Thursday, November 3, 2016

The 3 Things Great Managers AND Employees Do ~ Consistently

When it all comes down to it, great managers get results.  How do you get results?  It's not planning, it's not charisma, it's not even passion.  All of those things are great but useless without these 3 things.

If you are not doing these 3 things, and doing them well, you are probably going nowhere fast.  That's a strong statement, let's see if you disagree... comments welcome!

1. Prioritize

If you just do whatever you think of, you are going to get behind.  You MUST prioritize those things you KNOW will get results above those things you THINK will get results.  And even those things you just think will get results, prioritize those too, to the ones you think will be most likely to get the results.

PRO TIP - Every morning, get on an exercise bike and open http://toodledo.com or http://trello.com  (2 good online tools). Prioritize tasks to ones you think are most important to get results.

2. Draft Quickly

 If you aren't getting things done quickly, you'll never even get through all the important things, let alone to those things you think will get results.  The best managers and employees create drafts of stuff (whatever it is) very quickly.  Then, they refine the draft later up until the point where the quality meets expectations, then stop.  They don't over-engineer, over-design, or over-think their work: it's done it's done.  Ship it.  This is a key to shipping, get to a draft and see if it's good enough.  Ship when it is.

PRO TIP - Writer's block?  Just write it in super simple plain English.  That usually reads better anyways.  Remember, emails should be 2 or 3 sentences MAX!  I like to send emails of 4 or 5 WORDS when I can.

3. Delegate / Get Help Fast

Overloaded managers need to learn this trick: find someone you trust and ask them to "own" part of your project.   This is not asking for group-work, this is asking them to "own it" and get it done.  I've blogged a lot about ownership, and for good reason... it's been a key to my personal success for years.  Not having it, but giving it out!

Not a manager?  This applies to you too.  Delegate ownership of your work if you are overloaded.  Even better, ASK FOR HELP FAST!  If you are blocked, even 1% blocked, asking for help to get unblocked will keep you moving, make your boss happy, and more importantly, teach you something that will probably prevent you from getting blocked again in the future.

PRO TIP - Develop skills that help you get unblocked.  For example, learn how to Draft Quickly!  Also, learn how to "make a simple website".

Harlan T. Beverly, PhD on a Business Trip to Mexico

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

5 Ways to Empower Employees

What is empowerment?  To empower is to give power to someone else, hence taking it away from yourself or someone else, and giving it to them.  In the context of a job, it usually means giving 'ownership' of a task or project to someone and then stepping back.  You will still have to do work, but you will only do work that the empowered one asks of you.  There  is plenty of research that shows the benefits to Morale, Productivity, and Results by empowering employees.  In fact, I've written about this before in my green & clean post, but this article will give you 5 methods to empower employees, that maybe you never thought of before.

1. Be Explicit
You can't empower someone without both letting that person know, they are in charge, and really also the entire organization.   Here's a great way to do it by email:  "Hello everyone, just want everyone to know that I'm stepping away from Project X and putting XXX in charge.  She/He's empowered to take all actions necessary to get the job done within the approved budget."

2. Set Boundaries
Empowerment can be daunting, especially when it's used infrequently, for the first time, or with new employees.  In these cases, it's best to set boundaries!  Set a budget, explain the goals very clearly, explain what all the resources available are, and be sure to include yourself in those available resources.

3. Help Prioritize
In any organization, there is usually a lot going on, so much so that many employees feel overwhelmed and not sure what to work on in any given moment.  You can help by being clear with each individual what their priorities should be.   If you have projects that just need "a little attention each day" set a specific amount of time you think would be appropriate.  In general, set a clear priority to all work/tasks and try not to change it.  Remember, something you are empowered to do, will naturally be a higher priority.

4. Be Supportive
Supporting means touching base and reminding the person who is empowered of their resources (including you).  The more junior the empowered person, the more you should touch base.

5. Don't Take it Back!
Yes, you should be measuring and tracking results, but when things aren't going how you think they should, RESIST the temptation to jump in and take over.  If you do, you've destroyed empowerment, and it's hard to get it back.  They'll always know that you could jump in at any time, and start to expect it if they fail.  You have to let them fail, if its going to fail.  This is the hardest, why?  Because you know you can do it, and probably better... but YOU MUST RESIST!  Just offer support, help prioritize, and get out of the way.  Long term, if there is a performance issue, you can address it later, for now, don't break the empowerment you gave, or it will kill your credibility.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Getting a Job in a Startup

Recently, I have noticed a few misconceptions and confusions about getting a job at a startup.

Dollhouse

A startup is not like a dollhouse!  It is not simply a smaller version of a house (e.g. like a dollhouse).  A startup is not a small version of a company.  There are usually no departments (it's almost always 1 person per role).  There is no such thing as "that's not my job", everyone does whatever is needed at a startup, and that can change week-by-week.   So, stop thinking you can apply to be the "strategic financial analyst" for a startup.  That job doesn't exist, be the CFO or Direct of Marketing instead... since those titles mean "you do everything".

That said, there are two phases where you can join a startup, the founding phase, and the funded phase.

