StartupMana

My Startup Musings, Advice, Inspiration, and Adventures

Working Efficiently

 

To make daily progress on your startup and really fuel growth you need to be working efficiently. This can be a real challenge! Especially when you have tons of deliverables, a to do list that can reach a couple pages long, meetings, etc…

Here are four tips to help ensure your working efficiently every day that I’ve come to rely on:

1. Break It Down

List your main goals for the week, such as ship that new feature, improve signup conversion rates, follow up on leads or respond to all the emails built up in your inbox. Try not to get carried away with too many goals, just focus on the the most important, big picture items.

Every morning write down your goals for the day. Since most of us are not robots it is a good idea to have a variety of tasks/goals. Keep it to 1 or 2 challenging goals and a couple easy wins (more on this below). During the day make sure to mark off each goals as you complete it! You’ll be surprised how good it feels after you get in the routine of conquering your daily goals.

Remember to keep your list of goals! It is a great way to gain insight on how to improve your planning and efficiency!

2. Easy Wins

You should love easy win! Unless you really enjoying smashing your head up against a wall, again and again, it can be wise to give yourself easy wins each day. It helps build moment, gives you a break from more challenging tasks, and ensures you are making steady progress every day. You’ll be surprised what a couple easy wins will do for your moral and your startup.

Only have big goals/tasks? Break them down into smaller pieces and spread them across the week. Don’t focus on the fact that you have 100+ follow up emails with prospective clients, just try to get to 5-10 complete for the day.

3. Ask for Help

At no time should you be wasting time wondering what to work on, how to go about doing it, or continuing to work on something despite the probability of success dwindling to almost nothing. In a big corporation you can get away with not working efficiently, but in a small team your wasting everyones time. Remember, its not about ego, it’s about working efficiently to achieve a common goal! If your struggling with something and haven’t found a solution in a reasonable time ask someone for help. Why waste hours when it could only take a couple minutes?

If you have an anti-social team that gets grumpy about being interrupted ask them the best way to get a quick question answered. Find those people on your team who understand that a few minutes a couple times a week can save you hours leading to the entire startup making more efficient progress on goals. When you have a question or need advice ask for a few minutes of their time.

4. Work Smarter

Think for a couple minutes before you leap into your goals/tasks for the day. This is key to working efficiently! It can be tempting to jump right in. With a little forethought and planning you can save yourself a ton of time. If you don’t know how to tackle something? See tip #3. Struggling to make daily progress? See tip #1. Frustrated, burnt out and want to throw in the towel? See tip #2.

If all else fails… Remember, it’s about building momentum and making daily progress not perfection!

Explore. Dream. Discover

On Adventure

Great advice from H. Jackson Brown Jr. on living without regret, taking on risky endeavors and going for your dreams.

Personal Development at Startups

Flower Blossoming

Personal development  drastically improves your capabilities as an entrepreneur and contribution at a startup. Despite the importance of personal development it can be easy to get lost in working insane hour. Below I’ve listed a few of the most important lessons I learned from trial and error  on how to cultivate personal development while on the startup grind.

Background Story

To give a little background, in 2006 I started a small web consulting company  in college that quickly grew into a small team in the US and Ukraine. The company had constant problems, I made tons of mistakes, I worked  80-100+ hours a week  while trying to finish up a degree in biocultural anthropology at the University of Washington.

Tip 1: Focus On What Really Matters

It is tempting to build a big list of goals for personal development. Don’t! Instead prioritize and focus on the big picture! Choose no more than 3 personal development goals for the year. Yes, only 3 personal development goals for an entire year. Remember that we want to achieve success not failure!

With many years of life left ahead of you just think how much you can achieve in a couple years if you actually stick to them, and work towards your 3 personal development goals each year.

Back in 2006 my 3 personal development goals for the year were:

1. Cultivate Indomitable Spirit

I would get discouraged and frustrated when things went wrong or I made mistakes. This hurt my performance, leadership and decision making. Whenever I felt discouraged or frustrated I would consciously make the decision to not let it crush my spirit or ruin my day.

2. 8 Hours A Day

I often felt like I only wanted to put in a couple hours at the end of a long week. With an operation that required daily oversight this wasn’t really an option. I also lacked a lot of experience and realized that if I invested time learning everyday I made fewer errors and better decisions.

