Because I like to see all the components at one time.
It’s all right there on my wall, in front of me…
The steps the user will go through when using my product have been close to finalized for one component. In order to really ’see’ it, I printed out each page/step and then put them on my wall in the order they will be seen by the user. There is something about looking at the full story, printed out and in front of me that gives me a sense of what changes need to be made. I love looking at each step and analyzing how it can be made more simple, less cumbersome, more intuitive.
It’s so much more ‘tangible’…
The other reason I love to do this… I can really ’see’ my product coming to life. It always feels more real when I can look at my wireframes all together. It’s a satisfying feeling… to see all the work done in front of a computer screen in a more physical way.
Then I take my pen out…
And I edit, and edit and edit some more. I find all the little things that were missed, don’t need to be there, don’t make sense. I determine where copy will be needed, where error messages may be needed, where there are unintentional road blocks.
For me, it’s a fun process and is one that works for me.
Would love to hear how you go about product looking at your product specs and making changes during development!
Taking care of myself at least one hour a day…
I like to swim laps, and haven’t had the time to do so for some time. I finally made the executive decision to block out an hour each day to go to the pool and swim laps. That hour is somewhere between 9 and 11AM, and I started this week. Now that I have my own business, I can actually get to the pool at a decent time in the day when the lanes are clear. This. is. most. amazing!
My times are sooooo off…
I have a lot of rebuilding to do as far as my times go, but a person must start somewhere. I was around a 50 sec. 50 Meter when I last swam… now I’m at 1:12 or so. Eek!
To be healthy. To give myself time to do the activity I really like to do. To take advantage of the fact that I set my schedule now and can now swim when lanes are clear! I’d like to be swimming 1-2 miles a day, consistently by August 1st. I’d like to try for a 5,000 Meter Swim by the Fall.
You can follow along with my progress in the side bar, if you want. It’s a little piece of my new business, so thought I’d make it part of this space, as well.
If it was easy, everybody would do it” – Tweet by @venturehacks that was a great reminder!
I have made it over the mountain of doubt…
I am now completely entrenched in my product and business. It is no longer an either/or question. It is now about… when will this be done? When can we go into alpha? When will the product be ready for show and tell? When can I start to announce this to a broader audience?
Development changed everything…
There is a big difference between thinking about an idea and moving into developing the idea. For me, it has taken the project from a ‘what if?’ to ‘what’s next?’ There are questions every single day, critical elements needed to go to the next step, items that appeared simple that are now in the critical path and have issues.
It. is. EXHILARATING!
I have fun… every single day…
Even when it is stressful, it is fun. I now understand what other company owners/founders mean when they say it is fun, even when stressful and hard. In fact, for me, I’m finding that it is when the hard stuff hits, I find it even more interesting and dare I say it, fun! Figuring things out… from the budget to the product spec to the marketing. There are definitely pieces I like less than others, but when I put everything together and look at it, I am excited and intrigued.
Exhausting… yes, sometimes…
Seriously. Especially now that it is really in development. There are things that must get done or else the timeline suffers. There are things to think about that affect today that are just as important as the things that must get done so we’re ready for tomorrow. The amount of thinking energy that is required is extremely high. There are times that I may appear to be doing nothing because I’m not in front of my computer or on the phone. But sometimes, this is when I’m the most focused and getting the most done. Do this long enough, and the mind gets tired, and the body follows suit.
But you know what… it has made me more alive than I’ve been in a long time…
Because it is always a challenge. No day is the same, ever! I’m being pushed, and I’m enjoying the challenge. To take a group of issues at any given time and figure out how to solve them is so rewarding that it literally wakes me up. Even when I’m exhausted, I can feel the energy of the challenge bringing me to life! In every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been the one to go into ‘chaotic, messy, need to get it done under extreme circumstances’ projects and pull them together. This is when I thrive… and it turns out… running a start-up… is pretty much this set-up… every. day. I’m in my sweet spot, and the added bonus is that it is my company and product in an industry I LOVE.
I know I’m where I’m supposed to be…
There is no doubt that this is where my body and soul want to be. I feel comfortable in my role, doing what I’m doing. I absolutely love the thrill of figuring things out that seem impossible or too hard. I like to work with a small group of people who can focus on the problem and get it done. To pull resources from various places, at the right times, to get the project where it needs to be.
