How to Fail Less at the Start

Starting anything from scratch is no easy task. The odds are stacked against you.

While starting companies, divisions, departments and even a new role will always come with a highly likelihood of failure, there’s more than a few things to be said about putting yourself in the best possible position NOT to fail.

From years of failures, usually 20 or so before I hit paydirt, there is definitely a number of things that you can do to help yourself out.

Here’s 10 things to think about when it comes to failing less at the start.

(Regardless of outcome, always remember that failure does not mean the end of the world. Failure lies behind every success.)

Have a budget and manage a profit and loss statement from the beginning

Numbers don’t lie. Understanding the total available investment or budget prior to starting anything is critical for you. A definitive number makes goal setting realistic and time frames for success or financial return clear. Having this number to start and a profit/loss statement based on it that is reviewed each month makes the financial realities more clear for the team around you.

Know your drop-dead date

There is only so much money and time provided to you for an investment return. It is vital that the number of months an operation can remain viable with existing cash reserves is known across the entire team. Doing this will ensure your work efforts are better prioritized and the urgency to deliver is heightened. It’s also a great way to understand your investment partner’s expectations.

Speak with investors and stakeholders frequently

Unless you are using all of your own money (in which case you may already be talking to yourself) to start, it is paramount that frequent, open and candid conversations are had with your investors and key stakeholders about progress or lack thereof. Remember that it’s their money, name, reputation, life too. Not only is this a simple respect thing, it also allows you to demonstrate command of the operation, project potential pitfalls, discuss failures and even gain empathy, which will be needed often in any early stage company, business unit or project.
Continue reading

Focus on Behaviors, Not Goals, in the New Year

Put down your New Year goal sheet for a minute.

A client of mine, GradFly CEO Oscar Pedroso, shot me an interesting article yesterday about setting goals.

Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

If you have time, take 10 minutes read it in its entirety. It’s well worth it.

Goals are good, but is there something better?

You know the traditional business speak about goals and goal setting. That goals are the basis of any plan and that without a goal, you have nothing that you are striving for.

Is that always true?
The general concept behind the author’s article is that goal setting is good, but it’s not the end all be all. That goals, while good, can often cause issues, brought on by short term thinking or distress due to lack of achievement.

As a goal oriented person myself, I couldn’t agree more. With a new year upon us, what better time than to share some more thoughts on goals and how you can more easily deal with them.
Continue reading

What Has Garrett Been Doing? A 90 Day Update

Starting your own business is like walking across an invisible bridge a la Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. A little bit of faith to know its there, mixed with fearlessness to get you to take the first steps across is what’s needed to succeed.

Happy New Year! Hope you rang it in with style.

It’s been exactly 90 days since I left VoIP Supply to launch Pitch + Pivot, a sales and marketing consultancy, that provides expertise, advice, execution that drives revenue growth, new customer acquisition and organizational change for startups, early stage and transitioning companies.

Many of you, because of the holidays, or out your own curiosity, have been reaching out in recent weeks to see how things are going. Rather than try to respond in kind to everyone individually, I thought I’d write out this post for those of you who may have been wondering (and anyone else).

(If you already know what I’ve been up to, please skip ahead to signing-up for my newsletter.)

It’s simpler to send a link then write this out hundreds of times. Shoot me 🙂

Taking the leap of faith

As you might imagine, deciding to leave a role that you created at a company you’ve helped build for almost a decade can be scary. It was for me, the first few weeks. It as well as humbling, challenging…and the one thing no emphasizes enough, a lot of FUN!

I once read that entrepreneurs don’t know the outcome of what they are attempting, they just aren’t scared to fail. That the most successful of people will tell you they have no idea what they are doing, but they will however tell you they are finding themselves.

When it comes to this recent journey, finding myself I am. Scared of what comes next, positive or negative, I no longer am.

I know this is the direction I need to be going.

Not lost, but still not found

The last 90 days have been an incredible journey of self reflection, gut checks, thinking and exploring who I am and what I should be doing with my personal and professional life.

I’m not exactly lost, but I haven’t yet completely found my calling. Or at least fully realized it yet.

That’s why over the last 90 days I’ve been blessed, humbled and overwhelmed by the support from my first set of clients across a number of engagements. These great set of folks have shown faith in my abilities, belief in the future I would like to build and allow me to deliver value each and every day.

Thanks to them, I’m finding my way and Pitch + Pivot is off to a great start. If you’re reading, you rock.

Thanks again.

Zero to this is a business in 90 days

Over the last 90 days I’ve been fortunate enough to engage a number of companies about their sales/marketing problems and have secured a number of engagements that have me booked through 2014.

From trainings to strategic business planning, building channel sales programs to executing on SEO campaigns, there’s been no one size fits all package yet, but the work is fun, pays the bills and is making some profit for reinvestment into growth, new ideas or a rainy day.

It’s times like these I thank my lucky stars for a lot of the work done early in my career. Without the opportunities made available, constant hustle and that darn blog I started, I wouldn’t have had the network to tap into and turn Pitch + Pivot into a real business, with real potential to grow beyond initial expectation, this quickly.

We’re no McKinsey or R/GA, but are delivering results, changing mindsets and transforming the way our clients do business. I don’t see Pitch + Pivot stopping its current growth any time soon and I said “we” just now because I am looking forward to bringing on my first full time employees over the coming months.

