Heads-Up vs. Heads-Down Thinking

27 01 2012

Recently I read Josh Linkner’s book, Disciplined Dreaming, and I thought I would share his idea of heads-up and heads-down thinking. To be successful as an entrepreneur you must be disciplined and focused, but creativity cannot be overlooked. Heads-down thinking is staying focused to finish the objectives at hand. But how will this separate you from the competition? Everyone is capable of hard work so you cannot expect to be rewarded just by putting in the work. The most successful entrepreneurs have something that their competition doesn’t. Whether it is their strategy, product, or ideas, something differentiates them from the competition. This is what Josh Linkner would refer to as heads-up thinking.

While most entrepreneurs accept the status quo and keep chugging along, the great entrepreneurs put time aside for creativity. Rather than burying their heads in the books and doing things the same way it has always been done, the most successful entrepreneurs focus on possibilities or how they can be different. Be creative in your thinking and embrace new ideas. Set time aside to brainstorm and come up with something new to add to the business. How can you go the extra mile for your customer that your competition is not already doing? What makes your product so special? Challenge the status quo and question your current practices because there just may be something better.

This project does not just end with management. Look to your team members and build their curiosity. You never know where that next great idea will come from. Be open for change and embrace it. You may have built a successful business but someone is always catching up from behind. To stay ahead you have to constantly come up with new ideas and that entrepreneurial spirit should never die. Don’t think of your business as just another business. Think of it as a bunch of businesses with all sorts of opportunities. Be creative and separate yourself from the competition. Put time aside to let your mind run free.


Beautiful Journey

24 01 2012

I have not posted in a while but I felt it necessary to record a little about the emotional roller-coaster it takes to be an entrepreneur. When I last left it seemed I had a plan in place and would not be bothered by any major obstacles. I was wrong! It seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Instead of my website being developed in the two months as originally planned, it has taken six months. My first developer ran into problems so I decided to hire on a new developer to help resolve the issues. This lead to remaking the entire site and running into the exact same problems. It seemed we were going in circles but I didn’t know what else I could do. I was out of options because I was out of money. I had to trust my team of developers and just sit and wait.

We seemed to have hit a wall with no visible progress. I must have exchanged hundreds of emails asking for updates and seeing what I could do to help. I was scared, nervous, and angry. After months of promoting my site I was forced to step back. All of the contacts I had made were now of no use because there was no sign of expanding any time soon. Basically, I had to take a break from the business world until the new site was complete and then start all over meeting new clients.

What kept me sane was my confidence in my product. No  matter how long it would take I knew I could sell my product and because of that I made sure the product was done right. This is a huge step to take. To be able to sit back when things are going no where and have faith in what you are dong. Expect your team to come up with a great product and know even if you have to start over, it is all possible. As an entrepreneur you will always be saddled with stress. Learn how to channel that stress and take it as a blessing. Dig deep into the heart of your product to learn where it can take you. By believing in my product I knew not to let the little things affect me. No matter how much stress came my way, I remained calm. People on my team handled stress in different ways by taking out their frustration. As a leader I cannot let the stress bring me down because that will solve nothing. Instead I preach patience and finding things to do in the meantime. If the problem is out of your hands take a break. Breathing down the neck of your teammates does not promote a healthy work environment, instead it hurts business relationships. Trust your team and let them do their job.

Now the site is finally finished and working great. On the first two days of being back we have seen more activity than ever before. For the first time in six months there is a sense of relief. This feeling will not last long but it is a nice break from the usual grind. Enjoy the moments you have and celebrate the small victories because it is these victories that keep us going. Now I will be looking forward to expansion and branding myself. Stress ebbs and flows like a wave. One day it is as high as a mountain and the next you feel free. Celebrate those stress free moments because you need your strength to take on the next big wave.

10 Lessons Learned On When To Change Your Game by Jason Goldberg (via frank’s blog)

4 08 2011

The biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make is not listening to their customers. The whole reason you are in business in the first place is to provide them with a good or a service. Why not listen to what they have to say and find out what they want? For a business to be successful, you have to go through change. No company can stand still and finish ahead. Get to know your customers, find out what is important to them, and request feedback. Make your product something they cannot turn down.

A leader is not a leader without followers. Embrace your followers and learn from them. Be open to change because at some point it has to happen. Do it the right way the first time, rather than closing off the world and creating something that no one wants. It is an exciting journey and you have the opportunity to change the world. If something isn’t working, fix it. Find something better and come up with solutions. Don’t ignore your customers or think any problem is too small.

