My Favorite Things

Where I write about some of my favorite things, mostly around startups, innovation, and accelerators.

Listen, then sell

Listen, then sell

So you get an opportunity to pitch your product to someone important at a big company. It’s your first time meeting them and you want to make the most of your big chance. What should you do? Should you put together a slick presentation?

I think the stronger approach is to go in and interview him or her to find out what their goals and motivations are. What problem can you solve for them with this?

If you don’t know that before the meeting, you could end up trying to sell them on an idea they don’t care about or try solving a problem they don’t have. If you start by trying to understand their point of view first, you can craft how you talk about your “solution” in terms that resonate with his goals. And if you give them confidence that you’ve really listened to their problems and are working hard to find solutions, I promise they’ll give you another meeting.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

Magical thinking math is dangerous

Magical thinking math is dangerous

Have you ever pulled out a scrap of paper and did little calculations and daydreamed about how big your sales could be if only X, Y, or Z are true?

Like, “we only need 200 customers to pay us $1000/month…”

Listen, I’ve done this kind of magical thinking math. It’s fun and feels good. It feels like a successful business is just a few sales away.

But it’s dangerous.

Especially if you don’t have any sales yet. If you are doing magical thinking math while daydreaming about your first customer, you are not focused on the right thing.

Right now, the only math you need to do is to figure out what variables are needed to turn one person into a customer.

You need one customer. That’s it. That’s the only thing that matters.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

You can stop pitching now

You can stop pitching now

What would it feel like if you could be completely honest about your business?

What would it feel like if you didn’t have to constantly live in pitch mode?

Personally, I think our startup communities would be stronger and we, as founders, would be healthier.

Because entrepreneurship isn’t showmanship. We shouldn’t be prancing around the arena trying to look our best. Entrepreneurship is messy, confusing, discouraging, full of dead ends and lost time. It’s also full of a-ha moments, discovery, pivots, fresh perspectives, and value creation.

Startup founders need to be able to pitch. You need to be able to sell your vision to employees, customers, partners, investors, yourself.

But what I see out in the world of our startup communities is constant 100% pitch mode. Entire accelerator programs are designed around how well they can get you to pitch by demo day.

And what we need instead is to embrace the messy middle where pitching doesn’t make sense. Where focus, speed, and learning are prized instead.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

What can you not do?

What can you not do?

It’s Monday. What can you not do today? What can you not do this week?

Not everything on our To Do list is created equal. Today’s a good day to step back from the scrum board and ask the most important question – what can we NOT do.

Maybe it’s a task that’s been languishing for so long, its urgency has passed. Maybe its a project that looks fun but is really just a distraction from the real work that needs to happen. Maybe its something you think you should do, but it would be ok if you skipped (looking at you, networking events).

In any case, I’m a big fan of doing less, making more space for what’s important and lights me up.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

Work is play

Work is play

I used to host a big community event for families with lots of hands-on activities. And after each event, I’d look through the photos we’d taken to find the gems we could use to market the next year’s event. I was looking for pictures of kids with wide, bright smiles, laughing and joyous.

Instead, I had hundreds of photos of kids deep in concentration as they drew pictures, tried to fish a monkey out of a barrel, hop in a straight line, or make sure their balloon on a stick hit their brother’s head just right. They looked like they were working.

I almost never found photos of kids smiling. Often, their brows were furrowed, working hard at whatever “play” they were engaged in.

And that when I realized that for kids, play is work. And I think this should be true for us too. My best, more favorite work is when I get lost in the flow as well. These days, that looks a lot more like a spreadsheet or an article I’m writing or lately, learning to create the world’s most perfectly designed pie graph. But it’s still play.

Our best work feels a lot like play, if we’re lucky.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

Real simple leadership tips

Real simple leadership tips

The October issue of Real Simple magazine has an article titled, “How to Raise a Problem-Solver.”

They give four tips:

  1. Make room for play – provide unstructured time for invention and “reasonable” risk-taking
  2. Support purpose – assign real work that matters and benefits other people
  3. Ask questions – give space to practice decision-making skills
  4. Let go of perfect  – prepare for mistakes and make it ok when things don’t work exactly right

This seems like really smart leadership advice, too.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

It all adds up

It all adds up

Years ago with my last business, I noticed how big video ads were going to become and started offering to make short videos for my advertisers as a bonus when they signed up for an annual package.

Then, I had to teach myself how to shoot and edit videos in iMovie.

I did this for a handful of local customers before realizing I had no scalable way to keep this offering affordable and accessible. At the time, video production was still pretty labor intensive.

