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The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten

Updated 2 days ago

Rank #193 in Careers category

Business
Technology
Careers
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Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life.

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Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life.

iTunes Ratings

191 Ratings
Average Ratings
180
6
2
1
2

Fun and informative

By Lydander300 - Jun 05 2019
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Love the short bursts of great info and the transparency of the hosts. Would really be 5 stars, but I’m put off every time I hear the intro. Way too bro-y. Please consider recording something new.

Excellent and entertaining insight and truth

By ewewedd r55 - Jun 04 2019
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These guys offer unfiltered and entertaining truth and insights about pretty much any aspect of starting or running your own business. This podcast will add value whether you've been in business for years or only a few months. Listen to them, take notes, and take action. I've been listening to them for only a few months now and my only regret is not hearing about them before now.

iTunes Ratings

191 Ratings
Average Ratings
180
6
2
1
2

Fun and informative

By Lydander300 - Jun 05 2019
Read more
Love the short bursts of great info and the transparency of the hosts. Would really be 5 stars, but I’m put off every time I hear the intro. Way too bro-y. Please consider recording something new.

Excellent and entertaining insight and truth

By ewewedd r55 - Jun 04 2019
Read more
These guys offer unfiltered and entertaining truth and insights about pretty much any aspect of starting or running your own business. This podcast will add value whether you've been in business for years or only a few months. Listen to them, take notes, and take action. I've been listening to them for only a few months now and my only regret is not hearing about them before now.

Listen to:

Cover image of The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten

The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten

Updated 2 days ago

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Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life.

188: How to Create a Killer Pitch Deck

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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the bones of what makes a great pitch deck and how to use it to wow possible investors. Steli and Hiten give you tips based on real life stories and pitches that got their attention. Tune in to find out the importance of knowing and communicating your “WHY”, turning your pitch deck into a story, and how you can connect with your audience. Hiten also gives the inside scoop about his new pitch deck product to listeners for the FIRST time—this will definitely help you with your next pitch.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:05 – Today’s episode is about creating a killer pitch deck
00:41 – Steli spills that Hiten is launching a pitch deck product very soon

01:25 – People send pitch decks to Steli to be critiqued
01:53 – Where should people start?
02:22 – Pitch decks are the new business plan
03:10 – The common method today is creating and using a pitch deck so that you can raise money through angel investors
03:53 – Those who join Y Combinator already have a product to talk about
04:15 – There are still traditional people who do not understand how to get money without a business plan
04:47 – The biggest mistake people make is making the numbers up
05:01 – A pitch deck is a story of what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you’ll be doing in the future
05:17 – Investors are investing in the future
05:48 – The data and numbers should be used to support your story
06:14 – Investors need to buy into the storyline and be able to see that it has value in the future
06:55 – Tell a compelling story and stimulate the imagination and fantasy of the audience
07:25 – Hiten has worked with a lot of people in making pitch decks and storytelling
08:16 – Steli asks Hiten how useful is it when adversity is included in the storytelling

09:18 – Hiten says investors just want to invest in a great business
09:33 – Your whole pitch and whole story should show how great your business is
10:00 – Hiten talks about Close.Io—how it addresses the needs of people and how it has a compelling pitch
11:22 – Steli’s Close.Io story is awesome because he made it happen

12:20 – The investors do not care so much about the details, they care about the essence and how true it is
13:13 – Steli is surprised by how people have difficulty finding what is compelling about their story
13:26 – Steli shares a story about a meeting he had with a startup company
14:20 – There was a lot of traction in the company, but the guy he was speaking to had a  backstory that was even more interesting

14:34 – The guy had an older sister who was an overachiever whereas he did not get into a great school and wasn’t offer the same opportunities for work
14:51 – The guy had to work hard to get a job in finance and this backstory explained his overall business concept

15:33 – The WHY connects with many people
16:09 – Steli advised the guy to tell the story about his sister, instead of just saying it as a side comment
16:41 – The amount of businesses that start every year are increasing and investors are seeing a LOT; they are also able to discern what idea/company is good
17:06 – The investors need something they can remember you by
17:44 – If this guy starts with the story of his sister, he will get passionate about the rest of the pitch
18:25 – Start your story with your WHY
18:41 – To learn more about storytelling, listen to Episode 60
18:52 – Steli and Hiten’s entrepreneurial stories are found in Episode 15
19:30 – Pitch decks from Google search are already old
20:07 – Hiten shares for the first time the name of the pitch deck product and it is Dogo
20:33 – If the site is not live yet, email Hiten and he will give you access

Mar 14 2017

Play

200: The Art of the Follow Up

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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about one of the dilemmas almost all entrepreneurs experience – the art of following up. All our business dealings are in need of that constant follow through; but surprisingly enough, people can lose hope and just stop asking for what they need. One reason for quitting is that fear of rejection. Listen as Steli shares the value of showing up, following up, and following through as well as his list of rules for mastering the art of the follow up.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:04 – Today’s episode is about The Art of Follow Up
00:39 – Hiten struggles with following up with people
01:16 – Steli wants to do sales calls with Hiten
01:28 – The follow up advice is the highest ROI advice Steli gives

01:37 – Ironically, it’s not the type of advice Steli is most interested in giving right now

01:56 – The core principles stay the same
02:25 – The amount that people accomplish from following Steli’s follow up advice is incredible
02:58 – To accomplish most things in life – show up, follow up, and follow through
03:36 – Most people interpret silence as rejection
04:14 – Steli’s hypothesis for people becoming silent is...they just got busy
04:31 – Depending on how important the topic, make sure to take full responsibility for it
04:45 – Steli will keep following up indefinitely until he gets a response
05:06 – Take full ownership of the relationship
05:37 – Steli will be putting out a book later this year consisting of customer stories
06:21 – If you start to follow up twice as much as you do, you already make the world a better place
06:58 – Hiten doesn’t follow up because he’s scared

07:41 – You need to realize that fear is normal and conquering that fear is what will help you succeed

08:07 – There is real value and power in overcoming fear
08:30 – A few rules for the follow up:

08:32 – Keep it as clean, simple, and as short as possible
09:08 – Don’t be needy and emotional
10:22 – Don’t make the person you’re following up with feel guilty
11:48 – Keep it simple, light, and on point
11:57 – Be more frequent at the start of the relationship and then less frequent
12:36 – Email is the greatest channel to follow up
13:19 – Second to email is SMS/texting them
13:25 – Call them for follow ups
13:39 – Follow up in person

14:39 – Hiten looks forward to Steli’s book
16:23 – Hiten is always intrigued by interesting people and emails
16:27 – He feels not enough people spend the time crafting good emails
16:44 – Hiten responds to emails where people took the time to think of him—the generic email vs. emails with a personal touch
17:16 – To learn more about follow ups, email Steli directly at steli@close.io – put “Follow Up” on the subject line
17:49 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

Consistently following up with clients brings the best results for entrepreneurs.
Silence does not mean rejection – it can mean that person just got busy.
Learn to acknowledge your fear regarding following up—conquer it, and move forward.

Steli Efti:

Hey everyone. This is Steli Efti.

Hiten Shah:

And this is Hiten Shah. And today, on The Startup Chat, we're gonna talk about  the art of the follow-up. And this is one of those episodes where I know  Steli's better than me at this. And the reason for that is that I'm very  good at responding when someone comes at me and e-mails me. But, I know this  about myself, I'm not as good as I'd like to be about following up with  people. So I'm eager to learn. I'm a sponge here. I'm gonna probably ask you some crazy questions, but bring it on. What's the deal? How do you follow up?  Obviously, I know why you should follow-up. I get it.

Apr 25 2017

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399: How to Create an Ideal Customer Profile?

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to create an ideal customer profile.

Creating an ideal customer profile for your business is super important. It can help you build a better product, market it better and ultimately help you serve your customers better. But how detailed should you be when creating one of these?

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on what an ideal client profile is, why you should create one for your business, tips on how to create a good one and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:24 Why this topic was chosen.

01:18 what is an ideal customer profile?

01:58 The goal of identifying your ideal client.

02:58 If you should pick an ideal client.

04:36 How understanding your ideal client can help you serve them better.

05:10 How companies sometimes misuse this concept.

06:10 How companies can use a customer profile.

07:15 If you should ignore a customer that doesn’t fit your profile.

07:37 Tips to help you create an ideal client profile for your business.

3 Key Points:

Identify what segment of the market can get the most value out of your software.
The goal of identifying your ideal client is to help you do better marketing.
If you don’t know who your customer is, you won’t know what to build, sell or market.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we may or may not tell you to create an ideal customer profile or not to create an ideal customer profile, but-

[0:00:12]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, we don't know yet.

[0:00:14]

Steli Efti: But either way we are going to talk about the concept of an ICP, ideal customer profile. It's a very popular idea and it's one of those surprising topics that sometimes I can't believe that we haven't talked about something in almost 400 episodes. But we have not talked about this very specific topic, so I thought it would be fun to tackle this. Well, Hiten, maybe first we explain first to people what the concept is, like what is an ideal customer profile, why do companies do it? And then we might want to talk about why it's overused or misused and how we really feel about this topic in 2019.

[0:00:55]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, why don't you start. Why don't you define it, at least in the classic sense, because I think that will help.

[0:00:59]

Steli Efti: Yeah, so I think the broad idea is not that complicated. The broad idea is to ask yourself as a company ... There might be many, many different types of people or organizations that decided to purchase your software, but not all of them are created equal and I think the the idea with an ideal customer profile is to identify what type of customer, what segment of the market can get the most value out of our software? Who is the most ideal customer that exists out there, and what do they have in common? And the goal of defining and writing down an ideal customer profile is to help you do better marketing, do better segmentation, do better product development, because you're not taking on a broad group of people in terms of the feedback they give you, or a broad group of potential customers in terms of what channels would be most effective in terms of acquiring them. But you segment it down and you focus yourself and the entire company and team on the best 'customer,' the ideal 'customer.' You define it, you write it down so everybody in the company and the team understands it, and then you go after those customers above all others. Does that make sense? Is that a definition that you would agree with?

[0:02:23]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I mean if you don't know who your customer is, you won't know what to build.

Mar 26 2019

Play

397: Creating a New Category as a Startup

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In today’s episode of the Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about creating a new category as a startup.

Sometimes in order to stand out in a highly competitive niche, it may be necessary to create a new category for your product. This strategy is sometimes known as resegmenting and can be quite rewarding when done right, as you can then become a leader in the category you created.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what resegmenting is, if you should implement it for your startup, how Hubspot resegmented blogging, how Drift resegmented content marketing and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:47 Why this topic was chosen.

02:01 If you should create a new category for your product.

02:19 How it’s much easier to be number one in the category you created.

02:51 How Hubspot resegmented blogging.

03:50 How Drift resegmented content marketing.

05:07 If resegmenting is something you should do for your startup.

06:20 The important thing to consider if you’re thinking about resegmenting.

07:42 How resegmenting isn’t necessary if you’re competing with everybody.

08:29 How you need to describe what you do when you’re creating a new market.

09:42 How companies that are successful at resegmenting do it.

3 Key Points:

It’s much easier to be number one in the category you created.
Hubspot resegmented blogging.
If customers are drawn to your resegmented product then it’s worth it.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: This is Hiten Shah and in a rare turn of events today we're going to talk about something that was inspired by a book. This book is called Play Bigger and the book is about what people are calling category design. This is the idea in business, in a company, in a startup, you can have the ablility to create a category.

[0:00:27]

Steli Efti: There's a lot of value in creating a category, in thinking about what you're building as like a new category that you can then own, right?

[0:00:34]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, that too. Exactly.

[0:00:38]

Steli Efti: I'm building a product, I have a startup, I have a few customers. I have a little bit of revenue. Usually I play in some space that broadly we can define in one way or another. The question now becomes, is it worth the exercise of trying to come up with a new positioning and branding and give this thing that our software does a category name? Maybe two recent examples I can think of HubSpot created the category ... Or named the category of inbound marketing and in content marketing. I think Drift is very recent example of the [inaudible] space where they ... Instead of just saying, "We're doing chat, live chat," which is something that other companies have done before drift. They started framing this as conversational marketing and calling this a big new emerging category and a big new trend. There are many, many other categories. [Gainsight] with Success software, and all that kind of stuff. How do you think about doing category design, does every company need to? And is it just a marketing and branding exercise or does your product really need to do something uniquely different that is its own category in order to be able to do that?

[0:01:57]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I mean the line in there is, and I have this saved ... I have this saved because I've been thinking about this a lot and the line I would use for that is basically like, "It's much easier to be number one in a category you created." I think that that's really this idea in the book, and this idea, category design, which is age old. I guess my response on this whole thing is most products are already in an existing category. Very few products create a new category, literally like they are already sitting in a new category when they start.

Mar 19 2019

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179: B2B Customer Acquisition Q&A (Part 1)

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In this episode, Steli and Hiten answer the questions they received from the readers of their ebook From 0 to 1,000 Customers and Beyond. Steli and Hiten give practical advice about marketing, engagement, and how to prioritize feedback from your customers. They also provide you the links to the podcasts their ebook was inspired by and you can connect with them personally to receive the ebook. Jump in on this discussion of how to grow your customer base!
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:04 – Today’s episode is about answering questions from those who read the ebook, From 0 to 1,000 Customers and Beyond
00:34 – Send an email to Steli to receive the ebook
00:48 – The ebook was based on four podcasts on how to increase the number of your customers
02:05 – What do we do when we have a product that can be sold to individual consumers and to businesses?

02:56 – Hiten suggests you pick one you can easily monetize
04:26 – Steli shares it is rare for a company to do both successfully, at the same time

05:27 – What are the some of the best practices to move free trial customers to fully paid accounts?

05:55 – Get your customers engaged during the trial period

08:03 – Where would you place your marketing bet if you have limited funds?

08:25 – Steli is critical of the mindset of people wanting to launch big, but only have limited funds
08:46 – It is not necessary to launch big, what is important is that you reach out to people and give them what they need
09:50 – Hiten advises how to use the money more effectively

10:30 – What feedback do you prioritize for a tool that you developed? What is a good sample size?

11:20 – 15 might be enough for a sample if the feedback is positive and there is a pattern in what they are saying
11:28 – Find the commonalities in their feedback and implement that
11:47 – If the feedback is different, listen to those who will pay you the most money
12:40 – Steli suggests looking at those who are actually using the tool
13:54 – Money in business is the strongest source of validation

14:26 – When should you start the marketing campaign?

15:00 – Hiten says it depends on whether you are ready for more customers or not
15:26 – Hiten’s personal preference is when the product is ready and people are ready to actually use it
15:52 – Retention is more important than acquisition
16:22 – The product launch and marketing launch do not have to be the same thing

17:20 – Steli says there will be a second episode as there are a lot of questions
17:33 – Steli suggests people to listen to the four episodes regarding customer acquisition:

030: How to Get Your First 10 Customers

048: How to Get from 10 to 100 Customers for your Startup

156: How to Grow From 100 to 1000 B2B Customers

088: Beyond 1000 Customers – How to Expand in New Industries and Countries

17:59 – E-mail Steli or Hiten for a copy of the book or for any questions

3 Key Points:

Customer engagement is a vital part of your marketing strategy.
Money is the strongest source of validation in business.
Retention is more important than acquisition.

Steli Efti: Hello everybody, this is Steli Efti.

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

Steli Efti: In today's episode of the Start Up Chat we're going to talk about the questions that you guys had after you read our newest e-book which is the going From 0 to 1,000 Customers & Beyond. For those of you out there that didn't get a chance to read the book or get their hands on it, just shoot me an email: steli@close.io, and I’ll send you the e-book, and you can take a look at it. It basically was based on four episodes of the podcast that we had recorded. The first one was How to Get Your First Customer,

Feb 10 2017

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259: What is Product Marketing

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In today’s Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about product marketing (the cross-section between sales, marketing and product) and discuss how this business function is defined differently across different organizations. Steli shares his approach to product marketing and how he is ready to step up his game in this department. Tune-in and get insights that will help you determine how to integrate this important function into your organization.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:03 – Today, we are going to talk about Product Marketing 101
00:43 – Send out an email to Steli if you feel that you are the right product marketer for his organization
01:15 – Product marketing has different definitions

02:00 – It’s in a weird position that crosses sales, marketing and product
02:23 – “Product marketing is the art and science, conveying to people what your product can do for them with the goal of engaging, conveying and retaining”

03:04 – Difference between positioning of a company and product

03:11 – Often brand and company positioning is done through marketing while product positioning is done through the product
04:13 – All domains of a business: sales, marketing and product end up suffering if product marketing is neglected

04:46 – Steli has been indirectly marketing products to customers through content marketing

05:46 – Prospects end up reading relevant content and falling in love with the brand
06:08 – Whenever the prospect comes to the market wanting to purchase a CRM, they consider Steli’s organization first
06:31 – Has not been targeting customers who want to purchase a CRM immediately
07:55 – Has built up a strong brand, but has not focused on product positioning

09:19 – Some organizations think of product marketing as a top of funnel function

10:00 – The initial launch is done with the intent of driving traffic and trials
10:20 – Think of increasing adoption rates among existing customers

10:51 – Some people think of product marketing as a function spread across the entire lifecycle—from driving traffic to retention
11:24 – Product marketing can be concentrated on the top of the funnel, end of the funnel or across the entire life cycle

12:00 – While organizations generally research the pre-market launches extensively, there is a need to concentrate on the post-launch metrics
13:00 – Today, product marketing is concentrated more on the product team and less on the marketing; historically, it was otherwise
14:04 – Hiten prefers that product marketing remain a part of the product team which makes it more customer-centric

14:29 – Product marketing team should delve into case studies, take up research and customer development, coordinate with different teams and be involved in updating website assets
16:16 – As companies get larger, product marketing acts as a bridge between different departments
16:56 – Product should be closest to the customers—learn what their needs are
18:30 – Hiten has hired product marketers who ended up becoming part of the marketing team
19:34 – The structure of your organization determines how you approach product marketing
20:15 – While some business functions are very well defined, there are other new positions that are not clearly defined
21:27 – Send out an email to Steli if you feel that you are the right person for this product marketing job

3 Key Points:

Product marketing is the art and science that conveys to people what your product can do for them.
Product marketing can be concentrated on the top of the funnel, end of the funnel or across the entire life cycle
Product marketing is the cross between sales, marketing and product.

Steli Efti:

Hey everybody this is Steli Efti.

Hiten Shah:

Nov 17 2017

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307: Outbound Email Sequences

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about sales and email automation. They lay out why sales automation could be a useful tool in your business and they give you some key tips for how to create great emails which get the outcome that you are looking for. Steli and Hiten also share their candid list of what not to do when creating your new email sequences.

Sales automation emails are aimed at supporting the sales team and sales process. But how can you be sure that the emails in your automation sequences, are geared towards the result that you are looking for? One of the most important points of email automation is ensuring that the copy within your emails is compelling enough to elicit a positive response. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when creating your sales automation email sequences. But there are a few success tips that we can all follow to have more success with our automated email sequences.

Tune into this week’s episode, of The Startup Chat to learn about the step by step actions to creating the kind of email sequences that crush it and how they can help the success of your business sales. Follow Steli and Hiten’s top tips to make your own email sequences, and learn how to stand out in a crowd, of all the bad emails, that your target market are receiving every day.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:49 The link between marketing and sales.

01:06 Introduction to automated emails.  

02:01 Automation and outbound prospecting for sales teams.

02:40 The benefit of the automation process.

05:07 The negative side of automation.

05:35 The good, the bad and the ugly of automation.

07:42 Steps to stand out from the ‘crappy’ email crowd.

09:50 What you must understand for successful automation.

10:10 How not have successful automation.

10:45 What to know about tools and templates.

3 Key Points:

The days of mediocre and even good email is dead, but great emails are alive because they are so rare.
Understand the environment in which you are competing, which is the inbox of your prospect.
Start manually first and then automate.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: This is Hiten Shah, and today on The Startup Chat, we're going to talk about, I think one of Steli's favorite topics that I want to learn about a lot more, because I don't do this right now at my companies, at least I don't, is how to do basically email sequences when you're doing outbound emailing for sales.

[0:00:24]

Steli Efti: Yeah, so this is a fascinating topic, and we'll bang out some tips and try to give people a framework of how to think about this. But back in the ... I think when it comes to email, marketing has always been, or in many other areas when it comes to technology in general, I feel like marketing is always kind of a little bit of a step ahead of sales. But sales is always following suit, falling behind on marketing. I know that I remember when marketing teams started to use drip emails, started to use automated emails that were personalized, depending on a person's life cycle in the marketing funnel, or depending on their life cycle as a customer or as a user of a product. So you would set up this drip email system from a marketing perspective, and then if I as a user or as a trial user, if I visited the pricing page multiple times, you would fire off a personalized and customized email that responds to that. Or if I stop logging into the product, you might fire off another customized and personalized email that says, "Hey, we haven't seen you around in a while. Maybe either you should watch this tutorial, or maybe we should jump on a quick demo call," or whatever, and just use logged scale customization in an automated way, and that was kind of a brilliant trend. We might do an episode on that,

May 08 2018

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337: How to Compete in a Hyper Competitive Space

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to deal with a hyper-competitive market if you’re in one.

Today’s startup world is super competitive. It is not uncommon for there to be hundreds, if not thousands of competitors in the market you operate. So how do you differentiate your brand from the rest and get the attention of those you want to do business with?

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts about how competitive the market is, what you can do to differentiate and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:22 About today’s topic.

01:25 Why this topic was chosen.

02:00 Why all markets are going to be hyper-competitive in future.

03:39 Steli’s two cents on the issue.

05:40 Why it’s important to stand for something.

06:21 The reason why Close.io became successful in the CRM space.

07:49 One way to differentiate in a hyper-competitive market.

09:40 A second way to approach differentiation in a super competitive market.

11:26 One last tip from Steli.

12:19 Why competition is a good thing.

3 Key Points:

There’s always a niche that’s underserved or overlooked.
In today’s world, it’s probably going to be hard to compete on features.
We built a product that was very differentiated for a customer that was very undervalued and we marketed it in a very different voice.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and I'm going to talk about something today with Steli on this web chat that is near and dear to his heart. I think that's why he wanted to talk about it, so Steli you're going to have to take the lead on this, but basically the topic is how to deal with hyper-competitive market if you're in one and Steli's company, Close.io, happens to be in one of the most hyper-competitive, or competitive I guess, hyper-competitive software markets out there, CRM. So they build a CRM solution, a Customer Relationship Management Service, I guess. Dude, sucks to be you.

[0:00:48]

Steli Efti: I would agree with you if I wasn't me. I would think the same thing. You know, I always tell people, if somebody would have told me, I don't know, six years ago, that I would be running, or seven years ago, that I would be running a CRM business, I would have punched them in the face. Nothing inside of me was like, "Yes! CRM-"

[0:01:11]

Hiten Shah: Let's do that.

[0:01:12]

Steli Efti: " ... That's what I want to do. Let's go into that market." Nothing really inside of me wanted that. So the reason why I wanted to talk to you about this is that I've given a few talks on this subject because people have been asking me to speak about it and I've increasingly noticed this notion of people describing the space they're in, or founders describing the space they're in as, "The most competitive space," or, "One of the most competitive spaces." Or, "Hyper-competitive." I'm starting to think that this is going to be new reality where it doesn't fucking matter what you do, it's going to be a hyper-competitive space eventually. Because of the way the world works, because of the way ... Especially in software, where a single developer, somewhere in a random location around the world can compete with a venture tech start up in the Valley with tens of millions in venture funding and so there's this explosion of software products in many, many categories and people feel overwhelmed by that. Yeah, I have a personal story, because I launched a company in an insanely competitive space but I also feel like this is a trend. I don't know if you agree with me but it feels to me like a trend. I look at this company that does this once a year, the Marketing Tech Space report or something, I just know or remember there's like a graphic of all th...

Aug 21 2018

Play

328: The Pre-Launch: How to Do It Right (With or Without Hype)

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what startups should and shouldn’t do before launching a product.

The startup world is very competitive. Everyday, new products and services are launched. A great way to ensure that your launch goes successfully is to conduct a pre-launch marketing campaign.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on what pre-launch is, how to do it the right way and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:22 Why this topic was chosen.

01:03 An example of a wrong way to launch a product.

01:12 What you need to understand before launching a big PR campaign.

01:54 The right thing to do pre-launch.

02:40 Why the pre-launch process is super critical.

03:26 Why you shouldn’t rely on your own website or advertising.

03:46 About ProductHunt’s ship feature and how it can be helpful.

04:50 How there’s a lot less focus on the marketing side of launching a product.

05:40 Why it’s important to learn about the value proposition of a product.

06:17 How conducting multiple tests at the pre-launch stage can help you have a better launch.

3 Key Points:

The pre-launch process is super critical.
There’s a lot less focus on the marketing side of launching a product.
Use those early interactions with your users to inform your marketing team on how to marketing the product when you launch.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: And in today's episode of The Startup Chat, we're gonna talk about the pre-launch. How to do it right with or without the hype. This even rhymes, I didn't this realize this when I was writing this down. What I essentially wanna quickly talk to you about is like the kind of best practices of how companies and startups are launching their products. We had an episode where we talked about how to do the launch right, and you recently launched a pretty significant and very successful product. But what I wanna talk about today a little bit is like, what do you do before the launch? Back in the day, companies would invest all this time to do like a really big bang launch, I'll call it, where they had the product and the marketing and the PR and everything, all happen at once, in one big day. We then learned that that's a bad idea for various reasons. The biggest being that you need to disconnect and understand that launching product or feature and testing it and getting it in the hands of your users and customers and learning what works and what doesn't, and collect feedback about how to talk about it and all that, can happen before you do a big PR or marketing push and launch. That has kind of, I think that that's been something that has improved in our industry, in the startup world in the last few years, like going away from this big event where companies, where startups would spend tons of money and cross their fingers that this one day would define them as a startup. We've gone away from it, which is a big improvement. One thing that I'm seeing today though, more and more again, is the ... what's the right thing to do pre-launch in terms of limited alpha, limited beta? And then, how do you create anticipation? I see some startups now that are much better at like quote unquote hyping what's upcoming, and doing a lot of social media around, "Hey, we have something coming up next week, a new feature, you guys are gonna love it." And, just like, teasing, teasing, teasing and then launching. You know so much about it, you're involved in so many launches and pre-launches and all that, so I wanna just do a quick rundown of like how startups, what startups should and shouldn't do before the launch.

[0:02:07]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, this is such a good topic.

Jul 20 2018

Play

444: How to Increase Your Productivity

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to increase your productivity.

If there's one thing founders struggle with a lot, it's being productive. With all the distractions of social media, mobile gaming, and the internet, in general, staying productive at work can be a challenge, and this can have a negative impact on your startup.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what it means to be productive, how to define productivity for the role you’re in, tips for being more productive. and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:50 How being productive makes Steli happy.

03:42 Why it’s a good idea to consciously review your day, week or month.

04:10 What some of Hiten’s most productive days look like.

05:00 How to define productivity for the role you’re in.

05:35 Why Hiten works a lot on weekends.

06:01 The different angles to productivity.

06:37 Tips for being more productive.

07:14 How to measure productivity as a manager.