Every day make a list of goals for how you can move your company forward. Don’t fall into the trap of writing down the same goals every single day. Find new goals and ways to improve. Take little steps everyday to improve the company and before you know it you have built something great. It takes small steps and open ears, but with passion and persistence you can achieve these goals.

by Jason Goldberg, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Fab.com (via venturebeat)   All of the steps that lay behind our decision to transform Fab were rooted in the lessons learned over seven years in the startup world. Here, based on our experience, are the top 10 reasons to alter course. If you can’t get traction after one year, switch gears and work on something different. Particularly if you’re building a consumer e-business, you can tell pre … Read More

via frank's blog

Believe in Yourself

2 08 2011

This video says it all. Determination is the underlying ingredient to success. If you have a dream, then pursue it and don’t give up until you have achieved your goals.

When I was a kid, I went through a very similar experience in learning how to ride a bike. I was four years old and was sick of using the training wheels. I devoted my entire afternoon to learning how to ride a bike by myself. My parents were not allowed to help because I told them I wanted to do it on my own. That whole day my mom would watch me fail over and over again. She would see me scream at the bike, throw it on the ground, and keep at it. I would be taking training wheels off and on trying to figure it out. Whenever my mom came out to help or see if I was alright I would tell her to go inside and let me keep trying.

Fall after fall I went, with fresh new cuts as the day went on, I kept on pushing. I hated my bike, but I wanted to conquer it. I couldn’t give up now so I kept on trying. Determination is what forced me to continue. If I stopped now, I would have felt I had failed. I wanted to ride a bike on two wheels and wouldn’t let a few cuts and scrapes get in my way. Finally, I did it. I succeeded and was now riding my bike all around the block.

What was I seeking? Recognition? Glory? No, I told myself I wanted to teach myself to ride a bike and I did it. I did not do this for anyone else but myself. I wanted to do it without the help of others but wanted to push myself to see what I was truly capable of. If you always rely on other people you will never realize your full potential. Push yourself to the limit. Watch yourself fall, but when you do, find a way to pick yourself up and keep going. This is a great example of the importance of determination.

If you want something, don’t let anything stop you. Show resilience in your work. Have a can-do attitude everyday. Most importantly, show determination and believe in yourself. You are capable of much more than you think. Test your limits and don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is what keeps us going and forces us to try again. If we never fail there would be no point in pushing for anything more. We would get no satisfaction in achieving success because we never really earned it. With failure comes greater satisfaction and rewards. Believe in yourself and keep on pedaling!

Plan to Change Plans

31 07 2011

Developing a plan is great, but plans never seem to go as we expect. It is easy to look good on paper but your success in the real world depends on how well you react to change. Be open to change and finding a new direction. Sometimes it is a small change, but other times it is a complete transformation in company goals.

When I first came up with my business idea, I immediately developed a business plan. I wanted to define my business, develop a marketing strategy, create a financial projection, and determine all costs involved. This was easy. The hard part comes when you begin to implement your plan and talk to other people. One single idea can be perceived a million different ways so it is your job to adapt to meet the needs and wants of others.

My objective from the beginning is the one thing that has not changed: to connect communities through an online social network. This may sound vague, but it forces me to find different ways to achieve this goal. I haven’t limited myself to take one path to reach my destination, rather I have left the path open for me to fill in as I go along. The journey is the best part because you never know what will lie in your way. There will be shortcuts, obstacles, and you will make mistakes, but as long as you keep moving towards your ultimate goal, you will be fine.

The first battle was deciding on my target market. The idea came with Lake Orion in mind but my solution seemed to be perfect for a college town. I started to make my plan for Oberlin College to serve as my first test market. I always knew the ultimate goal was to help Lake Orion but felt I wasn’t ready for that. If I could develop a proven model first and generate revenue, then I could launch my service in Lake Orion.

With Oberlin, I wanted to partner up with the school and have students pay $5-$10 as a student activity fee to access the service. I was talking with a developer in New York about not only developing a website but mobile apps for the android market and iphone as well. Everything was all set and I was ready to commit except for one small detail. The developer wanted me to pay a subscription fee every month to use his service, so I felt restricted in what I could do. Even though the initial startup cost was far less than my other developer I talked to and this New York developer had already created a market-tested product, it would be more costly in the long-run. I decided to pass and completely change my model.

I found a local developer and decided I wanted to launch in Lake Orion. I wasn’t going to settle for a product that didn’t have all the functions I wanted it to. Now I would have to sacrifice getting mobile applications but my website would be much more customized to meet my requirements. This also meant I could no longer charge users for the product but would instead have to charge local businesses a subscription fee. To sell my product I had to push the idea that my product would serve as a much more cost effective marketing tool.