Fast forward to today. I needed a video to introduce a new service I’m offering. I shot about 45 minutes of footage and edited it down to a professional-looking three and a half minute video with just about four hours of work. Not too shabby for video production.

I don’t intend to become a videographer anytime soon, but it’s handy to have the skills to make a video when I need one. I don’t have to shell out a lot of money. I don’t have to wait on someone else’s schedule to shoot and edit the video. I don’t have to try to communicate how I want the video to look. In about four hours, I got exactly what I needed for just the cost of my time.

As entrepreneurs, we’re constantly needing to learn new skills. And I just want to say, it all adds up. It’s all worth it.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

All good advice

All good advice

Recently, I’ve started drinking a full Nalgene of water first thing when I wake up. And for the first time in a long time, I’m hitting my water consumption goals nearly every day.

Thing is, I’ve heard this advice many times before, but never tried it for myself. But now is the perfect time to add a new healthy habit into my routine, so it’s working.

It makes me think pretty much all advice might be right, but not at the right time for you.

Timing matters a lot.

As you’re talking to mentors and advisors and reading and learning, keep in mind that you might be given a piece of advice that is absolutely correct, but not right for you right now.

Your job as a founder is to sift through the messages and find the right thing at the right time. And maybe write down that other nugget for a future day when it just might come in handy.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

Can you picture each foothold?

Can you picture each foothold?

Champion athletes win because they have spent years of their lives practicing for the big game. And not just practicing to develop muscle memory, which makes sense for physical activities, but also to visualize each move, each scenario.

Recently, I watched Free Solo, the story of Alex Honnold’s no-ropes climb of El Capitan, a physical feat that would not have been possible without extreme mental preparation. Over the course of the film, we watch Alex spend YEARS practicing and testing different parts of the ascent, testing different footholds and hand grips, different maneuvers around tricky passes.

Alex has exactly one chance to get this right. If he does not climb the face of the mountain perfectly, he will fall to his death.

The thing that struck me though is that Alex was always in good physical shape. He had been free climbing without ropes on mountains his entire life. He likes to hang from his finger tips when he’s bored in the van he sleeps in. Climbing is his whole life.

The moment he was ready to climb El Capitan though was the moment he could visualize the entire climb in his mind. He could sit in bed and picture every single foothold, every single place where he would have to change the hand grip from left to right to shift his weight and inch his way up the cliff.

When he could picture it, he could do it. And he did.

This is true for all serious athletes. The game is in our minds. We can’t win if we can’t picture the moves that get us there.

And this is true for founders too. Successful serial entrepreneurs build their startups differently than first-time founders because they can picture the moves. They know what steps need to be taken in what order to reach the goal. They can picture how they will win.

It’s still scary. It still might not work. But the path is clear. Each foothold along the ascent is known.

**********

I developed the Fluent Founder Roadmap to help first-time founders build their startups like serial entrepreneurs. If you are lost or can’t picture your next move, take a look at the questions to see which one needs your attention next. And always, I’m happy to help founders and accelerators develop these skills. Reach out at beth@fluentstudio.co to learn more!

 

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 

It’s gonna be uncomfortable

It’s gonna be uncomfortable

You know how terrible it feels that you don’t know exactly how your startup is going to make money? Or get more customers? And sometimes, you’re not even sure if you’re solving a real problem?

This is the discomfort of building a startup. It’s supposed to feel this way.

I want to invite you to practice getting comfortable with the discomfort. Lean into it. Embrace the absurdity of how herculean of a task you have in front of you. You are literally creating something out of nothing.

Of course, it’s uncomfortable.

And all of the folks in the startup world (and the rest of the real world, for that matter) who want you to pretend like you’re certain when you introduce yourself, give your elevator pitch, or your fundraising pitch, or just answer “how’s it going” in polite conversation – they want to avoid the discomfort of you not knowing as well. They want you to be certain, because it’s uncomfortable for them as well.

But you don’t know yet. And that is exactly as it should be.

Hopefully, the truth of this helps make the discomfort a little more comfortable.

Each day, I publish an idea I'm working on, highlights from a founder coaching session, or other tidbits from my work with founders, investors, corporate partners, and accelerators. Check out the Hustle+Fire blog for more. 


I'm Beth McKeon, Director of Fluent.

I help first-time founders build startups like serial entrepreneurs. I do this by designing and running startup accelerator programs, coaching founders, and consulting with innovative organizations around the US. 

After being a nomad for forever (I've moved over 25 times!), I recently settled down in Denver and love it. I hope I never get tired of seeing the mountains off in the distance.

You can reach me at beth@fluentstudio.co.

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