3 Key Points:

Productivity is a human desire.The feeling of productivity is really high up on the list of things that make me happy.Some of my most productive days are the most random days ever.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti`.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on the Startup Chat we're going to talk about how to increase your productivity and there's a really good reason we're talking about this. We've been wanting to talk about this. We know that this is something that is on most of your minds, whether you're working in a company or working on your own company or in a really large company of some kind. It doesn't matter. Productivity is something that's almost like a human desire, especially at work.

[0:00:34]

Steli Efti: Okay?

[0:00:34]

Hiten Shah: That's where I'll start. I'm like, hey Steli, I think it's a human desire.

[0:00:37]

Steli Efti: That is not what I thought you would say. So like my mind was wandering off in a specific direction and you took a left turn while I was still going straight and eventually I was like, where is he? He must have taken a left turn. I kind of lost it over there.

[0:00:55]

Hiten Shah: There we go.

[0:00:57]

Steli Efti: What did you say? Human desire?

[0:00:59]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, we want to achieve. We want to be productive. We want to get stuff done. I also want to be happy. Don't get me wrong.

[0:01:07]

Steli Efti: No, but you know what I mean. I fucking love this because that is actually one of the, I'm sure it's the same with you. I'm sure it's the same with most people that listen to us. If I have to identify a very big contributor to either my happiness or my lack of happiness. Productivity, the feeling of productivity is really high up the list. So even when everything is going well, like I could have a great day with lots or a week where lots of good things happen, where there's a lot of reasons to be happy. But if I personally didn't feel productive that week, I guarantee you I'll be unhappy. It's feeling productive is kind of a crucial, fundamental thing I need to be feeling kind of good in my own skin, right? To feel comfortable, feel it.

[0:02:03]

Hiten Shah: When you reviewed, you actually think of it like that?

[0:02:06]

Steli Efti: Yeah. But you know what it is? The crazy thing is it is not a mental thing. It's not a, wow, I had so much fun this week. Everything went well. Let me review the week. Let me think, what is everything that happened then? Shit, I wasn't as productive. God and then I start mentally making myself feel bad about it. It is literally like not showering the entire week, right? If you told me we're going to have an amazing week.

Aug 30 2019

Play

311: How to Get User Onboarding Right

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Today on the Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what user testing is, why it’s important, and some tips on how to do it right. This comes after a series of blog post Hiten and his business partner have been working on around the topic.

After user testing products like Duolingo and Grammarly, Hiten shares what he’s learned from the process, including what works so well for those products and what could be done to improve the overall user experience.

Hiten also shares some tips on how you can user test your own products the right way and, if you choose to, test those of your competitors as well.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:44 Why this topic was chosen for this episode.

02:36 What user testing means.

03:43 Hiten talks about the user test he carried out on Grammarly.

04:19 How much the study cost.

05:10 Why it’s a good idea to user test your competitor's products.

06:08 Lessons Hiten learned from user testing Grammarly.

10:40 Tips to help you user test your products or those of your competitors.

3 Key Points:

User testing is the ability to see how people react to an experience.
If you're trying to figure out what your users hate about your product, you need to ask them.
User testing allows you to understand what’s working and what’s not.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. Today on the Start-up Chat, we're gonna talk about a series of blog posts I've been doing with my business partner Marie, around user testing and the value of it. It was a hard one for us to share, and we'll talk about why. Steli, you wanted to talk about it, so I'd love to get your take, as always, because apparently you're reading my crap.

[0:00:26]

Steli Efti: Yeah, dude. You're killing it with product habits. Again, for people that are listening. I'm pretty sure that people that listen to the Start-up Chat are already subscribed to Product Habits, but for those that are new that haven't, go to ProductHabits.com and subscribe. I've been on your email list for a long time now, and the content you're sharing right now is the best content you've ever shared, in my opinion. Really it's-

[0:00:51]

Hiten Shah: Wow, thank you.

[0:00:52]

Steli Efti: It is killer. It is really, really fucking good. The emails that you send are really good. I know that you and Marie, you've kind of gone from a model of considering having a content team that writes these emails, to getting back to the two of you writing these emails, and spending a lot of time back and forth until you get it right. And it really fucking shows. It's unfortunate, but there's no shortcut to excellence and to greatness. You have to put in the work. I love the new format right now, the new thing that you guys do where you do these research studies on other companies, right. On their products, on their user onboarding. You do really deep dives and then you share the deep dives and the learnings that you have with brands that are pretty popular. And are teaching even how they could do things better. So I love that content. It's incredibly insightful. I wanted to pick the last one you did on Grammarly, and share some of the insights you learned there. And then for people that want to learn more, they can just go to ProductHabits.com and read these user research or product research studies in much more depth and detail. But let's talk a little bit about user onboarding and what you've learned through doing these deep dives so far. What are some of the key learnings that you guys took out of it as takeaways?

[0:02:16]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, absolutely. A couple things. One, for those of you that don't know what user testing is,

May 22 2018

Play

384: Customer Development Mistakes to Avoid

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how founders can avoid customer development mistakes.

Customer development is a four-step framework for discovering and validating the right market for your idea. It is used by founders to build the right product features that solve customers’ needs and much more. Customer development is crucial to the success of a product, therefore it has to be done the right way.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten dive into what  Customer development is, why it’s important, some common mistakes founders make when they do it and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:27 The biggest common mistake founders make.

02:56 Another common mistake founders make.

04:47 Why there are different types of product validation.

06:04 Why giving you money is a much stronger form of validation.

07:22 Another big mistakes founders make.

10:05 Why not being able to reach enough people is not an excuse.

10:44 Why you should never stop doing customer development.

10:59 Why product-market fit is not a static status.

3 Key Points:

Customer development has nothing to do with your product.
Founders will use different lingo to make their business look bigger than it is.
Customer development never ends.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti ...

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: ... And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: And today on the startup chat we want to talk about customer development mistakes to avoid for founders. So here's the deal, like Hiten, you and myself, we talk to founders all the time, a lot of them are kind of early stage founders and they're in the “customer development” phase, and they come to us to tell us that they've done customer development and they think they have product market fit in now they're worrying about all the other stages that are, that are about to happen for them. And when we talk to them and ask exactly what they did in customer development, who they talk, what they found out, we realized sooner or later that they've made big mistakes in the way they think about customer development or the way they executed on it. So I thought it would be useful for us to share some of those kinds of biggest reoccurring themes and mistakes to avoid. So when kind of young founders or new founders are going out to do customer development, they avoid these mistakes and they don't waste time, right? So, right of the bat Hiten. If you had to think about the biggest common mistake that most founders make when it comes to customer development, what comes to mind?

[0:01:17]

Hiten Shah: It always, it always starts for me with their speaking to the potential customers and people the wrong way. So they're introducing bias in what they're saying. And so then when, when I talk to them what ends up happening is I just can feel the bias. I can just feel it so that they ask questions like, would you use my product instead of asking what's the biggest challenge you have? And I think that's a very distinct difference that many founders, despite all the material about customer development and how to talk to the customers before they are your customers and all that kind of stuff, people just gloss over and they miss and they think talking to customers or prospects or early, you know, talking to people early about your business has to do with your product. And in my opinion and the way that I learned customer development, it has nothing to do with your product it has everything to do with that person, their problems and their stories and everything you can learn about them with no information about what you're doing or your product. And I think that's like the biggest mistake people make,

Feb 01 2019

Play

361: How to Use Affiliate Programs to Fuel Growth

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about affiliate programs and how to use it for your business when you want to acquire more customers.

Affiliate programs can be an effective way to get new customers and scale your startup. For it to be successful, it is important to know how to create a program that helps your customers and advocates do your marketing for you.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what an affiliate program is, why they don’t work for some startups, why some programs have failed in the past and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic.

00:46 What are affiliate programs?

01:09 Why it’s a channel that works really well.

01:20 A key metric that you can use to determine if this is for you.

01:53 A mistake startups who want to use this channel make.

02:12 An interesting thing about affiliate programs.

03:52 Two reasons why affiliate programs work.

04:04 What a referral program is.

05:03 The reason affiliate programs don’t work.

05:59 Another reason why affiliate programs don’t work.

07:35 Examples of affiliate programs gone wrong
3 Key Points:

If my product already has a high word of mouth, it’s more likely an affiliate program will work for you.
When you sell to b2b companies, just offering them some amount of money might not work as well.
You having an affiliate program doesn’t really scale your business if a bunch of these factors are not in place.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey, everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. And today on The Startup Chat, we're going to talk about affiliate programs, and how to use it for your business when you want to acquire more customers. I'm going to shoot this first, real quick, and then we'll get into it, Steli, 'cause this is one of those more rapid-fire ones, because it's just a topic and we haven't talked about it, but it's a super-important one, because it's affiliate partners, referrals, there's this whole category of, somebody is bringing me leads and/or sales for my business and I'm giving them some kind of commission. That's essentially what an affiliate is. Right?

[0:00:38]

Steli Efti: Right. Right.

[0:00:40]

Hiten Shah: I love the idea of having affiliates, or even partners that are bringing you customers for a commission. I think it's one of the key channels that, especially in B to B and SaaS, that works really well. It also works really well in e-commerce, and for me it has everything to do with one key metric, if this is going to work for you. And it's going to sound crazy, but it's pretty standard, but the key metric that I actually go for is, if my product already has high word-of-mouth, it is more likely that an affiliate program, or a referral in partnerships are going to work really well.

[0:01:19]

Steli Efti: Yeah, that makes so much sense it hurts. But I'm still sure that a lot of people-

[0:01:23]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, exactly, because not every product has that.

[0:01:24]

Steli Efti: Yeah, and I'm sure a lot of the startups that are considering or have chosen ... Let's invest in affiliate programs or referral programs to fuel our growth, have never stepped back to ask this very simple question, "Hmm. Do we get any word of mouth right now? Are our customers or people who know about us talking about us at all?" It seems like a very fundamental first step to answer before you go, "Let's pay them money, or give them incentives to do it." But-

[0:01:50]

Hiten Shah: Exactly.

[0:01:51]

Steli Efti: ... But I'm still, I would be surprised if a lot of people thought about that first. So one thing, one interesting thing about affiliate programs is that, or referral programs, is that I do think,

Nov 13 2018

Play

455: Doing What Scares You

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about doing what scares you.

When trying to accomplish something, the fear of the unknown can prevent you from taking action and completing your goals. Whatever it is that scares you, overcoming that fear and completing your goal can only be beneficial to you.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how doing things that scare you can help you grow, situations where being scared can be a good thing, some business situations that scared them in the past and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:27 Why this topic was chosen.

01:50 How doing things that scare you can help you grow.

02:01 How doing something that you’re scared usually leads to something valuable.

03:06 Situations where being scared can be a good thing.

04:02 How listing out things that scare you can be beneficial.

05:23 Why you should feed the fear in a positive way.

06:39 How everyone, including founders, has something that scares them.

07:21 How a lot of founders are driven by fear.

09:09 Business situations that scared Steli and Hiten. 

3 Key Points:

We grow by doing things that we’re not comfortable with.There’s something valuable at the end of fear.I would like to see more people list out the things that scare them.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on The Startup Chat we're going to talk about doing what scares you. The reason I want to talk about this is because recently my FYI co-founder Marie decided to go on a camping trip alone, but not quite alone because she was with her dog, which is probably even more scary in some ways. And in a bunch of private chats she was talking about bears and being scared of bears, and we're in California and apparently there's bears. And then on Twitter she was talking about how she was doing it. And what was really cool is a lot of other people chimed in about going on solo camping trips and dealing with the fears and things like that, making a fire and all that good stuff. So yeah, just wanted to talk about doing what scares you because it can extend to anything, personal life or work or whatever. Really just, I think something that we tend to sort of as humans, we grow by doing things that we're not comfortable with, doing things that might scare us. And at the same time we also kind of don't do them. So we lose out on growth and on opportunities like that. And personally I think there are things that I'm thinking through right now myself that probably scare me a little bit and but yet I know that they're going to help me grow. And I know that I want that and I want that experience. So yeah, just wanted to chat with you about this because I think it's a very common thing and something that a lot of people can get a bunch of value from.

[0:01:41]

Steli Efti: I love it. So I think that, I've said this many, many times that I do think that fear is the compass, fear points usually to a direction ... There's something valuable at the end of fear. There's something, either it's outside your comfort or ... It's always outside of your comfort if it's associated with fear, I guess. But doing something that you're afraid of usually will lead to something valuable, a valuable experience, a valuable skill or quite a valuable thing that you accomplish. But because there's fear in between you and that thing or that experience, it's what's holding most of us back. But I wonder, I recently wondered if that's always good advice. First, maybe and this is funky, I don't know if this is going to lead to any place worthwhile going or exploring, but are there exceptions to this? When is it right to let your fear hold you back or to let what scares you define what you do or you don't do?

Oct 08 2019

Play

431: Should You Run a Ton of Experiments Early on as a Founder?

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to run marketing experiments when you’re just starting out.

As a founder, you need to run experiments in order to find out what will work for your startup. However, most marketing experiments are done wrong, and this can lead to failures, demotivation or can cost you a lot of money.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to run marketing experiments the right way, why having a goal super important when you run experiments, why comparing a startup to a big company is not helpful and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

02:20 What marketing means to Hiten.

02:46 Why having a goal super important.

03:01 Why comparing a startup to a big company is not helpful.

03:42 Why trying complicated strategies too early is a bad idea.

06:20 Why you should try doing things that are easier to pick up.

06:50 How Hiten approaches marketing.

08:10 Why you should listen to episode 30 of the podcast.

09:11 Why learning from your competition is a good idea.

3 Key Points:

I think the killer here in terms of comparison is the mentality.To me, marketing is just about driving traffic with a goal in mind.Figure out how you’re gonna get the right visitors that will sign up for your product

[0:00:01]
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
[0:00:03]
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
[0:00:05]
Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat, we're going to talk about how to run marketing experiments, especially when you are at the very beginning or super small. So here's the reason why I want to talk about this with you, Hiten Shah. I was emailing back and forth with a single founder that is just building NBP, and he's trying to start his start-up, and one challenge that he described to me was the challenge that he was trying to be super data-driven, and super kind of experimentation-driven, and was saying that he was trying all these different experiments, but it would take like a week or two to collect enough data. And then a lot of these experiments that he's tried haven't yet worked, and he was asking me if... He was basically getting to a point where he was doubting that this will work well, and saying to me, “Is it the case that maybe just really well-funded start-ups with lots of people can afford to run all kinds of crazy AB tests and all kinds of different growth experiments, because most experiments won't work, and when you are a one-person team, with very little money, you don't have infinite time to just keep experimenting with great, crazy ideas that most of them don't work. You might just have to do bread and butter things that are easier to succeed with, even if they are not necessarily as data-driven or as experimental in nature." So, basically asking, are experiments only for big companies, or for start-ups with more resources, or can a single person be super experiment-driven and try to grow their start-up from day one, based on running different tests, and driving different experiments? And I could not think of anybody better than to state this problem to and get probably a funny reaction that's like, “This is the totally wrong way of thinking about life”. That's the problem that he brought up to me, and I was super curious to hear your kind of first reaction on that.
[0:02:22]
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think the killer here, in terms of mentality, is comparison. I think that's part of the problem. To me, marketing is just about driving traffic with a goal in mind.
[0:02:41]
Steli Efti: Right.
[0:02:43]
Hiten Shah: Well, what's your goal? Well, your goal is to get traffic. Figure out how you're going to find the right visitors that are going to sign up for your product, right? I don't think it's more complicated than that.

Jul 16 2019

Play

467: The Challenger, Helper, Victim Cycle

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about The challenger, helper, victim cycle.

The victim mindset is one that some people have and it can be depressing being around someone who is always negative and constantly complains about everything. And while playing the victim might seem advantageous to certain people, other times it can prevent people from wanting to help you.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how some founders can either be stuck in the helper or the challenger frame of mind, Hiten’s philosophy when it comes to giving advice in general, how most people with a victim mindset have a hard time getting out of it and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

01:23 How some founders can either be stuck in the helper or the challenger frame of mind.

05:00 Hiten’s philosophy when it comes to giving advice.

05:32 One very useful way to help someone.

06:20 How people, in most cases, want to feel good about themselves.

07:30 How Hiten approaches giving advice to people.

08:34 Why Hiten started sharing more about himself.

09:14 How most people with a victim mindset have a hard time getting out of it.

12:56 Hiten’s approach to giving advice to people with a victim mindset.

3 Key Points:

  • My philosophy is to tell people what I think they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
  • There’s a way to help someone by actually seeing what they are not and communicating it to them.
  • I think that as a founder, you can be either stuck in a helper or the challenger frame of mind

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about how to become more of a challenger versus a “helper”. Here’s the deal, this could be a super tiny episode, but something about this made me think of you and thought this could be a cool little conversation to have that might be useful to people. I saw somebody tweet this the other day, and it was just a little graph. I don’t know, honestly, I apologize for this. I didn’t do my homework to research where the graph is from and which book it is associated with, and who wrote this or who came up with it. But I don’t think it’s really that important for the purpose of this conversation. But it was a little bit of a circle and it just … A graph or a circle that described a concept, and it was called something like the helper victim cycle and how to break through it. And it basically was describing how people can take on a victim frame of mind of describing their problem or their challenge from a passive, “This has been done to me. I’m powerless, and I need help,” kind of framework of mind, which will then elicit somebody to step in as the “helper”, and a helper is somebody that will look for victims to be useful to, right? That person will step in and will give the victim advice, comfort, empathy. Typically, basically the message of the helper will be, “I hear you, I feel for you, and I can help you.” Right? Either by telling you what to do, or by doing it for you. And how these two … These frameworks are obviously not that useful because they leave both people … Maybe they feel slightly better in the moment, but they’re not really changing anything about the situation. And then they introduce this different framework, which is the challenger framework, which is somebody that is in a victim frame of mind doesn’t really need somebody to come and be a helper but need somebody to come in and be a challenger. So somebody that maybe as well says, “I understand that you are in a challenging situation. I understand that this is difficult for you. I am happy to listen to you, but my amount of listening has limits. I’ll listen to you for 50 minutes complain about this or whine about this, and then I will ask you questions to help you think differently about this or to come up with a solution, and then I am happy to be the person that holds you accountable for making the changes necessary to get out of this situation and move from a victim to a victor,” or whatever they would be called if it’s the feminine version of this. “And I will be there for you as long as you do your part. If you don’t follow through on your commitments, if you don’t make changes, then I will not be around for you anymore.” Right? So it’s a very different kind of framework that helps the victim to break through and is much more helpful than just being a helper. And I don’t know, I felt that that grab was beautiful because I do think that, as a founder and as somebody that is hiring people, building teams and in a leadership position in one way or another, you can be either stuck in a helper frame of mind that then makes people be victims and codependent of you, or exhibiting the challenger mind frame that really empowers people to grow and become more and more independent and not really needing you in order to affirm them or help them or whatever. I see a lot of times founders, or managers, or leaders be much more in a helper framework where they constantly do the work for people, giving them solutions, telling them exactly what to do, listening to them with all their problems, being there for them, and really never being able to empower that person to really grow beyond their past limitations. So I thought it would be an interesting little thing to discuss. Maybe you know a lot more about this. You are particularly good at being a challenger and not a pure helper, at least in my observation, although people would probably describe you from the outside as the super helpful person. I think you are, but you are because you are very good at challenging people. So, just curious to hear your response and your reaction to this.

[0:04:38]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. It’s like I don’t … My philosophy is to tell people what I think they need to hear, not what they think they need to hear. People really want to hear certain things about themselves and it makes sense. If they ask you a question, or if they’re talking to you about something, sometimes they’re looking for compliments. Sometimes they’re looking for a positive reinforcement. I think that there’s a way to help somebody by actually seeing what they’re not seeing and communicating it to them. I’ve been through my own journey on this where I would really be quick to respond and give people my take on something, because I can get a take on something pretty quickly. Lots of practice and just lots of, I guess logic and pragmatic thinking, is what I tend to use, especially when people come to me with their stuff. When I come to myself with my stuff, it’s a whole different story. So, I think that … And there’s people in my life that I can bring something and they’ll do the same thing to me and that’s awesome. I think you’re one of them. So, this is really interesting to me because everybody really wants to feel good about themselves. That part makes it somewhat difficult to tell them things that they don’t want to hear. So I’ve spent now more of my energy, and I think I’m in a very great place about this where I just want … Sometimes I just won’t say it, because they’re just not ready. They don’t want to hear it. There’s no point. If I say something that I really think about them, or think about what they should do, or I have some thoughts, maybe they just want to vent. Maybe they just want to talk, and I don’t need to respond in a way I normally would, let’s say. I think what’s interesting is I’ve seen more people offer some thoughts on this, such as, “Oh,” you ask the person, “Do you just want to vent? Or do you just want to share something? Or do you want my advice?” You know what’s fascinating? I almost feel like that … I like that tactic. I’m not against it. I don’t think I’ll ever use it though. The reason is, it’s my job, if someone comes to me for something, or a friend, or anybody, to really decipher what they’re looking for. The reason I make it my job is because I don’t want to interrupt the flow in the conversation. I feel like if I stop you and say, “Are you looking for advice, or are you just trying to vent?” You’ll be off-put. It’s like off-putting in a way. It’s like, “Well, I’m just trying to talk. I just want to talk. I don’t if I want to. I don’t know if I need advice.” A lot of times people just don’t know what they need. So these days I just feel it up. I’m just like … I don’t know, I enjoy it when people talk to me. I enjoy it when people come to me with things. It’s something that … Not just … And I used to think it’s, “Oh, I like helping people out,” or whatever. It’s not to help them out, it’s just, I like people. I like listening to them. I like hearing what’s going on with them and what’s happening to them, and it’s actually even helped me do something that has been a little harder, which is, once I stop thinking about advice, I think we talked a little bit about I like to encourage people these days. I actually started sharing more about myself, and people seem to see that, and they’re like, “Oh, I’ve never heard that about you,” or, “Oh, no, I understand you better,” or this and that. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not just trying to help you. I’m not just here to give you advice. I’m here to just talk. You want to talk? Let’s talk.” Right? Who cares what the label is, or let’s not call it that. And things just got a lot easier. So, I think when it comes to the example you gave with the victim and things like that, if that person’s ready to hear the message, by all means, go for it. But it’s your job when you’re delivering the message to figure out, “Are they ready for it? Do they need this?” And I do believe asking them is one way, for sure. It’s not my way, but it’s definitely one way where, if you don’t know what they’re looking for, it is totally reasonable to ask them. At the same time, in that victim situation, I don’t know. [inaudible 00:09:14]. Most people who have a victim mindset … I have a few people I know really well that have that. They have a hard time getting out of it. They have their own personal work to do. It’s not much you can do for them. There really isn’t. It’s just the way they are. It’s some childhood things, same things they repress. I could go on this, because I have a few folks in my life that really take that stance, and some people take that stance when they’re under stress, or something bad happens. Some people just take that stance normally. And you can see it manifest in almost their whole lives, and lots of parts of their lives. But the thing is, if you ever told them, “Hey, this is what you’re doing,” it’s likely that they’re not ready to hear that, and then you’d have to justify it. You’d have to give them examples, you’d have to do things like that. Now, the only caveat I have is, if someone is operating like that at work, and you see the pattern is continuous, and let’s say you’re their manager, or even if you’re not, it is worth, I think everyone’s time to find the right way to talk to this person about it. That’s a part that I find very fascinating, because at work, if someone has a certain mindset and it’s … Let’s say, let’s just call it negative, or negative to them but also probably harmful to the organization and people in it, it is someone’s job to talk to them about it, I think, because it’s not something that should continue and it’s something that the person should be aware of that they might not be. The people I’m referring to that have that mindset that I know, I don’t … I’m really close to them, I don’t think I can tell them. I really don’t feel comfortable telling them, because I think … But I’ve also seen them improve over time. So, instead of telling them, my reaction are different than they used to be. So they used to be a reaction where I would internalize their victimhood, and I would almost feed it. So then I was an enabler, and there’s lots of ways to feed something like that. If they’re the victim, you’re like, “Aw, I’m so sorry.” Oh, wait, hold on. Is there anything for you to be sorry for, for them? No. You’re essentially being sorry, as if you’re them, because they’re feeling like a victim, they’re sorry for themselves. It’s essentially one of the ways that the victim thing comes up, instead of, I listen and I actually give an alternative non-victim viewpoint to them. But I’m not telling them they’re being a victim. I’m just giving him an example of another way to look at it. That’s been really valuable for me in those scenarios instead of being more direct.

[0:12:01]

Steli Efti: Yeah, I love it. That makes a ton of sense. I think one thing that I want to just highlight before we wrap up this episode is, sometimes this pattern happens in not a distinct and strong of a manifestation, especially at work. Some people, they might not be outright victims at work where they complain and they whine and they’re passive and negative, where it’s very obvious to everybody, but the dynamic that’s created is one where there’s dependencies. This person comes to you always slightly too early with their problem, looking at you to suggest some brilliant solution, and you gladly step into the role of going, “Well, have you done X, Y, Z? What about if we did this, this, or that? What about this idea?” And then they give you the positive reinforcement of admiring you and going, “Oh, my God. No, I hadn’t thought about. That’s a brilliant solution to my problem. Thank you so much,” and then they leave. That can seem like a productive interaction, right? Person A had a problem, I come up with a solution, person A is now grateful and left with that solution. That’s a wonderful thing. But when that happens again and again and again and again, you’re training oftentimes that person to nothing for themselves. You train that person to not sit with a problem a bit longer and come up with their own solution, but just instantly come to you as a lazy way of finding solutions. And you may be feeding that, or training that behavior, or programming that behavior into somebody because you get a dopamine rush by solving other people’s problems. It makes you feel good. You feel brilliant. You’re like, “Oh my God. I’m so creative. I come up with ideas. I don’t even know how to do it.” That can be a really … To me, that mirrors very closely to the help-a-victim dynamic where it’s not productive, because the more people are joining the team or the more people you’re doing this with, eventually you’re going to start being overwhelmed and used. You’re going to start complaining why you’re solving everybody’s problems and your own problems are never being solved because you don’t have the energy and creativity anymore for it. And these people never … You’re not allowing them and helping them grow beyond your ideas, your capabilities. You’re making … Your coding them into a behavior of relying on you way too much, and I’ve seen this so many times. I have done this myself so many times in the past, and so that’s a framework that I would advise people to observe, either with themselves, or with their managers, or with other people within their teams or within their startup, and to try to break through and go beyond, because it’s a really limiting way of collaborating and working together.

[0:15:01]

Hiten Shah: Yup. Yup. I couldn’t agree more.

[0:15:05]

Steli Efti: There you go. There you have it, folks. That’s it from us for this episode. We will hear you very, very soon.

[0:15:10]

Hiten Shah: Cheers.

[0:15:11]

The post 467: The Challenger, Helper, Victim Cycle appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 19 2019

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268: Encore Episode – How to Get Your First 10 Customers

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Today Steli and Hiten talk about how to get those first few customers when your business is just getting off the ground.  The key to that initial traction is to connect with potential customers as soon as possible.

Hiten’s first course of action is to set up a landing page that allows you to collect email addresses.  There are a bunch of tools out there that allow you to do this well.  Pick the one that’s easiest for you to set up today and start getting those email addresses.

