Monday, September 28, 2009

Culture is not corny to Engineer-types.

Many people think that the "culture", "mission statement", "values", of a company is 'corny'. We are often embarrassed by it, feeling it a kind of fake thing. If this is you, you may be in the wrong company. A strong company culture is absolutely the #1 most important thing for a businessman and especially a CEO to consider and stick to. For engineer-type minds, it sets a standard of measurement for the intangible. All our lives, we've been graded in two ways: factual 'right' answers (Objective) and 'intangible'/feel answers (Subjective). All our lives, we engineer-types have failed (or not excelled) at the subjective. Culture should not be a corny thing to engineer-types, it should be thing #1. Most (if not all) of the engineers I've hired know this, and that's a MAJOR reason the decide to work for (really with) me.

There are companies known for great corporate culture: National Instruments, Intel, and Google to name a few. People, myself included, seek out these companies and prefer to work at them. I spent many years at Intel blissfully unaware of my under-payment, because I was happy. I thrived in the culture that put a standard of measure on the subjective: and my performance ratings prove it.

More than just ratings and rankings though, a company culture sets forth a 'norm', a code of conduct, a code of honor, that permeates who you are as a company. In many companies that have "weak" corporate culture, this is not a good thing. Yes, they have "the mission statement and values" list like everyone else, but the measurement system is broken. Instead of 'calling it' when someone breaks the code or doesn't live up to the corporate culture: it goes ignored if results are good. In fact, in most companies throughout the USA, results matter most of all (enter Enron). I believe, as do most Engineer-type minds, that the ends do not always justify the means: and that doing something 'right' and winning is better than doing it 'wrong' and winning bigger.

Culture should be used to select who you hire, who you fire, and how you measure success. In fact, when a company gets bogged down in 'the hard stuff' and can't find its way, looking to culture there is always a way out. Culture can also seriously impact how others view you.

The Rich Dad's Advisor: Building a Business Team that Wins is a practical guide to how to build, and more importantly how to enforce, a company culture.

For myself, I believe I have found the perfect company culture for both success and for my personal belief structure (an excellent match)... more on that on another post. In the mean-time here is Intel's excellent corporate culture statements, which I can say generally speaking, was heavily enforced and rewarded in a very positive manner. (no I'm not re-joining Intel at this time, though I would work there again in a heartbeat for the right position).

Customer Orientation

We strive to listen and respond to our customers, suppliers, and stakeholders; clearly communicate mutual intentions and expectations; deliver innovative and competitive products and services; make it easy to work with us; and be a vendor of choice.


We strive to conduct business with uncompromising integrity and professionalism; ensure a safe, clean, and injury-free workplace; make and meet commitments; properly plan, fund, and staff projects; and pay attention to detail.


We strive to achieve the highest standards of excellence; do the right things right; continuously learn, develop, and improve; and take pride in our work.

Risk Taking

We strive to foster innovation and creative thinking, embrace change and challenge the status quo, listen to all ideas and viewpoints, learn from our successes and mistakes, and encourage and reward informed risk taking.

Great Place to Work

We strive to be open and direct, promote a challenging work environment that develops our diverse workforce, work as a team with respect and trust for each other, win and have fun, recognize and reward accomplishments, manage performance fairly and firmly, and be an asset to our communities worldwide.

Results Orientation

We strive to set challenging and competitive goals, focus on output, assume responsibility, constructively confront and solve problems, and execute flawlessly.

photo credits:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More than Karma. Networking and Helping Others.

In the business world, it is well known that networking (knowing lots of people) can be beneficial. Engineer-types often take this to mean: get lots of LinkedIn or Facebook friends, and exploit them. Its not surprising, most engineer-types get blasted by people trying to sell them stuff. This in turn, makes engineer-types use Social Networking for all the WRONG reasons, and thus, miss out on the best benefits of the medium. I can tell you this, if you Network right, the rewards are more than Karma.

More than Karma? What does that mean? Here are the rewards of having a rich and deep social network:
1.) It feels good to help others.
2.) Helping others can be fun.
3.) Helping others sometimes leads to new opportunities.
4.) Staying in touch means knowing when new things are happening, new jobs, new businesses, more.
5.) You don't have to go to lunch alone (see prior Tytus Blog post).

