July 9 – Back away from the code, slowly.

By: PascalCC BY 2.0

 

Every passing day re-affirms my fear.  I have to back away from the code, close the IDE – quit doing what I love doing and start doing the other thing.
You know – the other thing, the hitting-the-phone, sell-your-vision, learn-the-problems, discover-your-customers, dine-with-rejection-and-unreturned-emails thing, you know Customer Development!

Now, I have a world of love for Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, Steve Blank and the other luminaries of the startup world.  But they really could have done a better job of communicating how bloody tough it is to get to talk to customers, to handle the silence and the find the courage to carry on until you find the data you need (some might argue that the lack of feedback is plenty feedback – that is a different story).

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of 30 minutes of conversation with Kevin DeWalt, a really awesome and interesting guy with plenty of experience of creating companies and helping startups.  He graciously offers 30 mins of free help to founders and startups via his site. I’ll blog more about that on a later post.  Anyway, Kevin was really pragmatic and his view was really similar to @saintsal’s (from a couple of weeks ago). I have to spend most of my time out of the building, pounding the phones, the emails, knocking on doors (virtual and otherwise) and really get to meet prospects, so I can learn.

The last couple of weeks have presented some opportunities that I fully intend on exploring. So , what is my strategy?

I won’t be chasing customers.  I tried that and they weren’t interested in talking to me. My new strategy is to help them find me – well at least this is my strategy for the next 3 weeks.
This means interviews, blogs and asking powerful questions about how all the businesses I am coming across do customer service.  My intention is that these questions will attract the right people.
So it’s not so much ‘build it and they will come’, but more ‘ask it and the right people will answer’.

With this in mind, here is my check in.

  • Glad I have a plan, being lost is no fun when you got somewhere to go.
  • Glad there are people like Kevin DeWalt, Flavio Martins, @saintsal and Ian Golding who are open and invite you to seek their collaboration. Of course it is mutually beneficial – but their openness to connect is amazing.
  • Really mad that I’m succumbing to carbs – the sugary kind.
  • I’m grateful for the ability to reflect on my thoughts and the brilliance of others.

I’m in.

Improve On…

Consistent daily Spanish practice.

Testing my code.  Recently I have been doing lots of test-free hacking.

Today

Write this blog.

Write insights blog.

Plan my interview series.

 

The Trello board…

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 17.54.39

 

I strive to do more with less, everyday.

May 21 – One mountain’s peak is another’s base.

By: Kyle TaylorCC BY 2.0

Yesterday

It’s been a weird few days, my exhiliration at releasing ServiceChat is tempered by a realisation that the mountains left to climb are even higher than that of getting software built (which is really just a molehill!)

Oh young whippersnapper founder, hear me well – software is the easy bit.  Finding customers and trying to get to have conversation with them (on a budget and with time pressures added for good measure) are the ‘real’ challenges.

  • Glad I am still working to my routine, despite a resurgence in laziness!
  • Glad I was emotionally reminded of my Dad from a picture taken in the early 60s. I wondered what me now, would say to him, then.
  • Excited that I am slowly generating leads. Just because it took me a weekend to read Lean Startup by Eric Ries doesn’t mean it takes a weekend to build a startup!
  • I’m grateful for the parents I had /have. Age my bend our knees but it won’t bow our heads.

I’m tired and  in.

 

Today

Mostly today is about doing stuff planned in my marketing plan/strategy.  Today it’s shortlisting target companies and seeking introductions through my network.

Create my early adopter lead generation funnel and start approaching potential customers from the research I did a few months ago ( I have to check the findings again first).

Start using LinkedIn more deeply – especially now I signed up for a business account.  Will try it for a month and see what results I get.

 

The Trello board…

Screenshot_21_05_2013_13_08

 

I built a solution to help people have conversations. I desperately need to have conversations myself with businesses.  Can you help?

 

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Why I Love This Poem

Often when I get physically/mentally/emotionally overwhelmed, the next thing that comes along can just tip me into total exhaustion.
When this happens, I feel defeated by everything, unable to rise to the challenge before me. I want to just be alone, to lick my wounds and be still, to be silent and be unnoticed. I want to rest and recover.
All of which are sometimes hard to do in a bustling house and running a startup.

At these times, I read Invictus and I am emotionally renewed, almost immediately. I may not physically be stronger, but mentally and emotionally, Invictus recharges me.

Invictus acknowledges how bloody hard life can be, for some and sometimes, downright brutal. It recognises that life is unpredictable and , truly, we control very little that affects us. Yet, like a rock on a tumultuous coast, one remains determined and independent, shaped by life but not be conquered by it.

Despite being very descriptive about the brutality of life and a little short on the joys that life can also bring, Invictus, for me, is about courage.

The courage to take responsibility for what one can, to do it humbly yet defiantly. Courage to be unshakeable even in the face of terrors of life – whatever they may be.

This courage feeds my hope and self belief that in the end I shall triumph against anything that life throws at me.

And that is why I love Invictus.

You?

What do you think of Invictus?

What do you take shelter in when life’s winds get stormy?

What are your favorite poems and why do you love them?

I would really love to share them. (and if you don’t currently read poetry, this is a perfect time to start)

Agile coach as recogniser of courage

An Audience for Courage

At my current client, we have a weekly Scrum Master Community of Practice meetup. This week on the agenda was an experience report proposed as the results of an experiment. So far, so good. I was sold on it – anything with experiment that didn’t involve animals and/or genitals was fine by me.

Anyway this Scrum Master tells a story that to me sounded like exercise in complicating the simple, he highlighted many deeply dysfunctional practices that exist in his team. No reviews to speak of, month long sprints, hardly any retros etc.

The assembled community members were stunned at some of the things he shared. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the entire thing.

I caught up with some of the members later and overwhelmingly they all said it was a tremendously courageous thing to do. To bare one’s dysfunctions to an audience one hardly knows (the community is young and memberships has not stabilised).

Agile Coaches recognise and acknowledge courage.

So today, I went to this SM and told him how much I appreciated the risk he took and that he demonstrated immense trust and openness to his peers in sharing his experience and seeking help. He was taken aback, I don’t think he expected anyone to do this. His reply convinced me that despite the monstrosity of mega-corporations, there are individuals who will rise above the pettiness of self-interest, take risks to build trust and grow sustainable communities.

He said ‘we have to start somewhere, so why not with me?

In many organisations, we have institutionalised what we recognise. In rewarding delivery competence, we have undervalued learning and the relationships that foster community. We have made it harder for people to be courageous and to take risks to help their teams, communities and companies grow (and I mean knowledge and goodness growth, not merely financial!).

Coaches need to be good observers of courage and be explicit in their recognition of it (if not publicly, at least privately to the individual concerned).

So I challenge you to look around your team or work colleagues and seek out the examples of courage amongst your colleagues and celebrate them in whichever way makes sense to the person. What would your organisation look like if you did this?