Monday, April 24, 2006

Harvard Classics and Company Histories

I'm almost embarrassed to report some of the books I've been reading lately. Most of them are bereft of meaning or deep value. Ever since I made the shift to sales and evangelism at, I've had to brush up on my sales skills by reading such timeless classics as Selling to Anyone Over the Phone, The Sales Bible, and other riveting, paradigm-shifting pieces of literature.

In all seriousness, it's been great to get back into a sales state of mind. I'm enjoying it, and I think will benefit from it.

One set of books that I have begun reading is called the Harvard Classics. It's a 50+ volume set of books that cover every topic under the sun. Volume I is a bathroom book of sorts that gives a brief synopsis of topics like ancient history, philosophy, fine arts, the colonization of the U.S., and a jillion others. Each section is written by a different Harvard professor. I feel like a real renaissance man every time I put it down.

I've also spent time each day reading from's unparalleled collection of over 10,000 company histories. Great entrepreneurs learn from the best, and reading these company histories is a great way to do it. The collection includes the histories of companies like


... and about 9,996 others. I know this is probably coming off like a shameless plug for our website (and it is), but these histories are a fantastic resource to entrepreneurs who are serious about learning from companies that have already made their way through the bumps and bruises of the start-up years. Check 'em out.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Team Focus and the End of Innovation..

The other night I went to a gathering hosted by the Junto Benjamins. I had a few great points re-emphasized to me by a great speaker and conversations with a couple of great Utah entrepreneurs:

1) Bruce Jackson, a consultant and parallel entrepreneur, reminded us of the importance of a focused team with one clear mission. He illustrated his point by telling the story of a friend of his (we'll call him Bill) who worked at NASA during the 60's.

At the beginning of the decade, President Kennedy suggested that the United States " ... should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Kennedy's adminition gave NASA one clear-cut mission: By 1969, a man on the moon. Period.

NASA management reinforced the goal to their team so well that even the janitors were on board. One night Bill was walking out of NASA headquarters when he noticed a janitor down the hall performing his usual clean-up tasks. He called out to the janitor, asking him what he was doing. The janitor replied, "Putting a man on the moon, sir!".

It was a great example of getting an entire organization to catch a single vision and tie every task to that vision. When I have a clear vision and measurable goals that I am somehow accountable for, I work like a champ. Without them, I comparatively suck. Maybe you and your company can relate ...

2) At the party I spoke with a couple of rockstar programmers from an equally rockstarish company about the end of innovation. The gist of our conversation was this: Sometimes you just have to quell your innate desire to innovate, and just focus 100% on selling. In other words, stop adding bells and whistles and just freakin' sell what you have!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A New Direction

A few years back, I played on a basketball team with a couple of 6' 10" towers that would drive me nuts. They roamed around the perimeter, launching threes and midrange jumpers instead of using their height in the low post where they were guaranteed a high-percentage shot every possession. Every time they took a jump-shot, I would think to myself, "You're good out there, but you could be great if you focused on your strength."

For the past year or so, I've been guilty of the same mistake.

Ever since the first time I read Paul Allen's blog, I've wanted to be a ninja internet marketer. I love the internet. I love statistics, making sales/conversions in my sleep, copyrighting, MarketingSherpa, and on and on ... And I feel like I've done a decent enough job using what I've learned about internet marketing to build into a viable community of entrepreneurs and angel investors.

But like the center looking for his three-pointer, I haven't been focusing on my strength -- people.

By the grace of God, I have always been good at forming friendships and partnerships. I love being and talking with people. In fact, the gift of gab got me permanently kicked out of Golden Oak Elementary School in the sixth grade. (This blog's for you Mrs. Gipson! No hard feelings. It's water under the bridge.)

So, in his infinite wisdom, our "Top 40 Under 40" CEO, Brock Blake, asked me to move over to the position of COO/Chief Evangelist. In my new position, I will oversee the recruitment of new angel groups and entrepreneurial societies to websites. I will also oversee's sales efforts, recruiting and managing a small team of highly specialized, hard-hitting, killer-closing, Jedi Knight Sales Ninjas.

I'm excited to tackle this new challenge. At the same time, I know creating this new department is not going to be a cake walk. Nevertheless, I can hardly sleep at night I'm so stoked about it!

So, if you know any Jedi Knight Sales Ninjas, or mortal salesmen with potential to become a JKSN, let me know -- jeff (at) There's lots of work to do.