If you don’t already have an audience or traffic to the site, start blogging about what you’re doing.  Driving traffic to the site this way is a great way to start getting interest in your project.

Steli used a tactic that is actually one of Hiten’s favorite approaches:  doing consulting around the problem you’re trying to solve, then build tools to solve the problem that your consulting did initially.  In Elastic Sales Steli’s team they validated the concept of on demand sales teams, and within two weeks they had a pipeline 7 potential customers, and 2 that were actually paying.  Check out the script for Steli’s initial cold call.

The reason this was successful is that Steli was able to leverage his unique advantage.  Whether it’s sales, content marketing, or some other specific consulting knowledge, use your Authentic Competitive Advantage as the way you can overcome objections in sales situations.

Stop the recording right now:  Write down what your Authentic Competitive Advantage is and how it can help you get your first few customers.  If you need help figuring this out, send Steli and Hiten an email.

When you get that Authentic Competitive Advantage down, start doing customer development to better understand what the problem really is.  Don’t lead people down a specific path with this and let them freely tell you what their problem is.  Then you’ll need to figure out how to best solve that problem.

Next step is to get people to actually pay you money.  How much to charge?  Steli says charge 3x what your initial instinct tells you.  Get paid what you’re worth.  Offering lifetimes discounts for initial customers is a great way to get people on the line early.  What you charge can easily be changed later.  This is just an indication that the problem you’re solving is actually one that people are willing to pay for.

Today’s Tips:

Steli: In the next 24 hours, ask 10 people to be your customer.  Doing this will get you over the mental hurdle of asking people for their business.

Hiten: Stop thinking about how to do this and go do it.  Take action today and start trying to get customers.

Join our Facebook group to be able to talk with each other.  This is an exclusive group for our listeners and a place to build a community around.

As always, you can hit us up on Twitter @Steli or @hnshah, #thestartupchat. Let us know where you get your motivation.

The post 268: Encore Episode – How to Get Your First 10 Customers appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Dec 22 2017

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211: How to Distribute Equity in the Early Days of Your Startup

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In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the tricky aspect of giving equity. While there is no standard way to give equity as companies follow their own rules, there are norms that you can choose to follow—especially if you are just starting. Listen as Steli and Hiten give their tips on how you can negotiate equity with your team members, what a fair offer would be for early startups, and how such a deal communicates TRUST and a long-term relationship, at the end of the day.
Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:07 – Today’s episode is about how to give equity to team members
00:40 – There are formulas and calculations on how to compute equity, but Hiten does not think there is a right answer for this

01:20 – There are norms on how equity is given: the year cliff and four year vesting
01:33 – The year cliff is when you get the first chunk of equity—which is a quarter percentage equivalent after your first year—over a four year period
02:08 – Monthly vesting

02:24 – There are other rules for other companies  
02:48 – Hiten says that if there is a lot of equity to be given, he would go with the standard
03:20 – In the early days, many startups struggle with the equity question
03:55 – In some cases, it may be easy—especially for those who spend equal amounts of time and just divide it equally
04:26 – In most cases, everyone is doing a different task and the value differs not just for founders but also those who have hired their first employees
05:36 – There is a lot more material available now to do equity right
06:06 – Equity is not really standard until much later in the company
06:37 – What matters is that people you hire are incentivized to do the job

06:55 – Giving it too early, even before they prove their effectiveness in the company, is bad for your business
07:15 – This is what the year cliff is for – to do a good job and get your equity

08:03 – Equity is not really meaningful in the early stages of the company
08:16 – When negotiating with someone who is expensive, the lever is the salary and the equity and the value assigned to the equity

09:21 – The earlier on someone is part your company the more equity they should get, especially if they are holding a senior role
09:45 – The equity is a component of the offer

10:15 – Steli knows of a company that gives as little equity as they can get away with to their early employees, but thinks this can easily be rectified
11:23 – There are also examples where people give too much equity that it creates resentment within the founding team

12:03 – It is almost impossible to renegotiate a lower equity

12:18 – Be thoughtful about how much you are giving away as it would be better to give less rather than more to avoid a problem
12:38 – In the early stages, if someone is given more than 1%, there should good justification for it
12:51 – The quarter to a half point is a reasonable amount
13:25 – For employees, look at the equity and number but at the core, it’s about the TRUST

14:30 – Ask if you can trust the founders or if they are easily fooled by someone else
15:15 – Do you trust the people you negotiate with to be fair over the long-term and that you can see yourself being around long-term?

15:58 – Tap into the best practices and educate yourself; be thoughtful, fair, and balanced in giving out equity
16:21 – Think about what you’ll give upfront
16:30 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

There are no clear cut rules in giving equity, but there are norms or standards that can be used as a guide.
The year cliff ensures that the person has proven himself to be effective for the company.
Trust is a KEY factor in negotiating equity.

The post

Jun 02 2017

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204: How to Cultivate a Bias Towards Action

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Do you ever feel that things aren’t moving forward or aren’t moving fast enough? If so, this episode is for you. In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to cultivate a bias towards ACTION. Accomplishing your tasks and learning how to take better and faster action starts from just doing it—just start moving! Listen as Steli and Hiten shares tips on how they became action-oriented people and why Einstein was right when he said “nothing in the universe happens until something moves”.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:05 – Today’s episode is about how to cultivate a bias towards action
00:32 – Feedback from listeners say that Steli and Hiten have a bias towards action in their podcasts
01:15 – Steli was travelling the past two weeks and the one theme that kept coming up was people need to take more action
02:34 – Entrepreneurs in the startup world need to create this bias to take better and faster action
03:08 – Hiten shares the companies that have a bias towards action like Nike’s, “Just Do It”
03:46 – Progress takes action and actually doing things
04:14 – You should understand what motivates you to take action

04:24 – For Hiten, it is a spark or a motivation to do the action
04:55 – Hiten says his motivation for the podcast is Steli’s passion for it

05:54 – Steli knows that he is not the main driver for the action, but has people in his life that can make it happen

06:27 – When travelling, Steli finds friends who will organize the trip so that he can just join in

07:11 – Steli and Hiten have people around them that take care of things and they play the support role
08:19 – Hiten has a priority list of people that he responds to via email
09:31 – Hiten knows someone who responds to emails on the 30-day mark
10:15 – People take action either because they want to get something or want to get away from something

10:38 – Pain is a much stronger motivator than pleasure
11:17 – If fear is your main motivator, you will more likely take less action

12:32 – Steli says there was a time when he did not take action because he was not inspired to do things

13:03 – Steli now has an internal mantra to act even when he does not feel like it, and he has accomplished a lot more because of it

14:13 – People don’t take action because they get paralyzed without even knowing it

14:52 – Steli says the trick is to make sure that you address the problem of why you are resisting doing the important things

15:14 – Steli shares how he was not as action-oriented as he is, today

15:51 – Steli realized that the only way to generate results was by taking action

16:40 – Steli learned that he needs to create results first, and study the data later
17:30 – During meetings, make a decision and get things done rather than adding things to discuss
18:19 – Hiten is driven to take action when he is impatient or bored
19:28 – Hiten is very impatient with business matters and takes this attitude in addressing the issue at hand
20:09 – Action is about impact and impact starts from small steps
21:40 – Know what the end goal is so that you are motivated to take action

21:46 – “You need to know where you need to go”

22:05 – Steli shares Albert Einstein’s quote, “Nothing in the universe happens until something moves”
22:21 – The only way to move things forward is to TAKE the responsibility to take action
22:46 – Do not be afraid of negative results or making mistakes, because it is an opportunity for learning that can help you take faster action in the future
23:17 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

Cultivating a bias towards action starts from actually doing it.
Do the necessary action first, then study the data later.

May 09 2017

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282: The Most Common Product Mistakes Startups Make

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In this episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the most common product mistakes startups make when developing new products.

Tons of new products are being developed all the time. While some products may end up being great, it’s inevitable that bad ones will get developed. What may seem like a brilliant idea on paper, often turns out to be a terrible idea when introduced in the real world.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about some common mistakes they see that can kill a product, the best way to avoid them and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 - About today’s topic

00:55 - Why this topic was chosen

01:34 - Hiten gives a background about a blog post he made on the subject.

03:13 - Hiten talks about the first mistake he and his team made when they developed a product that failed.

04:20 - Hiten talks about the second mistake made in developing that product.

05:13 - The third mistake that was made in developing that product.

07:56 - Steli highlights a mistakes he’s made in developing a product.

12:15 - Hiten talks about his biggest challenge in developing a product.

13:33 - Things Steli is looking to change this year in how they develop new products.

14:18 - 4 main mistakes startups make when developing new products.

Quotes:

Developing a product is actually very challenging today.
When developing a product, make sure to do user research.
Do competitor research when developing a product.

[0:00:01]

Steli: Hey, this Steli.

[0:00:03]

Hiten: This is Hiten, and today on the startup chat, what are we gonna talk about today, Steli? This was your choice.

[0:00:08]

Steli: This was my choice, yes. (chuckles) We're gonna talk about the most common product mistakes people make, startups make, and even some fucking mistakes that you made last year when it comes to building products, which you only did five of, right? So this is based on a talk that you and Marie gave at SaaSFest a few weeks ago, but also based on the I think most recent product habits e-mail. Again, quick shout-out for those that are listening to the podcast. Probably everybody has already subscribed, but for the new listeners, if you're not on the e-mail list, make sure to go to producthabits.com and get on the e-mail list. Some of the most valuable stuff on the interwebs, and definitely one of my favorite e-mails I get from Heton. So the last e-mail two days was kind of an e-mail where you write in detail, in depth about the most common product mistakes you've observed other people make and other startups make. Those are some of those that you made, and I thought, "We should talk about this, because it's gonna be super valuable to people," so yeah, that's what we're talking about.

[0:01:18]

Hiten: Yeah, I'll give the background. We know everyone builds products, you know? Even if you're not on a product team, we just know that, like, whether it's software, hardware, even if you're a services business, we consider you someone who builds product, and we consider the service a product. So what Marie and did was we got really excited this year as the year started to actually ask people on our list what their biggest product mistake was. And so we asked that question last week on Monday, and then -- was that last week? No, it was this week. Holy crap.

[0:01:56]

Steli: (laughs)

[0:01:56]

Hiten: So we asked that question this on Monday, and we got a whole bunch of responses. They came in super fast, and people were telling us their stories -- very elaborate stories, some of them -- about the mistakes that they made 'cause we asked them to. And we said we'd share them. We even said, you know, we might use your name, if you want us to or not, let us know. We ended up not using anyone's name,

Feb 09 2018

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472: Encore Episode: Even Seasoned Founders Feel like First-Time Founders

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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how even seasoned founders can feel like first-time founders.

Starting a new company can be scary. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first company or you’re started a couple in the past, you never know if your new venture is going to be successful or not, and this can cause us to feel insecure or scared

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about how starting something new can be exciting, Hiten’s experience with starting companies, what to spend your time on when you’re starting something and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

02:15 About today’s topic

02:45 Why this topic was chosen.

04:29 How starting something new can be exciting.

05:31 Hiten’s experience with starting companies.

06:33 How Hiten handles pressure and insecurities.

07:25 Questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling insecure.

08:31 How starting a new company can be a totally new experience.

10:37 The danger of spending too much time on things that are comfortable.

11:38 Advice on what to spend your time on when you’re starting something.

3 Key Points:

  • When you start something new, you don’t know anything.
  • There’s a lot of beauty in the feeling of starting something new.
  • I can’t know right now if it’s going to be bigger or better than the last one.

[0:00:00]

Hiten Shah: … If you’re fearful of it, like you’re just thinking about it in a way that makes you fearful, so you’d probably need to think about it a different way so you can just stop being paralyzed. Because usually fear paralyzes and then there is no momentum. So-

[0:00:34]

Steli Efti: Hey guys, this is Hiten Shah and Steli Efti with our awesome podcast, The World’s Best Business Podcast, the startup chat. I don’t know exactly what we finally decided on, but we’re still kind of coming up with the best possible name. At this time I’m still in Europe traveling and Hiten is in a car driving to… Where are you driving to Hiten?

[0:00:57]

Hiten Shah: I’m actually on my way home.

[0:00:58]

Steli Efti: Oh, that’s nice. That’s awesome. So from where? From where are you driving home?

[0:01:04]

Hiten Shah: I came to San Francisco for a couple of meetings and now I’m going back home. I live in the peninsula, which is between San Francisco and Palo Alto, in the middle.

[0:01:12]

Steli Efti: Awesome. It’s midnight right now here in Berlin. I had a very full day of conference talks, workshops, meet-and-greets, hiring interviews, and now I’m at the peak of my day which is having the podcast with you before I walk my way over to the other apartment and hit the bed, hit the pillow.

[0:01:34]

Hiten Shah: That’s awesome. So I’m assuming you guys have one apartment to work, one apartment to sleep-

[0:01:39]

Steli Efti: Exactly right.

[0:01:40]

Hiten Shah: … And all that?

[0:01:40]

Steli Efti: Yeah. Exactly right.

[0:01:41]

Hiten Shah: Oh that’s cool.

[0:01:41]

Steli Efti: And you know what, today they did a big thing in Berlin they call Startup SAFARI where they do open offices of all the startups and everybody that wants to work at a startup can just go. They bus these people from startup office to startup office. And we got included in that. So people came in, arrived at our Airbnb apartment. So a Silicon Valley startup working in a Berlin Airbnb loft.

[0:02:07]

Hiten Shah: They must have loved it. That’s awesome.

[0:02:09]

Steli Efti: It was a lot of fun. People definitely had fun and we did so too. All right. What are we going to talk about today, Hiten? What do we want to talk about?

[0:02:17]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, this is my topic, I guess, maybe. So I have this thing where, I have a friend and I was just hanging out with them on the weekend which is usually rare for me. And he has a startup, and he’s a company I invested in and I advise. And he’s a longtime veteran at a sort of corporate company, but very startupy thinking-type person. And so he just started his company. His company is about 12 people. It started officially probably more like earlier this year, so four months ago, let’s say. And he made this comment and he kept making this comment over the last couple of months I’ve known him and I finally just came to a conclusion about it and that’s what I wanted to talk about. So he made this comment, his comment was, “Hey, it’s my first time. And so, you know, I don’t know, right? I mean everything’s crazy. I don’t know.” And then he kept saying that every time he wanted my advice. And what had got me thinking is because right now, specifically, I’m starting technically at least my fourth company. I probably lost count. But if you look at companies I can name this is technically the fourth one, although it’s been around a little bit. But we’re starting it. We’re building a team, we’re trying to actually build product and stuff like that. And all I could tell him, and I think he understood this now because it just kept bugging me that he said it, is, I told him, “Look, the feeling you have is the same exact feeling I have. I just don’t say, ‘Oh it’s my first time.’ That’s the only difference.” And the feeling I’m talking about is when you start something new, you don’t know anything. There’s a lot of assumptions you’re making. A lot of risk, a lot of uncertainty. And I think it’s unnatural. And that’s why we try to come to some sort of realization or conclusion and thought process around it in our heads like, “Oh, it’s my first time.” I told him, “Hey dude, that feeling doesn’t go away. Every time you start something new, that’s that dramatic of, like involves that much uncertainty, you don’t know. It’s like having a baby, right? Like it’s your first time having a baby.” “Okay. All right.” Well the second time you got two down, you know, like what are you going to do?

[0:04:15]

Steli Efti: And you the funny thing is, there’s a lot of beauty in that feeling when you’re starting something new obviously, you’re not really, you don’t have to deal with the messiness of something that’s already been around for a while, and grew and is messy in its history and has bad decisions being made. You don’t have to deal with any of that. It’s got a clean slate. So on the one side it’s exciting and beautiful and fresh and everything, it’s just potential and everything this could ever be, and you don’t have to deal with all the problems that usually come down the line as you’re growing something and seeing it evolve. But at the same time, you’re nervous, right? And you don’t know. And as you said, it’s not like the second or third child, you’re totally relaxed and it’s like, “Well I already had two children, so who cares?” You’re still nervous. Obviously you’re a little bit more in routine and you know how to deal with certain situations, but there’s still nervousness, there’s still risks and there’s a lot of unknowns and you still have to deal with that and face it every single time from you.

[0:05:16]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, and it’s not like most people start companies every day. Most people don’t even can start companies every year. It’s usually like every decade or half decade, you know? Maybe every three years, some people. And so all kinds of things change. Like, the way I would start a company though, I started my first one, my second one, my third one and even this one, it’s all completely different. Even the way I think about it is different, but yet that feeling that it’s uncertain and I don’t know anything, it comes right back and you’re just like, “Oh shit. [crosstalk 00:05:42].”

[0:05:43]

Steli Efti: And also, let me ask you this. So a lot of times at the beginning people think, “Well, this is the very first time I start a business.” So obviously they’re a little nervous and also insecure in their own opinions and decision making and like, “Am I doing this right? Am I making the right choices?” All that. And they look over to somebody like you for instance, and they think, “Well, Hiten has done this multiple times. He’s a veteran. He has certainty. He knows that every one of his decisions is probably right.” But let me ask you, how do you feel about the pressure? Because you have a brand and you have done a few things very successfully. What are the pressures and insecurities you have? Are you plagued by thinking, “This needs to be bigger than my last thing,” or, “I better have success with this because all these people are taking advice from me and I’m a known brand and I don’t want to have a big failure.” What is the side of the coin that people don’t know about that you have to face as somebody that’s been a veteran entrepreneur and also somebody that has a brand and is really well known and a lot of people look up to?

[0:06:46]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I love that question. And I think, I don’t know, in general, whenever I feel fear… So a lot of those things you said were fear, right? Like, “Oh this won’t be as large as Kissmetrics or Crazy Egg or whatever.” I flip it around and say, “No, that’s not rational. Like it’s not… I don’t know. I don’t know. Like I can’t know right now if it’s going to be bigger or better than the last one.” All I can do is know that that’s important to me and do something about it. So the way I think about it is like, okay, I actually think about what are the things that made, and this is if you have a last thing, but what are the things that made the last thing not as big as I wanted it to be? Because obviously I have a desire to make this one bigger. So, and, what can I control right now to prevent that? You know? So that’s one thing. Another thing I want to touch on is in the specific one I’m talking about, it’s a company called QuickSprout. It’s my co-founder’s blog. It’s a very popular blog. And now that he’s developed it really far and we’re even making some money, but not with software. It’s what I call my turn to come in and start building software because that’s what I do. And that’s what I love to do. So we’re building software and we first thought, “Oh this might be like Crazy Egg. Let’s go outsource a majority of the development.” Because we actually outsource a lot of development at Crazy Egg for all kinds of reasons I won’t get to get into this in this show, but probably, it’s for another podcast. But, and we thought we were going to run it like that and we started running it like that and then we realized, “Oh no, there’s all these issues with it and if we do it like that we might not be able to make it as big as we’d like knowing what we know now. And so maybe we need to hire people in-house. We need to hire some people and actually deal with building a team and getting these people to be part of the team and all that kind of stuff.” So we actually just recently flipped the script and now we’re thinking about more hiring internal people that are full-time people because it’s a lot different. And I didn’t think that just two months ago. And I had to make all these changes all of a sudden and we had to think about it a little bit differently. So, that whole uncertainty, that whole feeling of “Oh, you could do it like you use…” Like you can take something you’ve learned before and do it and not, and it’s the same, is totally a fallacy. We had to be open to change or I believe we would not be building the type of business we want to build. And so the past and your experience only tells you what you know, or what you think you know. It doesn’t really tell you anything else.

[0:09:03]

Steli Efti: So let me ask you this, and you know what’s funny? If you could see what I see right now, it’s the most ridiculous thing ever. There’s a bunch of people that came back, it’s midnight, it’s almost 1:00 AM in Berlin. And a bunch of my teammates came back and it’s hard to tell, but I would say that they had some alcohol in their system. So there is one guy that’s trying to stop them from doing stupid things and being loud because they know we’re recording a podcast, and then there’s a group of people that are fighting the good force. It’s good versus evil right in front of me right now. All right, so enough of that distraction. So let me ask you something else. I had a discussion today. I did a sales workshop for startups in Berlin and they were asking a lot about the, “Why are we all trying to avoid to do the messy things early on?” Why we’re all spending all this time coming up with the logo, and a nice new brand, setting up the blog, doing research, putting together PowerPoint slides, instead of going out and talking to customers, trying to close a customer before we build something? Trying to go out there in the real world as quickly as possible and do the things that don’t scale, quote unquote. And that might be a little unpleasant versus just sitting in front of your screen and doing the things that are cool and exciting and safe and nice. And just by asking that question, I mean, in the phrasing of the question, a lot of the answers are there already. But that’s something that’s fascinating me about like when you start fresh, there’s always the danger of spending too much time on things that are comfortable. Like how do we think about that? What’s your advice to people that are thinking of making that leap, taking that step, starting something new? It doesn’t matter if it’s the very first time that they start something or it’s the second or 10th time. But the danger with new being not wanting to face reality in the real world and spending too much time on things that might not truly matter. What’s your thinking on that?

[0:10:59]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, as a sales person I think you can probably guess my thinking, but I’ll let you talk about that perspective because I know you have a perspective on it. But from my perspective, I call myself a “professional purple bruise poker.” So if I see a purple bruise, I just want to poke it. I want to push, I want to touch it, I want you to have pain, right? And the reason for that is if there’s a bruise, if there’s something that that’s hard and painful that you’re just not willing to do, it’s likely that you should be doing it. And so to me it’s just about finding that thing that’s hard to do and doing that. And I think when you’re starting out and even to your question to that question you got, it’s so easy to do these things that aren’t even bruises, these are the things that don’t even matter. Because they’re not hard. And you’re just avoiding the hard thing. The hard thing is getting a customer to pay you money without a product. But the right thing to do is doing that.

[0:11:56]

Steli Efti: So when you say “hard,” I think we have to differentiate between complex and hard, right? So there’s things that people want to do that are complex, meaning they’re intellectually interesting, and let’s set something up that’s really hard or that is intellectually complex. But then there’s things that are hard. And hard really oftentimes speaks to the emotional side more than to the rational side of things. Hard is going to somebody and not just saying, “Do you like my idea?” but saying, “Are you willing to give me money?” Right? And then seeing somebody look at you and go, “No, I kind of like it, but not enough to want to give you money for it.” Right? Hey my man are you still there?

[0:12:37]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I’m here.

[0:12:37]

Steli Efti: Oh, I thought I lost you for a second. You know, driving in the car I wasn’t sure. So I think that “hard” is speaking to the, like, jumping over your fears, going over your discomfort internally, over your hesitations. Doing things or facing reality, facing rejection, seeing people tell you they don’t like what you have or they’re not understanding how to use the product versus talking about things theoretically in a way that is safe and allows a lot of people to tell you that they like you and they want to support you. And yes, keep going on with this awesome idea of yours. But really nothing has been accomplished in that conversation other than you getting some false encouragement.

[0:13:12]

Hiten Shah: I’m going to give a really dumb way to think about this, like it’s super dumb-

[0:13:16]

Steli Efti: Awesome.

[0:13:17]

Hiten Shah: … But it works for me.

[0:13:17]

Steli Efti: I love dumb.

[0:13:18]

Hiten Shah: It’s really dumb. It’s really dumb.

[0:13:20]

Steli Efti: Good!

[0:13:20]

Hiten Shah: And the dumb way I think about this is, every business needs customers for it to make money, and the sooner you get those customers, the better. Otherwise you’re going to have to go figure out how to get those customers later. So would you rather go figure out how to get those customers now, or later? I’d rather go figure it out now because I know if I don’t have customers, I don’t have a business.

[0:13:40]

Steli Efti: I think the way you think about this is totally backwards. I think this is the reason why we get along so well, because this dumb way of thinking makes total sense if you step back and you go, “What is the reason a business exists in the first place?” If it’s not about the customers, why the hell do you exist at all? Right? It’s not about somebody where you create so much more value than what you are asking a return of, that’s the whole basis of even creating a business to begin with.

[0:14:09]

Hiten Shah: That’s right.

[0:14:10]

Steli Efti: All right, so we talked about, it never gets easier, right? No matter how many times you start new, it’s always… New is new for everyone. It doesn’t matter how many times you approach something. Although I would say that you do have some advantages, right? You do have some pattern recognition, some experiences, some skill that you’re able to put into it.

[0:14:30]

Hiten Shah: The uncertainty is no different. That’s my point. Basically the uncertainty of starting something, regardless of if you’ve done it before, is no different than the first time. There’s still all these things you know nothing about.

[0:14:41]

Steli Efti: Do we have any tips for people on how to deal with that uncertainty?

[0:14:45]

Hiten Shah: Just don’t. Don’t deal with it. Don’t worry about it. Don’t think about it. Just figure out what’s fundamental. And what’s fundamental? You already said it, getting customers.

[0:14:53]

Steli Efti: I love that. I love that because it speaks to the power that you give or you take away from certain limiting emotions, right? So I love to think about, like the difference between fear and excitement is just context. It’s the way you think about it, right? But it’s the same emotions, the same kind of internal energy that you feel and the question just is are you going to use it to expose it and to do something productive or not? And in this specific case, when you say just “don’t deal with it,” the awesome thing about that is that if you’re trying to suppress it, it’s only going to get bigger. If you make a big deal out of that uncertainty and that emotion, it’s only going to get bigger. But if you just tell yourself, “You know what, I feel uncertainty,” who gives a shit? “Let me still go on and do this. I feel a little uncertain about, is this the right idea? Should I go with option A or B? Whatever. Who gives a shit? Let me just take one and if it’s the wrong one I’ll correct it down the line.” If you don’t make a big deal out of it and you just keep going on anyways, magic happens because as you are active, things happen and those things that happen create results. These results give you data about what to do more of and what to do less of, and all of a sudden you build momentum. And all you have to do is just get over yourself and don’t be stopped or slowed down by that level of uncertainty. Just go, “Everybody feels this way. I’ll just keep moving on although I feel uncertain.” And that’s all it is.

[0:16:11]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. Even the reason I love this topic is my buddy kept telling me this, every time I saw him, every time I text message him, every time I talk to me, he’s like, “Oh, this is my first time.” I’m like, “Dude, is it your first time breathing air?” So yeah, it’s just so funny how we just want to believe we’re special, right? And we’re in this situation and it’s our first time. It’s like, ah, everything, you’re doing something for the first time every day, guaranteed. Even if it’s stepping on dog shit for the first time, right? Whatever. Right? So, I don’t know, I think this uncertainty thing, and I love the way you thought about it, which is if you’re fearful of it you’re just thinking about it in a way that makes you fearful. So you probably need to think about it a different way so you can just stop being paralyzed. Because usually fear paralyzes and then there is no momentum. So yeah, I hate those feelings or those thoughts or those things people say that paralyze them. It’s like, “Hey, that’s not effective. That’s not going to help you do your job. But you constantly thinking about this as the first time, it’s not going to help you do anything. It’s actually probably de-habilitating you. It’s making you seek too much feedback. Too much advice.”

[0:17:17]

Steli Efti: Oh yeah. Because you’re so uncertain you don’t want to make any mistakes and you go and overcompensate because of it, right? You go and try to get too much advice, read too many articles, read many books, ask for too many people’s feedback and input, and all it does is, because people are going to give you conflicting advice and conflicting points of views, it’s only going to make it worse, right? You get more and more data that doesn’t tell you exactly and safely what to do next.

