Technology without meaning is like work without fulfilment – purposeless noise.
Technology without meaning is like work without fulfilment – purposeless noise.
Here’s your situation: your life resembles an incumbent corporation (complex, disengaged, and listless); you want to disrupt yourself; you want to create the startup of you, but you don’t know how to do it; you are stuck between your dreams and reality.
And here’s what you know: change is hard; you’ve got to feel that you are ready for change, but there’s never enough time nor is it ever the right time; today you are too busy dealing with all the complexities of your life, that slow moving corporation, to fully contemplate or embark on changing your life.
It’s time to get off the corporate treadmill.
It’s time to create a lean life.
It’s time to develop a MVC for the startup of you. This minimum viable change and minimum viable challenge will recalibrate your life.
An MVC may seem like a small step, but it will reverberate deeply within you; it will catalyse a different path for you, a path to greatness, a path that is so much more aligned with the true you.
You will sing again.
You will laugh.
You will lean into your lean life free from unnecessary complexities: a simpler, more agile you will emerge, ready to spring into action and grab opportunities that you have only ever wished for before.
I am running a limited number of Lean Life advisory sessions for entrepreneurs and business owners. These are intensive sessions designed to kickstart the startup of you. You will not only develop your MVC, but will formulate a Life Canvas that you can use to iterate and chart your reinvention.
If you are interested in applying for one of these sessions let me know by email (rand at exoscalr dot com) and I’ll be in touch.
Sometimes major life events, like near death experiences, can help entrepreneurs find some much-needed perspective about what success means to them.
Read and listen to me being interviewed by the high energy Ramon Ray.
Think about this for a moment. When we are young we dream impossible dreams, but as we get older these can be all but knocked out of us: perhaps by societally induced constraints; perhaps by our parents’ ambitions for us, perhaps by our peer group’s limiting beliefs, perhaps by our inherited dogma, or perhaps by our upbringing.
You know the score: as we hit failures, feel pushed outside our comfort zone, and get older, we start to develop a series of self-limitations that can hold us back from using even more.
Sadly, we might believe we’ve missed the boat, that we’re not capable enough, or don’t have the right personality or social set to attain success.
Don’t worry. There’s a solution. The good news is that we are all born with the powers we need to achieve our absolute potential.
What if I could show you how to be fierce and harness your super powers to reinvent your life, and through them, achieve your absolute potential, as if born again, without constraints?
Would you be in?
Let me lead you through my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, $15.99 print (USD), October 2017), which is available from Amazon.
Surround yourself with failure and embrace it.
Hey it’s Rand,
Success and failure are far from random.
They live within the DNA of our character and personality.
Success and failure are expressed through our thoughts and actions.
Both success and failure are subjective and depend a lot on your mindset, your expectations and whether you react positively or negatively to a situation you are presented with.
How does your society define success?
How does your society define failure?
Does your personal definition of success and failure differ from that of your society?
Do you view disappointment as a natural part of expansion?
When you fall short recognise this not as failure, but as an integral part of the cycle and journey to success.
Disappointment is an inevitability if you are courageous enough to moonshot.
When you do fail, make sure you get back on the horse and keep riding.
Success with failure comes down to how you behave in the face of failure.
Failures are a form of feedback. They are never total failures because they show you what you shouldn’t do and what you should do better.
When you fail the first thing you should do is: Celebrate, because you are one step closer to understanding what works and what doesn’t.
And then the second thing you should do is systematise what you do with failures. Create a way of extracting the key learnings from ongoing failures so that they bring you closer and closer to success.
Failure may not be what you wake up every day hoping for, but successful leaders surround themselves with failure and embrace it.
Increase your growth velocity through the optimal mix of fuel and friction.
Hey, it’s Rand
Growth is determined by your mix of fuel versus friction.
The higher your fuel friction differential, the higher your growth velocity.
Let me repeat that:
The higher your fuel friction differential, the higher your growth velocity.
Take talent as an example.
It is an essential area that leaders must focus on in order to generate growth.
