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Thursday, March 21, 2013

5 Ways to leave people with the WRONG impression

You messed up.  Yes, I mean you!

Investor presentations given at venture conferences, competitions, and investor meetings are times where you should stand out, but NOT for negative activity! Likewise, you do not want to provide a negative impression when obtaining help from advisors giving you free time.   It is amazing how many entrepreneurs forget that other people have feelings, needs, likes, and dislikes.  Forgetting to play to your audience can leave them with the wrong impression. 

Simple actions and considerations make a large difference.  Things like just showing up or saying thank you leave better impressions than the alternative.  Over the last few weeks of conferences and meetings, topics arose in discussions with companies as well as the attendees.  The areas listed below really made impressions and not good ones!

  • Show up & on time: This sounds simple right. Well, a judge in the audience described his willingness to provide help to two entrepreneurs.  He set aside billable time to provide free help to the startup.  They never arrived nor did they call until far after the proposed meeting time.  In a second case, a conference competitor failed to arrive in time to present at the scheduled time.  The presenter called from the airport saying they were coming much later!  These are just two examples and without mentioning numerous late shows for meetings.  Courtesy suggests simple actions.  Show up at the proposed time and get there early if possible.  It is far better you waste your time than that of someone trying to help you or review your technology.  At least CALL in advance to inform the people waiting for you if you will be late for some VALID reason.    

  • Practice the talk: Some of the smartest people ignore the simplest of actions.  An audience listening to a CEO stumble over a presentation gets the impression the presenter does not know the technology.  You may have only 5-8 minutes to present.  Practice in front of a group at the company to ensure you sound professional, knowledgeable, and fit the allowed time.

  • Improve your slides:  You may have wonderful video or sound slides.  Did you prepare to present to an audience without them?  Some audiovisual equipment and software are not compatible with certain technologies.  Developing your presentation to allow for such glitches can help you a great deal.  Consider simplifying the slides or having alternative ways of describing your points: remember the PIVOT that works with slides too.  Your message will be better received and you will be seen as able to handle problems.  A second idea to consider is to place management slides toward the end and a summary slide up front: i.e., what is the take home message.  Tell them how great your team is just before you provide the summary, which can be a repeat of the take home message.

  • Describe the technology: An earlier post in this blog dealt with this concept.  It is a real turn off for some people when they have to ask the presenter what the product is and how it works after the talk is over.  That should have been clear in the talk!

  • Follow instructions:  Seeing presenter applications prior to a conference has positives and negatives.  Finding a technology that seems very exciting makes leaves the reviewer with a strong desire to attend the conference to see the presentation.  Learning that that great company did present because they failed to follow the application instructions is a real disappointment.   You may have something that is fantastic so make sure people really get to see it: i.e., please follow application instructions!

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interview of Taffy Williams by Greg Viloria of the Nerd Stalker

Sometimes it is nice to stop, look, and listen; like to my recent interview!

Recently, Greg C Viloria (Twitter:  @SocialGreg ) with the Nerd Stalker interviewed Taffy Williams, the author and voice of the Startup Blog. The discussion centered around two of the recent articles found in Startup Blog and the Examiner: “5 Stages of mourning entrepreneurs may experience” and “5 Reasons real leaders must listen and understand.”   

The total interview is available at the following link:   Nerd Stalker interview.  I hope you will find it interesting and useful.

All of the articles in the Examiner and Startup Blog come from real-life experiences.  The articles discussed deal with issues like: 1) Founders of startups suddenly ousted by investors, 2) Listening and understanding, and 3) Trusting the people you hire.  Excerpts below are quotes from the interview.

In this interview, Taffy talks about how his experiences are reflected in his blog.  
 “.. If I Had Only Done This Differently...”

"...the communication between people is not always as crisp as you think they are"

"...you are hearing what you think you want to hear"

"poor communication creates a problem when you provide people with direction"

"Sometimes the (5) stages (of mourning) occur rapidly or may skip one but you may experience all of them" 

"this (stages of mourning) can happen if you lose your job, you've been replaced, or your company fails...loss of a love one" 

"Some people can't get out of the depression and anger phase and that can influence their ability to get a job"

“The five stages of mourning are Denial & Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Most people go through these stages when a traumatic event happens in their life. Losing a job is in the Top 10 stressful events as characterized by
Holmes and Rahe stress scale where death of a spouse the highest. Taffy explains that some of these stages can be paralyzing if one cannot emerge from each of these stages to finally reach acceptance. Taffy has gone through this personally over his years of experience and his advice to startup founders is "have an exit strategy" because something can happen at any time.”

I wish to thank every reader for the time you devoted to reading and promoting the articles. This is my 200th post on Startup Blog and the Examiner now has 102 posts.  Of the more than 300 articles, the number of reads is more than 250,000.  I am grateful to all the readers and hope the information is useful in your endeavors.   I welcome your comments and questions, as this is a way to extend the value of what you obtain from the provided information. 


Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company  website ,  photo  website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup  Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte,NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Questions for assessing risks and rewards

Does the reward outweigh the risk?

The article “Risk and uncertainty stymies decision making” described the impact of risk and uncertainty on making decisions.  Being unsure of outcomes and aware of possible risks has a negative impact on the decision process.   When the potential for reward outweighs the risks, the decisions become easier. 

This consideration is often part of the design of certain clinical trials.  Prior to starting certain cancer trials, a common question may be, “does the potential benefit to the patient outweigh the risks?”  This is especially true when the disease is in the last stages and there are no other alternatives for the patient.  The patient experiencing no potential harm may gain a benefit so the study proceeds.