[0:17:43]

Hiten Shah: That’s right. Yeah. And I see this all the time. It’s like the biggest pattern out there, what you just described.

[0:17:49]

Steli Efti: All right, my man. Let’s end this with a tip. You want to go first? Let’s give one actionable piece of advice for people that are listening to this podcast to take away from.

[0:17:57]

Hiten Shah: Why don’t you go first?

[0:17:59]

Steli Efti: I knew you would say that.

[0:18:00]

Hiten Shah: After you! After you Steli.

[0:18:01]

Steli Efti: Ah after you sir.

[0:18:02]

Hiten Shah: After you!

[0:18:02]

Steli Efti: You’re so kind Hiten. You’ve been so good to me.

[0:18:05]

Hiten Shah: Oh yeah.

[0:18:05]

Steli Efti: All right.

[0:18:06]

Hiten Shah: Hell yeah.

[0:18:06]

Steli Efti: Well, here’s my advice to you. And it’s about managing and dealing with those emotions. When you feel super nervous, super fearful, super hesitant. When you have lots of energy, especially when you’re nervous. Nervousness is a good one. Take that energy that’s inside you and instead of trying to contain it, just think of it as energy that needs to be released. So when you feel nervous before you go to talk to an investor or a customer, or before you go on a stage and present a demo or something, just speak louder, be more animated. Just use that energy and let it out, versus trying to contain it and then see how it’s going to slowly but surely cripple you. Just use the energy of nervousness to be more animated, louder, and more seemingly passionate to the outside world than ever before, and that energy can really serve you.

[0:18:53]

Hiten Shah: So I think Steli just shared his secret sauce. It’s basically be more like Steli when you feel nervous, just fucking, just go out there, just say it. Be more energetic. I love that. That’s a patented Steli maneuver. It’s probably how he lives his life, if you have ever met him or heard him talk.

[0:19:09]

Steli Efti: I try. I try to.

[0:19:11]

Hiten Shah: I love it. So I got a tip that’s kind of related, but probably more introverted. I think you’re the extrovert if I’m the introvert, if we want to go there. I don’t even know if I’m an introvert, but whatever. So my advice would be, when you have fear and whatever, any of those feelings around being paralyzed from taking action. That’s the way I would describe it. And we all feel that all the time, like I’m sure. The thing I like to think about is, Steli mentioned it earlier, it’s called momentum. So just find a way to get momentum. And I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen is that people think they need to do something really big and grandiose as a next step. So to me… Just earlier today I was like, “Hey,” I was talking to someone and she was telling me about one of her problems and I’m like, “Hey, what if you just do this one thing, this really small dumb thing. Why don’t you just email somebody about it?” And even an email will help you take action. It’ll help you start building the momentum. Or even if you’re trying to build a product and get a customer, write a blog post instead that’s about the problem. You don’t have to take the full on, 10 steps out there thing or the big heavy step. You can just take a small step and that momentum builds on itself. And I think that would be my tip, which is just think of it as a baby step. Don’t never, you know, like crawling versus even trying to figure out how to walk or run when you’re not ready. Just anything to get momentum.

[0:20:27]

Steli Efti: Momentum is key my man. I couldn’t agree more. I hope you guys enjoyed the podcast. Take a lot away from it. Tweet us. Tweet at Hiten and Steli. Let us know what you think of the podcast. Tell us about your first time. Tell us about your nervousness. Are you starting something now? Have you just started something? Just share your experiences with us and we’ll hear and talk to you again more in the next podcast.

[0:20:52]

Hiten Shah: Yep.

[0:20:53]

Steli Efti: All right.

[0:20:53]

Hiten Shah: See you.

[0:20:54]

Steli Efti: Bye-bye.

[0:20:55]

Voice Over: Did you pick one of the two action items from Steli and Hiten already? Do that now and snap into action. It’s time to grow your business.

[0:21:02]

The post 472: Encore Episode: Even Seasoned Founders Feel like First-Time Founders appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Dec 10 2019

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471: Startup WTFs: Not Dedicating Enough Time to Your Most Important Customers & Team Members

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about not dedicating enough time to your most important customers & team members.

As a founder, you have to decide what to spend your time, energy, and money on. This can be from customers, team members to investors. To be a successful founder, you need to decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t, and even more importantly, when to cut your losses.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why you shouldn’t spend too much energy on people that are not working out, how to decide how much time to invest in something, how to work with challenging customers and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

03:33 Why you shouldn’t spend too much energy on people that are not working out.

04:00 How to decide how much time to invest in something.

05:10 When to cut your losses with a customer. 

06:20 Why you should ensure that you spend most of your time with your most successful customers.

07:30 How to work with challenging customers.

09:34 The importance of understanding how to help your customers.

09:14 How most people put in so much energy in things that are not working.

10:44 How to decide what to spend your energy on.

3 Key Points:

  • There’s very few people who spend time on the right things when it comes to people.
  • If it’s a bad fit customer, it might just be a better use of your time to refer them to someone else.
  • Find your most successful customers and ensure you spend time on them.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: And today The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about this phenomenon in business of spending most of your time with employees and customers that aren’t working out and neglecting your superstars. You’re rock stars, the best employees, the most successful people on your team, the happiest and most successful customers. So recently I had a conversation where this came up again, but it’s been a theme and it’s been on my mind for over a decade now. I’ve noticed this in my own businesses. I’ve noticed this in many other people’s companies where I think it’s natural that we all spend or invest most of our attention where there’s conflict, where there are problems, right? So if you’re managing a team and there’s somebody not working quite out at that well in that team, that person is going to consume a lot of your attention, a lot of your energy, a lot of your time and you’re going to coach them more, spend more time with them, look over more of their work, worry more about them, talk more to them. And maybe at some point you part ways, but you’ll give them a ton of your energy and time. And then the people that just crush it, the people that are kind of just superstars doing their own thing, over delivering on all the numbers, just showing that they don’t need, you know, they’re not struggling, they’re thriving, right? They don’t need a lot of your handholding. And with those people, oftentimes we just don’t spend any time with him. And maybe it’s even more dramatic in customers, right? The customers that complain the loudest that are the unhappiest you might take a plane fly to them, spend a lot of time one on one with them. Your team is going to worry a lot about them. There’s going to be lots of internal discussions about that customer, what to do and how to help them. And then there’s a bunch of customers that are just happily paying you full price, right? Never complain about a thing, never sending you an email, never ask for a discount or for a handout and you happily ignore these people or just don’t even realize they exist. I think that there’s a real cost to this, there’s a real downside to this in business. So I just wanted to chat with you a little bit about this. Am I crazy or is this really as common as I think it is and is it a problem or is it totally fine and should companies and startups and founders do anything about it? I’m just curious to hear your thoughts on this.

[0:02:33]

Hiten Shah: I think it’s a thing. I think we tend to want to fix problems and if someone’s not working out, we tend to spend more time with them in the hopes that we can turn it around. That is the majority of kind of the natural mentality that I’ve seen. I think there’s a lot to this. Probably most important, to go think about if you’re doing this today and if you are doing this today, like how do you just change it? Because spending so much effort on people who aren’t working out or customers are, aren’t working out means that you’re spending your energy on in some ways you can say negative things. And so time boxing that or being really smart about how you actually do that is a really good idea and it can help you think about exactly how you prioritize what you do. And if you don’t think about this, then you’ll just keep doing whatever you’re doing. I found that there’s very few people who actually spend time on the right things when it comes to people.

[0:03:50]

Steli Efti: Hey, you still there or is this dramatic pause.

[0:04:08]

Hiten Shah: I’m here.

[0:04:09]

Steli Efti: Ah, now you’re back. Now I hear you again.

[0:04:12]

Hiten Shah: Oh really? Where’d you lose me?

[0:04:14]

Steli Efti: I lost at, I think that a lot of people are not spending their time well when it comes to other people.

[0:04:20]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. What I was saying is yeah, okay. A lot of people are not spending their time well when it comes to other people because they end up going for the problems and attacking those. And so, one way to think about it is when you have a problem person, do you say, “Oh, we need to work with them to see how we can improve and help them improve,” Or do you say, “We need to work with them to find them a better place to be?”

[0:04:53]

Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that so there’s really like two things to this. I think the one is how much … When do you want to cut your losses on investing in trying to fix something internally versus empowering that somebody to be somewhere else, right? If it’s a bad fit customer instead of trying to morph and change your entire business to cater to that customer, it might just be a much better use of your time and their time to just help them recommend. Find a vendor that’s going to be the right fit for them. The same thing is true for employees. I think that, that’s a big, big component is just like what is the right amount of like investing in trying to help somebody and turn the relationship around versus when is there a point of no return where you just keep throwing good money after bad. And you should just cut your losses and you should just part ways. That will be the most productive and the most positive thing to do for both. There’s a flip side to it, which will be kind of, I think my tip, for this topic, which is to consciously … To like thoughtfully ask yourself what are some of our happiest and most successful customers and equally what are some of the most successful team members I have, and to ensure that you spent time with them, even if they’re not requiring it because there’s no fires, there’s no problems, there’s no urgent issues that they’re bringing up. And then when you spend time with them, you have to probably approach the time differently because just asking them, is everything fine? Do you need help with anything? It’s probably not going to be a good approach. They’re just more likely than not. They’re going to tell you everything is great and no, I think I’m doing really well. Right now, I don’t really have anything where I need help. If you ask people like that question and they reply to you, “Nope, everything is cool. And you go, “Well, then have a beautiful day. There’s nothing to discuss here.” I think you’re not going to get the most out of the relationship that you could. So sometimes people that are exceptionally successful, they are not used to asking for help or they’re maybe not, is used to utilizing other people because they’re so self-reliant. That’s part of why they’re so successful and why they might be doing and thriving so well in your company. But maybe those type of people. It’s not a, is there a problem I need to fix for you discussion, but it might need to be a, what is currently the most exciting stuff you’re working on? What are some projects you don’t have time for that you wish you’d have time for? What are areas that you really want to grow that you’re happy with your growth and what are areas that you kind of feel like you’re neglecting and you’d wish you’d be able to invest in more? And even if you ask somebody what are ways that I can help you if they tell you, “I don’t know.” Go, “Well, let’s think about it together. Let’s take 10 minutes and brainstorm. Let’s get creative. Let’s go wow.” You have to push them and nudge them usually a couple of times until they come up with ideas where they go, “Well shit, yeah, maybe you could help me with this thing. Now that you pushed me. Now that, we’ve been talking about this for a couple of minutes. Yeah. Now, shit you could. There is a problem where you could be useful.” These people sometimes need a lot more like nudging and a lot more help for them to even think through areas where you could help and in invest more in them and so just asking them, is everything fine? Do you have any problem? Anything I can help with? No. Okay, cool. Bye. That’s just not going to yield you real good insights on how to work with them. The same thing for happy customers. If you call a happy customer and you just go, “Hey, is everything fine? Is there anything we at company X could do to help you?” They go, “You guys have been amazing. We’re so happy. No, everything is fine.” That’s nice to hear. But those kinds of people sometimes if you nudge them a little bit and it doesn’t have to be like you for sure have to be unhappy, there’s something we fuck up. Just tell me the truth. Like it doesn’t have to be that way. It just has to be like, all right, so what is working really well? What could we do to help you there even more? What are the areas that you really like the way we work with you? Could we improve on those? Could we double down on those? What are areas that have nothing to do with us that you’re currently struggling with in your business? Right? Just spend a bit more time with people that are successful and that are valuable and where the relationship with your business and you are working and making sure that you don’t stay on the surface, but you spend more time pushing a bit digging through the surface level to truly understand because it’s very rare that there’s not a single thing you could do to help even more or to make things even better. And so just requires dedication to get to these things and an understanding that the successful and happy employees and the successful and happy customers, they’re not going to practice and give you these things because they’re not on top of their mind.

[0:09:40]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s amazing how much energy we put into things that aren’t working.

[0:09:46]

Steli Efti: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

[0:09:47]

Hiten Shah: That’s really what it boils down to. I think that’s the conclusion of this for me. It’s amazing how much energy we put into things that are not working. We should probably put more energy into the things that are working and make sure that they continue to work. I think like the best thing I know about and I think about a lot when it comes to team members, it’s like, if you’re a flexible company and organization, you’re better off figuring out where are the best place for that person is. Whether it’s in your organization or not, when somebody has a problem. And really just figure out what those options are first, which is like in the company or not in the company. And then I help them out. Because the thing is if somebody is not having a great time in your company, you owe it to them to help them figure out what is a better place for them, where they can actually have impact. And all I mean by that is like is there a place in the company or is there not a place in the company for them? And I think, we tend to not think about it as binary or as like, it’s sort of a simple decision but it really is.

[0:10:54]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I love that. All right. So we’ll end this episode with your quote, and then I’ll double down on that quote, which is, it’s amazing how much time we spent with things that don’t work. I’ll say the other way around. It’s amazing how little time we spent with things that do work.

[0:11:12]

Hiten Shah: That’s great.

[0:11:13]

Steli Efti: There you go. That’s it. So our encouragement I think for everybody is spend less time with the things that don’t work and spend a lot more time with the things that are, that’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.

[0:11:25]

Hiten Shah: See ya.

[0:11:25]

The post 471: Startup WTFs: Not Dedicating Enough Time to Your Most Important Customers & Team Members appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Dec 03 2019

Play

470: Revenue Sharing Models for Startups

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about revenue model sharing for startups.

While revenue or profit-sharing is a good option for attracting quality employees to your startup knowing when and how to distribute profits with your employees can be a challenge, especially for self-funded companies.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how startups can share revenue, when to build an elaborate revenue-sharing model, how to incentivize your team and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:38 Why this topic was chosen.

01:52 How startups can share revenue.

03:18 How revenue is shared most of the time.

03:22 How Hiten thinks about revenue sharing.

03:51 How to incentivise your team.

05:09 When to build an elaborate revenue sharing model.

06:15 Why this doesn’t make sense for self-funded startups.

07:38 Why it’s good to have team members get healthy bonuses.

09:10 Why it makes sense for self-funded startups to look into this.

3 Key Points:

  • Profit-sharing based on the growth in profit.
  • Everyone is getting money but not because the business is getting better.
  • You should worry about revenue sharing when you believe that the company is stable.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti …

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’ll talk a little bit about revenue share and profit share models for startups. So you are running a startup. Let’s say in this case it’s more likely that it is a self funded startup, right?

[0:00:17]

Hiten Shah: Yeah.

[0:00:18]

Steli Efti: It’s not very common in the VC world to raise venture capital and then to do revenue share with your employees, especially not in the early days. So you’re self funded, you get to some level of success and then you see this pop up more and more that employees of these well growing companies that are doing really well, are at some point probably asking themselves, okay, so I’m part of this startup but I’m not getting equity. We’re not raising money so we’re not going to IPO or anything like that. So how do I participate in the continuous success and growth of the startup beyond maybe my salary or something? And so I see more and more startups come out and share their profit sharing models or revenue sharing models. But I still feel like it’s a new thing, especially in the startup world. It’s not a super set, it’s not as common and there’s not as many best practices for this as for handing out equity and building and setting up option pools and all that kind of stuff. So just wanted to tap into that. Who would we advise to do this? How should people think about it? When is the right time? When is too early? When is it too late? And what are some successful models that are out there or some ways to think about this, or some mistakes to avoid?

[0:01:40]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think one model I’ve heard of, it might be the Basecamp folks, it might be somebody else, was that basically, it’s a profit sharing based on the growth in profit.

[0:01:55]

Steli Efti: Hmm.

[0:01:56]

Hiten Shah: And so then, because a lot of things like this, when you’re sharing revenue, whether it’s commissioned for salespeople or sharing profit like in this- … Probably would be like the owners. So it would be owners of the company who have the majority of the shares or the majority of the equity in the company. And then the business, which is basically the thing that we’re all working on and then the team members. And so if you do it so that no matter what everybody gets profit regardless of whether the company grew or not, I think it can lead to some really weird incentives. And incentives where like the team members aren’t necessarily incentivized to grow it in the way they would be if their profit sharing was based on actually growing the business. It would even impact the owners in that way. Because if you go out like three or four years, the company’s flat and there’s profit sharing happening. Everyone’s getting money, but they’re not getting money because they’re making the business better. They’re just getting money because the business is still there.

[0:03:18]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:03:19]

Hiten Shah: Which is different than the business getting better. So when I think about this, I don’t think about revenue share. I think about profit sharing and I do think about making it based on growing the business. So even if the business grew 5% and there was more profit, that’s great. And now think about it, even if the business … And if you really make it about profit then you could not grow revenue, but grow profit, and that would still be okay. Because then the team gets incentivized around, let’s make more profit. Let’s not worry about revenue as much as we worry about profit.

[0:03:54]

Steli Efti: Profit, yeah.

[0:03:54]

Hiten Shah: What’s it going to take to help us make more profit? And there’s two ways, right? You are more profitable from a percentage basis margin, things like that, or you’ve grown the business.

[0:04:08]

Steli Efti: I love that. I love the model of using both because the profit sharing thing has always struck me as curious because of these very reasons. I’m like, if a startup does profit sharing in a phase where the company’s still trying to grow really fast, isn’t this focusing everybody on increasing profit margins versus increasing growth? Isn’t it also that it might’ve been better for the business to use the profit to build out, maybe a cash cushion or do some other investments in the business. And now instead of doing that, we’re just instantly paying out a huge chunk of profits that are there because we incentivize to want to pocket all these, everybody that works in the business. Versus if there’s some kind of a bonus structure based on revenue growth, then that’s much more aligned. But I love the combination within the two. What about a phase? Is there a phase where this is too early? And I think I would tell people when they’re just starting out, it’s probably not a good idea to build an elaborate revenue profit sharing model if you don’t have revenue or profits. But what typically would you advise, when is a good time for a founder or [inaudible] to worry about this, what do you think?

[0:05:21]

Hiten Shah: Well, my opinion is when you believe that the company is stable and has a repeatable ability to make money. Even if it’s not initially growing yet, it’s a repeatable way to make money and there’s actually enough profit there to go around. So you could say it’s when there’s 100K a year profit or when there’s like 250K a year profit, but when there’s a significant enough amount of profit that there’s enough to go around. That would be my take.

[0:05:51]

Steli Efti: I love that. Yeah. Any other things that you’ve seen? We’re talking about self funded startups and so one of the big tools that … And maybe they decide to still do this, but a lot of self funded startups they’re not as heavy on the equity side of things and option pools and all that as the VC funded side of things.

[0:06:10]

Hiten Shah: It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for a self funded company.

[0:06:14]

Steli Efti: Yes, so if you take off the equity as a form of compensation off the table, then obviously there’s salary, there’s quality of life, there’s maybe other benefits that you’re paying, but profits and revenue or cashflow profits, maybe that’s more abundantly available than in a venture funded startup is. So that’s obviously a pull to get to. Have you seen any other models of things that self-funded startups do to incentivize their employees to, you know basically-

[0:06:45]

Hiten Shah: I think-

[0:06:48]

Steli Efti: but-

[0:06:48]

Hiten Shah: I think there’s the classic bonuses. It’s classic, right? I don’t hear enough about that, but you can give out pretty healthy bonuses based on certain metrics about the business. What’s wrong with that?

[0:07:01]

Steli Efti: Nothing.

[0:07:03]

Hiten Shah: Right, that’s like a cash basis. You could base it on performance of the business. You could base it on revenue, not profits and make sure people have a healthy bonus. So the reason I like something where it’s profit sharing type thing is because you can imagine someone who’s making a 100K or 120K or 80K, whatever a year, end up making an extra 10, 20, 30, even 50K on top because of the success that the business have had. And that actually increases retention with folks and things like that, because at some point there’s no other way that they can make that kind of money, especially if the business continues to grow and they’re contributing part of it. I think, there’s actually a book on basically some of this stuff. I forgot the name of the book, so I’m sorry, you’re going to have to dig around for it. I don’t know the name. But after [crosstalk 00:07:56]-

[0:07:58]

Steli Efti: [crosstalk] Tweet us.

[0:07:59]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, it talks about a tire company that basically has a pretty solid way of thinking about profit sharing and all that. I believe some folks in the company became millionaires because of the profit sharing. I could be wrong, but the folks who are incentivized appropriately in the company in that way ended up getting a huge benefit. And so giving team members that benefit I think is another thing, and part of it. And also there’s a system of, the longer you’re there, the more that you get and things like that. So there’s a system and it can work. It’s just a matter of being really thoughtful about it and studying up a little bit. I do think that the Basecamp folks have the model that’s based on percentage of growth in terms of profit, but I could be wrong. And they are actually a pretty good starting point for this, if you’re thinking about doing this. And then I know there’s other examples but I actually studied this a little while ago and I felt like they had the most thoughtful model and most thought out model around doing this. Especially because they are a highly profitable business that has had to figure this out.

[0:09:10]

Steli Efti: Love it. All right, so I think that if your a self-funded startup, it might make sense to look into this as you probably don’t want to do this too early when you’re still trying to figure out how to acquire your first hundred paying customers. Putting together an elaborate revenue or profit sharing model might feel like meaningful work, but most likely it’s just a waste of your time and everybody else’s time to focus on these things. But once you are at a point where you have repeatable revenue, you have some predictability in terms of your growth, you have a “real business” right? It’s not just an idea. It’s not just a wild project, but it’s a thing that is thriving and growing and generating cash flows and profits and revenues. It might make sense to start spending some time and think about this and putting some thing in place to really empower everybody that’s investing and contributing to the growth and the success of the business, to participate in that growth in some meaningful way. If you have any great examples, great books, if you’ve tried things and failed with them or succeeded with them, we always love to hear from you. Just shoot us an email at steli@close.com or hnshah@gmail.com and until next time, we’ll hear you very soon.

[0:10:19]

Hiten Shah: See ya.

[0:10:19]

The post 470: Revenue Sharing Models for Startups appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 29 2019

Play

469: Fundraising for Startups—There’ve Never Been That so Many Options

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about Fundraising for startups.

When it comes to funding a startup, previously, you had two options to choose from self-fund your start or get VC funding. Now times have changed and there are more funding options available to founders.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how there are so many options for fundraising, self-funding versus VC funding, why it’s important to do what’s right for you and more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

00:58 How there are so many options for fundraising.

01:23 Self-funding versus VC funding.

03:22 How Steli and Hiten have always preferred self-funding to VC funding.

04:05 How the world has changed.

05:00 An example of a company that took VC funding after discouraging it.

07:49 Why it’s important to do what’s right for you.

09:03 Why there are different ways to be successful at anything.

00:00 How there are more funding options available today. 

3 Key Points:

  • There’ve never been that so many options.
  • We don’t hate VC funding.
  • Business is THE religion.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. Today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about something that we know ends up being on people’s minds off and on, especially if they haven’t done it yet. This is for all of you that haven’t done this yet and for some of you that might be doing it again. The topic is basically we wanted to check in on the fundraising climate when it comes to startups raising money. We both get to see that all the time in different ways. We also get to see self-funded businesses. So yeah, what are you seeing Steli?

[0:00:36]

Steli Efti: Well, I do see that there are more options out there today than probably ever before. It used to be that you had to decide if you wanted to be a venture-funded startup and go and raise a C round, series A, series B, series C, just do the whole typical VC model of raising money, going for hyper growth. Or you were deciding that you wanted to be a self-funded startup, a customer-funded startup, a bootstrapper, a micropreneur, whatever term you want to use, which basically just meant you were generating or trying to generate revenues and profits ASAP and you weren’t interested in raising money from the outside world. And typically these two worlds where… And traditionally had been very hardened camps. One camp thinks the other one is dumb or bad basically. The VC funded startups would think that the self funded ones are thinking too small and the self-funded ones thought that VCs are evil and all these VC funded startups, I don’t know, are full of bullshit and a bad quality of life and are going to whatever.

[0:01:50]

Hiten Shah: And the thing is it’s funny, they say it’s hardened camps, or it’s been hardened camps. I have never said anything against VC funding. I’ve raised money and people think like, “Oh, he’s a self-funded founder and hates VC money or something.” I’m like, “No, that’s not true. That’d be a very absurd way to think about business, in my opinion.” And even the camps, I think it’s absurd. It’s like in life what they call a duality. You act like there’s only two options. There’s this duality in your life between good and bad. One’s good and one’s bad. It’s furthest from the truth.

[0:02:36]

Steli Efti: I love that you’re saying this because it’s so true. I guarantee you, our very listeners that are listening to this very episode would have thought that both you and I are totally against VC, right?

[0:02:48]

Hiten Shah: Yeah.

[0:02:49]

Steli Efti: Maybe with you even more than with me, just because they think you’re a better person probably.

[0:02:53]

Hiten Shah: No way, no way.

[0:02:57]

Steli Efti: We’ve been both such strong advocates of self-funded startups and bootstrappers and we’ve been… Recently, we have not been raising money for our companies.

[0:03:07]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, that’s right.

[0:03:08]

Steli Efti: So, I think that these things combined just make people believe or instantly assume, “Oh, Hiten and Steli hate VCs and investors,” which is just not true. I think that we, the two of us, and a few other people, even back in the day when those two camps were very much against each other, I felt like always there was a middle camp that had no voice because we didn’t have a dog in the fight. So we didn’t just argue as loudly. But I was always telling people, I’m not dogmatic about this. This isn’t a religion.

[0:03:37]

Hiten Shah: It shouldn’t be!

[0:03:38]

Steli Efti: It shouldn’t be!

[0:03:39]

Hiten Shah: Business, business is the religion.

[0:03:41]

Steli Efti: There you go.

[0:03:41]

Hiten Shah: Business is the religion here.

[0:03:41]

Steli Efti: There you go.

[0:03:43]

Hiten Shah: Not, not funding or not funding or whatever. No.

[0:03:46]

Steli Efti: If it makes sense, I will do it.

[0:03:48]

Hiten Shah: Do it! Yeah.

[0:03:48]

Steli Efti: If it doesn’t, I won’t.

[0:03:50]

Hiten Shah: Don’t do it.

[0:03:50]

Steli Efti: I don’t think that there’s a this is the only way to do it in all circumstances. Now I do think that the world has changed. So this is why it’s interesting for us to check in on the world right now because in the last, I don’t know, two years or so, a lot of “bootstrapping” or self funded thought leaders or celebrities or whatever, the people that were waving the flag the hardest have moved on and raised money. And had to reconcile their world view and talk to their audiences about why they changed their mind and why they’ve done that and vice versa. But a bunch of people that were super well known founders that had raised a ton of money have gone on to start another company and be like, “I’m not going to raise any money on bootstrapping profits. I’m doing this a completely different way.” So the crowds have mixed a little bit. I think people have moved camps and have created a bit of confusion, but maybe also enlightenment.

[0:04:46]

Hiten Shah: Let’s talk about the company that actually talks the most shit about VC funding.

[0:04:51]

Steli Efti: [inaudible 00:04:51].

[0:04:51]

Hiten Shah: Let’s start there.

[0:04:52]

Steli Efti: [inaudible 00:04:53], right?