Attracting and retaining top talent is a tough thing to do, but you can optimise for this by using the fuel friction differential.
On the fuel side of this equation, the better your ability to attract top talent as fuel, the less you will require process and micro management. By the same token, the more mired you are with process the less likely you will able to retain top talent.
Top talent is a magnet for other top talent, fuelling growth.
On the friction side of the equation, if you are too process heavy and your systems and organization is too bureaucratic, you will have too many frictions for top talent to either want to work with you or stay on board your team.
The good news is that you can iteratively improve the fuel friction differential.
Firstly, either with your entire team, or if you run a larger business, then with your executive team:
For step one, in a weekly session, throw up on a board all the factors that are holding you back and the opportunities your team has to push forward.
In step two, quickly diagnose the current balance of fuel friction forces, then rank each item by its impact and ease of execution.
Give priority to the high-impact, low-difficulty items first.
Spend the next week addressing these forces.
As the fuel friction equation improves you will be set to grow faster.
Thirdly, repeat this process, regularly.
I suggest that the frequency of these meetings should depend on how much growth is a part of your mission critical priorities.
Entrepreneurs are faced daily with so many unknowns, so much chaos and survival pressure. Adding fundraising into the mix can often feel overwhelming. How do they keep their heads above this murky water and avoid the many obstacles that lurk below the surface? I’ve distilled out five rules that apply to all fundraising activities as a series of guiding principles.
1. Timing is everything.
Sharks can detect a drop of blood from a long way off. Investors can similarly detect fear from a distance and this can negatively impact their view on investing in your company. At worst they will walk away, at best they will command a much lower valuation and more onerous terms.
The worst time is when you have little capital left and a very high burn rate. It would be far better to close a fundraising round ahead of needing to increase your burn rate.
Similarly, putting your product out into an unprimed marketplace that ignores it or does not deliver the level of hockey stick growth you were wanting will send a negative signal to potential investors. It would be far better to raise capital so you can use it to generate the right level of publicity and interest in your product ahead of its release so that there is pent up demand for it.
2. Fundraising is not transactional.
Think of raising capital as a continuous process that starts when you launch your company and ends when you sell it.
Always be raising based on your continuum of growth needs. But never be raising at some juncture when it is critical that the funds come in or your business will falter, as per the point made above.
Also factor in that however long you thought it would take to close a round is probably only about half as long as it will actually take.
3. Funding marketplaces are cyclical.
Be aware that the climate for funding can shift markedly. At one moment there can be a funding frenzy with investors desperate to get into specific opportunity spaces. This will drive up valuations and give you a feeling that funding is easy, that you can demand better terms.
However, just as quickly the market will freeze over and it can become much harder to raise money either for a specific sector or overall.
Currently we are in the middle of a slowdown. The frenzy is over. Investors are taking their time doing due diligence and forming relationships before they ink deals. At this point you need more patience and to be more realistic on valuations than a few years ago.
4. Leverage funding inflection points.
Make sure you raise the right rounds of funding to match your position on the growth continuum.
And raise only enough to progress through the risk reduction you aim to achieve in that round. Too much funding may allow you to skirt through this risk reduction process and continue down a flawed pathway, building a delusional sinkhole that you cannot escape.
Continuously pare back on opportunities that present themselves to focus on core activities that progress you through each round’s inflection point.
Seed funding should be used to build a basic, but demonstrable validator for your hypotheses. Ideally this should be scalable – starting with a bare minimum validation but then progressively adding to it so that your product begins to approximate, but not reach product market fit. Remember to listen carefully to market feedback at this point and don’t power ahead into that delusional sinkhole when all the signs are there that your hypotheses are not being validated.
Series A funding is raised to get you to product market fit and the subsequent market traction that this enables. Investors prefer to come on board when they can see product market fit on the horizon as this allows them a more reasonable valuation than when customers are banging the door down to get to your product.
Series B funding is used to deliver scalable growth. You’ve built the rocket ship, you now need to scramble out of the growth engine room and into find the command console so you can steer your business into directionally correct territory that sets you up for the next round of funding.