The past few weeks have been amazing, exhausting, hard and fun. I’ve only just begun. I’m happy that it became apparent quickly that this is the right place for me. That I’m doing the right thing. That I’m in my sweet spot. It will make the next few months leading up to launch easier because I won’t be spending my energy on the question, ‘Is starting a company what I’m supposed to be doing?’, I’ll be spending it on the question, ‘what needs to be done next?’
There is nothing like real life hitting a person right between the eyes to confirm some things. I had this moment last week… all is good now, and the best part is that I came out of it with some very clear confirmations.
- I am absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, doing the right thing
- Taking the risk of starting my own thing is the best thing I can be doing
- My husband is amazing, awesome, and my partner through everything
- I am going to schedule time for myself so that I don’t forget to move, breath, take it all in
- There are some amazing people in this world who don’t get nearly the credit or spotlight they deserve
I’m on a path, that I’m excited about, and the fear is gone for now. I am now sure that I’m making a better life for myself and my family… and that is all that matters. It may not look the way I or others expect it to… but I know it is the way things need to be.
Go hug someone you love today… and enjoy the ride you are on.
I still can’t believe that is true, but it is!
Startup founder is a title for other people…
Is the first thought I had. But then I was reminded that, no, in fact, I AM a startup founder. Yes, yes I am. I am not thinking about doing it, I AM doing it. I’m hiring developers, defining a product, working through business plans and marketing ideas. I’m working on this thing.
But, when I think of start-up founders…
I still think of a lot of other people. Like, Naveen (Foursquare), Loic Le Meur (Seesmic), Jason Fried (37signals), Hiten Shah (Kissmetrics). You get the idea. I think of those who now have some traction, some publicity, and are months & years into their thing. So, OF COURSE I don’t think I’m a founder like them. I’m at the beginning, beginning. I’m at the place that these guys were at a long time ago (in startup years!). I am a startup, I’m just not in the same place, I’m at that place that most people never see publicly. What a great thing to realize!
So now, I say to people, I’m a startup founder…
And I leave it at that. I don’t add on the consulting gig I may have to help bring in some revenue, I don’t mention what I used to do, I don’t mask it. When people ask what I do, I tell them… “I’m starting a company, I’m a startup founder.”
I admit, it still feels weird, but, every single day, it feels more real. I’m getting more comfortable in this skin. Maybe time is helping, maybe the writing of checks in helping, or maybe… just maybe… I see that I am doing the work to make something happen and am starting a company. For real. It’s not just a dream anymore, it is reality. I am doing this… now.
So I leave you with this…
What is it that you aren’t claiming because you think you haven’t done what others in your space have done, yet? Well, I say… as others have said to me… you ARE doing it NOW. Claim it. Remember that those you’re most likely comparing yourself to, were at this stage once too… you just hadn’t heard about them yet.
Yes, I am a Startup Founder, and that feels good.
I had moved back to the Bay Area a few months earlier. I had graduated college, worked for a couple years, and wanted to be back up in Northern California. I had 800 dollars to my name, a friend who needed a roommate, and the name of one temp. agency. Seemed like a good plan to me.
It was a good plan, and because I took the risk… I ended up in a job I loved. I ended up becoming a product manager for software tools used in Interactive Television. I was in my early/mid 20’s and was interested in learning, doing and getting my hands on anything that would challenge me and get me excited to go to work in the morning. I seriously loved my job. I got to travel, internationally, I got to work with interesting clients, and work with a lot of smart people from engineering to finance.
It was a dream, to me. I had an amazing boss, who is still a mentor of mine, and great colleagues. By far, one of the best teams I’ve worked on.
It had been almost two years, things changed, and I decided to quit my job. I paid all of my bills two months out, finished up at my job and bought a round trip plane ticket to London with absolutely no plan. I knew some people all over Europe from my business trips, that was all. No international cell phone (I had a plastic phone card that I could use anywhere in the UK and Europe), a Yahoo! mail account, and a backpack with a camera, film (yeah, not digital!) clothes, books and writing materials. I was 26, single, with no plan for when I returned home. It was an amazing time.