[0:04:52]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. Seriously, I have a lot of respect and love for those folks, but I got to say I’m tired of it. Hey, if you’re listening, which you’re probably not listening to me, because you won’t listen to this. We’re all doing business, including you guys, including new people. We’re doing business. That’s the bottom line. And for the amount of people they used to be able to influence and the amount of influence they’ve had even on my businesses, I am sad. I’m sad because all they want to do is talk crap on VC funding and it’s not cool. It’s not cool at all. It’s like, you know how many businesses wouldn’t exist without VC funding? Most of them. Straight up. So I’m not angry, but I’m disappointed in people I respect a lot and their just attack on it. It’s a gap. There’s going to be companies that are venture backed and went all the way and there was a focus on growth and all kinds of, there’s these problems that happen, but it’s none of your business. You don’t know about it. You haven’t done it. Straight up, they don’t get it.

[0:06:03]

Steli Efti: You know what makes me sad? Not to shit on them too much, because they were and they are an amazing company-

[0:06:10]

Hiten Shah: Honestly. Honestly, Steli I’m not going to [crosstalk 00:06:12].

[0:06:11]

Steli Efti: They deserve a little bit of that.

[0:06:13]

Hiten Shah: No, they deserved it for what fear, uncertainty and doubt they are putting an entrepreneur’s minds about something they don’t understand. It would be totally cool and they’re the ones that say, “We don’t talk about things we don’t understand.” Jason Freitas came out and said that himself. It’s not about shitting on him. It’s, look, they have influence and a ton of it. I’d say less than ever before now.

[0:06:34]

Steli Efti: That’s true, yeah.

[0:06:35]

Hiten Shah: But they should not be lying to people, as if they know what they’re talking about, because they don’t know what they’re talking about here.

[0:06:44]

Steli Efti: You know what it is. I think when they came out, I think they were a really necessary voice in the market. That’s why they became so famous. Everybody was thinking about these VCs and investors and these startups in such unhealthy and unrealistic ways that the market needed “some rebels” that were like, “You know what? You guys are the cool kids? Fuck you.” Somebody needed to be the punk rockers. The people that are like the anti-establishment that’s like, “You know what? Everybody wants to be like you? Nobody cares about you.”

[0:07:13]

Hiten Shah: Now, they’re curmudgeon, cranky grandparents. Right?

[0:07:17]

Steli Efti: Yes, yes, yes. Now it’s changed. [crosstalk]

[0:07:20]

Hiten Shah: It’s like “Yo, your schtick was cool, back then.” I’d rather them talk more about remote work.

[0:07:26]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:07:27]

Hiten Shah: Like really, because you know, that’s something they can teach everyone about and they were on first and they were honestly correct about where the world was going there. And I’d rather hear their dogma on that. But again, you talked about dogma, right?

[0:07:41]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:07:42]

Hiten Shah: I just wanted to basically, for lack of a better word, go after them for dogma. Right?

[0:07:47]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:07:47]

Hiten Shah: That’s the problem here. It’s like, look, if you’re going to dissuade an entrepreneur who should raise money because of your dogma, and then they fail because they’re self-funded and endeavored shouldn’t be self funded, that sucks. What if they would’ve been able to raise money because they had the ambition, they had the idea and it would have helped them? Then you’re doing a disservice to founders and I know that’s not their intention. That being said, that’s how it comes across when you just shit on something so hard. And so, to me it’s like don’t listen to them. Do what’s right for you.

[0:08:25]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I think in today’s world, whoever is telling you that there’s only one way to do things and it’s their way, that’s to me the strongest signal that you should stop listening.

[0:08:37]

Hiten Shah: Yeah.

[0:08:37]

Steli Efti: Right? No matter how successful somebody is, and I say this all the time, I tell, whenever I give people hyper strong advice, whenever I start screaming because I’m so convinced of myself, I give this disclaimer and I say for what I just told you with all my conviction, there’s probably 1000 counterexamples of people that did the exact opposite and succeeded. There’s just not one way of doing it. But this is what I believe right now. As you asked me, I’m telling you what I believe right now, but there’s not one way of doing it and for every formula of success, example of success, I can find you a bunch of counterexamples of people and companies that did the exact opposite and still succeeded. Right? So-

[0:09:19]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, yeah go ahead.

[0:09:21]

Steli Efti: So I wanted to move on a little bit, because I do feel like the people on both sides, the people that were there were laughing, the cool kids that were laughing, haha, lifestyle business not important enough. And also the people that are like “Haha, VCs, you’re all fucking assholes and this is dumb.” Both of these camps are less relevant today than ever before. You see their message get less attention, less likes, less spreading. You hear them being mentioned less often as thought leaders or as people people pay attention to. So I think that that message isn’t resonating as much. And I feel like the people that are in the middle that have transitioned and transformed in their opinions are getting more attention because people are thinking, “Wow, if this person did something that was VC funded and now they’re self funded, that’s interesting.” Or vice versa. This person has done a bunch of self funded, bootstrapped small things and now they’re raising tons of money? That’s interesting. What made them change their mind? Why did they raise here when they didn’t raise there? These people get a lot more attention. Then there’s these new forms that are popping up now. There’s more, there’s not just The Angels and Accelerators in VC money now. There’s this new form. TinySeed is a big example of a new kind of funding vehicle for a new type of person. It’s the we’re going to pay you a salary for one or two years so you can start your self funded business and our model doesn’t require you to become a unicorn. We’ll take an equity and a profit sharing that is more conducive to maybe a business that’s very healthy and doing well, but that isn’t going to be acquired for billions of dollars and TinySeed is just one example. There is, I think, at least three or four other funds out there.

[0:11:10]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, there’s Earnest, there’s Indie.vc.

[0:11:13]

Steli Efti: Yes.

[0:11:13]

Hiten Shah: I lost you for a second.

[0:11:37]

Steli Efti: Yeah, I lost you after Earnest, Indie.vc. You said there’s a couple of examples.

[0:11:43]

Hiten Shah: Oh, I was just saying there’s Earnest, there’s Indie.vc On top of TinySeed and then there’s a few others as well.

[0:11:49]

Steli Efti: Yeah, I feel like more than ever before, there are options out there, right?

[0:11:54]

Hiten Shah: Yep.

[0:11:54]

Steli Efti: And so I think both are options out there and maybe more than ever, there’s less dogma. You don’t have to choose a camp. You need to just do whatever is best for your business right now and maybe you should raise some money. Maybe you shouldn’t, but you should not be compelled or forced to choose a camp and then die in that camp, no matter what happens in your life.

[0:12:18]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think it’s the job of a business owner to do what’s best for the business and make sure that the business can grow in a way that makes sense for the actual opportunity and the market and even the business owner’s level of the ambition. Because a lot of this truthfully has a lot to do with ambition too. And I’m not saying that you’re not ambitious if you’re self funding or you’re more ambitious because you raised money, but a lot of it is, especially today where there are some ideas that actually self funding makes the most sense for. So if you’re going to enter a crowded market and copy the 10 other companies that are in it, you might actually want to consider starting self-funded until you figure out oh, this is an opportunity that can keep growing or that can be really massive in that market that’s crowded, because it’s likely that it’s going to be hard to build the venture scale type of business. There’s other opportunities where you enter a market and you just need a lot of capital at some point in order to support what you need to build or what you need to grow into. For example, I don’t see anybody building self driving car anything without raising money. I don’t see it. Maybe it’s out there, maybe really early on you do that, but eventually you have to hire dozens of people and go after lots of experimentation in terms of actually the car and the streets and all kinds of stuff like that. So what ends up happening is you need to raise money for some of these things. Another example is there is a lot of self funded eCommerce companies that sell goods online and then deliver them to people. There are some categories, the one that comes to mind right now, because of some recent funding, is mattresses where there’s a heavy cost to it and there’s still some innovation if you build a next generation, like digital mattress or something like that, which is a thing. It helps you with your sleep, blah blah blah. Probably need a bunch of funding for a business like that these days. And also if you go back all the way back in the day, there were things that were started bye a family, a person in a family and the businesses kept being handed down. And that was when brick and mortar was a bigger deal. So in a way it’s almost like, in the digital world today, the way we think about it, there isn’t these multi-generational businesses that are being handed down, self-funded kind of businesses being handed down. But in some ways that is a form of funding. If you get handed a business, you basically got a lot of funding before you even start because you got handed a business back then. Also there were things like small business loans that were a much bigger thing early on and in a way that that’s a form of funding. You’re funding the business, but it’s not your money. So I think that there’s also other alternative capital that’s happening too, that there’s things like Clear Bay, whatever your opinion is of it and all that. But there’s ways to, if you get something started, ways to get capital in to help grow it, that isn’t necessarily equity based or making you go think about it as venture scale, even if you do have a lot of ambition to grow the business and want capital to do it. And then there’s the other side of it and I know I mentioned this, but there are businesses and the one that keeps striking out to me is ones that are in super crowded markets, [inaudible] specifically that should not be funded. They should not go into YC or 500 startups or some of those things, because they’re in a crowded market. And if they can be profitable and keep growing, they’re probably better off than having the pressure of a Y Combinator or 500 startups around growth and things like that, when the business would just be fine if it was self funded and they just kept growing it.

[0:16:21]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I think to wrap up this episode, there’s more options than ever. As you said today, there’s options for raising money to invest in your paid advertising. Or to raise money for inventory of your eCommerce or to finance all kinds of different things online. And there’s all these different shapes and forms of funding capital out there to fit your need, your business, your lifestyle, whatever is needed to get you to that next stage if you need it. And if you don’t, you can ignore all of this and just go on your way of building your profitable, successful, self-funded customer funded business. But more than ever before, I think the VC funded, self funded, lifestyle business, evil, bullshit, unicorn camps, they all collapse and I think that you are going to be best served if your focus is your business and your customers, and you don’t choose camps. You just choose whatever the best way is to build what you’re trying to build and to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish and you take all the options into consideration on how to get to your goal in the best way possible. Versus you’ve chosen a camp five years ago now you’re stuck and your identity should not be connected to any kind of funding sources or no funding sources. That’s just crazy, right?

[0:17:46]

Hiten Shah: Yep.

[0:17:47]

Steli Efti: Who you are has nothing to do with if you’re raising money for your business or not raising money. It doesn’t make you better or worse. It doesn’t make you cooler or dumber. It doesn’t make you smarter or more accomplishing. It doesn’t make you more a person with more integrity or more quality of life. None of that will determine who you truly are and if you embrace that attitude, and if you’re very pragmatic, you’re going to do much better in today’s world. So I think that that’s it from us for this episode.

[0:18:18]

Hiten Shah: See you.

[0:18:18]

The post 469: Fundraising for Startups—There’ve Never Been That so Many Options appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 26 2019

Play

468: How to Ask Better Questions

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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to ask better questions.

Asking questions is the best way to understand or gain deeper insights about anything or anyone at any time. Unfortunately, most founders don’t do it.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about the importance of asking questions, how asking questions helps you gain a common understanding, how to improve your questioning skills and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

02:29 How people tend to make a lot of assumptions.

03:01 How asking questions helps you gain a common understanding.

05:00 Why you need to ask a lot of questions.

05:50 How you can miss a lot of information if you don’t ask enough questions.

06:31 How active listening is super important.

04:43 How Hiten is able to help people by asking them questions.

10:38 How to improve your questioning skills.

3 Key Points:

  • Most people just don’t ask enough questions. 
  • People tend to assume a lot of things.
  • Asking questions helps you gain a common understanding.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: And today on the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about how to learn how to ask better questions. Here’s the deal on this episode Hiten, and why I wanted to talk to you about this. The last two weeks I’ve been a number of different workshops and events and I’ve, for whatever reason, I piled on a ton of coaching sessions and now I’m done for the year, so that’s great. But one thing that I noticed in the last two weeks, of just interacting with a ton of founders and doing some deal coaching with them. Asking those founders to tell me about a customer deal they’re currently trying to close, they’re in the middle of a negotiation that may or may not be going well or there might be some questions of how to make this happen. One thing that I noticed doing this with many different founders in many different countries is that the common denominator of the source of everybody’s problems when it comes to closing a customer deal. And I’m sure not just that, it’s the core problem for a lot of things is that these people and most people just don’t ask enough questions and they don’t ask the right questions, so they inevitably find themselves in a position where they have to guess what is going on because they never took the time to ask the right questions and get the information and context needed to know what’s going on. Does that sound familiar? I assume that you have witnessed this pattern yourself many, many times before?

[0:01:42]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think in general people tend to assume a lot of things and as a result of making a bunch of assumptions, what ends up happening is they operate without actually checking in on what kind of is really going on or what’s happening or checking in on some of those assumptions they have. One way to think about this is, we run around the world kind of assuming things based on our own sort of opinion and it’s not necessarily the right way to think about interacting with people and getting stuff done. Simply because if somebody says, “I think we need to grow our business and we need to get more signups.” You can assume a lot of things about that. Even something like even that specific. If someone said, “Oh we need to go our business,” you can assume, oh we need to grow revenue if they didn’t tell you about the signup thing in their head. You could ask them, “Well what do you mean by that?” And I know that’s a really simple question, but it could be as simple as that. To me, asking questions helps you gain a common understanding that you might not have if you’re making assumptions about what the other person means when they say something.

[0:03:03]

Steli Efti: I love that because that really points to the heart of the issue. I think that most of us are not really aware of how we interpret or parse language. And in many ways, in order for language to be practical, we are at all times in need of adding a ton of information to make sense, quote unquote, of what somebody is telling us. And so we are constantly adding pieces and bits of information that is missing from the language, those sentences that somebody’s communicating to us. And that can be useful in order to speed things up. But it can be very detrimental when you really want to understand 100% what the other person needs. Even if I say a simple sentence like, “I bought a house last week.” Now that sentence sounds perfectly fine. Most people will not be confused by that, but your brain has to add a lot of information to make sense of this sentence because it’s not complete. I bought with what? Money? What money? What currency? US dollars? Euros? Zlotys? I didn’t specify any of this. Maybe a bought it with something else than money. It could may be equity in my company or something else. But we just, because it would slow us down to explain everything in such detail, you hear me and think you understand me because your brain added a lot of information that’s contextual for you. Bought from whom? The owner? Was it the state? The police department? Is this from a ex-convict? There’s a lot of things that aren’t in the sentence I bought a house last week. But we add a ton of information that is lacking within that sentence to make sense of it. Now, when it comes to situations of high importance, where you’re trying to understand people that work with you, when you’re trying to understand people you’re trying to hire, when you’re trying to understand your customers, you don’t want to just be interpreting everything they say because a lot of your interpretation is just going to be wrong. Somebody telling you, “Hey, please send us three proposals,” is not giving you enough context to understand why three? What are you going to do with those proposals? What are you’re trying to accomplish? What do you want to see in those proposals? Others’ proposals going to be compared with competitors’ proposals? There’s so much more to know and this is just one of the examples of people that I was asking. And most founders when they talk to a prospect and eventually the prospect says, “Hey, send me three proposals.” They just go, “Cool, sounds good.” They hang up and they go, “Whoa, all I have to do the three proposals and then hope for the best when I hit send.” But really, you’re really missing so much information. What is really happening? What is really the purpose and the goal here? And what’s fascinating Hiten is that we’ve all at least had to learn at some point in school how to read, write and speak. But I’ve never heard of anybody ever taking a class in asking questions and active listening. There’s really nobody that’s teaching us how to ask good questions and how to actively listen so we elicit the correct and complete information from the person that’s communicating to us.

[0:06:29]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous because you can get away with a lot if you’re just asking a lot of questions. And get away meaning you can understand almost anything, pretty much anything if you’re just able to figure out what’s the right question to ask. For me it’s I’m not an engineer. I don’t know how to code and I tend to have great conversations with engineers just because I’m able to ask them good questions. And that helps me understand how to help them because usually their efforts lead to different choices and options that lead to different things that cause our product to be a certain way. And if I don’t understand what they’re dealing with, especially when they’re coming to me and needing to make a trade off, I don’t know how to ask questions, then we can go down the wrong path for months or even longer sometimes. For me, it’s this learning that if I don’t figure out how to ask good questions to whoever about whatever they’re coming to me with or whatever I’m going to them with, then basically what happens is I don’t get the best outcome and that means we in a company, as a team don’t get the best outcome. There’s one other part of this that I find really fascinating that is more from a relationship, interpersonal relationship sort of standpoint, which is even someone who you’ve known for a long time, you might not really understand where they’re coming from when they say something. And you could make assumptions about what they’re saying. If for example, someone says, “I can only meet for two hours,” and maybe you want to meet longer. You can ask them or you can tell them, “Hey, I’d like to meet longer,” and tell them, “I’d like to meet for three hours.” This is just an example. It’s actually an example from a few weeks ago for me. And instead I’m saying that I actually just said, “Oh, can you help me understand what your constraints are? Why it’s only two hours. Because usually when we meet it’s not constrained like that. I’m just curious, what’s different? Or what’s going through your head?” And that opened up the conversation and I actually got a much deeper level of understanding about the person and how they think about their time and their time with me. That was completely amazing just because I asked instead of trying to say, “Hey I want to meet longer,” or anything like that. I was just like, “Hey, why is it two hours? What’s going on?” And I even gave my context, which is sometimes when we talk it takes a while. And I come in with no expectation of how long or not. And so I’d just love to understand because maybe we might take longer. And then it turned into a great convo about just understanding where that person was coming from. I think that’s just an example, but it really matters even in interpersonal kind of relationships and things that you’re trying to figure out on seemingly obvious things where you could just respond. I could just respond to say, “I’d like to meet longer.” Instead I was like, “Whoa, What’s up? What’s different?”

[0:09:47]

Steli Efti: I love that. There’s an episode I want to recommend to people if you’ve not heard it yet, even if you heard it, it’s been a while. You might want to go to episode 225 of the Startup Chat. 225, listening skills for startup founders. We talk a little bit about this subject there. Here’s one thing that I want to highlight here. There’s going to be a bunch of people listening to us at this point Hiten, that think this sounds good. I probably could improve in what questions I ask and how many questions I ask, but how do I improve this? How did you guys get good at this? Why do you do this a lot? When did you learn this? Who did you learn it from? I’ll go first. I’ll go first at this point and I’ll say, I never, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about this. I never went to a seminar workshop. There’s not a one person probably that I can point to as this person really influenced me on this. But I do think that for me, I’ve learned asking a ton of questions first as I was kind of entering the world of selling and entrepreneurship and I was trying to convince people of purchasing my product or my services. I think in the beginning my framework was always that selling is probably just talking. Let’s just talk a lot and hopefully one of the many things you say will convince people. And then, I realized that, the person that’s talking is not really in control of the conversation. And really the core way of really guiding a conversation and having more control over it is to ask questions. And then I think studying, and we have episodes about this as well. Studying hypnosis really helped me a lot with this because it was when I started studying hypnosis and we did an episode, I think episode 93 was hypnosis 101 and a lot of people had told me that they really didn’t want to listen to that one, but it turned out to be one of their favorite episodes. But like many things in life, the things you are really turned off by might have a big value somewhere hidden below the surface waiting for you. But hypnosis was so interesting to me because I really started studying language and understanding kind of how language works and even the little comment that I made at the beginning of this episode of understanding how much information is missing from a typical sentence and hypnotic language patterns are all about using very, making language even less clear and concrete in ways that influences the brain and the subconscious mind in a certain way. Playing with that topic and reading and experiencing and learning more about it taught me a lot about how much information is missing from a typical conversation. And it made me a lot more aware of when I want to zero in and elicit more information through asking more questions versus when it’s fine to leave things kind of a bit blurry because if you try to really understand every sentence and every person perfectly, it would just slow things down to almost a halt. But I think that those things really helped me. I don’t know if this is practical for people that are out there that want to learn how to ask better questions, but maybe the one hack with my side on this is a piece of advice I’ve given and we have given in many different other situations which is, just surround yourself with people that are great at this. Just ask yourself, who is the best listener I know? Who is the person that I know that asks the best questions? And just spend more time with that person. When you interact with that person, try to understand how that person is interacting and communicating with you versus just communicating with them. And if you have more people in your life that ask more and really, really great questions, it is going to influence you. It’s going to rub off on you and it’s going to teach you how to do that yourself as well.

[0:13:50]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. I started asking good questions because people were asking me bad questions. I think a really good example is when you were raising money for Kissmetrics for the first round, what did you do? How’d it go? I’m like, are you trying to raise money? How much? What do you have? I started asking questions because I was like, wait, that’s not really a good question to ask me because whatever I did is likely not going to be what you need to do. And so that’s a pretty simple example because I’d meet with people and they were like really interested in raising money. I think another thing that is a little bit of a side note but really fascinating is that if you’ve done something, people normally try to bucket you. The amount of introductions I get to anything that’s analytics related or marketing related is really interesting because people think, oh you built a bunch of analytics companies or you’ve been in marketing or whatever. And they get, and when they come to me, most of the people I get introed like that, they’re being very specific about what I did instead of asking me about what they should do. And so that just helped me get better at asking questions because I wanted to be as hopeful as I could be to them and I didn’t need to sit here and repeat my story because it wasn’t what they wanted. It’s not actually what they needed even though they asked it like that. I would say that’s an example of what I would call bad questions. If you’re looking for advice or help with something, don’t ask people what they did, give them your situation and ask them for kind of what they would do in your situation and I think it’ll turn out better in terms of the value you get from them. For me, my co-founder Marie is really good at asking really good question and a lot of them too. And so when something comes up, her first reaction tends to be asking a lot of questions. That it has taught me a lot about asking questions as well. While I’m giving advice, a bunch of taught me it and then working with her has taught me and especially when it comes to different business type of things that we’re doing. One thing that’s also done as a side effect is it made me actually go more thorough before I present something to her because I can anticipate the questions she’s going to ask. I’m not thinking like, oh, she’s going to ask these 10 questions. I’m just like, you know what? I’m just going to go to a little bit of extra level than I might normally because if I do that then she could ask even better questions and that enables us to get to the same place faster. Same place, meaning getting aligned or making a really great decision about something. And I only do that with things that I think are really important. The other thing I learned, and this is more on someone who I would say on my end, wasn’t necessarily as good at answering questions that she would bring up in the beginning is I would just tell her, “I don’t know the answer to that yet. And here’s when I think that answer might be important.” Or, “That’s a really good question. I don’t know. Let me go find out.” It was even being able to respond to questions like that has been really helpful too. I think there’s a back and forth of being able to answer questions and also being able to ask them that has been really helpful, like you said, by being around someone who’s actually really good at both of those things.

[0:17:25]

Steli Efti: Beautiful. All right. There is really true power behind asking more and asking better questions. And I think we all have probably a life in front of us of continuous improvement on this. I don’t think that anybody’s great at it, but people are less bad at it than others. There’s definitely a lot more to learn even for us. And hopefully this inspired a bunch of you, the guys that are listening to spend more time and more attention and practice this and invest more in it because so many problems, so many challenges could have been solved if you only asked the right questions earlier. That’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.

[0:18:11]

Hiten Shah: Later.

[0:18:12]

The post 468: How to Ask Better Questions appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 22 2019

Play

467: The Challenger, Helper, Victim Cycle

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about The challenger, helper, victim cycle.

The victim mindset is one that some people have and it can be depressing being around someone who is always negative and constantly complains about everything. And while playing the victim might seem advantageous to certain people, other times it can prevent people from wanting to help you.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how some founders can either be stuck in the helper or the challenger frame of mind, Hiten’s philosophy when it comes to giving advice in general, how most people with a victim mindset have a hard time getting out of it and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

01:23 How some founders can either be stuck in the helper or the challenger frame of mind.

05:00 Hiten’s philosophy when it comes to giving advice.

05:32 One very useful way to help someone.

06:20 How people, in most cases, want to feel good about themselves.

07:30 How Hiten approaches giving advice to people.

08:34 Why Hiten started sharing more about himself.

09:14 How most people with a victim mindset have a hard time getting out of it.

12:56 Hiten’s approach to giving advice to people with a victim mindset.

3 Key Points:

  • My philosophy is to tell people what I think they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
  • There’s a way to help someone by actually seeing what they are not and communicating it to them.
  • I think that as a founder, you can be either stuck in a helper or the challenger frame of mind

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about how to become more of a challenger versus a “helper”. Here’s the deal, this could be a super tiny episode, but something about this made me think of you and thought this could be a cool little conversation to have that might be useful to people. I saw somebody tweet this the other day, and it was just a little graph. I don’t know, honestly, I apologize for this. I didn’t do my homework to research where the graph is from and which book it is associated with, and who wrote this or who came up with it. But I don’t think it’s really that important for the purpose of this conversation. But it was a little bit of a circle and it just … A graph or a circle that described a concept, and it was called something like the helper victim cycle and how to break through it. And it basically was describing how people can take on a victim frame of mind of describing their problem or their challenge from a passive, “This has been done to me. I’m powerless, and I need help,” kind of framework of mind, which will then elicit somebody to step in as the “helper”, and a helper is somebody that will look for victims to be useful to, right? That person will step in and will give the victim advice, comfort, empathy. Typically, basically the message of the helper will be, “I hear you, I feel for you, and I can help you.” Right? Either by telling you what to do, or by doing it for you. And how these two … These frameworks are obviously not that useful because they leave both people … Maybe they feel slightly better in the moment, but they’re not really changing anything about the situation. And then they introduce this different framework, which is the challenger framework, which is somebody that is in a victim frame of mind doesn’t really need somebody to come and be a helper but need somebody to come in and be a challenger. So somebody that maybe as well says, “I understand that you are in a challenging situation. I understand that this is difficult for you. I am happy to listen to you, but my amount of listening has limits. I’ll listen to you for 50 minutes complain about this or whine about this, and then I will ask you questions to help you think differently about this or to come up with a solution, and then I am happy to be the person that holds you accountable for making the changes necessary to get out of this situation and move from a victim to a victor,” or whatever they would be called if it’s the feminine version of this. “And I will be there for you as long as you do your part. If you don’t follow through on your commitments, if you don’t make changes, then I will not be around for you anymore.” Right? So it’s a very different kind of framework that helps the victim to break through and is much more helpful than just being a helper. And I don’t know, I felt that that grab was beautiful because I do think that, as a founder and as somebody that is hiring people, building teams and in a leadership position in one way or another, you can be either stuck in a helper frame of mind that then makes people be victims and codependent of you, or exhibiting the challenger mind frame that really empowers people to grow and become more and more independent and not really needing you in order to affirm them or help them or whatever. I see a lot of times founders, or managers, or leaders be much more in a helper framework where they constantly do the work for people, giving them solutions, telling them exactly what to do, listening to them with all their problems, being there for them, and really never being able to empower that person to really grow beyond their past limitations. So I thought it would be an interesting little thing to discuss. Maybe you know a lot more about this. You are particularly good at being a challenger and not a pure helper, at least in my observation, although people would probably describe you from the outside as the super helpful person. I think you are, but you are because you are very good at challenging people. So, just curious to hear your response and your reaction to this.