But before I get to all that…

The next 90 days

If I thought the first 90 days went by fast, was a little hairy and often chaotic, the next 90 days should put me to the test. At least that’s how the plan is looking.

While successful in closing a number of engagements, it has become very clear that solo consulting, advisement, mentoring and even project execution has its limits. Nothing wrong with that per se, because it’s a joy handcrafting everything yourself, except with my personality type, I know it will lead to burnout quickly.

After reflecting, I realized that I’d get the same joy out of helping others build their own practice, in the same areas as mine or in complementary ones to increase Pitch + Pivot’s offerings. Plus someone to help cover so I can take a vacation would be nice.

Soon I will begin recruiting for some positions and contractors to assist me in the execution of certain projects, freeing my time to be spent on the most critical client tasks, while also allowing for some time to build complementary offerings to our consulting services. Over the next 90 days, I will also be spending my early mornings and weekends creating standalone education and training products.

It’s my hope that these products eventually forming the basis for a much larger idea that’s been swirling around in my head for a while now.

While I’d always like face-to-face sessions and project execution to be a part of what I do, but in reality I also want to find ways to reach and help more people. I know this can be done through writing, audio and video.

The next best thing to me or someone smarter than me in the flesh. From a Pitch + Pivot business perspective it also makes sense to have a lower touch, more scalable service at a price point any business, or person, can afford.

Okay, I’m starting to sound a bit Tony Robbins here. It’s not like that, I promise.

Stay tuned for more on this as it unfolds over the coming months.

Keep in touch with my first product

One product that I have had wanted to create for years was a newsletter.

I like to write and every day I read so many articles, send to my social media feeds and share privately via email. I thought that it’d be valuable to pull that all into a newsletter on business sales, marketing, development, optimization and transformation.

Design it around a monthly topic with original commentary, editorial on that topic and you’ve got a resource you look forward to receiving.

Well, that’s what I am building. It’s almost finished.

You can sign-up here. You’ll be smarter and more successful if you do.

More details to come to those who sign-up, but expect the first email to come near the end of this month.

I appreciate your support.

Thanks for reading, don’t hesitate to connect

We’re already at 1,061 words, hitting my quota for the day. I guess that means I should wrap this up.

And thank you for reading through to this point.

I hope you have a successful start to your quarter and I look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks.

Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+.

All my best,

P.S. Don’t forget to sign-up for the newsletter either. It’ll be the best way to stay in touch with me.

College is an investment

Peter Thiel the “legendary” investor who brought us companies like PayPal has an interesting “thesis” on higher education; it’s in a bubble.

It’s true that college is losing relevancy in many fields and market sectors. And yes it is becoming more and more expensive to attend. Heck as someone who went to school to be a teacher (and never became one because of what I saw “in” the system), the whole education system in this country needs an overhaul. Fast.

However, education, college or otherwise, should always be thought of as an investment. An investment that includes time plus money (and interest in some cases), which needs ultimately to provide a return over time (an increased wage over what would be earned without the education). In the past college was a great investment because it gave a great return (like Microsoft when it was a growth stock).

Having a college degree all but ensured you would make X% more per year (and thus you could afford the loan repayment while still having more cash in your pocket (your return)).

Continue reading

Every Day is a Contract Year

Much of what I’ve learned about the world of business has its roots in my amateur athletics career. Whether you realize it or not sports and business have many parellels (probably because sports are business), especially when it comes to the areas of talent and performance.

Take the “contract year” phenomenon for example.

Every year a handful of veteran players emerge to dominate professional sports leagues; seemingly from nowhere. It’s the forward who scores 10 goals a year his first three years in the league, then all of sudden nets 40 in his fourth year.

Usually their herculean efforts are spurned by the almighty “contract year.” The year that proceeds becoming a free agent, infamous for inflated performances, because the player knows that the better they perform the more they will make the next year.

The problem with the contract year for teams and players is that the player is often solely judged on that last and is compensated into the future and rarely repeats this performance.

It can be seen year after year. A player gets hot, gets a big contract, then stinks it up until they’re released or come on in another contract year).

Now most of us don’t have contract years, nor the luxury to coast for a few years. We’re somewhere between getting the job done and, well, not.

But what if you played every day like it was your contract year? If you played every day like you’re trying to earn that big signing bonus, salary, promotion or whatever else it is that you’ve got your eye on.

And what if after you’ve got it, you don’t stop, but keep going. Sort of like you had never achieved the goal at all.

What would the impact be on your life, your career and your success?

Unless you’re a rookie, fresh out of college, looking to get drafted, chances are that you’re a veteran somewhere and have this choice every day. You can play every day like it is a contract year or you can not.

Think about it.

Most people jump through all sorts of hoops to get a great job only to coast. Sales professionals kill themselves to land that big deal, only to never call the customer again. Entrepreneurs beg, borrow and steal to get their enterprise off the ground, only to kick back once things are rolling.

My advice?

Make every snap count. Compete. Compete. Compete. With your boss, your peers, but most importantly compete with yourself.

Because unlike that professional athlete, you can’t afford to coast. You’ve got too much to play for.