Yep… I did that…
Yes, I moved to San Francisco with $800 (that barely covered rent with a roommate!) and left a job to travel solo for a couple months, with no real plan for when I returned. On each occasion I had supporters and questioners. Thankfully I did what I wanted to and now have these experiences to lean on, because they definitely prepared me for the feeling I have right now. That feeling that is a mix of, “Anything is possible” with a bit of, “What the $%^& have I done!?” Depending on the day, the mix is more of one than the other.
But, no matter what…
Based on my various experiences, I will never look back and regret that I did this, took a chance, tried something new. Because if there is one thing I know, it’s that when I take a risk, it puts me on a new path. It opens my eyes to something new and challenges me in ways I never imagined.
Every time I wonder if I can do this, I look back at my 20 something self, with $800 and no real plan and think, she made it work… and so can I!
** After being reminded of this post from awhile back, I am re-posting as I believe it still applies to the spirit of this blog.
“That’s why we rehearse” – Michael Jackson, This Is It
What I learned by watching This Is It
It doesn’t seem like a movie that teaches lessons about leadership and running a business, and getting what you want. But it is, and in fact, there are scenes that could be a good addition to any seminar about leadership and entrepreneurship.
Lesson #1 – Be Direct
Tell people what you want. Don’t beat around the bush, or hide away… tell them what you want, and what you expect. Say what you want clearly and without reservation.
“What can we do to make the ear piece sound better?”
“Just bring the level down a notch.”
Done. That’s it. They brought the levels down, he was happy, the crew was happy, and they got on with it. No wishy washy, no, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe you can try and bring the volume down just a little bit and let’s see how that is.”
Directness. It gets the job done, people know where you stand, and they can do what they need to do to move forward.
Lesson #2 – Give People The Chance To Shine
When you have superstars on your team, they need to shine. Give the room to do that so they can be seen and heard and have the spotlight for a moment. In the end this makes the entire team, the business, and yourself much better.
The woman guitarist comes up on stage, it is just her and Michael Jackson. He tells her to really hit that note and to really go. Then he says, “This is your time to shine.” It makes the song, the performance, and Michael Jackson… better.
When great people shine, they make everyone around them shine. It’s physics… or something like that.
Lesson #3 – Do it out of love, not fear
No, this doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone around you that you love them. What it really means, is lead out of a place of love and respect. Don’t lead so that people fear you and loathe to be around you.
There is a moment in the film when the music team plays a part of a song, and Michael Jackson stops them. He says, “No, no, no… you’ve got to let it sizzle.” Right after telling them ‘no’ he follows it up with the comment, “This is all for love, l-o-v-e.”
What happen when he does this… you see the whole room become lighter. You see a great combination of respect for their leader and also see a room full of people who now know that this is a team, a collaboration, a group effort to make it the best it can be. He wants what he wants for the betterment of the project.
Lesson #4 – Look for, and see, the beauty in things around you
When we see beauty in the things around us, it can help make a more peaceful and joyful environment.
Near the end of the movie, they are about to practice the last song, “Man in the Mirror.” They are talking about the safety presentation flight attendants give before a plane leaves the gate. Michael Jackson mentions the movements they make while pointing out the exits and says, “I love when they do that.”
Beauty in the everyday.
Lesson #5 – Sometimes you just need to feel it
As a leader, there are times when you won’t have a cue, or someone to get an opinion from. Sometimes, we just need to ‘feel it.’ Call it intuition, call it a gut check, call it whatever you want… it’s the moment when the you just know what to do.
Michael Jackson is standing at the top of the stage, they realize he won’t see the cue from where he stands. What is his solution to this problem… he says, “I’ll just need to feel it.”
Not another word is said. He will just feel it.
Whatever your thoughts on Michael Jackson, there is no doubt he was and always will be one of the top entertainers of our time. The piece I didn’t know until I saw this film was that he is not just a top entertainer, but an extremely good leader. A leader who takes pride and ownership in his product. A leader who gets people to come along for the ride because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. A leader who demands, and gets, a great amount of respect from those working with him.
A leader who does all of this without losing his cool, without yelling, without being an asshole who everyone can’t stand to be around. He does it all from a place of L-O-V-E, and I think we can all learn from this.
I saw a post about women in startups and tech over on TechCrunch Europe, written by Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso), and I really liked her angle!
We all know the stats…
So I’m not going to bore you with them here. The reality is, there are not very many women who are starting and running tech based startups and there few women inside of VC’s that are funding startups.