Series C funding is perhaps the hardest round to raise as it is the real truth seeker. Up until now you could have relied on buzz to generate growth, but now you need to prove that you have the right unit economics in place to ensure sustained, profitable growth. This is a crucial time to be aware of that delusional sinkhole again. If you’ve raised too much money you could be plowing it into revenue growth and delaying the hard conversation you need to have around the economics of your unit growth. Revenue growth must convert into positive unit growth or you will sink your business as you expand it.
There are always exceptions, but raising outside of these inflection points is exponentially harder.
Coming back to the key point that timing is everything you should factor in about two years between each of these funding rounds. That gives you enough time to focus on growth for a full year before picking your head up for six months to raise the next round, while maintaining a six month contingency as a buffer.
5. Optimise your fundraising for success.
Does the investor or group of investors you are bringing into a round have what it takes to support you, over and above the capital infusion?
If you answer a resounding yes, then find an approximated win win deal and close the round. You could keep negotiating them down on deal terms or look elsewhere for a higher valuation, or a bigger named venture firm. But that would be a distraction. A financing deal is one moment in the growth continuum of your business. Keep your eyes on the prize: business success.
You are taking on a venture capital partner because you want to build a bigger business at an accelerated pace to what you could without their funding and guidance. Don’t over obsess about your equity stake. Think more about how much more you can grow your business with their involvement so that you all win, big. Keep that goal in mind and view each funding round as a mile-post on that journey. It is an important enabler, nothing more, nothing less.
By investor I refer to the sponsoring partner at a venture capital firm, not the firm itself. Your relationship with them is going to be a lifelong partnership, not a transactional, deal-based one-off interaction. Are you comfortable they would take your call at 3am in the morning or delay their Wednesday afternoon golf game to attend an emergency board meeting? Think of them as talent you are bringing onto your team. Talent you are prepared to take advice from and whose counsel you would trust implicitly.
I hope these rules assist you in your capital raising endeavors and provide you with much needed perspective to view funding as a part of your growth journey.
The topic of depression in startup founders is becoming more prominent. It is an important discussion that was highlighted when outspoken serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis was asked his views by a journalist.
He replied, “Running a startup is a mentally-challenging pursuit, with the chances of failure being absurdly high and the effort required being so extreme. Most of the people attracted to changing the world via a startup are highly-driven and quixotic, but sometimes they are manic.”
“I don’t think startups cause depression, but I do think depressed people can be lured into the chemical rush of running a startup without understanding how trying it really is.”
My personal view on the topic is that being prone to depression should not be a contra-indicator to becoming an entrepreneur.
Instead there are methods for dealing with depression, fostering resilience and reducing fear (of failure, of success) that while important for all entrepreneurs become imperative for those who need to fight their shadows more than others.
The most likely accelerator for depression is not being true to one self. Do a startup for the right reasons that resonate at your soul level, not because it is cool. Not being true to yourself creates emotional friction that will wear down your resilience and let the shadows in.
There is also a misunderstanding about what generates depression and people often oversimplify this very complex issue. It is not as simple as “just getting over it”.
This comment from a Reddit thread on the topic points to the complexity involved:
“The solution to depression is to be happier and stay positive, but doing that involves rehauling habits, improving one’s environment, setting goals, having the proper environment and support, and putting consistent work into changing the way one thinks, day after day without fail or else one runs the risk of undoing every step of progress. By the way, you have to do all of this while your mind tells you how pointless everything is and leeches away your capacity to feel pleasure or pride about a job well done, so any progress you do make provides no intrinsic motivation.”
Many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by the sheer number and weight of the decisions they face. Do I hire this person? Do I fire that person? Should I take funding from them, or them? Who is giving me the right advice? What are the consequences of releasing a new product feature – too early, or too late? Should I sell the business to them, at that price? And on and on.
These decisions can mean life or death for their business. Yet for people living with anxiety, every single decision, no matter how small they may seem to others, feels like they have life or death consequences. Factor anxiety into the mix for an entrepreneur and they become far more prone to depression and even suicide.