[0:04:38]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. It’s like I don’t … My philosophy is to tell people what I think they need to hear, not what they think they need to hear. People really want to hear certain things about themselves and it makes sense. If they ask you a question, or if they’re talking to you about something, sometimes they’re looking for compliments. Sometimes they’re looking for a positive reinforcement. I think that there’s a way to help somebody by actually seeing what they’re not seeing and communicating it to them. I’ve been through my own journey on this where I would really be quick to respond and give people my take on something, because I can get a take on something pretty quickly. Lots of practice and just lots of, I guess logic and pragmatic thinking, is what I tend to use, especially when people come to me with their stuff. When I come to myself with my stuff, it’s a whole different story. So, I think that … And there’s people in my life that I can bring something and they’ll do the same thing to me and that’s awesome. I think you’re one of them. So, this is really interesting to me because everybody really wants to feel good about themselves. That part makes it somewhat difficult to tell them things that they don’t want to hear. So I’ve spent now more of my energy, and I think I’m in a very great place about this where I just want … Sometimes I just won’t say it, because they’re just not ready. They don’t want to hear it. There’s no point. If I say something that I really think about them, or think about what they should do, or I have some thoughts, maybe they just want to vent. Maybe they just want to talk, and I don’t need to respond in a way I normally would, let’s say. I think what’s interesting is I’ve seen more people offer some thoughts on this, such as, “Oh,” you ask the person, “Do you just want to vent? Or do you just want to share something? Or do you want my advice?” You know what’s fascinating? I almost feel like that … I like that tactic. I’m not against it. I don’t think I’ll ever use it though. The reason is, it’s my job, if someone comes to me for something, or a friend, or anybody, to really decipher what they’re looking for. The reason I make it my job is because I don’t want to interrupt the flow in the conversation. I feel like if I stop you and say, “Are you looking for advice, or are you just trying to vent?” You’ll be off-put. It’s like off-putting in a way. It’s like, “Well, I’m just trying to talk. I just want to talk. I don’t if I want to. I don’t know if I need advice.” A lot of times people just don’t know what they need. So these days I just feel it up. I’m just like … I don’t know, I enjoy it when people talk to me. I enjoy it when people come to me with things. It’s something that … Not just … And I used to think it’s, “Oh, I like helping people out,” or whatever. It’s not to help them out, it’s just, I like people. I like listening to them. I like hearing what’s going on with them and what’s happening to them, and it’s actually even helped me do something that has been a little harder, which is, once I stop thinking about advice, I think we talked a little bit about I like to encourage people these days. I actually started sharing more about myself, and people seem to see that, and they’re like, “Oh, I’ve never heard that about you,” or, “Oh, no, I understand you better,” or this and that. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not just trying to help you. I’m not just here to give you advice. I’m here to just talk. You want to talk? Let’s talk.” Right? Who cares what the label is, or let’s not call it that. And things just got a lot easier. So, I think when it comes to the example you gave with the victim and things like that, if that person’s ready to hear the message, by all means, go for it. But it’s your job when you’re delivering the message to figure out, “Are they ready for it? Do they need this?” And I do believe asking them is one way, for sure. It’s not my way, but it’s definitely one way where, if you don’t know what they’re looking for, it is totally reasonable to ask them. At the same time, in that victim situation, I don’t know. [inaudible 00:09:14]. Most people who have a victim mindset … I have a few people I know really well that have that. They have a hard time getting out of it. They have their own personal work to do. It’s not much you can do for them. There really isn’t. It’s just the way they are. It’s some childhood things, same things they repress. I could go on this, because I have a few folks in my life that really take that stance, and some people take that stance when they’re under stress, or something bad happens. Some people just take that stance normally. And you can see it manifest in almost their whole lives, and lots of parts of their lives. But the thing is, if you ever told them, “Hey, this is what you’re doing,” it’s likely that they’re not ready to hear that, and then you’d have to justify it. You’d have to give them examples, you’d have to do things like that. Now, the only caveat I have is, if someone is operating like that at work, and you see the pattern is continuous, and let’s say you’re their manager, or even if you’re not, it is worth, I think everyone’s time to find the right way to talk to this person about it. That’s a part that I find very fascinating, because at work, if someone has a certain mindset and it’s … Let’s say, let’s just call it negative, or negative to them but also probably harmful to the organization and people in it, it is someone’s job to talk to them about it, I think, because it’s not something that should continue and it’s something that the person should be aware of that they might not be. The people I’m referring to that have that mindset that I know, I don’t … I’m really close to them, I don’t think I can tell them. I really don’t feel comfortable telling them, because I think … But I’ve also seen them improve over time. So, instead of telling them, my reaction are different than they used to be. So they used to be a reaction where I would internalize their victimhood, and I would almost feed it. So then I was an enabler, and there’s lots of ways to feed something like that. If they’re the victim, you’re like, “Aw, I’m so sorry.” Oh, wait, hold on. Is there anything for you to be sorry for, for them? No. You’re essentially being sorry, as if you’re them, because they’re feeling like a victim, they’re sorry for themselves. It’s essentially one of the ways that the victim thing comes up, instead of, I listen and I actually give an alternative non-victim viewpoint to them. But I’m not telling them they’re being a victim. I’m just giving him an example of another way to look at it. That’s been really valuable for me in those scenarios instead of being more direct.

[0:12:01]

Steli Efti: Yeah, I love it. That makes a ton of sense. I think one thing that I want to just highlight before we wrap up this episode is, sometimes this pattern happens in not a distinct and strong of a manifestation, especially at work. Some people, they might not be outright victims at work where they complain and they whine and they’re passive and negative, where it’s very obvious to everybody, but the dynamic that’s created is one where there’s dependencies. This person comes to you always slightly too early with their problem, looking at you to suggest some brilliant solution, and you gladly step into the role of going, “Well, have you done X, Y, Z? What about if we did this, this, or that? What about this idea?” And then they give you the positive reinforcement of admiring you and going, “Oh, my God. No, I hadn’t thought about. That’s a brilliant solution to my problem. Thank you so much,” and then they leave. That can seem like a productive interaction, right? Person A had a problem, I come up with a solution, person A is now grateful and left with that solution. That’s a wonderful thing. But when that happens again and again and again and again, you’re training oftentimes that person to nothing for themselves. You train that person to not sit with a problem a bit longer and come up with their own solution, but just instantly come to you as a lazy way of finding solutions. And you may be feeding that, or training that behavior, or programming that behavior into somebody because you get a dopamine rush by solving other people’s problems. It makes you feel good. You feel brilliant. You’re like, “Oh my God. I’m so creative. I come up with ideas. I don’t even know how to do it.” That can be a really … To me, that mirrors very closely to the help-a-victim dynamic where it’s not productive, because the more people are joining the team or the more people you’re doing this with, eventually you’re going to start being overwhelmed and used. You’re going to start complaining why you’re solving everybody’s problems and your own problems are never being solved because you don’t have the energy and creativity anymore for it. And these people never … You’re not allowing them and helping them grow beyond your ideas, your capabilities. You’re making … Your coding them into a behavior of relying on you way too much, and I’ve seen this so many times. I have done this myself so many times in the past, and so that’s a framework that I would advise people to observe, either with themselves, or with their managers, or with other people within their teams or within their startup, and to try to break through and go beyond, because it’s a really limiting way of collaborating and working together.

[0:15:01]

Hiten Shah: Yup. Yup. I couldn’t agree more.

[0:15:05]

Steli Efti: There you go. There you have it, folks. That’s it from us for this episode. We will hear you very, very soon.

[0:15:10]

Hiten Shah: Cheers.

[0:15:11]

The post 467: The Challenger, Helper, Victim Cycle appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 19 2019

Play

466: What Color Is Boredom

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten try to answer the question, what color is boredom?

One of the most important roles of a parent is helping your kids get through school. Sometimes, they may act in a way that doesn’t align with the system of the school, which could land them in trouble, and how you deal with the aftermath of that situation can make a huge impact on your child.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to handle awkward situations with kids in school, the importance of following the rules, lessons Steli’s wants his kids to learn and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:37 Why this topic was chosen.

03:52 How to handle awkward situations with kids.

05:40 How Hiten handles tricky situations with his kids.

06:42 The importance of following the rules.

05:00 How Steli handles tricky situations with his kids.

09:09 Why Steli enables his kid to experience the real world.

10:24 Lessons Steli’s wants his kids to learn.

10:50 Why Steli doesn’t care so much if his kids go to college.

11:10 Hiten’s experience in high school.

3 Key Points:

  • I like treating kids like adults as much as possible.
  • There are different views in the world.
  • My wife a more difficult time with conflict.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to try to answer the question, “What color is boredom?” So, for you Hiten, you have no idea what I’m talking about and our listeners. Let me set this up a little bit. Another way of describing this, today’s episode is how to help your children get through school, especially if they’re getting into trouble all the time. So here’s the situation. I’m just curious to hear and discuss and digest this with you. And I feel like I could see a lot of entrepreneurs and startup people out there, at least those that have children, to have to go maybe through a similar experience, so they might benefit from this discussion. So, my oldest, I have two boys, my oldest is currently going through second grade and he has now started to get into daily trouble in school. And just recently he was thrown out of the class, a classroom. And when he explained to me what happened, it was very hard for me not to laugh. So he was telling me that the teacher was describing to them that colors could be an expression of emotions. So she was describing that red, for instance, could be love, could also be anger. And she was going through a couple of colors and what their emotional meanings could be. And then my son decided to raise his hand and ask, “What color is boredom, because I’m very bored right now?”

[0:01:38]

Hiten Shah: Wow.

[0:01:39]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:01:39]

Hiten Shah: Wow. Wow.

[0:01:43]

Steli Efti: That got him thrown out of the classroom. And now, not to defend my son too much, because he can be a smart ass. Right. I don’t know who has got that from. He definitely has that from me. But, in this specific case, for all his smart assness, he is surprisingly honest sometimes and sweet. And so, he told me afterwards that he actually really didn’t know why that was a bad thing, and he was actually curious. And then we proceeded to Google search what color boredom is, and we couldn’t quite get a definite answer to this question. But we landed on maybe beige, maybe brown, we weren’t sure. But that was a funny encounter. But he’s getting into trouble all the time with teachers. And so now we’re in this situation where I now, for the first time, have to figure out, as a parent that may or may not completely believe in the principles that the teachers have that my son is in class with, when he gets in trouble with school or with his teachers, what do I do? Do I just completely take myself out of it? Do I support him? Do I support the school? What do I do? In general, I’m not the biggest fan of the school he’s in and the teachers there. It’s a nice place, but I don’t fully agree with the way that they think about things, obviously. So I’m like, how do you handle this? How do you do this? And I have a little bit of a philosophy in a way of thinking about this, but I thought it might be fun for the two of us to jam on it since you are ahead of me when it comes to children in schools. Your children might be, or probably are, better behaved and definitely better behaved than my children apparently. But I was just curious in terms of your philosophy as somebody that may at times disagree with what the teachers will try to teach your children or the way that a school system is set up and designed. What’s your philosophy on encouraging, discouraging, or completely keeping yourself out of it? How do you deal with supporting or dealing with your kids in school as somebody that may think differently from a lot of the ways that teachers might think in the school that your children are with?

[0:04:09]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think it’s an interesting one. The worst thing that my kid has done so far is my son… My daughter’s five, so she’s still figuring it out. And we’ll probably have some interesting times ahead. And my son is nine, so he’s figured a bunch out. Was he would talk a lot in class, and the teachers basically took care of that because the next year they split up all those kids that were talking to each other. So he didn’t get to hang out with his friends in class anymore because they were talking too much together. So, they’re still friends, but they’re not the same kind of friends anymore. Right? Because we’re talking about second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade. That’s the level, an area. I think he’s in fourth grade right now, if I’m not mistaken. And so, basically I like treating kids like adults as much as possible. And in this context, for me, I would explain to my child, “This is what the teacher said, this is what you said, and this is why this happened, just so that you know, objectively, why this happened.” And make everything just a lesson and a teaching moment and let them make decisions for themselves, and be like, “If you keep doing things like that where you’re essentially trying to outsmart your teacher, you’re going to keep getting in trouble. So it’s not that you shouldn’t think like that or anything like that necessarily because I think there’s a really great quality to it. But you should use it for good, not bad. And you should use it to not get in trouble, because getting in trouble is bad.” Right? And then, at the same time, I would encourage the creativity, because I think he was very creative, what he did, and what your son did. And I think it’s actually pretty… It made me laugh still. It’s like, “Oh, that’s really good.” And in terms of the way that the teachers teach and disagreeing with them, I think it’s a moment and a way to teach a child there are different views in the world, and that’s okay. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. And if you don’t agree with it, then, in the current environment you’re in, you can’t do anything if you don’t agree with it. You don’t have any power over changing things in this scenario because you’re in school, you’re there to learn, and the teacher is the equivalent of your boss. Right? And not just you have to do what they say, but you have to follow the rules because you’re in a system that has rules. Maybe when you grow up, if you don’t want a system that has rules, you want to make your own rules, there are ways you can do that. And then I would say, “Look at your father. I make my own rules as much as I can. That’s why I run a company and I started a company.” You know? So I think all these things are just teaching moments and ways to help children understand the world. That’s my take on it.

[0:07:05]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think that it’s funny in the dynamic between me and my wife. Obviously, she has, to be fair to her, she is more impacted because oftentimes teachers will reach out to her or she will have to engage with them first before I get too involved in any of this. And my wife just has a more difficult time with conflict and feeling a bit ashamed or feeling a different type of protective of our son than I do. But, for my wife, this is usually much more overwhelming and, “Why don’t we put our children in a school that has much better principals and teachers that are thinking more aligned with the way we think.” But my thinking is that this is the real world. Right? And of course I get the appeal of putting your children in some kind of a “super school,” where teachers are these amazing human beings and they are up to date with the best, newest ways of teaching children and they empower creativity, individuality, and all that. And of course that’s awesome, but at the same time it’s not a really good reflection of the world at large. And so, I feel like my stance was always like, my children, they are pretty lucky. They have a pretty good setup at home and they have parents that can hopefully share a lot of things with them and are very encouraging. And so if they’re in a school environment that is not as encouraging, not as creative, not as aligned with our values, that’s actually a good thing that enriches their experience of the world. And now they can build the skill of how do you deal with these situations where maybe you’ll disagree with a teacher, but as you said, you are now in a environment where you don’t have the power to actually act out on all your thoughts or where you’re not running the show. And you just have to know how to play the game and get along and get by and progress without letting others suppress your ideas or your personality, but without having to completely check out or confront or create trouble, because that will not get you anywhere in many, many different situations. So, to me, my children or my kid being in a class with a teacher that I don’t think is this amazing human being that can teach my children a huge amount, that’s not a bad thing because they can teach them other things. They can teach them how do you deal with a bad boss? How do you deal with conflict? How do you deal with understanding your place, and how much power you have and how to play the cards that you’re dealt with? And also understanding do you want to be right or do you actually want to have a good life, and do you want to get ultimately what you want versus just being “right?” And so, I’m not as concerned as my wife about all this. I take it much more lightheartedly, but I also understand that it’s easier for me. It’s much easier for me to do that. But it’s funny and it’s like, recently, a couple of times randomly I was asked from people how much I care about my children getting a college degree education and going to an Ivy League school and getting a really great diploma. And, obviously, I barely made it to kindergarten. I didn’t go through college. I didn’t go to any great school. And so, my view is skewed by my personal experiences, but I really don’t care. There’s certain jobs where I feel like my children would have to do really, really well academically. Do you want to be a doctor? You probably won’t be able to do open heart surgery without studying very hard and getting very good grades.

[0:11:06]

Hiten Shah: Right.

[0:11:07]

Steli Efti: But there’s other jobs where it doesn’t matter as much. Hopefully I can instill a love for learning and discipline and work ethic and lots and lots of other good skills onto them. But do they need to go to college? And do they need to have amazing grades? For me, personally, no. And it’s funny that the people that asked me were surprised when I told them that, because they felt like maybe a lot of people that don’t get to experience that when they’re young, maybe they want that for their children. Like a lot of immigrants want their children to do really, really well in school. But I personally couldn’t care less. But how about you? I think that you are the type of person that people would imagine you were amazing at school, but I’m not sure, I think you were a little bit of a trouble maker as well.

[0:11:54]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. I definitely had a little bit of class clown in me. And I just knew I could get away with a lot without doing a lot of work. So I was definitely not trying to do… I think it was the second I hit high school, I don’t… Well, I think it was sophomore year onwards, I think I cared a lot less about getting straight A’s and stuff like that. I’d still get pretty good grades and get away with it, but I was okay with an occasional B and whatever, even though my dad was probably not as okay, but he didn’t complain a lot. So, yeah, I definitely was happy to be disruptive at times and say things that made the class laugh but made the teacher kind of pissed off. So I definitely did that in high school quite a bit more than people might imagine. I also would come up with really creative ways to cheat. Because this was before computers and all that good stuff. So writing really tiny and then creating a slot in your pen so you could rotate and get answers. Or I would cut out the pen, like a window in the pen, and put a paper there that I could just twist and see a bunch of notes during a test, stuff like that. Yeah, my go-to was always small, handwritten stuff. And just because I could. And then I wouldn’t have to study as much or whatever. I think those were fun things. Even in college, I’ve had so many experiences where I would still wake up, and this has stopped happening thankfully, but I would wake up and the dream that I had would be about having a test and not studying for it. And it’s been a recurring nightmare, basically, for me. And that’s because it happened at least 10 or 20 times in college. And even worried about… I don’t think I stepped foot in class that much in college either. I just went at the days I needed to because there was something view or something like that. Just so many things like that, for some reason, that I just experienced. So, yeah, I’m definitely not as good of a student and studious the way that people might think.

[0:14:24]

Steli Efti: People might think. What about your children? Do you have any ambition standards you would set, expectations you have on them when it comes to how they are going to do in school?

[0:14:33]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. So, I think the deal I have with my wife right now is, because she really studies hard and used to study really hard and would stay up as late as she could before a test and all that stuff, and that’s her style. I think she’s basically responsible for those aspects of their lives. And then, as they grow up a little bit more, the responsibility is going to fall more on me. So that’s kind of the deal we have, because she knows I’m not going to sit there, and I would teach them things of how to cheat the system without cheating the system more than I would… I wouldn’t teach them how to cheat, I think they’ll figure that out on their own if they want to, or they won’t. But I would definitely teach them the short cuts as much as I could, which is not necessarily how the teachers want you to teach your kids the stuff that they want you to teach them. I have a lot of respect for teachers and their ways regardless of whether I agree or not. And my kids go to public school at the moment. So, yeah, I like to conform to what they want as much as possible until the day comes when the kids don’t need to worry about that stuff.

[0:15:40]

Steli Efti: Beautiful. That makes a ton of sense. Well, all right, I don’t know. Well, let’s wrap this episode up with your answer to this question, and maybe you have a better answer than I could come up with. But what do you think, Hiten, what color is boredom? What would you guess? What would you say? What’s the first color that comes to mind?

[0:15:56]

Hiten Shah: Black.

[0:15:57]

Steli Efti: Black?

[0:15:58]

Hiten Shah: Yeah.

[0:15:59]

Steli Efti: Very interesting. Okay.

[0:16:00]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. Black.

[0:16:01]

Steli Efti: Black. All right, my man. That’s it from us for this episode. We will hear all of you very, very soon.

[0:16:11]

Hiten Shah: Later.

[0:16:11]

The post 466: What Color Is Boredom appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 16 2019

Play

465: Scheduling Principles for Startup Founders

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about scheduling principles for startup founders.

Being a founder of a startup means you’re extremely busy most of the time. It also means that you’re being asked to certain things like speak at events, be a guest on a podcast and so on. When not managed properly, fitting all these into your busy schedule can get out of hand, especially if you schedule way in advance.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about a bad habit Steli picked up recently, One way to decide if you should schedule an event in advance and how Hiten schedules events much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

01:58 Steli’s latest tip in sharing philosophy.

03:22 A bad habit Steli picked up recently.

05:32 One way to decide if you should schedule an event in advance.

06:49 How Warren Buffet schedules events.

08:01 How Hiten schedules events.

09:00 Why you shouldn’t say yes to everything.

09:34 Why you need to ask yourself how saying yes to something will benefit you. 

3 Key Points:

  • One bad habit that I’ve recently developed is scheduling things for many weeks in advance. 
  • If this is gonna happen next week would I do it?
  • We are not Warren Buffet.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:04]

Hiten Shah: This is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:06]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about scheduling hacks or scheduling tips for founders. Here’s why I wanted to talk to you about this. I think we’ve, with the years, we’ve talked about how to manage your time in a couple of episodes and shared some of the kind of time management principles that we use to make sure that we get the most out of our time. But recently I made a pretty big shift, there was one … I’ve changed many things over the years in terms of how I handled my time and especially the requests for my time. But just recently I made one I feel final big change that I wanted to share, and then I thought it would be fun for us to just share a little bit of how we decide what to schedule, how to schedule things and all that good stuff. So, I’ll kick it off by sharing my latest change in scheduling philosophy, and then we can just go back and forth on some tips, tricks. I know that you are really principled and disciplined in the way that you give out your time, because of the demand and requests for your time is so high. So, for me the latest and greatest on this is that, I have stopped allowing anything to be scheduled in my calendar that is further out than four weeks. And here’s why. One bad habit that I’ve developed over the last two years, especially I feel like, is that I’ve been pretty good at pushing back on requests for my time if I know that you know, this month or the next couple of weeks it’s not really … It doesn’t really fit. But it might be something, it’s a nice to have. Yeah, “I’d like to talk to you one day,” or, “I’d like to maybe do your podcast one day but just this month it doesn’t really fit into my schedule.” And then one really bad habit that I picked up was that I would just tell people, “You know what, whatever, October, November are not really good months for me to be on your podcast. But maybe early next year.” And then they would send me an invite for some random time in January or February and I’d be like, “Sure.” If it was far enough out, it would be easier for me to say yes to it, because it just felt so far away. I’m like, “Do I know what I’m doing July, 2025? No. Ah, sure, I might do your whatever.” Podcast events, whatever it is. But then inevitably time passes and I look in my calendar and I go, “What the hell is this thing in my calendar?” Why am I doing this this Thursday if this doesn’t work at all with the rest of my day? And so I would have a lot of regrets for especially things that were scheduled many, many weeks in advance. And so I made a big change on saying, “Hey, if I’m not ready to schedule this in the next four weeks, if it doesn’t fit into my current schedule, then ping me again in a month and we can reevaluate.” But nothing is being put into my calendar two months, three months, four months out. Because inevitably I will regret what have I scheduled, it won’t fit into what my priorities are, what my week and month looks like. And so it’s just a really bad habit to develop and I definitely was suffering from that. And then I would have all these things that I didn’t want to do that week and that I felt committed to, so it would be in constant conflict. So the most recent change in the way I schedule things is that I don’t schedule anything that’s further out than four weeks. I think I told this to a friend a couple of days ago, and he told me that he read somewhere that Warren Buffet, you can’t even schedule something out 48 hours in advance, which is much better. Where apparently if it’s not within the next two days, he refuses to schedule anything. I’m not sure how true that is, but that’s what a friend of mine told me he read somewhere about Warren Buffet. So that’s my latest and greatest. Is this something that you’ve ever … Is this a pain you’ve ever experienced or were you too smart to make this mistake?

[0:04:15]

Hiten Shah: I don’t know if I was too smart for anything. I’ll say that I learned something new yesterday related to this so it’s ironic we decided to talk about it today.

[0:04:25]

Steli Efti: Yes.

[0:04:25]

Hiten Shah: Just yesterday I learned that, somebody learned that this really works for her. And she was talking to me about it and she was a founder, and what she said is, “If someone invites me to do something or email me and wants my time or whatever, and it’s far out …” Let’s say a speaking thing or a meeting or a podcast, like you said. Even if it’s further out, the way she thinks about it is, “If this is going to happen next week, would I do it?”

[0:04:58]

Steli Efti: I like that.

[0:04:59]

Hiten Shah: And she bases it on that. Because usually we think about it, “Oh, this is going to happen three months from now, wouldn’t we do it?” Right?

[0:05:07]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:05:07]

Hiten Shah: Are we going to do it? Should we do it? And if you’re not going to schedule four weeks in advance or next four weeks or whatever, then you’re obviously not going to do it. So she said this has been really helpful to her, which is basically like, “Would I do it next week if it was happening next week?” And then she uses that as a criteria or main criteria to decide whether she does a thing or not.

[0:05:30]

Steli Efti: I love that. Yeah, that’s really smart.

[0:05:33]

Hiten Shah: I found that one to be really good. Yeah, I found that one to be really good. So, it’s kind of interesting thing. I think we all have different domains, and I find all the Warren Buffett analogies and tips around the way he lived his life and stuff, very interesting because we are not Warren Buffet.

[0:05:56]

Steli Efti: No shit.

[0:05:58]

Hiten Shah: We all apparently might want to be, and maybe we don’t want to be, I don’t know. I don’t want to be, I’m good. [crosstalk 00:06:05].

[0:06:05]

Steli Efti: I don’t want to be Warren Buffett.

[0:06:06]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, I want to be me. I have the utmost respect for everything Warren Buffett though, obviously just like many folks do. I haven’t heard many negatives, or except maybe he drinks a lot of Coca-Cola or something, but apparently so does Bill Gates, so whatever.

[0:06:21]

Steli Efti: Diet Coke. Apparently the both drink-

[0:06:23]

Hiten Shah: So, the only thing I can think about is that I guess.

[0:06:25]

Steli Efti: Metric tons of Diet Coke apperently, both of them. It’s great.

[0:06:30]

Hiten Shah: So, when it comes to how he schedules you don’t think about it, like this person … Actually, from what I understand, and again, I don’t know much, I don’t think he’s an operator. I don’t think he has to manage people.

[0:06:41]

Steli Efti: No, no.

[0:06:42]

Hiten Shah: Right. Most of the people listening on this show either are managing themselves, not like Warren Buffet, or they are managers managing other people. And so the demands on your time are oriented around that. They’re not oriented around finding great investments to make, or thinking about where the world’s going next so you can make great investments. That’s a different life, that’s not most people’s lives. And that’s why when I hear this stuff, I’m like, okay, that’s cool that apparently Warren Buffet has this rule. And it’s also cool that he’s someone that has been known to say, “I keep my schedule very open.” Or free, or whatever.

[0:07:25]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:07:26]

Hiten Shah: At the same time, the way I think about it is today, especially after a lot of ups and downs on scheduling and all that, is like, there are things I’m required to do. Those things that I’m required to do I try to put on my schedule on a regular basis, and make sure that those things are there. So that could be one-on-ones with people on the team. It could be a weekly check in with my co-founder, it could be the leadership team meeting that we have. It’s things like that. They’re on my schedule, they’re happening weekly and they’re very static, they’re there. And I do my best to make sure that they happen or they get rescheduled within the same week that they’re in if I have to, and I hate rescheduling those things. So that’s very important to me. Then there’s things are ad hoc. An example of something somewhat ad hoc is, you and I try to do this every week.

[0:08:18]

Steli Efti: Right.

[0:08:19]

Hiten Shah: And we used to have a weekly schedule and then we decided we don’t need a weekly schedule, we’ll just do it when we can. And it’s a priority when it does show up and you and I schedule it, so it’s probably in the second bucket, which is things that get scheduled that needs to happen that are a priority. So they happen.

[0:08:34]

Steli Efti: Right.