The issue of weighting risks and potential rewards come in everyday life.  The photo above was taken after the photographer had been told the story below. 

A tourist was visiting Page, Arizona and wanted to see Horseshoe Bend.  The limestone that forms the structure is in sheets and has potential to sheer.  The visitor was on the edge looking down.  As the story goes, the limestone gave way and the visitor fell more than 1000 ft. to his death.

The risk of demise to the photographer was similar to that of the visitor.  The perceived reward was obtaining a good photo.  Taking the photo in stages and splicing the images together solved part of the problem.  The risk of sheering the edge was reduced by lying flat to spread the weight while shooting down the cliff face.  The risk was always there and taking the photo in limited steps reduced risk to the point where the photographer felt comfortable enough to complete the task. 

The ability to reduce risk occurs in making financial investments.  Some people will hedge stock investments by using options or other instruments.  Investors may invest in mutual funds or select several companies to spread risk.  Potential reward is higher with greater risk, but well-informed non-professional investors usually take the conservative route to protect what they have.

Areas you may wish to explore in risky situations:

1)      Tranche:  Sometimes staging the approach to the situations lessens the risk.  Take a few steps, reassess the issues, and take more steps.  The process of stepwise approach may allow you to stop before your exposure becomes too great.  This step may help in many situations like testing a new service provider or manufacturing partner.    

2)       Share:  Occasionally, having others participate alongside you helps share or spread the risk.  VCs tend to do this when they form syndicates.  They may use the Tranche method in addition to reduce risk even more.  If your business fails, they do not lose as much.  The sharing can apply to a variety of risky situations in your business like shared sales, marketing, or product development.

3)      Diversify:  Selecting more than one vendor, supplier, or sales person is a way of reducing risk.  The risk would be that one of them leaves abruptly or fails to deliver.  In investing, one can invest in more than one opportunity or company.  Diversification tends to average out risks of losses with rewards of higher performing activities.  Single product companies can diversity by adding new products.  This reduces the risk of a product failure.

4)      RUN:  Everyone should monitor the risk to reward aspects of business situations.  Set parameters that you feel you can accept and learn to GET OUT if the risk levels are too great.  Going over a cliff is no fun and neither is losing all of your investment.  That investment can be progress attained in your business or your money.  Run away so you can return to fight on a new day!

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Monday, March 4, 2013

5 Actions opportunistic entrepreneurs use to build business

Would you have thought riding a bike 26 miles from here was a business opportunity?

Your surroundings offer many different opportunities for new business.  One of the more common statements entrepreneurs provide in meetings with potential funding sources is “We are opportunistic.  This statement translated means: “if we see something big, we will capitalize on it.”   Entrepreneurs are opportunistic by nature and always seek ways to create or increase value whether it was planned or unplanned.

Opportunity often shows up in unexpected ways and once recognized related businesses locate in the near the area.   A great example of this takes place in the tourism business.  Haleakala National Park resides in Hawaii on the island of Maui.  The extinct volcano is around 10,000 above sea level.   Someone determined that providing rides to the top to watch the sunrise would be a business.  Providing the ride to people that like to bike extended the fun for tourists.  Today many bike shops host bus rides to the top to view the sunrise and they outfit the tourists with bike equipment for the 26 miles downhill back to the bike shops.  This type of opportunistic activity shows up in resort areas and the business founders are entrepreneurs capitalizing on their surroundings.

Similar opportunities take place in the technology space.  Founders find a way to better connect people on-line and create the businesses Facebook and LinkedIn.  Other entrepreneurs recognize opportunities in related businesses that may enhance the experience and improve on connectivity and sharing.  The new businesses may not be as disruptive but they are new businesses capitalizing on the surroundings. 

Sometimes the opportunities are obvious while others require a leap of logic to recognize them.  Your ability to either innovate and create a new area or see a fit in an existing space is important.  You may not recognize many opportunities no matter how obvious they may be.  For example, the article “5Steps toward rebuilding your creativity and innovation side” provided an example of a missed product opportunity.  A second example is the case of a scientist working in the nuclear magnetic resonance field.  When asked to join a team developing new and novel equipment he declined thinking the new field would go nowhere.  What he turned down working on was the MRI found in many hospitals.  Missed opportunity or not, he failed to recognize the potential.

Your objectives should be to enhance your ability to recognize opportunity and increase your ability to create and capitalize on it.   A few steps that may help in the training are below:

1)      Survey surroundings:  Many of your business ideas will come from a survey of your surroundings.  Problems or needs of others can serve as a clue.  Services that people may enjoy like the bike trips or restaurants in resort areas may be a little simpler to recognize.  Treatments for medical disorders are more prominent, but may be harder to solve.   

2)      Recognize opportunity:  The opportunity for business exits where a sufficient market is available to provide the desired revenues.  Income levels need not be the same for a small business owner compared to founders in technology or medical areas.  Try to not discount ideas too quickly because it may be the big one!

3)      Assess market:  The market must be sufficient and sustainable.  You must have sufficient service or sales over prolonged time to sustain the business.  People must want what you have!

4)      Plan: Sufficient planning and organization of thoughts are important to developing the proper steps to start the business.  You will ensure the best chances of success by conducting sufficient research to understand the sector, markets, and need.

5)      Act:  Carry out the plans and prepare to adjust the path should the situation be required. 


Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon