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7 Ways To Create An Amazing Startup Vision

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When I am looking to set up interviews, I try to think of people who have come from nowhere and created something truly amazing. With that said, I thought I would interview Mat Jacobson, the founder of the Global Education Company, Ducere. The vision of Ducere is working directly with global leaders on topics they are experts in, to deliver a formal education. What makes Ducere truly unique is that they have been able attract some of the best leaders on the planet including five Australian Prime Ministers, two Canadian Prime Ministers, Heads of State from Europe, Asia and Africa, Nobel Prize winners, Oxford and Harvard professors and the list goes on and on.

Mat is very inspiring to talk with and is always looking for ways to help the entrepreneur community. He thinks big by nature and is not afraid to share his opinion about what needs to change in the entrepreneurial education system. I get the feeling that Mat see’s entrepreneurship as a way to solve many of the world’s problems and using trusted, global leaders to deliver that message is one way he can have a major impact on the outcome.

It was important when Mat created Ducere that philanthropy was embedded into the business and wasn’t a case of if they make money they would write out a cheque to charity when they could afford to. There are two companies that make up Ducere, one is the academic arm, and the other is the Ducere Foundation. Part of the profits of Ducere Education go to fund the Ducere Foundation. Ducere doesn’t donate money to third parties, they create programs in Africa with their philanthropic arm through education programs that are now in 12 countries. This business model is quite unique and has helped create a vision that has attracted the types of global leaders they have onboard.

 

***Spending Time With Bill Clinton***

Ducere is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative where they partner together on a publishing program for Africa. Mat had the chance to speak with Bill Clinton a number of times.

Mat says that Bill just has a genuine interest in the projects they are involved in so when you speak to someone of his stature, you might think they are aloof or politely nodding their head, but with Bill Clinton he is 100% engaged in the conversation with eye contact the whole time and listening very carefully to what you’re saying. He will then ask very good questions and give his opinion on how you can take your vision a step further. Bill gave advice to Mat on the politics of Africa, where the Ducere programs should be based and people they should work with like Sir Ketumile Masire. Having someone like Bill Clinton for Mat to bounce ideas off was an invaluable experience and just demonstrates how the Ducere vision has successfully captivated everyone.

Mat Jacobson and Bill Clinton - Ducere's Vision

Left: Bill Clinton Right: Mat Jacobson (Ducere Founder)

Later this year Ducere will be rolling out four bachelor degree’s with applied qualifications and coursework directly tied into real-life business projects.

After my interview with Mat I thought I would share with you his top seven ways to create an amazing vision for your startup.

 

1. Attract the best leaders to your startup 

You must have a very compelling reason for someone to be involved with your startup. One of the reasons global leaders are attracted to Duceres vision is because of their social enterprise elements.

Having said that, you still have to get in front of someone to communicate your idea. This can only be done by having people around you that have great networks and connections. To get great leaders, Mat said it’s usually done through an introduction or via someone who knows about their work – it’s always one or two degree’s of separation. A method that you should avoid is sending a letter that says “Dear Sir we would like to introduce ourselves to you.” To be successful in attracting global leaders, you need to create a trusted environment that they will gravitate to more than anything else.

 

2. Decide if you’re startup should have a global vision

It’s just a question of how far do you want to expand the activities you are involved in. If you’re an organisation that operates in one country, and then you take that same product or service to 50 countries, then obviously that’s global. It’s more a question of ambition.

By Ducere doing their philanthropy in African countries, as well as their academic programs in first world countries, they have become global by nature. Another example might be if you create an interesting platform for transport that helps people, such as Uber, that could equally apply in one country and the founders might be happy generating revenue, on the other hand if it’s a product or service that is really popular, maybe it could be spread to more than fifty countries. It comes back again to ambition and not so much whether a product or service is limited to one or more countries

 

3. Reframe your prior failed visions

In order to create an amazing vision, you need to be able to reframe your prior failed visions and be able to use the lessons to help create your new vision for your startup. Of course, things don’t always work out as planned. There a lot of things that don’t go the way you intend, especially in a startup environment.

The problem with the word failure is that it has a very negative connotation. Mat believes we should use a more scientific type of terminology like experimentation or trial and error. This terminology is really the way startup and entrepreneurial businesses operate. It’s not a question of success or failure it’s a question of how quickly can you move, adapt shift to create a successful outcome. That’s the case with any organisation that you can point to. No company in the world has a 50-page business plan on day one that ten years down the track they can look back on and say “that’s exactly what we intended to do.”

Look at the genesis of Facebook, what it does today is completely different to what it started out as in its first version a number of years ago. If you look at Google and what the plan, idea and vision of was when it first started, it certainly wasn’t self-driving cars. Even when we can point to a business that is successful, it’s still constantly about adaptation and evolving in order for that business to stay in the same successful position. Mat believes we should talk more about experimentation because in an experimental environment it’s very normal for things to be cut-off, modified, focused more on a different area and to go off on tangents.

Failure is such a negative word and people don’t like to be associated with it, which is perhaps why in the western world we have such a risk adverse culture. Trial and error, and experimenting until a business model succeeds is far more palatable.

 

4Take the Steve Jobs approach – simplify and focus

How do you balance opportunity with focus? There are always lots of opportunities out there. People overestimate the value of ideas, and they underestimate the value of implementation. People talk about the idea and vision to a great extent, but this is only one component.

Founder of Ducere Mat Jacobson

There are lots of people that have interesting ideas, but there are far fewer people who can actually execute that vision into a successful, global organisation. It’s about the execution and for Mat that’s the balance between lots of ideas and focus. There are constantly more ideas than the amount of focus you can have to successfully implement those ideas within your startup. It needs to be about having a good sense of core value and being the best at something rather than doing lots of things poorly.

In Ducere’s case, education is a huge space. They implemented this idea of simplification by narrowing down their focus to a business school rather than teaching all the broader areas that a typical business faculty in a university would offer such as bookkeeping. This allows them to leverage off their unique skill of business programs that can utilise global leaders in the areas of entrepreneurship, leadership and management.

Your startup needs to look constantly at the core focus you are trying to achieve and make sure it is relevant to everything you do. Don’t just implement something because it sounds like a good idea or financial opportunity, if it doesn’t meet your core focus.

 

5. You need lots of diverse thinking, interactions and experiences

If you work in the airline industry, you would typically go to airline industry conferences and deal with people in your industry. If Mat was in the banking industry and wanted to come up with something novel, he would spend time trying to understand how the airline industry works. On one hand, the airline industry has nothing to do with banking but that’s where opportunities for innovation arise. It allows you to see something totally unique and different, and then you start thinking to yourself, how can I use what I have learnt from the airline industry in banking.

A classic example of this was when the founder of Ikea went on holidays to New York to visit the Guggenheim. Most people would wonder what visiting a museum has got to do with a furniture business. When he was in the Guggenheim, he had to follow a set path through the different attractions. This experience he had while on holidays became the impetus for the now famous IKEA model of a structured pathway through their stores, ensuring customers have to walk past every product.

Another important component of creating a vision is being in an environment where you can have headspace and think clearly. A holiday is a perfect example of this and often you can think that a holiday is to get away from work. What a holiday does is to allow you to think outside of the hustle and bustle, the hundreds of emails / meetings and phone calls where it’s very difficult to think innovatively, and completely change your environment.

Mat does his best work often when he is on holidays or an aeroplane where he can’t be interrupted. The idea for Ducere came to him when he was in holidays in Bali, in a pool, thinking about what he wanted to do to start up his new education business. He already had a few things like philanthropy, education qualifications, and leaders in his head and these began to link together while in Bali.

 

6. Stay focused on your vision

True entrepreneurs are typically not very disciplined or organised people; they are more the creative type. Mat says that it’s very easy for him to stay inspired because he has created a business that allows this process to occur naturally. Their programs in Africa are world-leading initiatives to improve education and then in their academic side they are working with the most inspiring leaders from all over the world. This makes it very difficult for Mat to not be inspired. If you embed these types of things into your startup, you too can achieve the same inspirational results.

“An entrepreneur is almost like an artistic equivalent but in a business environment”

Mat applied the concept of staying focused by only allowing Ducere to partner with not for profit, public institutions because he saw that they had the right focus, which is on skills and quality outcomes. Mat found that the focus in education is not necessarily the same for “for-profit” education institutions. Public education institutions typically aren’t the most nimble or entrepreneurial but that’s why the partnership works so well because Ducere’s thinking is totally different and much less traditional.

At the same time, these institutions bring a very different level of process, rigor and compliance that is non-typical for a fast moving, innovative, startup company. Sometimes these two sets of strengths that both organisations have can bring operational challenges but if the end goal is aligned, you can work out the detail. As long as you have a vision with your partners of where you want to go ultimately everything else can be figured out.

 

7. Execute your vision in line with the fundamentals

Be outcome focused. It’s not about sitting in a room and pitching to investors about a concept or idea. Ultimately it’s the customers who decide whether a business is successful or not. If customers buy your product or service, this single ingredient will determine whether your startup is successful. You need to refine your business model around the customer through speaking with customers and doing focus groups. Often the reverse happens. People go out and think about their startup, product or development and then go out to customers and say this is what we have

Be very clear about the niche focus of the organisation because it’s very easy to take on too many opportunities as opposed to saying “no that’s not our core business.” It’s harder to say no than yes.

When it comes down to executing your vision make sure you do so in the biggest and most exciting way possible because that’s what get’s people on board. No one is interested in who came seventh in an Olympic race. On one measure coming seventh in the Olympics is unbelievable because out of billions of people in the world that person was the seventh fastest. The reality is no one cares or remembers who came seventh. People care about who is the most successful and came first. You need to be thinking about what you can be successful at and be number one in, and then create a bold vision around that.

 

Lessons from Africa

Mat loves spending time in Africa, and one of the things that was surprising to him is the culture and the positive attitude of the people. When you think about going into a place that is the poorest area in the world where they don’t have running water, earn less than $200 USD a year and have schools that have no libraries you would expect these people to be very disgruntled.

What’s amazing is that you find the opposite. Kids in schools in these areas have such a positive attitude, a desire to learn and such an appreciation for any opportunity they have. It makes you feel how complacent we are in some western countries where kids can take a lot for granted and run a muck or be disruptive in class instead of appreciating how incredibly valuable the opportunity of a good education is. In Africa, it’s the opposite, if you give a child a book to own for the first time, you can just see the gratitude and value they have.

Just by providing some of the basic necessities people need, you can achieve amazing things quite quickly because of their willingness to learn.

 

Final advice from Mat Jacobson

Work on the most exciting thing that you can possibly work on. Only work with people that you enjoy working with and that you trust in. If you have the passion and work hard then you can do absolutely anything and can change the world by working on something exciting, and working with people who share your vision, and believe in you.

14th-century scholar Maimonides, “The highest form of charity one can give is to give someone a livelihood, so they needn’t rely on charity“

Mat Jacobson Interview About Ducere's Vision
If you’re looking for a global education provider that tailor entrepreneurial courses around amazing global leaders and real world projects, then head over to Ducere’s website to find out more at www.ducere.co

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Jennifer Sarah Spilsbury

    Jun 22, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Looking for inspiration 🙂 I found this to be quite inspirational! Thank you.

    • Tim Denning

      Jul 17, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Thanks Jennifer, I’m glad you got some inspiration. That’s what Addicted2Success is all about!

  2. Alaedin

    May 25, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Thank you so much. Amazing post!

    • Tim Denning

      May 28, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Thanks Alaedin, glad you liked it.

  3. Jhonatan Arias

    May 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    What a great piece of reading! Just what I needed today. I liked all the article. It’s inspiring and full of useful information. Congratulations!

    • Tim Denning

      May 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Jhonatan for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. Jamelle

    May 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Phenomenal piece! I love the point of staying concentrated on your business core

    • Tim Denning

      May 20, 2015 at 3:51 am

      Thanks Jamelle, glad you liked it.

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Startups

No One Would Hire Me — Nothing Lasts Forever, Though.

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In 2011, I was down and out. I was defeated and felt like I’d never amount to anything.

This story is going to inspire you if you’ve ever faced a similar situation or felt defeated.

I’d finished working at the startup I founded with my brother and things didn’t look good. I had a dream at that time to utilize my digital marketing skills and work for an advertising agency where I could grow my skills.

Every job I applied for I was turned down.

Even though I’d had digital marketing experience and built a multi-million dollar business using that talent, it wasn’t formal learning or advertising agency experience.

So, I ended up taking a job in finance which I also knew nothing about. I took a junior role and a large pay cut and started my career at a bank. For seven years, on the side, I worked on my passion for social media and online marketing.

Two days ago, I was hired to run the digital marketing team for a well-known tech company with 900 staff. Against all the odds, I won the long game.

Here’s what you can learn:


No one can stop you.

Even with all the no’s and people that laughed at me in 2011, I didn’t stop.

I went into hiding for a while and built my skills. I started with blogging, then SEO, then pay per click and eventually landed in social media.

Just because someone won’t hire you today based on your skills, attitude and experience, doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow.

In fact, without sounding cocky, people now have been bending over backwards to hire me as a consultant to help them with social media and digital marketing.

“The same people that said no to me now want to work with me”

You decide whether you stop based on rejection — nobody else. Keep going no matter the odds.


Be prepared to wait a few years.

Patience was what made the last two days feel incredible. It took seven years to get what I wanted and I had to be damn patient.

The mistake many of you make who are reading this is that you’re not prepared to wait years to get what you want.

When you accept that it takes years to achieve your goals, you work differently. You prepare yourself in a totally different way.

Wanting things too quickly forces you to sacrifice for the short-term and mess up the long-term. Slow down. Relax. You’ve got time.


It’s your attitude that counts.

When no one will hire you, it’s your attitude that counts.

If you walk into an interview or coffee catchup with an attitude problem, then your career dream is going to continue to be a problem.

You see it on those TV talent shows when a guy/girl walks out onto the stage and has been trying for a long time to make it as a musician. They have this sense of entitlement and their bad attitude is written all over their face.

Don’t be one of these people. Fix your attitude.

You’re only entitled to what you earn. Walk into interviews and face opportunities with a sense of humbleness.

Let humbleness be your dominant attitude and eventually you’ll have more opportunities than you could ever hope for.


Nothing lasts forever.

The no’s I got in 2011 lasted a few years.

The point is they didn’t last forever.
Just because you’re getting no’s today and being laughed at, doesn’t mean that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever including you.

“Keep going until the people that said no to you come around and are half-way towards a yes”

No one can deny you forever. People will admire you if you keep going and learn along the way.

Sometimes we can feel like we’ll always be rejected. That’s how I felt in 2011. I thought to myself “I’ve worked five years in digital marketing and built up a pretty successful business and people are still saying no to me. If not now, when?”

Now let me be honest for a second. I didn’t have the intelligence in 2011 to keep going. I was too dumb and too obsessed with myself. It was basically blind faith that kept me going. I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever and believed it.

There were no mentors, advisors or as much self-help advice as there is now to tell me that the way I was thinking was madness.

You have the opportunity to learn from this lesson. Nothing. Lasts. Forever.


Push through.

When every obstacle there is, is standing in your way, sometimes all you need to do is keep pushing.

The way I did this was to keep writing. No one was paying attention to my advice, but that didn’t matter.

The only strategy I had at the time was to keep doing what felt fun to me and I believed I’d figure out the detail later or just never get paid to do what I liked doing.

Pushing through is about continuing to do the work even when the results don’t show.


Eventually, the odds will change if you change.

So what was missing in 2011? Why was I getting rejected even though I had the skills and experience?

I needed to change.

I was an arrogant, selfish, entitled son of a bitch who wouldn’t give a dime out of a dollar to anyone. I had to change myself.

I had to:

  1. Develop empowering beliefs
  2. Change my attitude
  3. Adopt a never say die mindset
  4. Learn abundance
  5. Give more to strangers
  6. Create value for people first via the internet
  7. Be grateful for what I have instead of always wanting more

Your odds of success won’t change until you change.

“You’re the problem and that’s the hardest advice to swallow”


Final thought.

It’s been a big few days. I’ve waited seven years to get what I want. The hardest thing about getting what you want is that it will feel good for a few weeks, and then you’ll want more.

That’s the crack addiction that comes with personal development.

I’m trying to detox from this addiction and be happy with what I’ve achieved to date.

Maybe no one will hire you today.

Maybe your life sucks right now.

Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot this year.

It’s all okay. Your odds of success will change when you change.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

10 Lessons for Bootstrapping Your Startup to $1M Annual Revenue

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bootstrapping
Image Credit: Unsplash

In an entrepreneurial landscape dominated by headlines of unicorn startups and billion-dollar acquisitions, getting a company to $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) may sound like small change. Let’s be real, though, hitting $1 million ARR is an aspirational milestone most young companies can relate to. And it’s not that easy, especially if you’ve secured modest investments or no investment at all.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company I work for falls in the latter category. We’ve never raised a single investment dollar, and it took us four years to reach the $1 million ARR threshold. It was a wild four years. Frustrating, fun, scary: you name the emotion, and we’ve felt it.

But more than anything, it was an instructive four years. We learned so much, and we want to share a few helpful tidbits with our peers out there in the trenches, scratching and clawing your way to your next big milestone.

Here are 10 things we think are most important that you can use in your own start-up journey:

1. Don’t quit

Steve Jobs famously said that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is perseverance. At one point I remember hearing “Folks, I don’t know if we’re going to be here next month.”

It’s frightening not to know where you’re going to be next month, but you have to continuously figure out how to get a few more customers and extend your runway. You can’t “make it” or succeed if you don’t exist, so you can’t quit.

2. Give your customers everything

At the company I work for, Text Request, we spent hours with our customers. We built whatever they asked for (if it fit with our goals and other customers could use it too). We also gave away a lot of free software.

If you want to grow and gain customers, you have to create a needed product that solves your target customers’ problems. Determine who your target customers are, ask them what they need, and then tailor your solutions for them.

3. Try everything you can think of

The book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares covers 19 sales and marketing channels for startups to test. We tried all of them. We went to events. We advertised. We started a referral program.

For us, cold calls and cold emails worked surprisingly well. We took an industry, looked for companies in a given city, and reached out to set up product demos. Organic search has increasingly helped our sales funnel, too.

Either of those could be the best plan for you, or it could be advertising in a particular channel. Every startup is different and targets a different niche, but you’ll only find successful strategies and channels for growth by testing all your options.

4. Focus on the basics

When you focus on doing the basics, opportunities open up. When you commit to SEO basics, your targets will find you online, and a big fish will occasionally swim by. When you provide fantastic customer service, a few users will leave reviews and tell their friends. When you keep your head down and do the work, eventually you’ll look up and have hit a big milestone.

5. Get the right people on your bus

This is one of the critical lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Thankfully, our small team had the right people from the beginning. Brian and Jamey Elrod, our husband and wife co-founders, had already started a successful company from scratch (Educational Outfitters). Our third co-founder Rob Reagan has created software for twenty years and published a book last year on building apps for global scale.

Rob brought a couple of top-notch developers with him, and the rest of us showed up determined to figure the business out. If you’re going to take a company from $0 to $1 million, every member of your team has to be dedicated to working together for the long-term benefit of the company over self-interest.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There’s always something that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, but you can put the questions below to rest:

1. How do you build it fast enough?

In the early days, we worried about losing a customer because we didn’t have [X]. It was stressful knowing that So-and-So would move on to the next option if we couldn’t deliver fast enough, and many times they did. But that doesn’t matter.

Losing one customer isn’t worth pushing out a faulty product. Despite the pervasive Lean Startup mindset, it’s more important to your customers that you create needed features (read: solutions) that work great the first time. They have to trust that you’ll give them the tools they need to accomplish their goals, or they’ll leave.

2. How do you keep customers longer?

Our support is perhaps our #1 competitive advantage. One of the things we’ve learned is that a lower price, and sometimes even new features, won’t keep customers around longer.

To keep your customers from churning, you’ve got to do two things: First, provide a smooth onboarding process that immediately teaches customers how to gain value (solve their problems) with your product. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up, and they’ll eventually leave.

Second, always be there with kind words and helpful content whenever a customer needs help. If you aren’t, they’ll get frustrated and find someone else to help them.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt

3. How do you get people to your website?

Advertising might be a good option, but if targets aren’t already thinking about what you can do for them, they probably won’t care about your ad or purchase. Instead, create content to educate viewers and help them solve their problems.

Focus on growing your organic traffic, becoming a trustworthy source, and honing your brand’s voice before spending lots of money on ads.

4. Do you need investment money?

When you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, you’ll do anything for a ship to pick you up. But sometimes you just need to swim. We chose to swim, and you might want to do the same.

When every dollar spent has to fight to prove its worth, you’re inevitably going to build something more valuable and more sustainable. Plus, bootstrapping gives you more control over what decisions you do make to grow your company.

5. How do you pursue 10X growth?

A growth hack is not going to propel you from 100 customers to 10,000 overnight. It doesn’t take one trick, but lots of little and big things working together to create exponential growth. It also takes time.

Instead of looking for a golden goose, create complete and actionable strategies. Those, and a little patience, will help you achieve exponential growth.

Growing your startup to $1 million ARR is not easy, but it’s possible – even without investors lining up to give you money. Put the 10 lessons above into practice, and, with a little time and a lot of work, you’ll get there.

Is there a business you’d like to start or have started? Share your ideas and suggestions for our readers!

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Startups

10 Things The Corporate World *Didn’t* Teach Me

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I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.

You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.

There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.

Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:


1. How to think for myself

In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.

If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.

Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.

I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.

Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.

As my former colleague said to me the other day You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.


2. Time management

The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.

With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.

What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.

“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”

None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.

Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.

Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.

“I’m more important and have a better job title.”

“No, I’m more important!”

This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.

The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.


3. A passion for what you love

Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.

Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”

It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.

The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.


4. What people are really buying

Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.

I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.

People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.

No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.

This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’

Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me


5. The power of an audience

People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.

I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.

Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.

Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.

These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.

With an audience, you can test ideas.

With an audience, you can inspire.

With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.

With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.


6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre

In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.

Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.

That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.

I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.

Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.

Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.


7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)

Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.

This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.

The formula goes like this:

  • Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
  • Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
  • Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
  • Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
  • Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)

“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”

Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.

That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.


8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations

You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.

Quite the opposite is true.

Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.

The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.

It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.

The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.

No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.

I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.

Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.


9. The way to treat people

The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.

Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.

This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?

Wrong.

The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.

By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.

My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.


10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords

Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.

We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.

Lean startup meant Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”

Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.

Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.

Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.


So what can you learn from the corporate world?

It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.

The corporate world can teach you:

1. Leadership fundamentals

2. Corporate decision-making

3. Community values

4. The rate of technology disruption

The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.

What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.


The grass is not greener.

The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.

All business just has a different set of problems to solve.

The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.

The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.

That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.

The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

How to Change Your Bad Habits for the Benefit of Your Business

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If you are like most people, you probably like to complain from time to time about the economy, about the markets, about how things are changing too fast or how you don’t get enough time. Moan moan moan!

However, moaning doesn’t solve problems. Instead, you can follow the “No BCD” theory and avoid blaming, complaining and defensiveness. This way you will have a totally different outlook, handle situations a lot better, and take control over your destiny. A really practical way to do this is to develop better habits.

What are the bad habits you have?

Everyone has different bad habits, but when it comes to business here are the 4 most common ones:

  • Lack of focus: Every single day, there are going to be things you intend to do and then you “run out of time” or succumb to distractions. But if you’re honest, you had the time and there was a way – you just lacked focus.
  • You’re too kind: How many times have you taken on a project which wasn’t profitable, because you “felt sorry for them”. Not only does this actually hurt you, but it also in many ways hurts the relationship you have with that client or customer.
  • Promising and not delivering: Whether it’s something you said to your team, your clients, or your suppliers, if you’re not matching your words with your actions, over time others will believe you less and less.
  • Leaving opportunities on the table: So often people complain in business they don’t have enough (money/sales/support), when actually they do – they just didn’t ask for it. Within your existing network there is probably everything you need, you just have to ask.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Think about it. You can look at each of these bad habits and replace them with new and better ones. Imagine…

  • If you created habits that made you focus better: you’d be more productive, with the same amount of time.
  • If you learned good ways to set boundaries: you’d have a better time delivering your services or products, and you’d feel more rewarded.
  • If you kept better track of your promises: You’d feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • If you picked up on more of those opportunities: You’d make more money, and inject welcome energy into those who are ready and willing to work with you. The side effect would be that you could delegate things you don’t love and aren’t good at to others more capable, and replace those activities with the things you love!

Breaking those bad habits

Over the years, I have managed to create more boundaries and space for me to be efficient and effective in my work. There are ways to do that  – some habits I have learned from others who have experienced and overcome similar issues, and some are the product of my own experiments. See below!

1. Sprints (for productivity)

I have to say this is so effective. I meet at least one other person at a coffee shop or members club – if it’s not in my office with my fellow team members. We plan to do 30 or 45 minutes of work and do between 3-5 sprints in a session. Blocking out 4 hours together I find works well.

We each say what we will work on and then we get going. No talking allowed, focusing only on the task we talked about. When the timer rings we stop, compare notes on progress, have a mini break and do another one. It’s honestly my most productive time, and it makes you realise how much time we waste on distractions and even moaning about having too much work on!

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.” – Abigail Van Buren

2. A tiny assignment (for motivation to break a bad habit)

I have done this now twice with 2 different friends. We talk about the bad habits we each have, whatever they might be. We give each other a new rule or habit to follow over a two week period. It has to be a “SMART” goal assignment – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

3. Low hanging fruit (for grabbing opportunities)

You simply make a list of people you already know who:

  • Fit into your target market but don’t work with you yet
  • Fit into your target market but haven’t worked with you for a while
  • Experience problems you know you can solve
  • Have their own network of contacts or audience which is very similar to the people you want to talk about
  • Have the expertise in things you find challenging, and very likely the answers to your current challenges

Once you have this list, you come up with some drafted initial outreach scripts for either text, email or phone calls and then you work through your list – sending out the requests, hellos, questions, etc. If you draft your communication well, considering the mindset of the people who are receiving these outreach messages, you will find each conversation will be at the very least a learning opportunity and would certainly lead to more “yeses” than if you didn’t do this exercise.

4. The minimum criteria (for setting boundaries)

If you find that your bad habits involve you saying “yes” too often when you should be saying “no” – then this one works great. You just need to write a specific list of criteria to answer the question “Any time I will do this, I need the following things to be true first”.

For example, you only take on a client who pays less than a certain minimum threshold, who has made a written commitment that they will comply with your specific set of guidelines for their responsibilities during the project. There are so many ways you can use the “minimum criteria” technique and you can share your rules with friends and colleagues to hold yourself accountable.

Now, with all this insight I hope you feel more motivated and you can’t even remember your excuses anymore!

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The Top 70 Buddha Quotes

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Image Credit | Tricycle Magazine

Buddhism has been around for over 2,500 years and is a way of life that about 300 million people around the world follow.

At the age of 35, Gautama left the palace walls where he had grown up and ventured into the real world to walk his own spiritual path. Sitting under a Bodhi tree until he became enlightened, ‘Buddha’ attracted a following and dedicated the rest of his life teaching the path of enlightenment and awakening to them.

Buddhism is a very calm, peaceful and fair way of life and these Buddha quotes encompass the philosophy of Buddha’s teachings.

Here are 70 of The Best and Highly Shared Buddha Quotes to enlighten your mind and soul.

(more…)

Charlene Barry is the fun loving founder of This Is Project Me, a wellness, spiritual and inspirational channel on YouTube that inspires others to live the life of their dreams with passion, love and joy. Charlene believes in serendipity, wellness and spirituality and is an Ayurvedic and Lifestyle coach; helping people live their ideal life through Ayurvedic medicine, Meditation, Yoga and Balance.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Jennifer Sarah Spilsbury

    Jun 22, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Looking for inspiration 🙂 I found this to be quite inspirational! Thank you.

    • Tim Denning

      Jul 17, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Thanks Jennifer, I’m glad you got some inspiration. That’s what Addicted2Success is all about!

  2. Alaedin

    May 25, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Thank you so much. Amazing post!

    • Tim Denning

      May 28, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Thanks Alaedin, glad you liked it.

  3. Jhonatan Arias

    May 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    What a great piece of reading! Just what I needed today. I liked all the article. It’s inspiring and full of useful information. Congratulations!

    • Tim Denning

      May 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Jhonatan for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. Jamelle

    May 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Phenomenal piece! I love the point of staying concentrated on your business core

    • Tim Denning

      May 20, 2015 at 3:51 am

      Thanks Jamelle, glad you liked it.

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Startups

No One Would Hire Me — Nothing Lasts Forever, Though.

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In 2011, I was down and out. I was defeated and felt like I’d never amount to anything.

This story is going to inspire you if you’ve ever faced a similar situation or felt defeated.

I’d finished working at the startup I founded with my brother and things didn’t look good. I had a dream at that time to utilize my digital marketing skills and work for an advertising agency where I could grow my skills.

Every job I applied for I was turned down.

Even though I’d had digital marketing experience and built a multi-million dollar business using that talent, it wasn’t formal learning or advertising agency experience.

So, I ended up taking a job in finance which I also knew nothing about. I took a junior role and a large pay cut and started my career at a bank. For seven years, on the side, I worked on my passion for social media and online marketing.

Two days ago, I was hired to run the digital marketing team for a well-known tech company with 900 staff. Against all the odds, I won the long game.

Here’s what you can learn:


No one can stop you.

Even with all the no’s and people that laughed at me in 2011, I didn’t stop.

I went into hiding for a while and built my skills. I started with blogging, then SEO, then pay per click and eventually landed in social media.

Just because someone won’t hire you today based on your skills, attitude and experience, doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow.

In fact, without sounding cocky, people now have been bending over backwards to hire me as a consultant to help them with social media and digital marketing.

“The same people that said no to me now want to work with me”

You decide whether you stop based on rejection — nobody else. Keep going no matter the odds.


Be prepared to wait a few years.

Patience was what made the last two days feel incredible. It took seven years to get what I wanted and I had to be damn patient.

The mistake many of you make who are reading this is that you’re not prepared to wait years to get what you want.

When you accept that it takes years to achieve your goals, you work differently. You prepare yourself in a totally different way.

Wanting things too quickly forces you to sacrifice for the short-term and mess up the long-term. Slow down. Relax. You’ve got time.


It’s your attitude that counts.

When no one will hire you, it’s your attitude that counts.

If you walk into an interview or coffee catchup with an attitude problem, then your career dream is going to continue to be a problem.

You see it on those TV talent shows when a guy/girl walks out onto the stage and has been trying for a long time to make it as a musician. They have this sense of entitlement and their bad attitude is written all over their face.

Don’t be one of these people. Fix your attitude.

You’re only entitled to what you earn. Walk into interviews and face opportunities with a sense of humbleness.

Let humbleness be your dominant attitude and eventually you’ll have more opportunities than you could ever hope for.


Nothing lasts forever.

The no’s I got in 2011 lasted a few years.

The point is they didn’t last forever.
Just because you’re getting no’s today and being laughed at, doesn’t mean that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever including you.

“Keep going until the people that said no to you come around and are half-way towards a yes”

No one can deny you forever. People will admire you if you keep going and learn along the way.

Sometimes we can feel like we’ll always be rejected. That’s how I felt in 2011. I thought to myself “I’ve worked five years in digital marketing and built up a pretty successful business and people are still saying no to me. If not now, when?”

Now let me be honest for a second. I didn’t have the intelligence in 2011 to keep going. I was too dumb and too obsessed with myself. It was basically blind faith that kept me going. I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever and believed it.

There were no mentors, advisors or as much self-help advice as there is now to tell me that the way I was thinking was madness.

You have the opportunity to learn from this lesson. Nothing. Lasts. Forever.


Push through.

When every obstacle there is, is standing in your way, sometimes all you need to do is keep pushing.

The way I did this was to keep writing. No one was paying attention to my advice, but that didn’t matter.

The only strategy I had at the time was to keep doing what felt fun to me and I believed I’d figure out the detail later or just never get paid to do what I liked doing.

Pushing through is about continuing to do the work even when the results don’t show.


Eventually, the odds will change if you change.

So what was missing in 2011? Why was I getting rejected even though I had the skills and experience?

I needed to change.

I was an arrogant, selfish, entitled son of a bitch who wouldn’t give a dime out of a dollar to anyone. I had to change myself.

I had to:

  1. Develop empowering beliefs
  2. Change my attitude
  3. Adopt a never say die mindset
  4. Learn abundance
  5. Give more to strangers
  6. Create value for people first via the internet
  7. Be grateful for what I have instead of always wanting more

Your odds of success won’t change until you change.

