The Three Laws of Treponomics

I had a friend who loved to have given a dinner party.

No, there isn’t a grammatical error in that sentence. She loved it when it was over, basking in the afterglow of a wonderful evening. But she really didn’t enjoy the rush of prepping five dishes on a four burner stove, wondering if someone might be allergic to an exotic spice, or just fretting over whether or not certain individuals might come to blows over their political differences.

That’s exactly how I feel after having finished a successful crowdfunding campaign. It was like a fabulous dinner party, in that it brought a lot of good people together to accomplish something. But…unlike said dinner party, which would have concluded with pile of pots, dishes, and soiled table linens…our aftermath will be a new Teamability-powered product ready to hit the launch pad.

Crowdfunding was a steep, scary roller coaster ride, but we made it through! With more than a little help from our friends – and some strangers, too – we raised over $40,000 in 40 days on Indiegogo.com. The funds will enable us to connect the digital dots so that we can deliver Entrepreneurial Teamability™ reports: which incorporate a measure of something we’ve nicknamed ‘Trepability’. And when the technology is ready, we’ll be paying it forward by making $800,000 worth of these reports available, at no cost, to entrepreneurs and startup teams who are working to create jobs. (Wow, 20x ROI. Not bad.)

Crowdfunding has been getting a lot of press lately, but it’s still a new phenomenon, so people have been asking me about the lessons I learned from the experience. The answer would initially be “A lot!”, but I can put my finger on three specific things, which I think I knew before, but which I really know now.

Let’s call them the Three Laws of Treponomics.

1.     The whole must be greater than the sum of its parts.

There is no way to successfully navigate a crowdfunding project (or a startup) without having a team that can do more as a unit than its members could ever do separately. If you have enough money to hire a film crew, editors, creative people, and someone to yell ‘makeup’ before a powder puff hits you in the face, you can make a great-looking ‘pitch’ video. But if you have that much money, you probably don’t need to crowdfund. Our team pulled it together on a shoestring, and I still don’t really know how. Whatever needed to be done, someone did it. If they didn’t know how to do it, they figured it out. And it all happened smoothly, timely, and togetherly.

2.    Team members can work virtually, but there still needs to be something or somewhere that feels like home base.

During times of high stress, people have a greater need for sources of comfort. Notwithstanding the mashed potatoes/‘mac & cheese’ variety, the most effective kind of comfort comes from a sense of belonging. Organizations – especially young, fiscally-challenged organizations – need to incorporate activities that refresh and recharge team synergy. Daily huddles, lunch-and-laughs, Skype calls, forwarded funnies, and even gripe sessions, maintain the bonds that keep teams together despite disappointments, fears, frustrations, and even temporary defeats.

3.    Sometimes the cheapest thing you can do is to spend some money.

When you are neck deep in rough water, whip out a card and charge a life raft – just for long enough to get you to safe harbor. There were times during this experience when we wrestled with decisions to spend money that wasn’t in the budget. But if we were really sure it was a sink-or-spend situation, we did what we had to do. As it turned out, these things are what made the difference between success and failure.

So…that’s it. No big book with charts and graphs. Just three simple laws. Obey them, and you still might not be successful, but at least you’ll be giving yourself and your team the benefit of the experience.

This blog was inspired by Stacey Kaye, who interviewed me for a blog that ran on Grasshopper.com. You can read her blog here: http://grasshopper.com/blog/2012/10/9-professional-assessment-tools/ But really, if you are an entrepreneur on a limited budget (hah, that’s an oxymoron!) you really should check them out. They sell a virtual phone system that lets you sound big and successful while you’re actually running your business off of your cell phones. And the cost fits right into my third point, above – starting at about the cost of three grande lattes.

What’s Your ‘Fear Factor’?

When I started this blog, I learned that not everyone knows what a trep is. Even some entrepreneurs.

The most interesting thread in the comments I got from people was that they associated ‘trep’ with trepidation.

Let me distinguish those two words with a bit more precision.

Trep: an entrepreneur, one who incites, energizes, and/or leads an enterprise into existence, generally with great initiative and high tolerance for risk. My kinda people.

Trepidation: tremulous fear, alarm, or agitation; perturbation. Or as some might be wont to define it, scared s**tless.

