication and blind persistence are two very different things. “You can work hard but not smart,” says Sweeney. “When something’s not working, you’ve got to tweak it. Some people just keep banging their heads against the wall.” Instead of doggedly using the same ineffective tactics, super-achievers pivot and try to tackle the problem from a different angle.

For their new book The Art of Doing, Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield interviewed 36 super-achievers at the tops of their fields. They started seeing patterns emerge. These are the 10 most common practices of the highly successful.

Fostering A Community

Star performers know they can’t achieve success on their own. Instead, they must galvanize a group of people around their idea or goal. Teamwork, or having an ecosystem of supporters, turns out to be critically vital for success. It doesn’t just include partners and coworkers. It might also mean employees, customers, investors, mentors, fans and social media followers. They quote business guru Guy Kawasaki: “First you

Listening And Remaining Open

“You don’t normally think of hard-charging, action-oriented leaders as being good listeners,” says Sweeney. “These people’s ability to practice the art of listening helped them learn what they needed to know about the world around them.” For example, Zappos’ Hsieh asked all his employees to share their personal values so that he could incorporate them into the company’s values and culture. Likewise, Linney says she never accepts a role unless she has read and reread the script so many times that it has opened up to her.

Good Storytelling

Stories have the ability to transport people to your world, and then they’re more likely to invest in you and your brand. Philippe Petit, famous for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center in the 1970s, believed other wire-walkers were trying to make it look hard. “But he wanted to be a poet in the sky and seem effortless,” Sweeney says. “His narrative wasn’t in words, but it was a story he was communicating.”

Testing Ideas In The Market

“Everybody has a bias to think their own idea is brilliant,” says Gosfield. “[Achievers] roll it out in an environment that’s as close as possible to the market.” Bill Gross, serial entrepreneur and founder of Idealab, always tests before he invests. When he had an idea for an online car dealer, CarsDirect, no one was sure if people would actually buy a car from a Web site. He decided to put up a test site to see what would happen. Before they had any inventory, they’d sold four cars and had to shut down the site. On the upside, Gross then knew for a fact there was a market for the service.

Managing Emotions

“We found that managing emotions is a key element to success,” Sweeney says. “It’s so easy to be derailed by them, but these people are able to channel anger and frustration into their work.” This was an important lesson for Jessica Watson, the Australian sailor who circumnavigated the world alone at only 16 years old. While out at sea, when loneliness or negativity set in, she would acknowledge her emotions and remind herself that she could get past them. “You can’t change conditions—just the way you deal with them,” Watson said.

Constantly Evolving

Successful people maintain success by consistently learning and adapting to the environment around them. Tennis champion Martina Navratilova realized this when her game suddenly started sliding. She decided to transform her training routine and diet, and soon was back on track to become an all-star athlete.

Practicing Patience

Inaction, or stillness, can sometimes be just as useful as action. The importance of patience was a primary theme among the super-achievers–whether it’s strategically waiting for the best time to make a move or continuing to pursue a larger vision without receiving immediate rewards. Jill Tarter, a director of the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), has been searching for life on other planets for the last 50 years without any guarantee of success.

Pursuing Happiness

Success fuels happiness, and happiness in turn fuels greater success. Jennings, “the winningest game-show champion in history,” said once he became a contestant on a game show, it filled his entire life with passion. That happiness helped him win, and winning ended up giving him the confidence he needed to pursue a career he loved: writing. Seeking happiness in your life and work turns out to be a win-win.


Russ Keller 1 Year Anniversary

Congrats to Russ - his 1 year anniversary today!

Russ - Thank you for all your contributions the last twelve months.  Your relentless attitude and consistent performance have been very impressive. Let's have an even bigger sophomore season!

Jeff Jones

(310) 846-5006

This message may contain confidential and/or privileged information. If you are not the addressee or authorized to receive this for the addressee, you must not use, copy, disclose or take any action based on this message or any information herein. If you have received this message in error, please advise the sender immediately by reply e-mail and delete this message. Thank you for your cooperation.

Cash and Liquidity Increasing In U.S.

Four good bullets below re increasing cash and liquidity in the U.S private sector, traditionally a VERY key indicator for entrepreneurial and financing activity

1.  In spite of the continued talk of liquidity crisis here in the U.S., domestic banks have over $10.6 TRILLION in deposits, with the loan to deposit ratio at only 72% (in traditional markets, this # is usually 100%) so to go from where we are now to "business as usual" would  mean close to $3.5 trillion in new loans.  Combine with governmental pressure to lend and it is easy to see how a flood of new lending could hit the market this year and the next. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324581504578233650100037048.h…

2.  As Jeff mentioned on the shareholder call, venture capitalists raised $20.6 billion in fresh capital, 10% increase from 2011 (http://bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com/2013/01/u-s-venture-capital-firms-raise-2…)

3.  Total U.S. retirement assets last year reached $19.5 trillion, and account for 36 percent of all household financial assets (http://www.ici.org/research/stats/retirement/ret_12_q3).  These assets increased 6.4% in value in the 3rd quarter 2012, in line with a good turn around in the U.S. stock market.  

4. As mentioned previously, the overall value of U.S. homes increased more than $1.3 trillion in 2012, the first annual gain in more than five years and the largest since 2005 (http://www.nuwireinvestor.com/articles/overall-us-housing-market-value-up-6…).

Do what the others aren't

3 Ways to Establish Your Company's Voice

Having a unique personality can help you stand out from your competitors. Here are some tips to spiff up your brand voice.

Behind the scenes of an overhyped launchSome of the most memorable brands and brand experiences stick out because they've got a really cool personality in everything they do--from marketing to customer service to packaging. Virgin America, Bliss, Zipcar, and ModCloth are some of the companies that I think do a really good job of having a consistent, unique company persona.

As I've mentioned in past posts, my online marketing company, VerticalResponse, is going through some big changes. And one of the things that will need to evolve is our brand voice.

Let me set the record straight: I love our current voice. From the beginning, when I launched the company in 2001, I knew I didn't want VerticalResponse to be another stuffy San Francisco software company. Our customers are small businesses who wear a million different hats, so we needed to talk to them in a way that was approachable and friendly.

Our voice has changed a bit over the years, but it's still pretty informal. We tell it like it is and we try to be as helpful as possible. I think our customers appreciate that.

But with the new stuff on the horizon, it was clear that our company personality needed a little refresh, and we're working through the process now.

If you're in the same boat, or just need some help to define your voice, here are a few ideas:

1. Create an idea board and get all your employees to contribute.

The new brand is going to touch every single person in your company. So it's important that everyone gets to put in their two cents. Clear out a big wall in the office and have your employees tape up examples of brands they like and jot down why. We did this at our own office and it led to some great insights on where we, as a company, want to be.

2. Identify an individual or celebrity that epitomizes your brand.

Public figures are experts in creating personas for themselves, so why not leverage it to help you define your company's personality? Do you want to be funny and approachable like Ellen DeGeneres, an expert at something like Warren Buffett, or witty and a little sarcastic like Jon Stewart? Then you can start applying the question, "What would (insert celebrity) do?" to various practices and communications throughout your business.

3. Put it down in writing.

Every department and employee will need to know not just what the new voice is, but how to apply it to what they do day to day. Put together a "voice and tone" document with examples of what a customer support rep might say based on questions being asked, what kind of language a writer producing content for your blog or site can use, tips for social media content, etc.

Going through a re-brand ain't easy, but companies do it all the time with great success. If you have any branding tips, share with us in the comments below!

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