“You’re the problem and that’s the hardest advice to swallow”


Final thought.

It’s been a big few days. I’ve waited seven years to get what I want. The hardest thing about getting what you want is that it will feel good for a few weeks, and then you’ll want more.

That’s the crack addiction that comes with personal development.

I’m trying to detox from this addiction and be happy with what I’ve achieved to date.

Maybe no one will hire you today.

Maybe your life sucks right now.

Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot this year.

It’s all okay. Your odds of success will change when you change.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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10 Lessons for Bootstrapping Your Startup to $1M Annual Revenue

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In an entrepreneurial landscape dominated by headlines of unicorn startups and billion-dollar acquisitions, getting a company to $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) may sound like small change. Let’s be real, though, hitting $1 million ARR is an aspirational milestone most young companies can relate to. And it’s not that easy, especially if you’ve secured modest investments or no investment at all.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company I work for falls in the latter category. We’ve never raised a single investment dollar, and it took us four years to reach the $1 million ARR threshold. It was a wild four years. Frustrating, fun, scary: you name the emotion, and we’ve felt it.

But more than anything, it was an instructive four years. We learned so much, and we want to share a few helpful tidbits with our peers out there in the trenches, scratching and clawing your way to your next big milestone.

Here are 10 things we think are most important that you can use in your own start-up journey:

1. Don’t quit

Steve Jobs famously said that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is perseverance. At one point I remember hearing “Folks, I don’t know if we’re going to be here next month.”

It’s frightening not to know where you’re going to be next month, but you have to continuously figure out how to get a few more customers and extend your runway. You can’t “make it” or succeed if you don’t exist, so you can’t quit.

2. Give your customers everything

At the company I work for, Text Request, we spent hours with our customers. We built whatever they asked for (if it fit with our goals and other customers could use it too). We also gave away a lot of free software.

If you want to grow and gain customers, you have to create a needed product that solves your target customers’ problems. Determine who your target customers are, ask them what they need, and then tailor your solutions for them.

3. Try everything you can think of

The book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares covers 19 sales and marketing channels for startups to test. We tried all of them. We went to events. We advertised. We started a referral program.

For us, cold calls and cold emails worked surprisingly well. We took an industry, looked for companies in a given city, and reached out to set up product demos. Organic search has increasingly helped our sales funnel, too.

Either of those could be the best plan for you, or it could be advertising in a particular channel. Every startup is different and targets a different niche, but you’ll only find successful strategies and channels for growth by testing all your options.

4. Focus on the basics

When you focus on doing the basics, opportunities open up. When you commit to SEO basics, your targets will find you online, and a big fish will occasionally swim by. When you provide fantastic customer service, a few users will leave reviews and tell their friends. When you keep your head down and do the work, eventually you’ll look up and have hit a big milestone.

5. Get the right people on your bus

This is one of the critical lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Thankfully, our small team had the right people from the beginning. Brian and Jamey Elrod, our husband and wife co-founders, had already started a successful company from scratch (Educational Outfitters). Our third co-founder Rob Reagan has created software for twenty years and published a book last year on building apps for global scale.

Rob brought a couple of top-notch developers with him, and the rest of us showed up determined to figure the business out. If you’re going to take a company from $0 to $1 million, every member of your team has to be dedicated to working together for the long-term benefit of the company over self-interest.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There’s always something that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, but you can put the questions below to rest:

1. How do you build it fast enough?

In the early days, we worried about losing a customer because we didn’t have [X]. It was stressful knowing that So-and-So would move on to the next option if we couldn’t deliver fast enough, and many times they did. But that doesn’t matter.

Losing one customer isn’t worth pushing out a faulty product. Despite the pervasive Lean Startup mindset, it’s more important to your customers that you create needed features (read: solutions) that work great the first time. They have to trust that you’ll give them the tools they need to accomplish their goals, or they’ll leave.

2. How do you keep customers longer?

Our support is perhaps our #1 competitive advantage. One of the things we’ve learned is that a lower price, and sometimes even new features, won’t keep customers around longer.

To keep your customers from churning, you’ve got to do two things: First, provide a smooth onboarding process that immediately teaches customers how to gain value (solve their problems) with your product. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up, and they’ll eventually leave.

Second, always be there with kind words and helpful content whenever a customer needs help. If you aren’t, they’ll get frustrated and find someone else to help them.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt

3. How do you get people to your website?

Advertising might be a good option, but if targets aren’t already thinking about what you can do for them, they probably won’t care about your ad or purchase. Instead, create content to educate viewers and help them solve their problems.

Focus on growing your organic traffic, becoming a trustworthy source, and honing your brand’s voice before spending lots of money on ads.

4. Do you need investment money?

When you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, you’ll do anything for a ship to pick you up. But sometimes you just need to swim. We chose to swim, and you might want to do the same.

When every dollar spent has to fight to prove its worth, you’re inevitably going to build something more valuable and more sustainable. Plus, bootstrapping gives you more control over what decisions you do make to grow your company.

5. How do you pursue 10X growth?

A growth hack is not going to propel you from 100 customers to 10,000 overnight. It doesn’t take one trick, but lots of little and big things working together to create exponential growth. It also takes time.

Instead of looking for a golden goose, create complete and actionable strategies. Those, and a little patience, will help you achieve exponential growth.

Growing your startup to $1 million ARR is not easy, but it’s possible – even without investors lining up to give you money. Put the 10 lessons above into practice, and, with a little time and a lot of work, you’ll get there.

Is there a business you’d like to start or have started? Share your ideas and suggestions for our readers!