These are, in fact, mutually exclusive terms.

Being a trepidation-less trep doesn’t ensure you’ll be a successful one, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And it’s not a bad idea to know where you stand. Here’s my user-friendly trep[idation] test. Just read the three choices and decide which applies most to you.

a) The only thing I can really focus on is fear.

b) I totally ignore fear.

c) It’s there, but so what?

That wasn’t too hard, was it? (If you are still vacillating, your answer is probably a).

And here’s your ‘Fear Factor’:

If you chose a), you aren’t focusing, you’re obsessing. Getting caught in the cycle of fearful rumination is incredibly bad for innovation.

If you chose b), you’re missing the kind of awareness that is essential for effectively delegating the handling of risk to someone who can worry without getting ‘stuck’, and can actually do something about it. Risk might not kill you, but why take unnecessary chances without a safety net?

If you chose c), you’ve got the awareness that fear can be and should be managed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean by you. Having gotten that far, you probably also know that you need to be spending as much of your time as possible, doing what only you can do, so you are willing to trust the right person to make sure the roof stays put, the power stays on, and there are plenty of ramen noodles in the supply closet.

Trepidation will never really go away. But treps accept that it is ‘built-in’ to what we do, and that with the right team, we can free ourselves to fly!

Treppy Labor Day!

No, that’s not a typo on ‘Happy’. It’s how I celebrate Labor Day.

There was a time when I celebrated it the usual way, joining my union in some sort of rally or march. (I can’t really remember that far back. I had a boring job so I became the grievance chairman, and I got to practice the art of making logical conclusions seem like they were the other person’s idea. Actually not a bad training ground for business…but I digress.)

Labor Day was made a federal holiday in 1894, when it was rammed through the legislative process to help business and government make peace with striking workers. This made a lot of sense when the majority of people were ‘labor’, and failing to distract them from the more socialistic movements of the time could have permanently changed nation’s course. (By the way, props to our ‘north of the border’ friends, who began celebrating an annual labor festival in Toronto a decade before one was made official here.)

On the other hand, to my knowledge, no one has ever suggested that there be an Entrepreneur’s Day in the US of A. (Coincidentally, the is a European ‘Day of the Entrepreneur’, which I applaud, but I’d really prefer a parade I can walk to.)

We entrepreneurs are both labor and management. It’s a good thing we haven’t unionized, because we’d have to spend way too much time negotiating with ourselves.

Example:

Trep Labor Janice: I demand a vacation!

Trep Manager Janice: But you have to finish the new project first!

Trep Labor Janice: Unfair! I’m going on strike!

Trep Manager Janice: Fine, but by the time we achieve a collective bargaining agreement, the business won’t even be here.

…and so on.  You get the idea.

So I have a simple suggestion. Entrepreneurs of the world unite – with each other, with the people who help you, and with those who buy your products and services. And most of all, with yourself. Make this Labor Day the day you celebrate your opportunity to launch ideas, build businesses, provide employment, and create prosperity!

Teamability for 10,000 Entrepreneurs!

It’s an exciting time here at TGI – and I’m hoping you’ll join us on our new mission! Yesterday we launched Teamability™ for 10,000 Entrepreneurs, an online Indiegogo campaign to fund the creation of new technology that – in combination with Teamability™  – will identify essential entrepreneurial skills to help entrepreneurs make better decisions about their own strengths, their ‘fit to mission’, and their startup business teams.

Research by the Kauffman Foundation* has proven that  “…without startups, there would be no net job growth in the U.S. economy.”

This is why, when we reach our funding goal, 10,000 of these new ‘Entrepreneurial Capability’ reports will be made available  at no charge to any entrepreneur or startup team, anywhere, that is working with a business accelerator or startup incubator program.

So, I have two small favors to ask of you…

First, please take a few minutes of your time to view the campaign video and/or read a short summary about it here!

Second, if you’d like to contribute, that would be great — but regardless, please pass our story on through your own network! A ‘toolbox’ on the campaign site will enable you to easily share a link via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or email.

PS – we made InnovationDAILY yesterday with a story about it!!  Check it out here!