[0:08:35]

Hiten Shah: And I’m prioritizing them. And then there’s the thing that everybody talks about, which is that third bucket, which is just stuff that’s coming in that you have to decide on. And truthfully, stuff that’s coming in that you have to decide on, you can just say no to all of it. You can just say no to all of it. Literally you could say no to all of it. You get invited to a conference, is that conference really going to help you? You figure it out. But if you’re really into conferences and your company benefits from them, your company should be doing them, literally. Not necessarily you. And that’s some, that’s a big different between how most people that I know that go to conferences think about it. And sure, if you need to go along and speak, all good. But shouldn’t that just be a system that people are taking care of in the company, marketing for example?Especially if those conferences benefit you, then there’s a system. Even if it’s you being scheduled to go, I would almost put that buffer and say, “Hey, someone needs to figure out how this is beneficial to our business, and it needs to be systematic and measured, and so it shouldn’t be my problem.” That’s the way I think of that as a founder now. And I also have this other lens that I put on things. It’s, how’s it going to benefit me? Just period. Like how’s it going to benefit me? Is there a tangible benefit I can get from doing this thing that’s in this third bucket of just random things. Not ad hoc, because ad hoc is more things I know I prioritize, I want to schedule them. Obviously I just spoke of weekly scheduled stuff or monthly scheduled stuff. This bucket is the one I think everyone wastes a lot of time on, whether it’s getting on a podcast or anything like that. For me it’s how’s it going to benefit me, how’s it going to benefit my business? If it’s not going to, I actually probably am not going to do it. Or I’m going to make it such low time and effort for me that I don’t get sucked up in it, it doesn’t take up much of my time. That’s basically the way I think about it. And so things either get systematic and they fall in the first one or two bucket, one or bucket two. Or I’m just trying to either not do them [inaudible] as little time as possible, and I’m really thinking about what’s the benefit for me.

[0:10:49]

Steli Efti: I love that. So I think there’s a couple of things there that I want to comment on. I think number one, on the third bucket, I think the most difficult thing for people is the fear of missing out. It’s like, “I’m not sure if this is going to be worth my time on not.” When it’s clearly a waste of your time I think most people have an easy time saying no, but most things aren’t a hundred percent clearly a waste of someone’s time. So I think that that’s when people struggle with just saying no, because they’re like,”What if this meeting would lead to something good? What if this podcast interview lead to some customers? What if this is some good exposure, some good opportunity?” And so they lean towards saying yes to too many things versus being okay with missing out on some opportunities in order to focus and make sure that the things that they are prioritize right now in their life and in their business, that they get enough time, energy and attention. So really having the courage to say no and you’re growing past that fear of missing out I think, is a big one. I think the other thing that I would highlight to people is, in general, and I think we’ve talked about this before. But in general, the amount of time that we either say yes to or request from other people is way too much. Most meetings are 60 minutes and it’s not because 60 minutes is some magical, perfect number for anything to discuss and to do. It’s just because people are lazy and it’s the easiest time block that we think. And so we just try to request and ask for 60 minute blocks on anything and everything, and then we will fill them. If you have 60 minutes on the calendar, you will find a way to fill that time in some mindless way. So, just pushing back on that, asking yourself, most things that you need 60 minutes for can be accomplished in 15, or in extreme cases in 30 minutes. I find it very rare that you need a full 60 minutes to discuss something, decide something or get something done with somebody else. And so just being more careful in accepting any kind of 60 minute requests for your time, in general accepting requests for time. I think, today we’re pretty in sync in the way that we handle a lot of this where a lot of people want to talk to me and then when I ask them to tell me exactly what they need, oftentimes I could just send them a podcast episode, a blog post and a talk. And I’m like, “I addressed this concern in these places. Please take a look and then let me know if you have a followup question, or if you try this and it doesn’t work and you want to share the results with me, I’m super happy to talk with you. But next four weeks I’m traveling so much, I have so many meetings, so many commitments. I can’t schedule a 30 minute call to answer something to you on a one-on-one level that I’ve already answered in 20 other places that I’m happy to share with you.” And so, that helps a lot, just answering things in email and pointing to all the content that we create to try to help founders and help people out there. But then even just being very mindful when you ask for other people’s time. Do I really need 60 minutes? Do I even really need 30 minutes? How much time do we really need for a focus [inaudible] prepared? Oftentimes there’s a lot that can be accomplished then. And I’d say this, one of the worst things that … One of the biggest signals that things are really not going well for you is when there’s a ton of reshuffling, rescheduling and cancellations or no-showing happening in your calendar. That means that you don’t have really a good system in place yet in the way that you manage your schedule. Because if you feel the pressure to move things around and reschedule, you probably over-committed. If people don’t show up to your calls or meetings, or last minute always asks you to move things around, maybe you’re asking too many people for things or you’re not selling them enough on what you’re doing is a really valuable use of their time. But that would always be a signal that I would give people advice on paying attention to. Do you feel like you’re in control of your time? Do you feel like your weeks are focused, or do you feel super overwhelmed, and do you constantly see that calendar events have to be moved around almost on a daily basis? That’s usually a good sign for, you might want to take a couple of steps back and come up with better habits in the way you do scheduling.

[0:15:10]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. Couldn’t agree more and more. The more you manage it, the more [inaudible] and more time you’re going to have for what’s important for you.

[0:15:17]

Steli Efti: There you go, and is that not what we all truly want and need in life? All right.

[0:15:22]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, make time for what’s important. Yeah, please.

[0:15:24]

Steli Efti: There you go. I think that’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very, very soon.

[0:15:29]

Hiten Shah: See you.

[0:15:30]

The post 465: Scheduling Principles for Startup Founders appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 12 2019

Play

464: How to Foster a State of Flow in Startup Teams

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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to foster a state of flow in startup teams.

Sometimes, we are completely immersed in an activity that we don’t realize how much time flies by. This experience is a mental state that psychologists refer to as flow. 

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about what it means to be in a state of flow, examples of being in a state of flow, what flow state is all about and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:39 What it means to be in a state of flow.

02:00 Examples of being in a state of flow.

02:30 What flow means to Hiten.

02:50 How you can have influence over people’s states.

03:49 The kinds of people Hiten likes to work with.

04:43 What flow state is all about.

07:17 The stress can affect founders’ flow.

3 Key Points:

  • Flow is when everything you do feels so easy. 
  • You can be watching TV and be in a state of flow.
  • You can have influence over people’s states.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:06]

Steli Efti: And today on the Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about flow states. What are they? Why are they valuable to you? But also more importantly, the thing I wanted to talk about is how to set up your team and your company in a way where those people get as much into a state of flow as possible. The reason why I wanted to talk to you about this, I went to the gym with a new found friend, a young entrepreneur from Switzerland who just moved to New York and we were talking about work and all the challenges and this, that and the other, and eventually he was telling me how everything in his life, he’s trying to design around being in a state of flow for as long of a period of time as possible in each day. Then he was like, “Flow is such an important thing to me. It’s such a fundamental thing to my happiness and my mental health. I feel flow needs to be a human right. Like everybody needs to have the rights to be as much in a state of flow as possible.” I had to laugh about that statement, but then it stayed in the back of my mind. I was like, “Yeah there’s real power in being on a state of flow.” So I thought that it might be really useful for us to unpack that. So first let me ask you, Hiten, what is… For those that don’t know, how would you even describe being in, quote unquote, flow, on a state of flow?

[0:01:29]

Hiten Shah: Things just feels so easy, whatever you’re doing right now. They feel so easy, you feel like you can just keep doing it. Another example is, that people bring up about flow is, you don’t realize how much time has passed. So in a way when you’re watching TV, you are in flow, so you don’t know how much time has past. So I think flow is just the state that you can get into. A lot of people talk about it because there’s a whole book on it and stuff like that about how, it’s like this a place where you’re learning but it’s not too hard and it’s not too easy. I want to call bullshit on that, and say like, you can be watching TV and be in flow, which is something super easy for you to be able to do. Right? For most people. To me, flow is just like, I’m literally happy and satisfied with what I’m doing right now and I feel like I can do it for very long time at this pace. That’s one reason why when you talk about like, “Oh, your team and flow and this kind of stuff,” I don’t control anyone’s flow, Steli. I really don’t. I don’t control anyone’s flow. I really don’t.

[0:02:43]

Steli Efti: Well, you may or may not. You may or may not control it, but you can have influence over people’s states.

[0:02:50]

Hiten Shah: I get it. I get it. I mean, as somebody who manages people, I’m like, okay, I get it. But the best I can do is give them freedom to work, and at the same time provide help and assistance when they’re blocked. And so my whole framework on this for other people is simply like, I like to work with people who… And I like to, that doesn’t mean everyone I work with is like this. That’s okay. I like to work with people who can be given a lot of freedom to do whatever they need to do to figure out the how of their job. Right? Like how are they going to do their job? That’s pretty much their problem. If they are blocked, I just want them to talk to me if I am their manager. Or if I’m in the company and even if I’m not their manager and they need help, I’m happy to help them. Right? That’s it for me, because what I believe is that that someone’s flow state is someone else’s flow state. I don’t have much right to come in there and say, “This is flow for you, this is not flow for you.” Or even have a lot of influence on it. Because at the end of the day we have our own habits, we have our own way of working. Like for example, if you want to go walk your dog once an hour because you want to and that breaks you out of flow, is that my problem or your problem? Do I have any control over it or do you? One, it’s not my problem. Two I have no control over. If you need to do that for whatever reason that you think you need to do that, that’s on you. And if that breaks your flow, what am I going to say? I’m going to say the obvious, which is walk your dog every two hours. Not every hour. Right? I know I’m getting pretty prescriptive, but flow state is all about the things that an individual is doing that’s either helping them get stuff done and be happy doing it and satisfied or not. And so if you complain that you’ve got to walk your dog every hour, I mean you’ve got to walk your dog every hour. That’s a complaint, complaining about it. If you’re saying you can’t get in flow or work is suffering, all right, fix it. But what can I do? That’s what I really think about this topic. I like the topic, I do feel influence, but to me influence is pretty straight forward, which is, does the person have enough freedom for their role in order to achieve the results for the business without feeling like so they’re being micromanaged? Without feeling like there are constraints put on them that they don’t want? Such as meeting and lots of meetings or something like that.

[0:05:22]

Steli Efti: Right. That makes sense. What about the goals that you set? Right? In many companies if the people that they hire, if they give those people… If you hire somebody and you’d give that person a task that’s impossible for them to accomplish, right? Within an hour you have to double our traffic. Just go, you can do whatever you want. You have creative freedom for the next hour.

[0:05:45]

Hiten Shah: Do I have unlimited amount of capital, to do it? I’m just kidding.

[0:05:50]

Steli Efti: No.

[0:05:50]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, go ahead.

[0:05:51]

Steli Efti: No, no.

[0:05:51]

Hiten Shah: There’s constraints.

[0:05:52]

Steli Efti: No. But even if, there are constraints, right? I mean, the constraint is that you’re giving them something that they cannot do either because they don’t have the experience, the resources, the time, whatever. Right? You’re giving them… You’re setting goalposts where it’s not just stretching their ability, it is breaking it, right? Or on the reverse, you set no expectations, right? There are people that work in teams, or with vantages where they go, “It doesn’t really matter. Nobody expects much from me,” right? “Nobody really looks if I’m very productive or not, or if I have impact or… Nobody, as long as I show up at work and I seem busy, everybody’s happy and it doesn’t really matter.” Both these things can be really soul crushing to people. And I think that both of them lead to a not never getting into a state of work flow right? Now, obviously everybody’s responsible for their own life. They could just go and find another job or reject these goals and propositions or challenge them and all that. But I have found that a lot of startups, what they do is they’ll set these super hard goals to accomplish. Everybody will stretch way beyond what they’re capable of. They may reach them or may not reach them, but there’s always kind of a burnout or crash afterwards, and then there’s going to be the next kind of sprint that really stretches every way above their possibilities. It’s rare to see a TIMO structure. It’s very rare that startups will set such low goals that nobody really cares and nobody really feels any stress. But you definitely have this like, not just pushing everybody beyond their boundaries, but pushing them so far away that they’re just going to crash. How do you feel about that? What’s been your experience with that? Or how does that relate to basically empowering people to get into a state where they do their best work and it’s easy to do and it feels like time flies and it feels like they’re accomplishing a lot because they’re in the zone and staying in the zone?

[0:07:54]

Hiten Shah: I think folks are really a bad at setting goals. That’s really where the start of it is for me around some of the stuff, which is like if you set unrealistic goals, of course, you’re not going to achieve them, and people aren’t going to be happy at work. The way I think goals fit into this is literally setting realistic enough goals or even saying when something’s a stretch goal saying it’s a stretch goal, or setting three different sort of goalposts for that goal and saying this would be acceptable outcome. Here’s a stretch goal and here’s what would be amazing before you get into something and then going after it. That’s one way to think about it. Like doubling traffic in one day, not necessarily possible, but saying that, “Hey, I’d love for us to get 25% more traffic today than we did yesterday.” It’s probably still a stretch goal, but it’s possible. Especially if you just decide that in the morning. I think a lot of things with goals are also how much preparation time you have for them. I think that’s something that’s very underappreciated. How much prep time do I have to reach this goal? Not how much time do I have to reach this goal? How much prep time did I get to reach this goal? I think that, that like when does the clock start? Is another example of this, and that can cause you to start preparing and things like that. So then when you’re actually actively looking to reach the goal, you could be in a flow state, because you’ve had enough prep time and you feel like you’re up to the task.

[0:09:41]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I feel like the goals’ thing is one where we probably should do an episode on it. Like how to set better goals, what mistakes to avoid, this such a big topic. But I do believe that at least on an individual level, like even switching away from the team level, it is a good question to ask yourself, “Am I in the zone or in the flow? Or, when was the last time that I felt that it was really in the zone? Like that it was really in the flow of things, especially at work?” Let’s just focus on the work side of things. If the answer to that question is, “I don’t remember or not anytime recent,” then there’s a big opportunity to tackle and maybe to ask yourself, when was the most productive time I’ve ever had? What was the time that I had that I felt like I was really productive and happy? I was productive and didn’t feel like I am overloading myself, right? Putting on too much, doing too much. Just feeling like I’m doing just the right amount, just more than I’m comfortable, but at a pace that I could do for very long periods of times with incredible determination and focus and persistency and what did it take for you to have these times and how can you reproduce that today? Because I think that many, many founders, many startup team members, many people that work in a challenging environment, they struggle really getting to long periods of being in the zone and being in the flow, and they’re either out of it because they overstretched or out of it because they’re under stretched, and just finding that right balance for you, whatever that means or the right components that you need and things that you need in your life, and your day, in your work setup to get in there I think is a really good exercise really to make a massive difference in how much you are able to accomplish. All right. There’s a book I know, but I don’t remember what the book is called, but probably if you type in flow state book, you’re going to find it in Amazon or somewhere. There’s a very famous book I think, about this topic, and maybe if you find it tweet it to me and I’ll buy it and read it myself as well to get more knowledge as well about this. But I think this is it for us for this specific episode. Look out for the episode in the future, we will talk about all the mistakes people make when they set goals. Until then, I wish all of you as much states of flows and zones as possible.

[0:12:23]

Hiten Shah: See you.

[0:12:24]

The post 464: How to Foster a State of Flow in Startup Teams appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 08 2019

Play

463: How to Overcome Creative Blocks

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to overcome creative blocks.

As a founder, creating new things is something you’ll need to do all the time. Whether it’s creating a new blog post, shooting a marketing video or writing a new line of code, creativity is part of being a founder. However, there are going to be times when you can’t think of what to create and this can slow down the progress of your startup.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why creativity can’t be defined, ways to overcome writers’ block, how Hiten uses context switching to get past creative blocks and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:29 Why this topic was chosen.

02:03 Why creativity can’t be defined.

03:09 One way to get over writers’ block.

05:00 How internal resistance can cause creative block.

06:20 Another way to get over creative block.

06:56 How overthinking doesn’t help.

08:37 Hiten’s process for creating stuff.

10:19 How Hiten uses context switching to get past creative blocks.

12:56 Tips to help you get past creative blocks.

3 Key Points:

  • As a founder, you have to create stuff.
  • I’m not sure if creativity can be defined.
  • So for me, getting past it means just doing the work.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: Today on the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about how to overcome creative blocks or internal resistance to get certain work product done. So this is probably something… This is not probably, this is definitely something everybody has gone through. And when you are a founder or when you’re in a startup, you’re going through this probably quite a lot. You have to create things. Right? You have to create work product. It doesn’t matter if it’s writing an email, it doesn’t matter if it’s writing a sales script, creating a landing page, publishing a blog post, creating a video, writing some code to finish up a feature. Whatever it is, you have to create. And whenever humans are involved with creative and productive endeavors, they do encounter internal resistance. Right? Or what you would call writer’s block or whatever, creative blocks. And those are those moments where you have a difficult time getting started or you have a difficult time not getting distracted. And so finishing the thing that you need to do. And I thought it would be fun for the two of us to just jam a little bit on this and share some of our ways that we found around this, some of the tips that we have to share to overcoming any kind of creative blocks or resistances.

[0:01:24]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. I’m going to first say that I’m not even sure if creativity can be defined.

[0:01:30]

Steli Efti: Ooh. All right, tell us more.

[0:01:37]

Hiten Shah: Look, the reason I’m saying that is it’s one of those things where it’s like, what does being creative really mean? Sure, if I’m an artist and I can’t paint, and I’m a painter, I paint paintings, we can define that as there’s a creative block. Or there could be something else going on. But we can say there’s a block in creativity. If I’m a writer and I just can’t get myself to write, you could argue, “Okay, that’s a creative block.” Right? There’s books for that. There’s a book called The Artist’s Way. And there’s other books too. And they talk about things like write morning pages. So when you wake up, just write a bunch of stream of thought, and that’ll help jumpstart your creativity. I don’t know though. In business, in the life of work, I’m not sure if creativity is something that’s definable in the same way that it is in other places. And I feel like we always have the opening and ability to be creative, whether it’s in our personal lives or in our work lives, even if we’re not artists, even if we’re not writers. And that’s something that I would want to stress, and say, “Okay. If you feel like you’re blocked creatively, I would recommend you get very specific about what’s different in your life from when you are creative, I guess in your own mind, and then try to figure out how you want to fix it.” For example, in my own life, if I’m not very creative, if you want to call it that, with my words, when I speak, if when I write it’s just not coming out properly. Like if I write an email or something like that. I know that I’m just not feeling right. I don’t know if I’m creatively blocked you, some would say that. Just not feeling right. Or, even in my case, it’s like I’m trying to tweet something and share something I’ve done or just come up with something that’s in my head that I want to share and it’s just not coming out. That could be a creative block, but really for me, that has a lot to do with something that I think I relate to creativity in this way and creative blocks, which is your feelings. And I think that it’s not really about creativity. I think it’s more about how do I feel. So that’s what I’m going to throw down, see what you got.

[0:04:08]

Steli Efti: Right on. I’m not going to even challenge you because this is going to become too big of a topic. And I don’t even know if I want to. Although this reminds me, we need to find more things to argue about. This is actually a fun part of this podcast that we haven’t done in a while. We just like each other too much and agree with each other a lot. But the thing that I want to focus on real quick is, you have created so many different things. But let me just ask you, when you have to, or the last time that you wrote a more long form blog post or something along those lines, you have surely encountered times where you didn’t just say, “I need to write this.” And you sat down, you opened your editor, and you started writing. And then you were like, “Oh, it’s finished. I’ll edit it later.” And that was it. That’s kind of a very smooth experience. But you surely have gone through phases where you opened the editor and you started, you thought about the first sentence, and then you got distracted by email, and then you text to somebody, and then you Slack with someone, and then, “Oh, it’s time to go and meet up for coffee with somebody.” And you went back and tried to restart again. And did this for a couple of days and didn’t really progress anywhere or just had a difficult time to sit down and finish the thing that you really wanted to finish or work on. Because there was, what I would just call, internal resistance. Right? There’s something inside of you that was blocking. It might not be blocking your creativity, maybe it’s just your focus, maybe it’s your energy, whatever it is. I think what a lot of people encounter, I definitely encounter this, is that I want to create a work product, whatever that is, could be a piece of content oftentimes, and it’s not always as smooth as just saying, “I’m going to do it now,” and then I’m doing it. Oftentimes, I’ll have to go some form of resistance either because my attention is split, because I don’t feel like doing it right now, or because when I start working on it, I have a difficult time to get into “a state of flow” where things just happen. And so I have a few false starts before I finally get to the creating part of it. Do you ever encounter that?

[0:06:31]

Hiten Shah: Yeah. I’ve learned that I just need to spill the beans on things like that. And what I mean by that is I just need to not get caught up in being blocked. And if I have to, write something crappy. So, for me, getting past it is just doing the work. And whatever it is, just starting, even if it’s a sentence or a word or whatever. With writing, I think a lot of it has to do with that. You can easily overthink what you’re trying to write, and that usually leads to this lack of freedom, and then your words just don’t flow. So you’re just overthinking it. So one way to think about it with any endeavor that I would say you feel blocked on creatively or whatever is just don’t let yourself stay in your head and get it out of your head, whatever you have to do. So even if you’re blocked on creating an interface, or you’re blocked on, “How do I send the sales email,” or whatever, just start writing or start drawing on a whiteboard or just start… For me, a lot of things with product have to do with I’ll look at other products if I’m blocked, just to get some inspiration going, or get some criticism going about them. And then that can pump me up to just start. So I think just starting is the key. And I know, I’m sure a lot of creative things that tell you how to do this stuff say that. But, yeah.

[0:07:54]

Steli Efti: I love that. So let me ask you about dealing with distractions when you have these blocks. Right? So you’re somebody that is incredibly “on.” Right? You are involved in so many different communities. You’re very active on Twitter and social media. Your inbox is probably a very noisy and loud place. And I know how good you are at being super fast in responding to things. And you’re part of probably a million different places and communicating with a million different people and organizations and teams during a normal day. What’s your process for when you need to do, when you’re not in manager mode anymore, but you’re in maker mode? What’s your process for that? Do you block out everything? Do you disconnect from the internet? Are you just like you’ve gotten so good at it, even if you have a thousand tabs open in Slack and notifications, and your phone rings, you just don’t respond to anything. You sort of get in the zone? How do you deal with blocking out price for your attention or distractions when you are in this maker mode trying to create work product yourself?

[0:09:13]

Hiten Shah: I’ve gotten pretty amazing context switching. So I think if you’re going to work on… It’s not even work on a lot of things. I think I love the idea of maker and manager mode. My biggest issue isn’t when I’m sitting in front of a computer, it’s actually when I’m not. So these days I’m out and about more, having meetings related to FYI that are outside of my home office, basically. And I have meeting days. Like today’s going to be a meeting day. And it just means I have two or three meetings that are outside my house. So for me the issue is more like, “Can I whip out my laptop in my car?” Which is my second office. And will work for like an hour in between meetings. Literally, I do that. And so for me sitting in front of a computer is my biggest hack, if you want to call it that, or my biggest issue that I try to solve for. I could go sit at a coffee shop and get on my laptop too, don’t get me wrong. That’s fine. I like my car though. I’m weird like that. And so I think there’s these habits and behaviors that we develop to make sure that we are productive. And for me I’ve found those. So it’s not so much like I’m in front of the computer, there’s a million tabs open, people are Slacking me and I can’t concentrate. Because I can switch between tasks pretty fast. And so that helped. And so I don’t have any routine of turning things off. I think I’m a little different than most people like that because I feel pride in being able to process those things. I don’t think I would call it multitasking. I think a lot of people have a bad connotation to that. For me it’s simply this. If my attention is drawn to something and then all of a sudden I need to shift my attention to something else, how quickly can I engage in that something else and then get back to my other thing?

[0:11:11]

Steli Efti: I love it.

[0:11:11]

Hiten Shah: And that’s context switching. That’s what I would practice if someone wants to get to what I would say is advanced level. And the reason I call it advanced level is when I talk to people about this they’re like, “Yeah, I can’t do that.” I’m like, “Okay. Well, we can do anything we want to do, so that’s cool.” You just need to decide if it’s important to you in order to be able to context switch. And I think context switching is what I would advise anybody who wants to get better at, even the creative blocks and things like that, is if you can switch from a task to another one and then switch back, and then possibly switch to another one and then switch back, you’re mastering this ability to take your attention from one thing to another and being able to shift your mind really fast. And so, I think that’s the way I think about a lot of this stuff, which is very basic things that are happening that are reality. How did I just get better at them instead of trying to resist them? I think a lot of people do resist. Obviously, the natural thing to do is turn everything off. Because when I’m in this mode, I’m in this mode, and this is what I need. And I get it, but do that if that works for you. For me, I prefer to not have such strict rules around my life and my work so that I can be a little more fluid.

[0:12:24]

Steli Efti: I love it. The one thing I liked the most about what you just said was the, when somebody’s like, “Ah, I’m just not good at that,” and you’re like, “Yeah, if this is what you want to tell yourself.” Right? We can get good at anything we want to. That’s the most Hiten thing about everything you said. It’s like, “Ah.”

[0:12:39]

Hiten Shah: I don’t know if I buy into this way of thinking. I love it. I love it.

[0:12:43]

Steli Efti: I think that there’s a certain… There’s a lot that I want to say, but I want to keep this episode short. So two cents and then I’ll give a book recommendation, we’ll wrap this up. I think that, A, just like anything in the world, if you want to get good at things, you have to practice them and do them a lot. And it helps if you believe you can get good at them. And if you can bring a certain lightheartedness to things. If you mentally make this a massive mountain, you’re like, “Oh my God, I cannot focus. Focus is impossible for me. It’s 400 generations of people without focus and I am haunted by the spirits of my DNA. And also, I have all these proofs, all these stories I could tell myself about my past and how I had a difficult time focusing. And so I know I need to focus tomorrow, but I can’t, I already know.” If you make this a huge deal, you are going to make those thoughts realities. Right? You’re going to follow… Your thoughts will influence your actions and your state. Your thoughts will influence how you feel. The way you feel will influence what you do and what you’re capable of in terms of tapping into resources. So thinking about these things and these massive challenges will make them bigger than they need to be. So if you can think lighter thoughts, if you can think better thoughts, if you can just look at this and go, “Huh, yeah.” Maybe in this example that I gave, if you think, “Oh, I’ve always struggled, so now’s the time to get better. Right? I have a lifetime experience in struggling, so now it’s time to accrue a lifetime of experience on being great at this.” And if you can just attack some of these things that you want to get better at with a little bit of humor, with a little bit of curiosity, with a little bit of lightheartedness, it makes a world of difference. And then it’s a thing of practice, right? Where the more you create, the more you do, the better you get at these things. And eventually some of the things that were incredible challenges to you in the past now seem super, super easy. So, the best thing to do to get great at whatever, creating stuff or having less and less of blocks and resistance is just to create more and more stuff and get better at creating. And a quick book reco, you gave one, I’ll give one to wrap up the episode. The War of Art from Steven Pressfield is a super short book. I love his writing. His writing is super succinct. I like when I read something that is at least well-written. I really appreciate that. I’m like, “Oh, he said this really nicely in three sentences.” This book is so small and the pages are usually just half-written, just one paragraph or two paragraphs. I love that. It’s a very quick read, but it’s really well-written, and focuses exactly on this, on breaking through mental blocks and all that. So, that’s the book reco. Those are our experiences. And we’ll wrap this episode up with that and we’ll hear you very soon.

[0:15:50]

Hiten Shah: See ya.

