Brand Naming with Eat My Words Guru Alexandra Watkins

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/eat-your-words-with-alexandra-watkins/

from my interview with Alexandra Watkins…

eat_words“I am going to tell you how to evaluate a name, because you need to know what makes it name good and what makes a name bad. So I have created a 12 point evaluation test that is called the Smile and Scratch test. It is based on my philosophy that a name should make you smile instead of scratch your head. The test has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc., and all sorts of media. It is a great filter to use to figure out is our name good or not. Smile is an acronym for the five qualities that make a name great.

Smile stands for S suggestive. You want your name to evoke something about your brand. Don’t be random and make people guess. It should be meaningful to your audience and not just to you.

The I in smile stands for imagery. People remember pictures more easily than they remember random words or letters.

The L in smile stands for legs. You want your name to be extendable. If you have a name that lends itself to a theme, that is a name with Legs. Eat My Words is a great example. Our blog is called the Kitchen Sink. We have a package called the Whole Enchilada. You get the idea. You want a name that really can get some mileage to it.

Lastly the E in smile stands for emotional. You want a name that makes an emotional connection. If you don’t know what that means, think about have you ever bought a bottle of wine just because you like the name? That is a name that makes an emotional connection. You want a name for people to like your brand or they get it or there is something about it that catches their attention in a good way, before they even come in contact with your product as a user.

Scratches are names to scratch off the list. Spelling challenges should be crossed off the list. If your name looks like a typo that is bad. It will constantly get caught in spell check, and you always have to explain to people how to spell it. Anytime you have to explain how to spell your name, pronounce your name, what it means, you are essentially apologizing for it. That devalues your brand.

The other letters in scratch, the first C stands for copycat. You don’t want to be similar to your competitors name.

R stands for restrictive which limits your future growth. What if Amazon had called itself bookstore.com? I would not have just bought a lawnmower from bookstore.com!

Annoying is the A. That is when your name is forced or spelled backwards or it frustrates customers. Your name is part of the customers’ service experience. You want people to like it and not be frustrated.

T stands for tame. That is when your name is just flat and does not stand out.

The second C is the curse of knowledge. That is usually where engineers are involved in naming the product or company. It is something jargony but it does not mean anything to the customer.

And lastly Hard to pronounce. It’s like when you go to a restaurant and there is something on the menu that you want to order, maybe you are in a French restaurant, but you don’t order it because you don’t know how to pronounce it and you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of your date.”

 facebook 

 

Conference Networking Secrets w Tyler Wagner

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/conference-networking-secrets-w-tyler-wagner/

from my interview with Tyler Wagner…. networking

“The first conference that I went to was Succeed Faster. I was introduced to it by a guy that  had gone the year before and he said it really changed his mindset on business and really helped him to grow his business as well. I said, ‘I will give it a shot.’

I went and the people that I met were absolutely amazing. They were on a whole other level. I actually felt like I was the least successful person in the whole room. These are the people I want to be around. I want to be around people that are making a difference. So I continue to go and I put together my book which is a platform to help people get the most out of their conference experience.

One of the most important rules is to maintain your network. My first five conference rules are designed to help you get the most out of the conference, things like reaching out and investigating and getting to know the people that are going to be at the conference before you get there. That way it is not a cold introduction. That way when you’re there it is easier, you know what is going on, and it is really simple to carry on a conversation that you may have already started by email or reaching out to some other media.

After my first conference, I wasn’t sure what to do. I met all these awesome people, there are so many awesome opportunities, and there is so much that I think I can give to them but then I kind of lost touch with a lot of them. I sat down and figured it out and I find found this program called Contactually which is a program that reminds you to follow up with everybody. Once every two weeks I get a reminder to follow up with different categories of people that I have met a conferences. I follow up with them, share articles with them. My network is never been greater.”

 facebook find_me_on_google+

Liz Wilkes Creates Employee Health and Happiness

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/liz-wilkes/

from my interview with Liz Wilkes….

geny“Exubrancy is a one-stop shop for employee health and happiness. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and create a new online walking challenge or a new type of yoga for offices, we realized that there are some amazing courses out there for companies.

The issue is that a lot of companies do not have the bandwidth to necessarily know what’s best for them and what makes the most sense for their employee population and their culture. Rather than do the legwork they kind of ignore the problem. Honestly, employee culture and well-being is always important, but never urgent, so it easy to ignore.