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10 Things The Corporate World *Didn’t* Teach Me

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I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.

You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.

There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.

Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:


1. How to think for myself

In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.

If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.

Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.

I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.

Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.

As my former colleague said to me the other day You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.


2. Time management

The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.

With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.

What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.

“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”

None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.

Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.

Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.

“I’m more important and have a better job title.”

“No, I’m more important!”

This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.

The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.


3. A passion for what you love

Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.

Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”

It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.

The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.


4. What people are really buying

Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.

I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.

People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.

No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.

This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’

Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me


5. The power of an audience

People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.

I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.

Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.

Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.

These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.

With an audience, you can test ideas.

With an audience, you can inspire.

With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.

With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.


6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre

In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.

Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.

That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.

I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.

Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.

Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.


7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)

Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.

This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.

The formula goes like this:

  • Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
  • Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
  • Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
  • Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
  • Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)

“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”

Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.

That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.


8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations

You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.

Quite the opposite is true.

Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.

The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.

It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.

The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.

No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.

I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.

Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.


9. The way to treat people

The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.

Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.

This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?

Wrong.

The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.

By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.

My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.


10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords

Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.

We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.

Lean startup meant Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”

Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.

Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.

Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.


So what can you learn from the corporate world?

It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.

The corporate world can teach you:

1. Leadership fundamentals

2. Corporate decision-making

3. Community values

4. The rate of technology disruption

The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.

What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.


The grass is not greener.

The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.

All business just has a different set of problems to solve.

The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.

The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.

That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.

The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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How to Change Your Bad Habits for the Benefit of Your Business

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If you are like most people, you probably like to complain from time to time about the economy, about the markets, about how things are changing too fast or how you don’t get enough time. Moan moan moan!

However, moaning doesn’t solve problems. Instead, you can follow the “No BCD” theory and avoid blaming, complaining and defensiveness. This way you will have a totally different outlook, handle situations a lot better, and take control over your destiny. A really practical way to do this is to develop better habits.

What are the bad habits you have?

Everyone has different bad habits, but when it comes to business here are the 4 most common ones:

  • Lack of focus: Every single day, there are going to be things you intend to do and then you “run out of time” or succumb to distractions. But if you’re honest, you had the time and there was a way – you just lacked focus.
  • You’re too kind: How many times have you taken on a project which wasn’t profitable, because you “felt sorry for them”. Not only does this actually hurt you, but it also in many ways hurts the relationship you have with that client or customer.
  • Promising and not delivering: Whether it’s something you said to your team, your clients, or your suppliers, if you’re not matching your words with your actions, over time others will believe you less and less.
  • Leaving opportunities on the table: So often people complain in business they don’t have enough (money/sales/support), when actually they do – they just didn’t ask for it. Within your existing network there is probably everything you need, you just have to ask.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Think about it. You can look at each of these bad habits and replace them with new and better ones. Imagine…

  • If you created habits that made you focus better: you’d be more productive, with the same amount of time.
  • If you learned good ways to set boundaries: you’d have a better time delivering your services or products, and you’d feel more rewarded.
  • If you kept better track of your promises: You’d feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • If you picked up on more of those opportunities: You’d make more money, and inject welcome energy into those who are ready and willing to work with you. The side effect would be that you could delegate things you don’t love and aren’t good at to others more capable, and replace those activities with the things you love!

Breaking those bad habits

Over the years, I have managed to create more boundaries and space for me to be efficient and effective in my work. There are ways to do that  – some habits I have learned from others who have experienced and overcome similar issues, and some are the product of my own experiments. See below!

1. Sprints (for productivity)

I have to say this is so effective. I meet at least one other person at a coffee shop or members club – if it’s not in my office with my fellow team members. We plan to do 30 or 45 minutes of work and do between 3-5 sprints in a session. Blocking out 4 hours together I find works well.

We each say what we will work on and then we get going. No talking allowed, focusing only on the task we talked about. When the timer rings we stop, compare notes on progress, have a mini break and do another one. It’s honestly my most productive time, and it makes you realise how much time we waste on distractions and even moaning about having too much work on!

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.” – Abigail Van Buren

2. A tiny assignment (for motivation to break a bad habit)

I have done this now twice with 2 different friends. We talk about the bad habits we each have, whatever they might be. We give each other a new rule or habit to follow over a two week period. It has to be a “SMART” goal assignment – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

3. Low hanging fruit (for grabbing opportunities)

You simply make a list of people you already know who:

  • Fit into your target market but don’t work with you yet
  • Fit into your target market but haven’t worked with you for a while
  • Experience problems you know you can solve
  • Have their own network of contacts or audience which is very similar to the people you want to talk about
  • Have the expertise in things you find challenging, and very likely the answers to your current challenges

Once you have this list, you come up with some drafted initial outreach scripts for either text, email or phone calls and then you work through your list – sending out the requests, hellos, questions, etc. If you draft your communication well, considering the mindset of the people who are receiving these outreach messages, you will find each conversation will be at the very least a learning opportunity and would certainly lead to more “yeses” than if you didn’t do this exercise.

4. The minimum criteria (for setting boundaries)

If you find that your bad habits involve you saying “yes” too often when you should be saying “no” – then this one works great. You just need to write a specific list of criteria to answer the question “Any time I will do this, I need the following things to be true first”.

For example, you only take on a client who pays less than a certain minimum threshold, who has made a written commitment that they will comply with your specific set of guidelines for their responsibilities during the project. There are so many ways you can use the “minimum criteria” technique and you can share your rules with friends and colleagues to hold yourself accountable.

Now, with all this insight I hope you feel more motivated and you can’t even remember your excuses anymore!

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