3. Make It Happen

I used this third goal as more of a personal mantra. When faced with challenges I would remind myself that it was my responsibility to make it happen. This would help me stay on track and work through problems that often appeared insurmountable upon initial analysis.

Tip 2: Goals Belong On The Ceiling Above Your Bed

It is easy to forget about your personal development goals every once and awhile. Don’t! Here is the REAL SECRET to achieve your personal development goals. Write them down on a piece of paper using a permanent market and tape them to the ceiling above your bed. It may sound strange but this is critical when your working like crazy. Every morning when you wake up your personal development goals will be staring back at you. Every evening when you go to bed they will  be there reminding you to reflect on the day. Even if you don’t want to think about them… good luck!

Tip 3: Don’t Be Hard On Yourself

They are called personal development goals for a reason! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just the act of reminding yourself of the goals each day and taking a personal inventory at the end of the day will lead to progress. Remember, these are your personal development goals for the year, not the month, week or day! In some cases they might be your personal development goals for multiple years. Almost 7 years later Indomitable Spirit is still on my list!

 

On Greatness

Godfather on Great Men

 

An important reminder from the Godfather that greatness is born out of hard work, perseverance, and dedication.

 

Email Marketing is Dead

If you need customers and are short on time and money email marketing is definitely not dead!

In this post I’ll share the basics of how to develop a successful email marketing strategy for your startup. It will cost less than $100, require some basic web/computer skills and take 1-5 hours of your time each week.

KLR 650 Side Profile

I used this same strategy last year with a publisher network to acquire 700+ customers in less than 60 days while on a 1,500+ mile motorcycle trip up the west coast.

Get Customer Emails

Before you can get started a ton of email address are required. Lots of services and platforms exist that will sell you email addresses. Don’t waste your money! Instead, spend your money on a scrapper to collect email addresses from directories and websites.

I use Scrapebox, a very versatile tool that can be purchased for $97. Depending on your needs, you might want to use another scrapper or build your own. Once you have a scrapper setup, build a list of directories and websites to scrape. Plug them into your scrapper and wait while it collect email addresses.

Create A Landing Page

When someone opens your email you want to direct them to a landing page to signup for your service/product or opt-in to receive more information. In the beginning keep it simple. A basic landing page and contact form is good enough to get started. Later on you can invest time into testing landing page designs, build free eBooks to give away and create drip email campaign.

Don’t Get Blacklisted

Don’t use an email address associated with your domain name (ex: johndoe@mydomain.com). It can lead to your domain getting blacklisted. Create a couple email accounts with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail.

Be CAN-SPAM Compliant

Take a few minutes to read through CAN-SPAM. If you violate the rules it can get expensive and painful fast! Make sure you include your business name, address, and a method for recipients to unsubscribe on every email you send out!

Create Variations, Test and Repeat

Email marketing is a numbers game! When starting out your conversion rate will be terrible. Build multiple variations with different subjects, pitches and landing pages to improve your conversion rate. Just make sure to use analytics to track email click through rate and landing page performance.

Find Simplicity

Out of clutter, find simplicity.

 

A great reminder from Albert Einstein to find simplicity in the clutter to discover elegant solutions, new opportunities, and disruption ideas.

Improve Your Twitter Profile

Marketing your startup on Twitter begins with a well designed Twitter profile. Here are 3 tips to improve your startup’s Twitter profile:

Your Username Matters

Choose a username that customers can’t help but want to follow. Already have a Twitter profile using your startups name? No problem. Create an additional profile that your target customer will find irresistible. Spend a few minutes each day to share valuable content, industry news, and blog posts from thought leaders. Short on time? Automate the entire process.

A Bio Should Communicate Value

Treat your Twitter Bio like a 160 character personal ad! Break your bio into two parts. Part one, a short, sweet, targeted value proposition that will make your ideal customer drool. Part two, a short list of the valuable stuff you tweet on a regular basis.

Use Profile Images That Stands Out

Don’t just use a smiling photo of yourself or your startup’s logo except if you are ridiculously attractive, wear a costume, have a weird face or a seriously awesome logo. Remember that you want to stand out in a sea of startups competing for a chance to woo prospective customers on Twitter.

Startup Focus

Buddha Startup Focus

A good reminder that startups are built a day at a time. Dreaming about the future or reflecting on the past has a time and place but it doesn’t build startups.