We help companies bring the issue to the forefront and design a custom suite of products and services that make a lot of sense for getting the highest impact for their employees. Most of what we do is actually around creating events and experiences that employees share.

88% of millennial’s want to have a fun social work environment. When you’re looking at recruiting the best and brightest talent from that pool, it is really important to them that there is a ritual of doing things outside of meetings and sitting side-by-side in an open office space. Our most popular programs do trend on the wellness side, so I do a lot of on-site fitness classes and everyone loves a good chair massage. But that is our least social offering.

The companies that are investing in the sort of cultural programs are benefiting. If a person walks into the office the energy is tangible. Decor aside, when people are engaged and feeling healthier and happier, it is an automatic win for the HR department trying to convince the candidate that this is going to be a great place to work. If in interviews with a candidate, if employees can explain what working at the company is like and why it is amazing, it is a huge benefit in recruiting.

One of the issues that has small companies from doing things like this is that it does require a level of program management and tracking. To be running the program and distributing rewards with some recent technologies is quite a bit easier. There are lots of different health tech startups that are looking at small business. One very simple solution that are companies have used is to find a fitness tracking device for all of their employees. A preferred one is FitBit. It has a built-in platform that you can use for group challenges, so it is really easy for everyone to link up.”

 facebook find_me_on_google+

 

 

Google SEO Advice from Banner OS Mark Cenicola

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/banneros/

from my interview with Mark Cenicola……

socialsignals“We started our company in 1999, so we have been in business nearly 15 years now. Our original concept was one that quite frankly was a failure. The failure came from not planning properly for some of the regulations that were required to get into the business. The business we were going to start was kind of an Antiques Roadshow for the Internet. My buddy and I went out and were buying stuff at yard sales and we would buy these old books and photos and try to take it photo that we bought for $10 that was really worth $1,000 and turn around and sell it through a website.

One of the challenges we ran into was that since we wanted to maintain the inventory and do all of the purchasing ourselves, we ran up against regulations that applied to pawn shops. The local government wanted us to go through extensive background checks and at the time we are only 19 years old and we did not have a background, so we were not worried about that. But there was one thing that they required that really put the nail in the coffin for us. To try to track any goods that were stolen, they wanted us, like a pawn shop, to have a copy of a person’s ID when we bought the product from them. So can you imagine a couple of 19-year-old kids going up to a yard sale and trying to buy an old painting for three dollars and asking for a copy of their driver’s license?

We decided to let other people post their items for sale and we would compete with eBay. We thought we could do fixed price listing so it was really a classified ad site. Well, we couldn’t get any funding for it. It was that during the bust in early 2000, so our timing was terrible. One thing that we learned during this process is that we were not bad at developing technology and websites. We decided to try it as a service, and we picked up a few customers and long story short, over the next 10 or 15 years, we really built out our business helping other companies do business on the Internet.

Google has tried to make it more difficult to use automated methods to essentially game the algorithm and get to the top of Google listings. I won’t say it’s not impossible, but usually the companies that are doing that are starting to get found out and they have the disastrous situation of getting filtered or blacklisted by the search engines. Essentially you are invisible if that happens. We’re starting to see more of unscrupulous sites getting filtered out. We are also seeing an increase in social signals. The search engines are starting to use social signals to see what content is being shared. Is it being shared among high value users with respect in the community? So they are using these different signasl to determine how important the content is. So not only do you need great content, but people need to be talking about it.”

 facebook find_me_on_google+ 

 

Lawyer Eve Wright on Minimizing Risk

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/eve-wright/

from my interview with Eve Wright… eve_wright

“I will tell you a real story about me. I have always been very driven on the career side, but on my personal health and fitness, not so much. So there came a time when I was pre-diabetic and my doctor was saying, ‘you have to do something, it runs rampant in your family.’ I would make a ton of excuses like I am not a movie star, I don’t have money, I work a demanding job, and all of these sorts of things. But at the end of the day I said either I am going to do it or I am not.

So I made a commitment and it was piecemeal. It did not happen overnight, but it was piecemeal. Eventually I went from doing nothing to competing in fitness competitions. First I made up in my mind that I don’t want to live that lifestyle because I know what it is like from other family members and the challenges that they face. If I can avoid it, I did want to do it. If it meant changing my diet, that’s what I did. So I changed my diet and started working out with somebody.