Another Reddit comment highlights how someone with anxiety thinks:
“It’s like a life or death game of chess. You have to think ten moves ahead and have a move for every situation in advance. The fear of death gets worse with every possible move you analyze. And if life makes a move that you didn’t see coming, instant breakdown, no matter how small insignificant the move was.”
Nor is depression a tap that can be turned on or off at will. It is with someone constantly as another poster to Reddit said:
“Every day of my life! Normal people don’t get it. They think you are acting crazy and irrational and treat you like you can just turn it on and off whenever you want, like it’s a choice. It’s not. I’ve learned to “deal” with it and suppress it a bit but it’s always there.”
Unfortunately there is a rise in suicide rates across all demographics, not only entrepreneurs. A 24% rise between 1999 and 2014 in the US has been attributed to concerns about jobs and personal finances. These issues can be exacerbated amongst entrepreneurs worried about how they keep supporting their staff and feeding their families.
It is important for entrepreneurs to realise that there is no direct causal link between being in the grip of fear and spiralling into depression. Realisation and resilience are key to staving off the shadows. Former Google and now CEO at Accompany, Amy Chang said in an interview recently, “I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. I have those ‘3am wake up and can’t go back to sleep moments’ all the time. It is good for people who are just starting their careers to know that too, so that when they are totally scared out of their minds of failure, or whatever else, they know it is 100% normal.”
My advice to entrepreneurs, be they new to the game or old hands, is tread the entrepreneurial path with eyes wide open. Do not be afraid to talk about your fears and anxieties and seek assistance if things get more serious.
EXOscalr is proud to launch its world leading Entrepreneur Growth Program, which is designed to provide early to mid stage companies invaluable insights into achieving high growth.
The Program runs over 6 weeks and gives senior executives practical advice, algorithms and methodologies that will significantly boost the velocity of their growth.
Announcing the Program, EXOscalr CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit said, “Growth is the perennial focus for business leaders. Yet it is often misunderstood and mismanaged. The Entrepreneur Growth Program dispels the myths and delivers an unfair competitive advantage.”
“This advantage firstly delivers the impetus for growth through a suite of tools designed to achieve a growth boost and secondly, delivers methods for harnessing the ensuing chaos and ensuring it is directionally correct.”
The Program is available to companies globally and brings cutting edge insights from leading high growth organisations, in Silicon Valley and internationally, directly to entrepreneurs and business executives.
In addition, EXOscalr is releasing its 2016 Growth Report which highlights the 10 facets for driving business growth and how to create a concerted front strategy and business-wide operating system for achieving the levels of growth only seen by leading companies.
“Growth is not all lead generation and pitching. There is a much wider set of activities that must be undertaken by dedicated growth groups working across a business. Anything less is tantamount to stagnation in today’s dynamic business environment,” said Mr Leeb-du Toit.
The Growth Report explores what a dedicated growth group should consist of and also what to look for when hiring the right people for it.
The Report can be downloaded from the EXOscalr website and expressions of interest in the Entrepreneur Growth Program can be made directly to Mr Leeb-du Toit via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More and more companies have a leadership mandate to achieve growth, a vision of what growth needs to be and an understanding of a growth culture.
They embark on various growth initiatives, but these are mostly carried out in silos.
Leading organizations not only undertake numerous growth activities, but they also conduct them using a concerted front strategy.
They start by formulating a view across all their growth activities. They then translate that view into a business-wide operating system.
As their concerted activities mature this operating system shifts to being driven by a dedicated growth group that works across the business.
I’ve written a Growth Report that explores the concerted front strategy used by leading companies to achieve rapid and sustained growth.
The report starts by highlighting key aspects of the 10 facets for driving business growth, then considers what a dedicated growth group should consist of and what to look for when hiring the right people for it. It concludes with suggestions on how to create a 100 day growth dialogue.
You can download the full report from the EXOscalr website at the following LINK.