Here is some do's and don't s to consider.
Networking Done Right:
1.) Don't solicit over a social network. (this is what phone, email, lunch, coffee, etc. is for).
1.) But DO make it known to those you know, what you and your company does. Do this, simply because they know you... and follow you, and you keep folks up to date with what you are doing.

2.) Don't invite/connect with people you don't know, unless you have an introduction, and a non-sales reason to do so.
2.) Do invite/connect with people you meet at a conference, trade-show, lunch, office visit, whatever.
2.) Do go to conferences, trade-shows, lunches, office visits, etc.
2.) Do ask your friends for introductions to connect with folks. (but not for sales-purpose, only because you want to know them for a Non-Sales reason).

3.) Do ask folks for help (as long as it is not sales). Do it 1:1 and let it be genuine, simple, straightforward.
3.) Take them to lunch. Pay!

4.) Do offer to help folks FOR NO PAY as often as possible. Just be willing to help...!!!
4.) in my mind, helping others is the greatest service.
4.) and THIS leads to the best rewards of social networking.
4.) Obviously there is a limit to how much you can do.. but do what you can!

5.) Don't do stupid things in public.
5.) like flaming, bashing, or slander.
5.) Do do personal things in public.
5.) unless it is TOO personal (you know who you are), or STUPID (see above).

If you are in my social network, and you are reading this, and I have not helped you yet today. Shoot me an email or a message, or, Lets do lunch.

I'd love to help.

photo attribution:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dealing with "no"... handling setbacks.

A friend of mine recently espoused his joy at no longer fearing talking with Fortune 500 CEOs. This friend, of course is an Engineer-type. It struck me that many engineers do IN FACT fear talking with non-engineer types. It may be the single biggest thing holding back good engineer-types from being awesome at business. Given that somehow, I have learned to deal with "No.", I thought I'd share my own feelings on dealing with no, and handling setbacks.

1.) It is damn hard.
2.) It takes a lot of "no", followed by a few "yes"... time and time again, before you understand what it REALLY takes to handle "no".
3.) It takes the BELIEF that today's no, MUST BE... for tomorrows yes to happen.
4.) It takes optimism, faith, and an inner comfort with ones-self that the "NO" is not at 'you'.
5.) It MUST energize you, rather than demoralize you.

Recently, I've started a new business. I'm expecting 100+ no's before I get a single yes, no matter what I'm asking. It's normal. It must be so. I hope to learn from the no's to get better and refine my ideas... I will press on those who say no with "why"... I will try to uncover the 'bottleneck' of my goal.

Sometimes a 'no' seems like a setback. If this is the case, you've put too much stake into this particular 'possibility' than you should. Real setbacks are based only on litigation or your imagination. What I mean is a setback cannot be based on any one event, unless you give up (out of imagination), or are LITERALLY forced to give up (Legislation, as in Jail or Death). Persistence is really the key to any and all possible "yes".

Let rejection energize you, for today's no really is tomorrow's yes.

New look/feel of Tytus-Blog.

After analyzing Google Analytics, and feedback from people who read my Blog, I've discovered that an apparent bias I have towards "Engineers" as better than normal folk comes through a bit too loudly. In fact, it's not "entirely" untrue, as it relates to how many normal folk view problems. Reality is though, that I truly do value diversity. Diversity of thought, diversity of opinion, and especially diversity of viewpoint.

With that in mind, I've renamed the blog "Tytus' Business for Engineer-type Brains.", with the hope that it help not just engineers, and people who think like engineers, but also all the diversity of other personality types out there who would simply like to know "how engineer-type brains" think.

With the new theme, and the new "black" (easier to read) look, I hope that EVERY ONE OF YOU will subscribe to this feed over RSS or via Blogspot follow, or similar.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Presenting at Austin GDC 2009, and why Engineers should be Experts.

Last week I had the honor of presenting at Austin Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2009. Out of hundreds of idea submissions many months ago, I was chose to present to game developers on the topic: Lag, The Barrier to Innovation. My presentation was recorded and the slides can be seen/downloaded here. I'll post the audio as soon as its available. Not only was it great fun to present to AGDC 2009, it was extremely fruitful. Engineers take note: you should become known as 'the guy who knows x' (or some might say, 'the expert in x')... it can only help you. In fact, the axiom I tend to follow is: helping others helps yourself.

It wasn't easy to be selected to speak. It took me 4 years of trying. I began submitting ideas to speak at Austin GDC in 2004 (for GDC 2005). At first I just submitted 1 presentation topic. What I learned though is that submitting more than one presentation topic (even if they were related), would allow the selection committee to pick the best, rather than decide 'if' I should present. Once that was known, my task was to get others (selection committee and generally others in the industry) to believe I was a.) an authority on a subject, and b.) a good speaker. So, starting in 2005, I began speaking at smaller conferences, whenever I could. Especially so if they were in my home town of Austin. I also took an active role in my field, developing white papers and commentary on the subject (in my case Lag). I eventually developed friendships with many in the industry and people knew me as an 'exuberant' speaker. While I'd still love to speak at GDC in San Francisco, I'm happy to have gotten to speak at Austin GDC in 2009. Thanks again to the Selection Committee for choosing me to present, it was a blast and an honor.

Here is why you should become a speaker as well:

1.) Its good to give back. If you have gained knowledge through study, research, development, and pain... giving back and helping others to NOT have as much pain, feels good, and is generally good for the community.

2.) Build your network! Without exception, whenever I speak, a line of very interested (and interesting) people form to have a quick chat and exchange business cards. If nothing else, you've got a few new LinkedIn contacts! Sometimes, as with all networking, great things will come in the future from these connections.

3.) Build your cachet. It does not hurt your personal reputation to be the guy who has spoken at XYZ conference. In fact it helps it. Even if your company has NOTHING to benefit from you speaking, do it anyways for your own career future.

There are more reasons of course, including pride, the fun to wear a 'speaker' badge, specific company goals, the cool speaker gifts (this year at GDC Austin 2009, we were given a nice glass with GDC Austin 2009 Speaker on it, and a REALLY cool ice-tray with space invaders on it!).... the list goes on.

A few general thoughts from the show: it was much smaller than last year (THANK GOODNESS)... being smaller it felt less corporate, and more about the developers. It was JUST the right size. The presentations were all EXCELLENT (at least all that I saw)... even Tuesday's Casual Games Summit was well done... awesome even. The Chotsky was weak. (nobody gave out anything cool I could see, got a T-Shirt and a pack of cards... but it's not really the point of the show). I missed the free beer... not sure they did that or not, but they should do that every day. SODA POP SHOULD Be CHEAPER. That's about it. My 2 key learnings were: Over 13,000 Servers to run WoW!!!! and a Viral Coefficient is a way to measure how viral something is:

Viral Coefficient
Vk = V1 x V2 x V3
(building successful apps)
V1 = % of users doing invite over a period.
V2 = Potency (how many invites per user)
V3 = % of people who try based on the invites.

V2 = most important acoording to Facebook...
I have a different view.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Social Confusion, engineering explanation of social networks.

Recently, I attended a start-up meetup conference here in Austin Texas. It was a really useful conference, focused on learning and practical knowledge. As always Brett Hurt did a great job with the keynote. The one thing that became clear, almost as a theme for the day, is that most people don't really understand social networking. Engineers in particular will quickly get lost in the quagmire, mainly because of lack of definition and lack of metrics. After hearing all the debate, I think I can explain at least part of the social confusion on new social media... in terms engineers might be able to make sense of.

First definitions:
Social Networks: Websites where users can communicate with other users. Includes Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Forums, Twitter, LinkedIn, and almost any modern website with feedback tools.

Social Networking: the act of using Social Networks to some purpose, either personal or as a business.

Share of Voice: a metric (no standard units) that tries to measure how many people are talking about your company or product... especially on blogs and social networks.

Web 2.0: a useless term referring to "making a website capable of letting users talk to each other"... yes forums have been doing this since BBS, hence its silliness as a moniker.

Now what is all the hub-bub about? Three things simultaneously, that I will separate:

1. Social Networks (e.g. people who own the websites, and the vulture companies that surround them), are "possibly" making money because LOTS of people are using Social Networks today.

2. It may be profitable for Companies to "use" Social Networking to accomplish some goal(s). E.g. companies and individuals at companies should consider USING Social Networking, but only for some MEASURABLE GOAL... too many companies are using Social Networking with no goal other than to 'advertise'. Hint: Google is probably better for ya'.

3. Companies need to beware and pay attention to Social Networks, because that is where much of the Share of Voice can be seen, and customers are talking about you there.

With this common language, you can see, its not really that BIG of a thing, unless you consider the fact that SO many people are using them.