Recently I competed in a fitness competition and I did not win. Of course that is what I was focused on. But my friends were just impressed that I did it. It puts things in a different frame of mind. Here was a big motivator for me and I talk about in my book how you overcome the fear of failure and I give strategies in which you can use fear to motivate and propel you.

You you need a parachute to skydive twice. Not just once. It’s a metaphor for a calculated risk taking. We’ve already talked about that I am a lawyer. So I am trained to minimize risk which is makes you eventually socialized to being risk adverse. I’m a big proponent of if you don’t do anything differently, you won’t get anything different. If you do everything the same way, you will get what you always got. There are ways that you can fold the situation, change things out so you can expand and take some risk so you can experience some upside. But you are doing what you can to minimize the downside. So it means maybe you wont take your whole life savings and invest in this business that you don’t have any experience in doing, but invest a little money and learn a skill set or join a club for networking purposes. Or rather than doing a wholesale lease, reduce risk by selling online to get over the hump. My husband and I took a calculated risk when we opened our business.

This is something that my husband was passionate about and I agreed that it made a lot of sense. There were a rash of kick in home invasions. He said if someone comes in here, we have the door, we have cameras, we have surveillance and all that does is film someone, it does not prevent them from coming in. And he said, ‘no this is important we have to do this.’ So he sat down and sketched out some ideas with a friend who works in the manufacturing industry. They crafted a very simple but unique lock mechanism for a security bar and interior door security bar. But I said the only way we will sell this is if it is decorative, I don’t want to look like we are living in a prison. Neither one of us knew about manufacturing but we partnered with people who knew and did have particular expertise. And we were able to talk to some friends who are independent outside reps, and that’s how we got started. We are just slowly growing the business, while it took some cash to start up, it’s not like we bought a factory or a warehouse with equipment and all of the sorts of things. We want to do this but we said we have to find a way to do it without leveraging our future.”

 facebook 

 

Business Rules from Out Think Author Shawn Hunter

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/shawn-hunter/

From my interview with Shawn Hunter….

Shawn_Hunter“My father and I were running a business and we had run out of money. We are going to have to get inventive very quickly. One of the things that we did was we looked around and tried to find organizations that were creating something quite similar to us and we turned into resellers. We did not have this overhead of producing our own broadcasts and services. We were effectively acting as resellers. It took care of that immense overhead burden while we generated a market. We spent about 6 to 8 months generating a strong audience, learning how to be effective marketers.

The second thing is the old adage of hire slowly and fire quickly. It is true. We hired a couple people and they were indeed the wrong people. We hired to quickly and then we kept them on to long. That was one of the lessons we learned after we sold the business to SkillSoft. We learn the rigors and value of a big business and what they can do to make very quick decisions. At the time we were entrepreneurs and too slow to change. If I had any do overs, I would make decisions a lot quicker and with more confidence.

The last piece of advice is be slow to take on investors and partners. It may be tempting to think I really need a partner to do this or a group of investors to do that, but you should take money very cautiously because not only will they want equity and return, but they will want a sense of control. You have to have a great deal of confidence and conviction that you are on the right path. That is not to say work inside of a box or closet. You have to reach out to experts to get their opinion, but have confidence in your direction.

There are a couple of rules to remember in businesses of any size. One is quality before cheaper, better before cheaper. Once you go cheaper you get on this downward spiral of chasing pennies. You want to make sure you’re producing quality that is signature and reflective of the identity of the organization and your beliefs. And another is revenue before costs. Focus on gaining new dollars as opposed to cutting costs. That is a tough one particularly for a bootstrapping entrepreneur who doesn’t have a lot of cash. But it is important to focus on quality and revenue going to cheaper and cutting costs.