Before I get going… let me clarify one thing…
I think having a group of cool women to talk to, get advice from, and hear stories from is extremely useful and awesome! Mentoring other women and inspiring other women to try this… it’s part of my mission as a business owner!! So please don’t misread what I’ve said below.
Okay, so, on with it!
Women need to stand up and do it…
Over the years, I’ve talked about doing my own thing a lot. About starting a company, about coming up with an idea that would be worth leaping out of the security of a full time job, about building something out of nothing. But you know what, talk does nothing… it’s all about ACTION.
The day I picked up the phone and made a big call, well, I’ll never forget that day. It’s the day I looked my own fear in the face and decided to move something forward rather than just talk about it. That call was the little push of positive feedback I needed, and it is the day that it all changed.
We may be surrounded by men…
Here’s the thing about being a woman in this industry. You may, and most likely will be, surrounded by men. When you’re in meetings, at conferences, at trade shows. Many of them have been influential people in my career and have helped me navigate the corporate waters. I’ve had men as respected colleagues, mentors and friends over the years, and they are some of the strongest supporters of more women coming into the space.
My trusted advisors, 75% men. It’s a reality, and I’m fine with it. I have strong women around me too. The key for me in choosing who to be surrounded with has not been whether they are a man or a woman. It has been:
- Are they a person I respect in this space?
- Are they someone I like working with?
- Are they someone who knows more about a subject than I do?
- Are they someone who will challenge my business because they want it to be better?
It is that simple… and it has provided me with an amazing, diverse and fun group!
Am I naive??
In one word, no. I know the world out there is not perfect. I know that there are still people and organizations out there who don’t believe a woman can hold her own in the business. I also know that this has become much more the minority than the majority (thankfully!!).
When I talk to my Mom, a woman who got her doctorate in Mathematics in the late 60’s, while working at IBM as a Main Frame Engineer, I am reminded how good we have it. Ladies… we have a lot to be thankful for. The world is a different place, and while the stats may not show a lot of growth on paper, the mentality has definitely shifted.
So, I say we get going!
It’s time to stand up and move forward and make it happen. So, who’s with me??
Because we all need them and their advice!
How Good Advice Already Helped Me…
About a month ago I had a very important meeting. It was with a trusted advisor who sat me down and asked really good questions. About my company, business model, market, etc. They asked what the major risks were (and there were a couple) and then… the reason everyone says to get trusted advisors became clear… quickly!
They helped me assess the risk from a place of experience, respect, and wanting to help me. A great combination. They helped me see how a change to the overall vision would help me continue down the path I was on, but with good plans in place to help safeguard the company if the risks became reality. This in turn actually changed some of the core design elements, while keeping the immediate idea in place.
Good advice turned into a good plan to share with others…
Others, who were also helping a lot, started asking lots of questions. Wanted to make sure I was protecting myself, and not being too narrow. Niche and narrow are two different things, by the way. They were not concerned about my ability to deliver a product, they were concerned that I may build something that put me in such a corner, I would never be able to get out fast enough to change direction if I needed to.
Because I had met with ‘trusted advisor’ mentioned above… I was ready to address these concerns with a well thought out and reality based answer. I was able to show that I not only go to advisors, but I actually hear and listen to them. I actually make changes based on sound advice. This instance proved that I had filtered correctly.
Why must we filter?
Well, because honestly, not all advice is good advice. This is why I only surrounded myself with a few (and by a few I mean 3-4) people that I really trusted early, early, on (in reality I’m still surrounded by a small group of people). I wanted constructive feedback that I knew I could trust.
I also wanted realistic feedback from people who I knew had my best interest in mind. Who would tell me no, who would point out the pitfalls who would tell me when I was dead wrong. They would tell me all of these things from a place of respect, a place of caring, and this type of feedback made all the difference. I knew it was real, it was well thought out, it was to help me get this thing off the ground.
They are still the people I go to first…
When something comes up that I need help figuring out. When I need to have a reality check about an idea, a meeting, even other people coming into my world. Right now, as I begin building and am out on my own… this is the time I need them most.
My trusted advisors mean everything to me right now and today, watching some things come together, I was reminded again of just how fortunate I am to have them there for me. Things they helped me work through got me to this moment. It is amazing and exciting and I am thankful!
If you don’t have a team of trusted advisors yet… go get them. You will be glad you did!