[0:15:50]

The post 463: How to Overcome Creative Blocks appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.

Nov 05 2019

Play

462: Extreme Ownership

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about Extreme Ownership.

Extreme Ownership is a book written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and it talks about the leadership concepts used by US Navy SEALs to accomplishing the most difficult missions in combat. 

This book also provides readers with Jocko and Leif’s formula for success and demonstrates how to apply these directly to your business and life to likewise achieve victory.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten share their thought on the book, how the concept can be applied to your startup and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:38 Why this topic was chosen.

00:58 What you need to know about extreme ownership.

03:33 Jocko Willink’s response to every problem.

04:32 How a leader can have extreme ownership over everything that’s going on in the company.

05:58 How ownership can be empowering.

07:54 How Hiten and Steli are very much aligned.

09:09 How getting people to take responsibility can be really difficult.

11:04 Behaviour patterns that can be associated with extreme ownership. 

3 Key Points:

Every problem is a leadership issue.If you can say the words “we have a problem”, you’re still alive.Ownership is empowering.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. This is one of those topics that Steli just knew we were going to do today. We do a few every time. So, the topic is about extreme ownership and I have not read any of the books on it. So, first, I'm going to say, Steli, have you read any of the books on this topic?

[0:00:23]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I've read the book, Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink. I have.

[0:00:28]

Hiten Shah: All right, so let's start there. What do I need to know about that, or what were your takeaways about it? Because I think that would be a good start because I know nothing.

[0:00:40]

Steli Efti: Yeah, so-

[0:00:40]

Hiten Shah: ... Sure a lot of folks who are listening are not ready yet.

[0:00:43]

Steli Efti: Yeah, so-

[0:00:43]

Hiten Shah: I do have the book though, for the record.

[0:00:46]

Steli Efti: Yeah. I'll tell you this in all honestly, this will now prove to people that constantly telling me they can't believe that we do absolutely zero prep work for almost 500 episodes that we've done so far. Here's the truth. I read the book, I would say, three or four years ago. I can't tell you much about it. I can tell you this, I am a big fan of Jocko Willink. I think the book he talks a lot about his experience of running a military team under very, very difficult circumstances and some of the principles that he applied to running that team, which is basically summarized in the title, which is like you're responsible for everything, basically. I think what I remember from the book is that everything is a leadership problem. Every problem is a leadership problem. Every issue is a leadership issue. And a core principle of being a leader is that, you own everything, you take complete responsibility and ownership over everything that's going on within your team or within your sphere of influence. And you teach your people to do the same thing. I'm sure there's a lot more awesome stuff in there that I just don't remember anymore. But I'll tell you one little tidbit on top of it. There's a video out there from Jocko Willink, one of the authors of Extreme Ownership. If you go to YouTube and you type, Jocko Willink and then the word good, G-O-O-D, good, there's a two minute video that was cut out out of a podcast recording that he made, that is one of my favorite, most motivational two minute videos on YouTube. Fucking love that. Which is basically where he describes that anytime somebody would come to him with pr...

Nov 01 2019

Play

461: The Messy Middle

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the messy middle.

As your startup grows, new challenges arise. Processes and strategies that you used in the early stages are not the same pones you’ll use at the middle stages. Adapting to new changes is something you want to get right, as getting this wrong can have a negative effect on your startup.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how every company you work on now is uniquely different, why the middle is messy, what a messy middle looks like for a real company and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

02:58 How every company you work on now is uniquely different.

03:40 Why the middle is messy.

04:42 How tech debt is one of the messiest things you can have.

05:00 What a messy middle looks like for a real company.

07:09 How marketing can be one of the messiest things about a company.

08:24 Steli’s experience with messy middles.

09:00 One of the biggest challenges about running a startup at the early stages.

10:10 Why things you did in the early days isn’t what you’ll use at the later stages.

3 Key Points:

It’s really crazy how whatever company you’re working on now is totally different from past ones.The reason its a messy middle is that what got you in the middle usually means you’ve created a mess.Tech debt is one of the messiest things you can have

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat, we're going to talk about the messy middle. Or what I like to call it, the awkward teenage years of your business. So we've talked a ton about the super early stage days like how to come up with an idea, how to validate an idea, how to build an MVP, how to get your first customer, your first 10 customers, how to hire your first couple of team members. Like we've talked a ton about kind of the super early days as founders in your startup. And a lot of the topics that we discussed kind of touch all stages and phases of the business. But today I wanted to talk to you about what the most awkward time, and probably the the largest phase, or maybe not the largest, but it'd be a kind of significant phase, which is the phase in your company where your business is up and running. You have customers, you have customer growth, you have a bunch of team members. And kind of you're not in the hyper early pre product market fit. We don't know what we're doing. We don't know who's our buyer. We don't know if we're going to ever generate any money or how to market and sell and grow this thing. You're not in those early days. You've passed through that stage of your startup, but you're not quite yet at a place where you just add hyper scale and hyper growth or where you're now a super mature, super stable business. You're kind of in the awkward middle phase. And I wanted to chat with you a little bit about kind of, we've both gone through these phases with multiple businesses. What do founders need to know about the messy middle? How do they need to prepare for it? What mistakes to avoid? I thought it'd be fun for us to unpack kind of the most awkward phase of your business basically.

[0:02:04]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, so Scott Belsky and his now I think Chief Product Officer at Adobe, he wrote a whole book with the title, The Messy Middle. So we should definitely give him a shout out. Bumped into him somewhere the other day in the morning and I didn't recognize him. He's looking a little different these days. Looking good though. And so yeah, wanted to shout out. Great book, you should read it. That being said, we've got our own thoughts on this, so we should share our thoughts that have probably very little to do with what's in the book,

Oct 29 2019

Play

460: The Enneagram Personality Test

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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the Enneagram personality test.

Enneagram tests are online tests that can help you to determine which personality type you are and those of your team members. Like any personality test, Enneagram tests are not a science, but it can be a useful tool to help you understand yours and your team members’ tendencies in order to anticipate and prevent conflicts, and create a great working environment.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about what an Enneagram test is, why it’s one of Hiten’s favorite tests, how they are different from other personality tests and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

00:50 Where to take an Enneagram test.

01:21 Steli’s thoughts on personality tests in general.

04:04 What an Enneagram test is.

04:17 Why it’s one of Hiten’s favorite tests.

06:49 How Enneagram tests are different from other tests.

07:00 About Hiten’s Enneagram score.

09:17 How to use Enneagram tests at your company.

3 Key Points:

There’s a lot of online material about it.I think Enneagram tests are more practical.It can help with diversified thinking at your company.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: and this is Hiten Shah, and today we're going to talk about something that's been popping off in startup land a little bit on Twitter and in other places. It's actually something I've been familiar with for the last I want to say like 15 years or something. It's called any Enneagram, and it's E-N-N-E-A-G-R-A-M. You can look it up online, and there's a great site called CrystalKnows.com where they actually have a lot of details about a lot of personality tests, because that's what Enneagram, is and they let you take it and then they tell you about yourself. And they have a lot ... They are sort of a startup that has kind of this, it tells you about people's personalities and how to interact with them. So it makes sense that they have this, they have a bunch of other tests for other personality tests. But for today we're going to talk about Enneagram because there's been a lot of tweets about it, and even friends of mine at many different types of organizations have started talking about it more, and it's something that I've been familiar with for awhile and has been really valuable to me.

[0:01:06]

Steli Efti: Yeah, that's how I actually picked up on it. There was a Twitter thread where I think somebody at Clearbit was writing about them using this internally now, and that they've seen a lot of value, and then there was a very kind of engaged thread going on with all kinds of either very positive things about it or some critical things about it. And as often times when I go down the rabbit hole of an interesting Twitter thread, somewhere in the middle of there is Hiten Shah saying something insightful. So I saw that you had responded to it or retweeted it or something and, and mentioned that this is one of your favorite personality tests, and that kind of led me down the rabbit hole of playing around with it a little bit and reading a bit more up on it. And here's my background and then I don't know this that well, so I want to ask you a bunch of questions about it. But when it comes to personality tests in general, there was a time 15 years ago that I got super into these, and I did a couple of them and I read a bunch of books and I was like super fascinated I think by the topic. And then I did the inevitable mistake of walking around and abusing the knowledge, thinking that I can now just put people into boxes super quickly.

[0:02:23]

Hiten Shah: Yeah.

[0:02:24]

Steli Efti: Like, you are a this, that and that color. You're a this, that and that number. And then I annoyed others and myself,

Oct 25 2019

Play

459: How to Build a Remote Sales Team

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to build a remote sales team.

In today’s startup world, working remotely is more popular than ever. And the popularity of remote work is also spreading to sales teams as well. However, having a remote sales team can be challenging and you need to manage it properly to make it work for your business.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how having a remote sales team is possible, the type of people to hire for your remote sales team, mistakes to avoid when running a remote sales team and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:27 Why this topic was chosen.

02:11 How having a remote sales team is possible.

03:29 One major mistake most companies make when they start to build a remote team.

04:16 How hiring a junior sales person remotely can be a challenge.

05:26 The type of salespeople to hire for remote work.

05:56 The second major mistake most companies make when they start to build a remote team.

06:37 Why you need to think of your sales team as its unique ecosystem.

07:39 How to work with a remote sales team.

09:18 The third major mistake most companies make when they start to build a remote team.

3 Key Points:

Remote is happening and can work.It’s very hard to hire junior salespeople and have them be successful.Hire more experienced people on the sales side.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. And today on The Startup Chat, we're going to do a very tactical episode around how to start, run, scale remote sales team. And it's because we have Steli here. And I've got questions, and I know he's got answers. And it's something that I'm really curious about. And I'm sure a lot of people are. Because the typical answer is, "Don't run a remote sales team."

[0:00:29]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:00:29]

Hiten Shah: So that's the typical answer, and that's because people are used to basically the equivalent of call center, open office, lots of people in the sales room, talking and doing their thing, and selling, and picking up the phone, and blah, blah, blah. So that's not what a remote sales team is. And remote work is obviously on a lot of people's minds, pretty much everyone's now. And so, all right Steli, what do we need to know about how to run a remote sales team really well?

[0:00:58]

Steli Efti: Well, before I jump into that, because I want to give a shout out to the report that you've done. You and Use FYI, the whole FYI team, you guys are publishing more and more stuff around remote work. It's really, really good. You did a kind of a up to date state of remote work report. What's the URL that people can get this? For those that haven't seen this yet, you should check it out definitely.

[0:01:19]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, it's pretty straightforward. It's UseFYI.com/remote-work-report.

[0:01:26]

Steli Efti: Boom.

[0:01:26]

Hiten Shah: And you'll get to it. And this was done a little bit ago. Then we have... My co-founder wrote 11 Best Practices for Remote Work. That was a hit. I wrote a post on remote work resources. We have another one coming up that I'm sure we'll talk about on the episode... On an episode in future. So yeah, remote work's a thing. People love remote work. So why shouldn't sales do it?

[0:01:48]

Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that... And this is something that is picking up. I used to get a lot of questions about how to run a remote company, and now, I'm increasingly getting questions around remote sales teams or emails in panic of people that are like, "All right, we've been trying for a year. We've gone through every mistake and failure. Is this actually possible? So please help." So let's talk about it.

Oct 22 2019

Play

458: The Heart of Your Startup

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the heart of your startup.

Sometimes trying to make a decision can be quite a challenge and whether you should listen to your heart or not in that situation can be a challenge for most founders. One reason for this is opening up your heart requires courage, and if things go wrong, feelings can get hurt.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why most people can’t speak from their heart, one thing that prevents people from bringing their heart into things, how the truth isn’t in the mind and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

01:03 Why this topic was chosen.

03:28 Why most people can’t speak from their heart.

04:20 One thing that prevents people from bringing their heart into things.

04:54 One thing that helps Hiten come at things from his heart.

05:13 One of the things that makes this podcast valuable to people.

06:06 Why the present moment is an important way to practice bringing your heart into things.

06:04 How the truth isn’t in the mind.

07:17 How Hiten has a hard time speaking his truth sometimes. 

3 Key Points:

There is heart, there’s mind and there’s soul.The most esoteric of the three is the soul.The truth isn’t in the mind.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat we're going to talk about the place of the heart in a company or in a startup. Does the heart have a place in business and for you as a startup founder? Here's why I wanted to tackle this weird subject with you, Hiten. This is going to be a funky episode. For all of you that are only interested in the most tactical and practical stuff, this may or may not be useful. But maybe if you don't want to listen to it, maybe it's going to be especially useful to you. We'll see. Here's the reason why I wanted to talk about this with you, Hiten. Recently, I had a discussion with a couple of friends of mine. Most of them are entrepreneurs themselves, and one of them kept repeating this new mantra in his life of some big realization that he had recently in his life that he wanted to listen to his heart more. He was like, "The mind has been too much of the boss. I just want to listen to my heart, and just follow my heart." We were discussing this topic as if it was absolutely clear what he meant. Eventually, I went, "Wait a second, guys. When you say 'follow your heart,' I kind of think I understand what you're saying, and we've been talking about the heart, quote-unquote, as an entity that we all... We all talk about it as if it's the most obvious object in this context, but what the fuck do we even mean when we say 'the heart'? When I say "follow your heart," what do I mean? What is the heart? Is that your soul? Is that your spirit? Is that your subconscious? What is it?" Then, we had a epic, three-hour philosophical conversation, that made us go in circles at times, that made us all realize that this is a hard question to answer. It's a big concept, and I realized, "Shit, I've never even thought about my heart for more than, I don't know, a minute at a time in this kind of context." Obviously, whenever I have a discussion like that that leaves you with more questions than answers, I'm like, "I need to break this down with my main man, Hiten."

[0:02:15]

Hiten Shah: Let's do it.

[0:02:16]

Steli Efti: So I wanted to ask you, do you ever talk about your heart as like an entity that helps you make decisions or that has a place in your world? Is that something that was weird from us, have you heard other people refer to, like, "Follow your heart, do what your heart is saying. I listen to my heart"? What, do you think, does it mean and how does it work in the world of business and entrepreneurshi...

Oct 18 2019

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457: Founder Distractions

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about founder distractions.

Being distracted from work is something all founders have to deal with and, while some kind of distractions can be a good thing, when distractions start affecting your level of productivity then it may be time to make some changes. 

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what founder distractions are, the most common types of distractions, how you can overcome these distractions and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

01:00 The first thing that comes to mind when meeting other founders.

01:40 Why meeting other founders can be a big distraction.

03:32 How Hiten approaches requests for meeting up.

03:40 How founders get distracted by competition.

05:17 Another major distraction for founders.

06:45 Why you don’t need to read ten books a day to become a successful founder.

09:25 How meetings and getting on calls with people can be a distraction.

10:10 Antidotes for distractions.

3 Key Points:

One of the biggest founder distraction is meeting other founders.Founders get distracted by competitionHelping and meeting is not the same thing

[0:00:01]

Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli: And today on the startup chat we're going to talk about founder distractions, the types of things, maybe the most tempting temptations or the most distracting distractions for founders. Things that founders easily get distracted by or with that founders should avoid if they don't want to get into trouble. What comes first to mind when you hear a common founder distraction? What is the first thing that pops up in your head?

[0:00:35]

Hiten: Oddly I think one of the biggest founder distractions is meeting with other founders. I think-

[0:00:45]

Steli: Tell me more.

[0:00:46]

Hiten: I think there are a lot of meet with other founders, get feedback on what you're doing or have sort of a community or a group of you that kind of can talk about work, right, and talk about how, what your dealing with and things like that. There's a lot of camaraderie that shows up in that way when you have friends that are founders, and one of the biggest things is when founders are just meeting other founders almost like a... How can I put it? Like just for the sake of meeting other founders, "I'm a founder, you're a founder, let's meet up." Or a founders meeting of other founders with the idea of there's a lot out there that have a lot to do with, "I am meeting other founders, they're early stage founders. I want to help them." So I actually even think helping other founders can be a distraction for many people, right? And I know many people would be, that are listening, know me really well and know I help a lot of founders. They probably know you really well, Steli. You help a lot of founders, right? And they're like, "Well what are you talking about?" But look, I don't think most founders are actually should go help other founders all the time. And the reason I say that is it's either something that you know how to do and you can do it because it's just part of your DNA and also like it helps your businesses somehow or your business, or it's just not something in your DNA. It's just not something that you you know how to do, right? So I think there is a lot of distraction I've seen with founders trying to help other founders or founders meeting with other founders just because they're are other founders, and this is easy because what happens is there are so many founders out there now that will email you and want to meet up. Or will email you and be like, "Oh you did X, Y, and Z. I'd love to learn from you." And you can get caught up in that.

Oct 15 2019

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456: The Fear of Doing Something Insignificant

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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the fear of doing something insignificant.

It’s very common for people to sometimes feel that their ambitions or what they do is not big enough and then beat themselves over it. This shouldn’t be the case, because of how big a goal or ambition is a very subjective issue.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about why people worry about something insignificant, why you need to define what small means to you, why the idea of being small is very subjective and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

01:40 Why people worry about something insignificant.

01:50 Why you need to define what small means to you.

05:14 Why the idea of being small is very subjective.

06:00 How people can get stuck in doing something they don’t like.

07:30 How people judge themselves based on other people’s opinions.

08:25 Why you shouldn’t be rigid about who you are.

09:44 Why you always need to access your current situation.

3 Key Points:

You have to define it.Just because you’re a founder today, doesn’t mean it should be your identity for life.You can point to some of the largest companies in the world and argue that they started too small.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat, we're going to talk about, should you as an entrepreneur, worry about what you're working on being "too small", or not significant enough. Here's a few that I've seen in a million different forms, a million different times with entrepreneurs and with startups, is this fear of doing something that's too small, working on something that might not become big enough, that might not be thinking big enough. I've always been in conflict with this fear. Recently, I was talking to somebody that was working on something, I don't know, that sounds like a really, really big idea, but then when I poked why they worked on this, why she decided to focus on this, basically she was just like, "Well, it seems like a really big area. It seems like a trend. I think that this is going to become the future, and so decided to work on this." Then when I asked her what she is really passionate about, which she told me that she had this other idea that she was much more passionate about that is much closer to her heart, much more personal to her, but she decided not to pursue that idea because she felt it would be too small. Hiten, why do we worry so much about the things that we're working on as entrepreneurs being big or having big potential? Is the fear of working on something that's too small and too insignificant, is that a healthy fear, a fear that entrepreneurs should have? I thought we should tackle this and unpack it for the audience.

[0:01:37]

Hiten Shah: You have to define it. You have to define small and big. You have to really define it. I don't understand when someone says, "Hey, I'm working on something too small." I don't know what that means. That's the biggest problem I have. Is it too small of a market? Do you think you can't make enough money? Do you feel like you need to solve a bigger problem in the world because you aspire to solve bigger problems? What is it? What do you mean by too small? I think oftentimes people will have in their heads what they mean by too small and their logic is flawed. It's funny, you could point to some of the largest companies on the planet and argue that they started too small. You could point to failures that have occurred in business and the point to the fact that they were too ambitious, you know? So it was too big.

[0:02:32]

Steli Efti: Yeah.

[0:02:33]

Hiten Shah: To me, this is a completely subjective thing.

Oct 11 2019

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455: Doing What Scares You

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about doing what scares you.

When trying to accomplish something, the fear of the unknown can prevent you from taking action and completing your goals. Whatever it is that scares you, overcoming that fear and completing your goal can only be beneficial to you.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how doing things that scare you can help you grow, situations where being scared can be a good thing, some business situations that scared them in the past and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:27 Why this topic was chosen.

01:50 How doing things that scare you can help you grow.

02:01 How doing something that you’re scared usually leads to something valuable.

03:06 Situations where being scared can be a good thing.

04:02 How listing out things that scare you can be beneficial.

05:23 Why you should feed the fear in a positive way.

06:39 How everyone, including founders, has something that scares them.

07:21 How a lot of founders are driven by fear.

09:09 Business situations that scared Steli and Hiten. 

3 Key Points:

We grow by doing things that we’re not comfortable with.There’s something valuable at the end of fear.I would like to see more people list out the things that scare them.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on The Startup Chat we're going to talk about doing what scares you. The reason I want to talk about this is because recently my FYI co-founder Marie decided to go on a camping trip alone, but not quite alone because she was with her dog, which is probably even more scary in some ways. And in a bunch of private chats she was talking about bears and being scared of bears, and we're in California and apparently there's bears. And then on Twitter she was talking about how she was doing it. And what was really cool is a lot of other people chimed in about going on solo camping trips and dealing with the fears and things like that, making a fire and all that good stuff. So yeah, just wanted to talk about doing what scares you because it can extend to anything, personal life or work or whatever. Really just, I think something that we tend to sort of as humans, we grow by doing things that we're not comfortable with, doing things that might scare us. And at the same time we also kind of don't do them. So we lose out on growth and on opportunities like that. And personally I think there are things that I'm thinking through right now myself that probably scare me a little bit and but yet I know that they're going to help me grow. And I know that I want that and I want that experience. So yeah, just wanted to chat with you about this because I think it's a very common thing and something that a lot of people can get a bunch of value from.

[0:01:41]

Steli Efti: I love it. So I think that, I've said this many, many times that I do think that fear is the compass, fear points usually to a direction ... There's something valuable at the end of fear. There's something, either it's outside your comfort or ... It's always outside of your comfort if it's associated with fear, I guess. But doing something that you're afraid of usually will lead to something valuable, a valuable experience, a valuable skill or quite a valuable thing that you accomplish. But because there's fear in between you and that thing or that experience, it's what's holding most of us back. But I wonder, I recently wondered if that's always good advice. First, maybe and this is funky, I don't know if this is going to lead to any place worthwhile going or exploring, but are there exceptions to this? When is it right to let your fear hold you back or to let what scares you define what you do or you don't do?

Oct 08 2019

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454: The Ways We Relax

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the various things they do to relax.

It’s no secret that running a startup can be super stressful, and being stressed out can affect your performance as a founder and that of your team. So it’s important that you allow yourself to relax when you can.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why it’s important to relax, ways in which they relax and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:00 Why it’s important to relax.

01:56 One way Hiten relaxes.

03:15 Another way Hiten relaxes.

04:13 A third way Hiten relaxes.

05:06 Why relaxing is a good thing.

06:04 One of the most relaxing things for Steli.

07:25 Another way Steli relaxes. 

3 Key Points:

For some startup founders, Relaxing sounds like the opposite of what they need.For me driving is relaxing.Tension breeds more tension.

[0:00:01]

Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.

[0:00:03]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:05]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we're going to talk about the ways that we relax and I think this is going to be one where we're just going to talk about the things we do to relax. But maybe before we jump into sharing kind of some personal stories and ideas. Let's talk about why is it even important to relax? Relaxing sounds like a bad idea for many. I would imagine for many kind of early founders of fathers that are doing this for the very first time. Entrepreneurs that are doing this for the first time. Relaxing sounds like the opposite of what they need.

[0:00:42]

Hiten Shah: Yeah, On my end. This is something I have a lot of trouble with.

[0:00:45]

Steli Efti: Mm.

[0:00:46]

Hiten Shah: I think if you asked people that either work with me, probably people that work with me, because my family tends to be similar to me. So I wouldn't count them in this bucket. But people who work with me would probably say that like, he never takes a vacation because that is true. Objectively. That is true. Factually. That is true. And I don't have a good reason why I don't take a vacation. It's not that I don't like them, I probably just don't understand them the way other people do for many different reasons. And so vacations are not how I relax. So even if I took one, I don't think I would call that relaxing, which I know might sound really weird to most people. And that's what I mean by like people in my companies don't necessarily understand this and we don't talk about a lot because they obviously just assume, whatever about me. And so for me, relaxing is more about how do I ... The most relaxing thing I do is driving my car.

[0:01:56]

Steli Efti: Mm.

[0:01:57]

Hiten Shah: And it's because I generally drive my car alone the majority of the time. I wouldn't say it's relaxing driving when someone else is in the car for me. And I do that typically like multiple times a week, at least three to five times a week. And when I do it, I'm driving for 30 minutes at least and then 30 minutes back to my house. So that's a whole hour where I kind of get it to myself. Sometimes I do calls in the car, which is another form of relaxation because I'm driving and I grew up in Southern California where driving was a thing. You needed a car to get around. I had one right when I was 16 and so for me driving is relaxing, believe it or not. Speeding is also relaxing, just like driving is. So it's a little more nuanced than just driving and I really enjoy it quite frankly. And if you asked me what do you do to relax, it's that.

[0:02:54]

Steli Efti: I love that.

[0:02:54]

Hiten Shah: The only other thing I can think of is, I will basically use my time with my kids as much as possible to relax.

Oct 04 2019

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453: Should You Make Exceptions for Employees?

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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about making exceptions for employees.

There might come a time in your startup when a team member might ask you to make an exception for them either due to their performance or due to unforeseen circumstances. Deciding whether to give such exceptions to a team member can be tricky as you’ve got to consider how it will affect your workforce.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why you should always prioritize the group instead of a person, the mindset of an employer's mind when they let go of a person, why exceptions are not the new normal and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

04:33 Why you should always prioritize the group instead of the person.

05:08 The mindset of an employer's when they let go of a person.

05:00 How companies can over-index on an individual’s needs versus the group.

05:35 How to approach a situation when a team member wants to be treated differently.

06:31 Questions to ask yourself before giving a team member special treatment.

06:39 Why exceptions are not the new normal.

08:44 The different way ways to make an exception for team members.

09:54 How to judge a team member’s performance.

3 Key Points:

When you let go of someone, there’s a lot of people who spend a lot of energy on the person being let go instead of the team that’s still there.You’re over-indexing on the people leaving.Ask yourself, if you’d do this for anyone else on the team if they were in the same situation.

[0:00:00]

Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti.

[0:00:02]

Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.

[0:00:04]

Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we're going to talk about making exceptions for employees. Is this a good idea, bad idea. How to approach this topic? Here's why I want to talk about this with you, Hiten. So recently I was talking to a manager and she was describing to me kind of her team and team set up and some of the challenges that she has and she went through a list of like certain things that were challenging on one team member and challenging on another team member. Most stuff sounded kind of pretty normal. And then she talked about one of her direct reports who is this amazing human being. Great personality and person. Is bringing a lot of value to the plate but has this like very difficult life situation and all these things going on in her life and like it's just very, very messy, very complicated stuff that leads this manager to make all kinds of exceptions for her. Right? There's like, she might work less at times than her coworkers. She might get a whole weeks, where she does almost nothing. She might get special projects to work on versus the work that she was really hired for because she liked those special projects more and she needs something to support her emotional needs because she's going through trauma in her life and other areas. And as we were talking about that, like I was very much reminded of the sales teams of the past. This is a very different example. If I could share the details, it will be very hard not to feel an insane amount of like empathy for that person that's getting all these exceptions, but it reminded me very much of the sales teams of the past that will be built with these incredible assholes in them that would be crushing it when it came to their quota and just bringing in revenue and customers and just destroying it in terms of the amount of money that would bring in for the company, but just be terrible to their coworkers. Just crush morale, be terrible to new sales reps. Just be super toxic employees. Right. And I would always tell sales managers that they need to cut them loose. Like nobody is important enough, no matter how much value they bring in. For them to be basically,

Oct 01 2019

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