Monday, February 27, 2006

Viva la Glue Guy

(You can also find this entry on the FundingUniverse.com blog.)

Every great NBA basketball team has a ”glue guy”. The Pistons have Ben Wallace. The T’wolves have Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg. The Showtime Lakers had Kurt Rambis. The glue guy is usually not the most talented player on the court, but he brings value to the team because he holds the team together with his hustle, passion, toughness, selfnessness and – above all — endless energy.

A few weeks ago when I was at my favorite burrito joint, I noticed the effects of a manager who is obviously his team’s glue guy.

The guy never sat still. He was a pure hustler. In the time that it took me to place and receive my order, he had wiped up at least a football field’s worth of countertop space, greeted and thanked every customer who placed an order, helped fill every order, mopped the floor and took a couple phone calls. It was unreal.

The coolest thing about it was the effect that this manager had on his team. Every burrito in the place was folded and stuffed by hands moving faster than a Las Vegas card dealer’s; and every employee did it with a look on their face that made me believe that they LOVED doing it. These people had obviously been infected by a glue guy, and had thus become glue guys themselves.

Start-ups need glue guys. You know the type — they come into the office ridiculously happy every day, sincerely ask how everyone is doing, and spend most of their time trying to make everyone’s job easier.

Glue guys can make their impact from anywhere on the organizational chart. Our glue gal at FundingUniverse.com is a part-timer named Sophie Barth who comes in for two hours a day. She immediately infuses the office with a boost of energy that leaves everyone energized after she leaves. Nice work Sophie!

Bottom line: Entrepreneurs, go find yourself a glue guy or gal. When you’re up to your neck in debt, on the verge of making your first big sale, or trying to forget all of the times your friends/mom/husband/wife has told you to get a real job, you’ll be greatful that you have a little extra energy — thanks to your glue guy.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Executioners

No, this blog is not a salute to one of my favorite DJ crews.

It's a salute to entrepreneurs out there who just flat get things done. In the words of my main man Stuart Scott, "Big ups to my boys!" (Especially Ryan Money, who's insightful blog post got the juices flowing for this entry.)

Sometimes I think us entrepreneurs get a little too much Godin on the brain, thinking that all we need to do is have a remarkable idea and go to networking events and people will somehow make their way to our website or buy our products.

Networking is very important, remarkable ideas are very important, and Seth Godin is a genius. These are facts. But ...

... behind every creative founder and networking CEO, there has to be a team of workers who execute. They are the ones building the site, meeting the deadlines, making the sales, answering the phones, driving the traffic, writing the copy, mopping the floors, driving the trucks, SEOing, and on and on and on. Without execution all the ideas are just thoughts, and the networking is just talk.

People aren't writing cutting-edge books about this because it's old news ... kind of an unspoken law. But it's just as important today as it was 1,000 years ago.

If anyone reading this has any recommended reading regarding the subject of execution, let me know. I'd like to see the unspoken law be spoken a little more often "lest we forget, lest we forget."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Best Books

I've read a few good books since Nov. 30th. Here's a breakdown:

The Big Moo - Seth Godin and the Group of 33

Good book to get the creative juices flowing -- something to release your inner Godin. Moo is a compilation of short stories, case studies, and inspirational thoughts written by 33 marketing/innovation hotshots like Guy Kawasaki, Tom Peters, Mark Cuban, and others. The book isn't the meatiest read out there, but it's the perfect bathroom book for marketing execs.

My primary lesson: The best thing you can do to market your company is do something that is "remarkable" -- literally worth making a remark about. If what you do doesn't shock, offend, uniquely entertain, inspire, or otherwise break from the conventional in one form or another, you're going to have a tough time breaking through the clutter to grab the attention of your potential customers.

Leadership and Self Deception -- The Arbinger Institute

(I think I'm the last person on earth to read this book. If you haven't read this book yet, let me know so I don't feel completely out of the loop.)

Fantastic read. Great combination of warm fuzzies and practical, applicable business know-how.

My primary lesson learned -- " ... we can sense how others are feeling toward us. Given a little time we can always tell when we're being coped with, manipulated, or outsmarted. We can always detect the hypocrisy. we can always feel the blame concealed beneath the veneers of niceness. ... It won't matter if the other person tries managing by walking around, sitting on the edge of the chair to practice active listening, inquiring about family members in order to show interest, or using any other skill learned in order to be more effective."

We all know people like this, and they all suck. I don't ever want to be that person.

Purple Cow -- Seth Godin

(See The Big Moo)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team -- Patrick Lencioni

Killer book. It's kind of a parable that illustrates and remedies the core issues that keep a team from functioning at maximum efficiency. Lencioni uses a fictional management team filled with personalities that we all can relate with to show how to fix a broken team, or improve a good one.

My primary lesson learned -- Conflict is good -- nay, conflict is very good ,as long as it is focused on ideas and not people or personalities. This is a tough lesson, especially for all of us in Utah Valley where "contention is of the devil". A good team should argue passionately about ideas and strategy. If no one argues, ideas are concealed, resentment builds, and the best ideas don't come forward. The author also points out that unless everyone on the team has voiced a strong opinion, not everyone can feel committed to the solution reached.

Words that Sell -- Richard Bayan, Phrases that Sell -- Edward Wertz and Sally Germain
Paul Allen recommended these books to me when we started creating a storefront for the FundingUniverse.com site. The titles sound cheesy, but these are great quick references for copyrighters.

My primary lesson learned -- Never underestimate the value of good copy. This book probably increased sales on our site 30%.

I've gotta bolt, but here are the other books that I've read recently that are worth a look:

Burn Your Business Plan -- David E. Gumpbert
All Marketers are Liars -- Seth Godin (Notice a trend here. I'm officially all caught up on my Godin reading.)
Inside the Tornado -- Geoffrey Moore