So, get off your duff and listen up. Companies need to wise up and pay attention to social networks message for you and STOP trying to use them so much...its not working.

In other words, rather than focusing on only 1-aspect of social networks (how to 'use' them for increased sales/revenue directly, item #2 above), consider the other 2 aspects of social networks (1 and 3 above).. and pay attention to the conversation (example: a good community manager) and get a presence on these social networks for that purpose (1. participate). Trust me, people WANT to talk about you/your company, you just have to be there and be listening.

photo attribution:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Engineers fear Lawyers... A Company's First Steps are Easy

Fear: HOW DO I START A COMPANY? MANY Engineers freeze up with fear right here. They don't realize just how easy it is to start a business these days. In Texas, everything can even be done online, and the legal part is really really simple. (NOTE: i'm not a lawyer, so do not consider this legal advice... side-note: see, even I'm afraid of lawyers).

Although this link has more detailed information and all the needed links, I'm going to try to make the process super simple in my own words.

1. Pick S-Corp or C-Corp. The only difference I can tell is that S-Corp does not double-tax dividends, but only allows investment by individuals. Most people should choose C-Corp if they plan to be invested in , and S-Corp if they are not. Don't fret... you CAN change it later by reincorporating.

2. File appropriate form online (in Texas, that is here): (costs $300, so make sure your business name is unique, a simple search is available same site!)
a. Choose some amount of stock that is big enough, but not too big. I chose 10,000,000 shares to start at par of $0.001.
b. Must have at least 1 director (can be same person throughout the document).

3. Get EIN from IRS (this is needed to file taxes, which is the ONLY requirement to continue as a company):

4. File for state tax if appropriate. Texas is here:

5. Enjoy being a company.

Its that easy. Now that you are a company, you might want to issue some shares to yourself. If you do, make sure you file an IRS 83-b form within 30 days.

As for giving yourself stock, I recommend it! And I recommend you get this stock in exchange for services rendered (such as business plan preparation, time spent in meetings/formation, etc.). A good founder split is NOT EVEN SPLIT! If there are 2 people, it should be at least 51%/49%. In fact, I HIGHLY recommend that one founder (the one who is leading the effort) get 51%. Reasons: this avoids any future problems related to who is in control/direction of company, this prevents any number of founders from ganging up on the others, and this makes good sense if you want to raise money because that founder will have enough power (hopefully) to stay on the Board of Directors and protect the other founders interest.

A simple MOU can make the above reality. If you actually issue the stock (e.g. with a directors approval or other legal mumbo-jumbo), then you will need a lawyer IMHO.

Frankly, beyond this point of a company, having a decent (fairly priced) legal counsel for the company is a good idea. (Yes, my fear of lawyers kicks in now). But you DONT have to have one to form the company, and you SHOULD wait to get a lawyer until you raise money, or start negotiating contracts/earning revenue/making sales.

Best of luck, and sometimes, fear is not a bad thing... but lawyers don't cost that much. I have found good legal advice as low as $200-$300/hour... don't pay more email me/message me first, I'll give you a few referrals.

--photo credits

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Self-Motivation: Short-term goals that lead to long-term success.

Engineers daily face the challenge of self motivation. Especially when working on a 'big' project. Engineers who master this self-motivation will do well in business because they understand short-term goals vs. long-term goals.

Imagine the Engineers day: "work on THIS bug" which helps me complete "this small task"...which leads to "this small feature" which leads to "this part of the product" which leads to "this product". For that day, it was just that bug. Thats it. It will be months, years before that bug 'doesn't' show up in that finished product.

In Business, this skill is absolutely necessary. Becoming overly fixated on "the long-term success" can lead one to do the wrong things at the wrong time. Like a good programmer, the businessman MUST fixate on the 'current task' while keeping in mind "the long-term goal"! For this, one needs a plan. ANY PLAN. It doesn't have to be 'the best plan' it just has to make sense and be flexible. Like a good engineer, if 'fixing this bug' is taking too much time/effort and no end in sight, perhaps ignoring it and working around it is a better approach. The same goes for business. If 'the current' task/step is bogging you down, and forward progress seems blocked, we must be flexible enough to work on something else (a workaround) or a future step.

In essense, we must "Begin with the end in mind" as Covey would say. But we must also "Put first things first"! If you can't imagine the long-term success... you are sunk. But you are equally sunk if you can't put together a logical (if difficult) series of steps that get you there.

Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People info:

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