Trep Potpourri

I’m having a potpourri of August thoughts: fragrant and inviting, reminiscent of a childhood summer day at the beach. Images of sand mingled with steamy hot dogs, optimally with the former on my feet and the latter on my tongue; sounds of the ocean blended with loving parental reminders that an hour must pass after eating before reentering the surf; the smell of sea air, borne on the crashing waves and mingled with the tang of gooey sunscreen that never quite seemed to cover all the bases.

And then there was the time we tried to make real potpourri. We had the general idea – gather and dry some flowers and leaves, mix with some seeds and stones and bark, and add some spices from Mom’s collection. You can probably guess the outcome. With nothing to hold it together or to keep the fragrance refreshed, our concoction quickly devolved into a small moldy heap. (Being impatient, we had not waited out the full drying process.)

One moment, our potpourri was almost there, and then it was not there at all.

Here’s what I learned from this, and from a variety of other similar ventures:

First, any project that has a lot of parts and pieces will almost certainly need more than one or two people to get it done.

Second, everyone needs to have the same vision of where the project is going, and what it’s supposed look like at the end. That vision usually originates in one person’s mind, but is carried through myriad details by someone else. And still others make contributions that are essential to making the vision a reality.

Third, without cooperation, communication, and camaraderie, the joys of work become submerged in stress and drudgery.

Fourth, and most important of all, if the essence of any one (or more) of the above is missing, the project may get done, but it won’t be truly successful.

In our potpourri attempt, we were missing just one thing: someone who could have guided us in tried-and-true ways to make potpourri. That might have a person of any Role, but when it comes to being a storehouse of little-known information, a Curator would be the likely one. In fact, a Curator who doesn’t have the needed information is almost certain to know where and how to get it, and would have gladly passed it on to we who were so eager to get the job done.

It’s the same with any project, for kids or grownups. Different people have different ways of meeting the needs of the team. The right team will have people who are the right fit for the team’s mission, and when they come together, work is fun, work gets done, then everyone celebrates together.

At TGI, we have just embarked on a huge project. It’s called ‘Teamability for 10,000 Entrepreneurs’, and we’ll let you know the moment it ‘goes live’!

When you see what we’re doing, you’ll understand why it took ‘all hands on deck’ to pull it together, and I hope it makes you feel that you want to play a part in the ‘project community.’ It’s easy – all it takes is for you to make a pledge in support of the project – no matter the size – and to pass along the project link (and perhaps a recommendation) to everyone you know. In addition, please let me know if you know of, or are a part of, a business incubator, entrepreneur support group, or any similar organization that could be a beneficiary of this Indiegogo campaign.

Extensive research by the Kauffman Foundation has proven, beyond any doubt, that in the U.S. entrepreneurs and their startup companies are the source of ALL new job creation. That is what’s needed the world over right now, and it’s well worth the effort.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Entrepreneur’s Vacation Day: A working day on which work doesn’t interfere with the work you really need to be working on.  – Mark Talaba

It started in January, when Paul and Jenny, our intrepid Client Services Team, put up the calendar. I mean an old-fashioned one that you can write on. Then they penciled in their well-planned vacations. Did I mention they are a team? They always coordinate with each other so business needs are never left unmet. And they are young enough to enjoy air travel, and sophisticated enough to have been places I have little desire to see, other than on a National Geographic special.

But for me, a vacation day is best spent reading or writing. What makes it a vacation day is that I’m probably doing it horizontally. With iced coffee on the side. And no phones ringing.

So we have a little discussion. They think I have to commit to a vacation because it’s good for me and if I just mark some dates off, it will happen.

But I am an entrepreneur, which means my calendar and clock are at the mercy of whomever needs something that will promote the company. It means that I don’t need to get away because I’m already there, working toward a bright but very distant future that only I can see.

When I was in grade school, they always assigned the first essay with that topic: How I Spent My Summer Vacation. My vacations then weren’t like in the storybooks. I lived in the Bronx with my parents and brother. There are no lake houses there. There is a subway that goes all the way from where we lived to Coney Island, where the hot dogs sizzled and so did we, lying on a big blanket under unrelenting sun while we waited out the prescribed one hour before jumping into the icy surf.

There may never be a summer at a lake house for me. But believe me, there is nothing like spending a vacation with your dream.