If you get 10 people in a room and say let’s be really creative and brainstorm and get a ton of ideas, most of them will not be remarkable or executable. It’s about execution, that is what we are going for. To really be creativity you need some time alone. In advance of any brainstorming our group think activity, you want to give pre-work so people come prepared with well baked, well thought out ideas that they can pitch. The second thing you want to do is take breaks and let people reflect, digest and synthesize these ideas. It is an iterative process. Sitting in a room for an hour brainstorming, you might have some cool ideas, but they might not match up with the real world.”

 facebook 

Testing & Implementing New Ideas w Brendan Kane

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/brendan-kane/

From my interview with Brendan Kane….

brendan_kane“I have definitely suffered from shiny ball syndrome (thinking that you can take on an infinite number of cool projects) in the past and it is difficult to focus at times, but at the end of the day what I have learned, and I learned this the hard way by making mistakes, is that you really have to test your idea and validate different ideas to find out what the best path to go down is. You just can’t say, ‘oh I know this is going to work just because I believe it is going to work.’ Because at the end of the day, nine times out of 10 whatever you build is going to turn into something completely different.

I am a big proponent of testing ideas and testing the right idea to figure out what is the best path to really focus on. In some ways it can get distracting but in other ways I think it is very beneficial. My core skill set is building and the building process of taking an idea from nothing and getting it up and off the ground and launching it. And then I generally partner with people that are very good at the operational side of things and scaling and growing the business. That is my core skill set. My offering is helping people and just building products and getting them out the door and shipping them.

What I have learned from the very successful people that I have worked with is that you need to focus on what you are good at. And then find other people to fill in the blanks. The team is the most important thing. You cannot do it on your own if you want to have real success. I am a big proponent of building products that leverage pre-existing traffic from other sources. A perfect example of that is YouTube. YouTube grew and sold for $1.6 billion in less than 16 months because they leveraged all of MySpace’s traffic and essentially stole it. When someone put a video on their MySpace profile and then everyone else would see it and would want their own YouTube player on their MySpace profile.

That is why I have worked so extensively around celebrity and AskaGuru revolves around celebrities in a sense, the self-development space, because these people have already amassed so much traffic. Instead of creating something from scratch and expecting to market something from scratch which is very times consuming and costly, go out and leverage the traffic of other places to build audience.”

 

 

Next Generation Leadership w Robert McMillan

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/robert-mcmillan/

From my interview with Robert McMillan…. Robert_McMillan

“When you think about the next generation in this book called NextGen the message is two fold. We need to develop the next generation of leaders who are going to take the companies, the organizations, and the economy to the next level. But in parallel, what we have is a challenge with organizations, associations and companies trying to develop the next product, the next service today. They are trying to come up with the next generation of product or service. You really can’t do that unless each leader in the organization evolves and develops into the NextGen leader that they were designed to be.

It is a combination of bringing the next leaders to take their rank and position in the company and those individuals who are currently in leadership roles evolving and developing and growing and making themselves a better leader, so you connect the dots. That’s the whole idea and concept of the NextGen leader.

I believe that everybody has the leadership skills and capabilities. That is the first thing that I have to mention, because that is the way the book is designed to speak. When I say that, what seems to be missing is that the old school leaders have gone down this path of doing what we refer to as creating generic leaders. You know that person who is very similar and they have that style like Bob or Mary? That is how the old-school developed their leadership pipeline. Some people say we clone leaders.

What happens is that the next general leaders that are coming behind them, they are not like Bob or Mary and quite frankly they don’t want to be. They want to be authentic and be themselves. What they are operating in with in our system, which we refer to as a generic. They just have that raw talent and skill and they are trying to be themselves, but yet the old-school leadership style with the old generation leader is trying to mold them into a carbon copy of what they are. And they are getting that resistance.

Younger workers need to be lead differently. That is the basis of our model. What we have developed is what we refer to as the Six Gen Leadership System which is a coaching system, and because everybody in that generation has been given a trophy whether they win or lose, guess what they also need? They need coaching!

When we talk about leadership there are many definitions and styles associated with leadership. The challenge is identifying that leadership style or trait that you can actually see. One of the senses is having a sight for leadership. The idea of it is picking out the traits, skills,  emotions, and behaviors that others demonstrate and asking the question, ‘how are others seeing me from a leadership standpoint?’ Am I displaying those leadership styles and traits that are favorable and actually leading the organization to results? From an entrepreneurial standpoint, that is one of the things that is critical. Entrepreneurs play all facets and all roles and have to have all the behaviors and traits, because a lot of the individuals around them are actually watching and seeing how they are leaving. So leadership style is critical.”

 facebook 

How to Invent with Patricia Nolan-Brown

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/patricia-nolan-brown/

from my interview with Patricia Nolan-Brown…

PatriciaNolanBrown“I had my first daughter and put her in my vehicle and proceeded to drive, and I realized that I could not see her in her rear facing car seat. When a driver looks in the rearview mirror, they just see the back of the car seat, no baby. This was way back before there were any products on the market to solve this problem. I was driving one day and was getting frustrated, because I could not hear my daughter and I would put my arm behind and kind of pinch her cheeks which wasn’t too nice, but I had to make sure that she was okay.