Founding Phase 

In this phase, you are too early to get paid.  You won't.  There is no money.
However, you will be able to call yourself a "cofounder", and you will (or should) get stock.  A "founders share" which is somewhere between 10-20% or so.

The key here is believing and showing that for now, you can you do the whole thing!  What thing?
One of four roles:

  1. Technical - you can build the prototype (yourself, no help)
  2. Sales - closing deals, has a network in the industry and can get the sale. (especially important in B2B companies)
  3. Marketing - All aspects of marketing, including "making the website look pretty" along with: target customer, research, brand, design, lead generation (especially in B2B), content, business cards, etc.  Also, Sales, in the case of B2C (because sales and marketing are basically the same thing in B2C direct startups)
  4. Finance/Ops (rare) - this is not often needed, but sometimes a founder needs help with finance/ops.  You'll have to do it all: accounting, finance, planning, manufacturing, legal, etc. (FYI: the original idea person is the founder, the others are cofounders)

By the way, yes, you can work a side-job during this phase, but usually at least 1 of you needs to be "full-time" on it. (or you won't get hungry enough to make it actually launch)

Funded Phase 

During this phase, you get "hired", and have to "interview".  You have to"apply" to a job opening.  Good news is, you will get paid (usually less than market rates).  Bad news is, you will not get "much" stock (just a few stock options, like less than 1/4percent, maybe more if you are an executive).

How do you get a job in the funded phase?

  1. Know your role: in this phase, it's still about what you can do for the company... it has to fit into a box of either: sales, marketing, tech, or ops.  And you have to be willing (and eager) to do anything "legal" to help the company succeed, including get coffee/etc.
  2. Find the job: by networking for sure, but even more so, just by looking on LinkedIn or even craigslist.  Find the open position somehow!  Then apply to it.  By resume, usually, and even better by referral (hence the networking).  Make sure the referral has your resume too though, even startups use those.
  3. Interview: yep. You'll have to do that.  We're looking for passion, excitement, and SHOW US how you "have done this job before".  That is critical.  Don't apply for a job at a startup that you've never done... we don't (usually) have time to train you.

Transitioning from Founding to Funded Phase

Not all the cofounders join the company in a "paid role" once you get funded.  Usually just 1 or 2 do, then more as the company grows.  Some cofounders never get a paying job out of it... and that's normal.  (hey you get to keep your stock though, at least whatever % you have vested).

Why Startup vs. Enterprise/Big Company

Simply because it is more fun.  Why?  Because you get to do more things!  Everyone is passionate. And most importantly, what you do matters (to the big picture of the company)!

So, get out there, apply already, and have fun doing it!




Monday, September 26, 2016

8 Startup Things I learned from Austin Game Conference 2016

This year I was delighted to be asked to put together a panel for the 2016 Austin Game Conference.  It was a revival of an old conference that has been sorely missed in Austin.    My Panel, "Why your game company can't get funded" was highly attended, and I think (hope) highly rated.  The slides are attached below.

However, one of the main reasons to participate in a conference isn't to "preach" but to "learn".  I learned a lot by going to this year's #AGC16, here are 8 things I learned about startups.

1. Games need funding.  Not just game companies (which is what 3 of the 4 people on my panel talk about), but games themselves, small indy studios.  I'm so glad I had Mike Wilson of Gambitious on the panel to talk about how he supports indy games.  When I asked, almost the entire room was seeking funding for their game.  That's like over 200 people!  Cool!  Gambitious can help!

2. Companies that help games are fundable.  There were several companies at AGC who were "supporting games", and their business models are not hit-driven, since they make money when the game sells.  I had previously listed one such company here, but took it down due to their request to NOT say their pricing.  I'm disappointed at that, but have removed it to respect their wishes.  That said, I cannot recommend a company that is going to be obtuse about pricing... so I will not be recommending that company.

3. Companies around games, get acquired.  While at the show I stopped by the twitch booth, who was there?  Curse.  Apparently, Twitch bought Curse that week, really cool!

4. Big traction, even without great monetization, can lead to exits!  See the above point about Curse being bought by Twitch.  Twitch understands monetization, and Curse needed that help.  Smart buy Twitch, smart!

5. Huge ideas, get funding in a big way.  This was the first I was exposed to the company called MAGIC LEAP.  They are hiring in Austin, and I'm intrigued!  Some kind of stealth AR company, funded by Google, a $1B valuation.  Yep!  Big!

6. Great ideas need to be launched to become great.  I ran into an old friend, and they had to take a break from their startup.  As a result, their startup kinda stalled.  Fortunately, they are back at it, but it reminded me: unless and until you launch, you aren't really doing it.  So DO IT!  Launch!

7. Not every company should do a conference.  There were a large number of booths with no point.  Not hiring, not fundraising, and frankly, looking a little bored.  If you are going to do a conference, have a reason!

8. A conference is a startup too! This one was a reboot of an old conference, but to me it really did feel like home.  All the old-school folks, and a lot of the new folks too, all making new connections and renewing old ties.  The venue was great, the A/V worked, and everything (especially the opening night party) was great.  The only part that was missed (for me) was water for the speakers... Chris promises me they'll fix that next year!  All-in-all, a great start to a great conference, I hope it lasts for years to come!


Followers