Finding “How Can We Make This Work” People

You come to me with ideas
You say they’re just pieces, so I’m puzzled
– Eminem (Dr Dre – I Need a Doctor)

People usually respond in one of 2 ways to hearing about a new idea. Either they say “how can this work” or they say “this can’t work because of X”. One reaction opens a dialog and the other shuts it down. Some people don’t understand that the idea itself doesn’t matter, it’s just a jumping off point for a conversation. When the conversation is shut down and you end up having to defend the basic validity of having an idea – it really kills the mood.

It’s just an idea for god’s sakes!

Ideas aren’t inherently bad or good, they are jumping off points for thinking. Who can say which of a barrage of ideas was the one that led to a radical solution to a tough problem? Nobody. It’s just too fluid to judge. The conversation around the idea is what is important and is vital to expanding how we think through problems and the interact with the world around us.

This simple reaction has become a simple test when meeting and hiring new people and it has proved remarkably adapt at predicting how well we’ll get along.

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Finding “How Can We Make This Work” People

Have The Guts To Say No

If you love me
tell me you love me
don’t stab me man
– 50 Cent (High All The Time)

For some reason, many people seem to have been conditioned over time to choose tact over honesty. In both personal and business life this manifests itself as white lies, dropped e-mail threads, and ultimately, resentment. Why can’t we as a society be upfront with our thoughts and feelings? What is there lose?

Last week, I got an email from a friend talking about another entrepreneur: “[xyz knowledgeable entrepreneur] is totally unresponsive. To a point where I’ve written him off….all his friends believe the drop off is due to ego, he’s too good for people now”. Ugh, can you think of a worse insult for an entrepreneur (or for anyone)?

Like many of you I get a good amount of unsolicited requests, resumes and other small-asks. It’s annoying, sure, but I don’t ignore them, and usually send a polite “Sorry, but I can’t do this” response. No need to go through the rig-a-ma-roll of explaining the reasoning for your decision, just be direct and up-front. As adults, we should be accustomed to rejection (hell, entrepreneurs even more so) but I know for myself, and nearly everyone I know, hearing directly “no” is 100X better than being ignored, or worse, being lied to.

There are a million and one reasons why you may not want, or be able, to help someone. Have the decency and guts to close the loop and say what you think. We’ll be more productive, happy and successful for it.

Have The Guts To Say No

Signing a Deal is Like Dating & Other Startup Metaphors

Drop it like it’s hot

-Lil Wayne

I’m a huge fan of metaphors. In fact, they are so prevalent within Card Gnome and the wider startup scene that it’s easy to forget that you are even using them. Has anyone else caught themselves projecting a metaphor onto reality? Literally imagining “getting up to bat” before a presentation?

In any case, it seemed fitting to write a post about a few of the ones that fit startups well:

Startups are like rock bands: Much like a new company, a new band needs to find its product market fit, communicate with fans and find repeatable ways to build their base. If they want to make their band something more than a “lifestyle” enhancer, they must be able to scale it.

Entrepreneurs are like surfers: Each wave is an opportunity. You need to learn how to pick your waves and be comfortable that even if you do everything perfectly you still may get absolutely pummeled by it. You can’t ride every wave and once you’ve committed it’s not easy to bail without some pain.

Signing a deal is like dating: There is a highly choreographed dance that happens with each potential deal. When do you call? What do you say? How should you say it? Who initiates what? Just like dating the girl/guy of your dreams, all of these things are extremely important to how things work out and how power is eventually leveraged in the resulting relationship.

I know there are a ton more, drop them like they’re hot in the comments.

Signing a Deal is Like Dating & Other Startup Metaphors

How I got a 60yr old to sign-up for Twitter

“We know you got a brick but sell ’em twenties til they tired”

-Jay-Z “1-900-Hustler”

I had dinner last night with a friend’s father who “didn’t see the point of social networking” but is otherwise a very progressive and intelligent thinker. After hearing his thoughts, it was clear that it wasn’t that he didn’t “see the point,” but that no one had ever showed him how it could fit into his already extensive information gathering routine. I decided to change that.

My key point was that Twitter could help him get news from his trusted sources faster and enable him to interact with the influencers he’s followed for years. It was also important for him to see that he didn’t need to divulge private information to gain access to the system.

The first order of business was demonstrating that all his news sources (like Car & Driver) were tweeting the same news he read in the paper and magazines in real-time online. Then we found a couple influencers (Mario Andretti) that were tweeting with fans, and giving exclusive information on what they were up-to. He exclaimed “I love to hear that he presented Sebastian Vettel with an award in the UK, thats great information.”

At this point it was already obvious that he was interested, so to finish off the debate I explained how FlipBoard works. The fact that he can get all of this real-time information in the same lovable magazine format that he already uses, put it over the top. Boom, I saw his eyes light up as he said “ok, I’m starting to get interested.” Which for a 60yr old guy is about as close as you are going to get to an affirmation that you’ve convinced him.

