Pivoting vs. Starting Over

There are a few potential titles to this post…….”Pivoting For Success”?, “Dilbert’s Creator With Inside Commentary on Silicon Valley”?

But in this blog post by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon as well as a co-founder of Calendar Tree (www.calendartree.com) has an interesting take on “pivoting” for technology start-ups.  Prior to joining the team at oneZero (www.oneZero.com), I had launched two non-technology start-ups.  What is different from my experience is the concept that when pivoting within the technology field you keep the same core team, company name and structure and just change the product.  But that is what is great about technology; the ease of changing the product.  The servers that hosted one product or source code can still serve the same purpose for new code and/or products.  The programmers who were coding to build a specific outcome can change their direction and product goal.

In my past experience in financial services, a failed product usually meant closing down the business entity and the associated dissolution of the management team.  Any new concept had to be restarted from the ground up with a new entity, management team and employees.  I am not saying that there is not management and employee turnover within a pivoting technology firm, just that there is less need for personnel with different skill sets and that they change of product can be made quickly and much easier than with a traditional manufactured product or even a financial service.


** Thanks to Chris Dixon’s Twitter feed (@cdixon) for the find**


Salespeople as Hackers from C. Ganapathi

A friend sent along a great post.  It originated with Chuck Ganapathi of Tactile.  A great read, and it also added a useful word to my vocabulary: adminitrivia.


The Ultimate Hackers: Salespeople

Outside of tech circles, the word “hacker” conjures up an image of a nerdy kid scheming in his parents’ basement, or someone causing a national security crisis in the latest episode of “Scandal.”

Ask investor Paul Graham, though, and he’d say that it “connotes mastery in the most literal sense: Someone who can make a computer do what he wants — whether the computer wants to or not.” A hacker is someone who does something so clever that he or she somehow beats the system.

The prototypical salesperson is, on almost every count, the polar opposite of a programmer. The two differ in social skills, fashion sense, education, idea of fun, etc. — they seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But if you look past the stereotypes, you will notice something interesting: Like good programmers, good salespeople are also hackers. They don’t hack computers — they are people and process hackers, doing whatever it takes to get a “yes” from a prospect.

Back in the ’80s, salespeople were the first to hack the daily commute. As road warriors who drove around meeting clients all day, they became the earliest adopters of car phones.

https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/7/005/069/05e/0306680.jpgSalespeople always knew that remembering every detail about their customers was key to their success, so when PCs became mainstream, they hacked their memory by building their own customer database using Act! software purchased at a local Best Buy — way before the customer relationship management (CRM) software category was invented.

Times have changed, and salespeople’s daily hacks have evolved with them. Rather than rummaging through business cards, they now store and search for them all in one place — scanned using Evernote. When they are trying to get a foot in the door with a potential customer, they look for warm intros through LinkedIn. And when an agreement needs to be executed while away from the office, many salespeople use the SignNow app to sign the contract.

Much of this hacking is most likely happening without the knowledge of IT, but companies need not fear the sales hackers — they are just doing what they were hired to do: Be creative and laser-focused on generating new business. And they are doing so in ways that work best for them. So how can IT or operations managers do the right thing for the company, securing corporate data and intellectual property, while still embracing the sales hacker? Here are a few things to consider:

Amplify what’s working for them: As Graham points out, “good hackers find it unbearable to use bad tools.” Good salespeople are masters of their craft, and know how to arm themselves with the best tools. Listen to their feedback on what is working for them, and figure out a way to amplify that. If the sales team loves SignNow, get the enterprise edition for the company, and get the legal team on board, as well. If they are sending files to customers via Dropbox, get their personal Dropbox accounts to plug into the corporate Dropbox for Business account.

Time is their worst enemy: For salespeople, closing a deal at 11:59 pm on the last day of the quarter versus 12:01 am the next day could make the difference between earning 70 percent of their annual compensation or not. No wonder salespeople ruthlessly prioritize their time to focus on what matters — closing deals. If salespeople are burdened with administrivia, they will resent it and look for ways to hack around it. One common culprit is CRM. Salespeople spend all day communicating with customers via calls, emails or at in-person meetings, and at the end of the day, they are expected to come back home, open their laptop and record all those activities into the CRM system so managers can have visibility. Instead, salespeople are finding ways to automatically log their activities by syncing the tools they use every day — email, calendar and phone — to CRM.

Security and productivity shouldn’t be mutually exclusive: It’s understandable that some view this kind of sales hacking as rogue behavior, especially given the fear of losing control of confidential company information. The reality is that most employees act responsibly, with the same goal in mind as the company — being more productive and closing more deals. A new generation of software makers are creating technology that avoids the false dichotomy between information security and employees’ personal choice when it comes to the tools they use to work. And if your favorite salespeople from your legacy software vendor tell you otherwise, remember, they are just doing what they do best — hacking you.

10x engineers can change the fate of the company and so can the top salespeople. And just like great programmers, these sales hackers value their professional freedom. Empowering them to work the way they want to work is the easiest hack to improve top-line growth.

Unions Fail Their Members (Part II)

Pretty simple….Unions are dinosaurs.  They protect seniority rather than advocate for meritocracy.  And the world is now much more merit-based than ever before.  See my previous post about unions failing their members here.  In fact many regulatory agencies (National Futures Association  www.nfa.futures.org) are killing their member base too, but that is a story for another time.

As for this round of unions being dinosaurs, its simple.  Look at two stories from the NYT in the last week.  The first article discusses the plans for a national cabbie union.  At present each city and even each dispatcher have de-facto union structures to their workplace.  Seniority rules, close association with regulators benefit company owners, and oligopolies are the norm.  This is the model that Uber is murdering.  Yet the workers in this industry seem to think that a national,  more formal version of their current paradigm will save their jobs.

The second story is an analysis of Uber’s recent valuation and the opportunities Uber can unlock with their distributed “call and retrieve” paradigm.  Flexible work hours, outsourced labor, very low fixed costs are hallmarks of Uber’s business model.  There is no room for unions here as the workforce have the flexibility they need to work for themselves.





Maybe I will finally short the technology sector when tech employees start looking to unionize.


Purposely Slow Starts

I have recently made a decision to spend my first 30 mins or so each day without opening my e-mail.  Many have said the same thing for a long time, but I have finally tried it.  Rather than be distracted by what “they” want, I think about what I want and need out of the day (and a bit of the next few days).  It makes me much more productive.  The past month has been great for me.

But miss a day or two and I feel out of sorts; being reactive rather than proactive.  So as Chet Holmes said, pig-headed determination is the only way to make it stick.