If you look back at my original business model, you could hardly recognize it. I created a plan, but in the end all my plans changed. All of this happened in the span of two months. You may think it was a waste to create a plan I won’t even end up using. I disagree! Creating plans forces you to think critically and find solutions. Plans will constantly change. You can’t expect to ever have it all figured out. Instead, make plans to change plans. Find new solutions, create new models, and progress to your ultimate goal.


25 07 2011

Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to look. Often people become complacent, accepting things for how they are. Don’t fall into this trap. Find something new or find ways to improve what already is. The world is full of opportunities and those willing to take the chance will be rewarded for their efforts.

You never know when that one big idea will hit. For me it happened as I was working my summer job for a venture capital firm in Detroit. This line of work forced me to get in the mindset of finding something better. Before, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur but just settled with the idea that it will come later on. I didn’t actively pursue a new idea. At Detroit Venture Partners I was working exclusively with local entrepreneurs and felt the window was open. Don’t dwell on the obstacles, find the idea and the path will come. An entrepreneur’s biggest mistake is to put off what they can do today. If you have an idea, act on it before it is too late. Someone will always be biting at your heels and being the first to act is key to gaining market share.

I come from a small town called Lake Orion, Michigan. If I am going to call Lake Orion home, then I want to be sure to make it is the best it can be. If you were to purchase a new home, you wouldn’t just keep it empty. Instead, you will decorate it with pictures, plants, furniture, and painted walls. The home is one way to represent who you are just as Lake Orion represents who I am. There is no way to hide it. When the grass gets to long, you cut it. When your roof is leaking, you fix it. I am from Lake Orion and I can’t change that, so why not make it better. In Lake Orion, I noticed a trend of local businesses constantly failing and new ones coming in. There is no growth, only change that is keeping Lake Orion at a standstill. Instead of watching business after business fail, why not find some way to help our business environment. I don’t want Lake Orion to be a place where you don’t even know a business exists until you drive pass it.  My solution is to give businesses a voice in the community. Town My Way aims to develop an online marketing platform for local businesses to reach out to their potential customers directly. I want to create a more vibrant and exciting community where local businesses and consumers can interact on a more personal level.

Ideas don’t come easy, so when you have one, don’t wait but see what you can do today. Surround yourself with innovative thinkers. Hearing how others think influences how you perceive the world. Seeing how change can happen allows you to find ways to make change happen. If you surround yourself with Debbie-downers you may feel as if the world has no hope for change. The fact is the world is open for change, you just have to listen. Find flaws with the world and figure out a way to make it better.

I spent countless hours trying to figure out what an entrepreneur was or how they got their idea. I figured ideas just came magically without having to work at it. This frustrated me because I wasn’t coming up with any good ideas. The problem was I didn’t actively seek out new ideas. I sat back and waited, but the first thing I learned from my summer internship is you cannot afford to wait. Look at the world around you. Think through your typical day. I’m sure there are thousands of nuisances you wish you could avoid or make better. When you see something that can be improved, write it down. Start making a list and figuring out ways to solve those problems. It doesn’t have to be anything major or some revelation that no one else has thought of. Everything can use improvements and it is our job to keep improving the world around us.

Now, my mind never turns off. I can’t walk down the street without discovering new ideas. I no longer see the world for what it is but I see it for what it can be. There is so much potential and I am excited to see what we as a society can create. It doesn’t take one of us, it takes all of us. I will leave you with this short video and all I ask is for you to follow. Leaders can’t create anything great without the support of the people around them. To be successful, you can never do it on your own.

Hello world!

20 07 2011

For as long as I can remember I have been studying entrepreneurs and trying to get inside their head. What is it like to start up a company? Where does the initial idea come from? What steps can I take today? All of these are difficult questions to answer, varying from person to person. What I have learned is there is no one formula.

The goal of the Town My Way blog is to help you understand the journey. I will take you from the very beginning of being a startup through the whole process. There is sure to be ups and downs, but be sure to always enjoy the ride. I never thought I would be launching my own business at this point in my life. I am still in school at Oberlin College and thought that was just a dream I would pack away until I had a couple years of work experience under my belt after school. Then the idea came and I couldn’t ignore it.

I was fortunate to secure an internship with Detroit Venture Partners this summer which has really helped inspire me to start my own business. Through Josh Linkner’s inspirational writing and Dan Gilbert’s passion, I began to look at the world in a different way. Instead of seeing the world for what it is, I try and see the world for what it could be. How can I help improve what’s around us?

Lake Orion is the start. I have grown up here and see a need for a more vibrant community. I want to help businesses market themselves to their consumers and for consumers to communicate back. Today is the beginning of the new journey. Follow me on twitter, like me on facebook, and check in with my blog. Let the road to success begin!