How I got a 60yr old to sign-up for Twitter

Appraisals, the GE way

During our five years at GE, Chad and I went through a rigorous appraisal process. Through open, honest and frequent feedback we learned a lot about ourselves and about how others view us. A key aspect of the process was that our managers and mentors actively supported our development on a daily basis, there were no surprises during formal reviews. It is the only GE practice that we copied into our new organization in its entirety. Startups don’t usually have rigid processes, but this is one that we think other startups owe to their teams and themselves. So here is how it works:

Step 1 – One manager talks with everyone on the team about the person being reviewed

Step 2 – One manager writes up a review based on 5 criteria:

Critical thinking – Clear thinking, problem solving, creativity
Expertise – Knowledge in a specific practice area, technical skills
Communication – Able to communicate in a clear, concise, respectful and persuasive manner
Execution – Getting stuff done, fast. Completes what they say they’ll complete, when they say they’ll complete it
Leadership – Autonomy, being a positive/motivational force on the team, mentoring others

The key in the formal write-up, is that each area must include at least one positive observation and one “development opportunity.” For each comment, specific real world examples are required. For every development opportunity, the manager must come up with an action plan for the person to improve. Its the manager’s responsibility to help the person improve through continuous coaching.

Step 3 – All managers discuss and tweak the appraisal and decide how to deliver it effectively.

Step 4 – The appraisal is delivered face-to-face, and ample time is given during each portion for a discussion. Points are not belabored, each development opportunity is delivered candidly. How an appraisee receives and acts on feedback is extremely important. If they are extremely defensive, or get upset, this becomes a serious development opportunity.

Step 5 – The entire team reviews the managers using the same process from steps 1-4. A manager always delivers the feedback to the other manager based on the team’s consensus. This ensures the team is honest with their feedback and not afraid of retaliation.

The entire process is repeated on a regular basis, usually every 2 months. Do you have some questions on how you can better integrate this process into your team? Shoot us an email and we’re more than willing to give you some forms and advice.

Appraisals, the GE way

Learning What Makes You Influential In Social Media

We started blogging to distill our learning each week. It’s been fun but we’re not content to just write into the ether anymore after seeing the impact and influence many of our peers have garnered from their intelligent use of social media. The major questions are how to do you measure “influence” and how do you systematically improve yours?

Luckily there are plenty of great tools and strategies. Google Analytics to track traffic, Klout to track an algorithmic measure of your twitter influence and Bit.Ly to track clicks on your referenced links. As with everything else you want to master, you must use the tools to constantly test your hypothesis about what will improve your metrics. Don’t forget to be clear about which metrics you want to improve (for us it’s the number of responses and amount of traffic).

So how are we going to take this blog and our twitter accounts to the next level? Right now, this blog gets roughly 50 unique readers each week and is growing steadily at 10% per week. You may have noticed that in the past couple weeks I’ve released multiple tweets and Facebook announcements about the same blog posts at different times. It was a test, you guys all passed! We learned from these experiments that releasing the blog at a bad time impacts awareness, and have since learned that mid-week at noon EST is the best time to publish for our audience. It gives the post maximum awareness and allows people time before the weekend to read it, once the weekend hits the readership drops to zero. Another thing we’ve learned from some big bloggers in town is that we need to be more active on other blogs’ comments, be guest bloggers for others and have others guest blog for us. You’ll see both these strategies at work in the coming weeks.

On the twitter front things are different. Success for us is measured in large part by the interaction we get in the form of retweets and engagement in larger conversations with multiple people. Last week one of my tweets about a recipe was retweeted by a handful of followers and got hundreds of clickthroughs and a lot of new followers for us. How do we replicate this success with content relevant to our industry and at the same time enhance our brand? More importantly how do we leverage tweets to reach my talent acquisition goals? It’s a two pronged strategy, first we’re starting to monitor search terms relevant to greetings and the creative community as a whole in order to respond and engage with people doing cool stuff. For instance this past week we reached out to the official funny poet of Wimbledon! Another strategy is to interact with people outside of Twitter. For instance, in one of my personal side projects I’m reviewing every coffee shop in Boulder (bouldercoffee.tumblr.com) and have been using twitter to post “where is Joel at today” posts with a prize for the person who finds me in real life. This has been really successful. The combination of engagement, fun and games and relevance to my highly localized twitter following has resonated well. So that’s my amateurish approach and we’ll see how it works. I know some readers are the country’s foremost social media and community management experts. I’m talking about you @MikeFraietta, @AndrewHyde, @SativaBella, @tcabeen. Use that comment box and give me your thoughts.

At the moment we’re nobodies in social media, but after 3 months completely engrossed in the technology startup community we’re hooked. The value of this medium to propel your brand, enhance your influence and even help gain traction for your product is huge. As with everything, find the people who do it best and learn how to improve.

Learning What Makes You Influential In Social Media