I went home to my mom and was venting to her saying, ‘I can’t believe there is nothing in the stores to let you see a baby in the backseat.’ In a moment that has since become family history she said, ‘why don’t you invent it.’ I sort of looked at her and I said, ‘I am going to do that.’ And I did.

I began working with plastic mirrors to make one up in the car. I figured out how to make one. I am a graphic artist by trade so I think I could see the end product in my mind and work backwards. But I had to figure it all out, this was over 20 years ago now. There was no Internet to help. You can do so much more now. I am so excited to tell people with ideas that all of the research that you need is at your fingertips. Do not fall prey to people who say they can help you for $10,000 or something like that.

I meet a lot of people who have ideas, but they just can’t get it from their mind to the prototype stage or a product. I think it was that I challenged myself to figure it out, because I like the process of things. Another thing I teach in the book, I tell people never mortgage your house to get into your retirement or college funds because you don’t need to do that.

In the book I have broken down the whole process of invention into six steps. I also teach people how to do a little bit of critical initial research before you spend any money. And I tell people where to find the components to assemble at home if your idea is easy enough. Eventually, I think plan A for every inventor should be to license to a company. They can take it off into the sunset for you.

I went to a patent attorney and said, ‘I want to patent all different versions so no one comes in and kicks me out of the game.’ He said, ‘well you don’t want to be your own competition’ and he discouraged that. And I thought for a few minutes and I said, ‘yes I do want to be my own competition!’ And it’s a good thing that I did. That’s a lesson in the book, as well, that you have to trust your own instincts. Not one of my hired professionals has ever been 100% correct. That’s okay because they know the field they are in, but this is something you are thinking of that is brand-new, so you have to forge ahead with what you think.”

 facebook find_me_on_google+

 

 

Life Is a Decision with Shawn Shewchuk

http://www.schoolforstartups.com/shawn-shewchuk/

from my interview with Shawn Shewchuk….

past“I thought I had the world by the tail. I had a good job. I was buying real estate investment properties. I was married and had a nice house. I thought I had it all. Within a very short period of time I ended up with no real estate, no job, and I had nowhere to live. I will never forget driving through downtown Calgary and thinking to myself, ‘where am I going? I am driving a car that I owe money to the bank on, I have nowhere to live.’ For me it was a really big realization. This is not how life is supposed to get. Some of us had a plan where we wanted to see our lives go and achieve. And I was not there.

One of my friends said, ‘if you live in the past, the past will become your future.’ I asked, ‘what do you know about me?’ A year or so later that kind of came back and hit me on the side of the head. He was right. I decided at that point to make a shift. I went from making $15,000 to making $100,000 and building a brand-new home. Some of these things that we have been through, dark times, and I really think that anyone who is been there, there is always more. We stand in our own way. If you look at young people, they want to make a difference on this planet. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be lulled into the sense of satisfaction. We allow the status quo or societal norms to sort of dictate to us what we do or don’t do in life. We become outer directed, instead of inner directed. We are permitting the norms or the media to dictate to us how we live, or how we survive. I don’t think most people are actually thriving. We just do what we are taught to do or conditioned to do to get by. When it comes to actually making a difference, the people who want to go into business for themselves or take that leap of faith, one of the keys to that is ‘let’s do it.’ I’m not saying to do it blindly, but there is a risk involved, and if you are willing to take the risk, the rewards can be fantastic.

It came down to a decision. I came to a point time where I went what am I doing? I know I can do better, I have done better, and there are so many things I want to do. I made a decision. I was stagnant, I believe you can only be stagnant for so long, as you are only moving forward or backward. I decided to make a shift in my life. That decision was something I was never going to go back on. I was never going to allow myself to change. A lot of it comes down to be extremely persistent and tenacious. And really understanding that we need to persevere. I made a decision that I was going to go into business for myself and I went and did that.”

 facebook find_me_on_google+