Asking for feedback isn’t a sign of weakness

asking for feedback isn't a sign of weakness

The CEO of a multi-million dollar public company asked a new entrepreneur for feedback on their software. The entrepreneur was excited to share their honest thoughts and suggested a fix to one of the features. The fix was implemented that same week.

Meanwhile, a smaller competitor was hiring employees in an attempt to expand. They reached out to candidates with the promise of a job, only to redirect them to an impersonal screening call. The recruiter recorded answers to questions without actually listening to any of the responses. The candidate ended the call by asking for feedback to better prepare for the next interview. The recruiter then shamed the candidate for demonstrating weakness, and disappeared without replying to any of the follow ups. The company struggled and ended up laying off 50% of its employees before being acquired for parts.

After experiencing the culture of each of these companies first hand, their fate doesn’t surprise me. The CEO is a reflection of a company that is successful because it values feedback and continuous improvement. On the other hand, a company that considers asking for feedback to be a weakness is bound to end up failing. True weakness is being afraid of rejection and constructive criticism that might lead to you having to change.

Ask for, and listen to, feedback.


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An expected twist

The story behind my decanter artwork

Whenever I see decanters, I’m tempted to buy them. They are essentially useless to me, but it’s difficult to resist their beauty and elegance. I try to justify the purchase by imagining other uses for them. Perhaps one could be used to serve water, another to store cotton balls, and a third as a vase. Then I think that flowers belong in the garden, and so I walk away.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that decanters weren’t simply vessels meant to hold alcohol. One of their functions is to aerate wine. Allowing wine to breathe after being bottled up for years, seems like a fitting metaphor for my journey.

Over the past decade I spent the majority of my time as a marketing consultant. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that my creativity had been bottled up, especially while working with startups, but it has been too long since I’ve created art for the sole purpose of self-expression.

It’s been even longer since I’ve experimented with making something in the physical world.

Art isn’t a new passion. I’ve studied art for over 13 years, and those who are close to me always wondered why I ever stopped. Instead of getting into that, here’s how I got started again.

Whenever I used to have down time, I would log in to Codecademy, read a startup book, or clear my Pocket full of tech and marketing articles. My interests became too narrow. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t great professionally. The most innovative ideas are the result of exposure to different topics and industries. I asked around for new sources of information, and ended up reading a few long form articles on random topics. This wasn’t enough. The articles opened my eyes to new ideas, but I needed to be more immersed.

I came across a chemical engineering course, and thought about diving in. Chemical engineering is vastly different from anything I’ve studied before. What are the odds that I would have studied engineering had I known about it earlier? Or, would I have known about it earlier had I was better suited to study engineering?

This lead me to wonder about the subjects I already knew about and somehow forgot.

Whenever a friend turns out to be a secretly talented artist, I encourage them to create even more and sell their art online. I tell them how they shouldn’t doubt themselves, and how I wish I could spend my days making art.

Instead of taking random online courses, I decided to rediscover one of my forgotten passions. It felt incredible to dig up my old sketchbook, and buy new art supplies. My curiosity grew, and being an artist no longer felt like a hobby or a crazy retirement dream.

An old sketch inspired me to play with shapes and lines, and the design of the modern decanter made for the perfect subject. The medium was a given. One of the last pieces I created years ago was in oil pastel. All that was left was to listen to my own advice and share the completed artwork.

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The beginner’s guide to beginning by a beginner

The beginner’s guide to beginning by a beginner by Danielle Geva

If you’re thinking of launching a new project, here’s how I got started with Mypodnotes.

 

The Idea

A few months ago a friend suggested I write summaries for podcasts. The idea sounded interesting since podcasting is on the rise, and there’s no way anyone could keep up with the constant stream of new episodes. The best part was that I could test the idea without dropping anything. I started Myponotes as a side project, but after deciding to think like an entrepreneur I realized that it had the potential to become a business.

How to find ideas

Side projects, businesses, and high growth startups all start with an idea and don’t go far without commitment to pursue them. Even though you need both to succeed, it doesn’t seem to matter which comes first. The idea for Mypodnotes found me, but if you’re itching to build something of your own stop thinking up solutions to problems that don’t exist, and answer the following questions:

  1. What’s a problem that many people have?
  2. What’s the solution?
  3. How can I help these people solve their problem?

Think of as many problems as you can from your own life, and then ask your friends about anything that bothers them or wait for them to complain about it on Twitter. In the beginning it might be difficult to come up with ideas, but after you train your mind to think in this framework you’ll spot new opportunities everywhere.

When to commit

The bar for side projects is much lower, since resources can be restricted and failure doesn’t dramatically impact your life. So if you find an idea that intrigues you, go for it. This is an opportunity to get those creative juices flowing and learn some new skills.

Starting with a side project is also a good way to validate an idea if you have grander plans. If you’re unhappy at your full-time job, you don’t have to quit to find out if you’d be happier having your customers be your boss. I’m not a lawyer, but you should probably check your contract first to make sure there’s no conflicts so that you’ll have full ownership if you decide to leave.

After chatting about Mypodnotes with friends to gauge demand and the work involved, I found many people who were interested in Cliff’s Notes for podcasts. There just isn’t enough time to listen to every single episode, and no one likes to miss out. I also relate to people who remember key insights better by reading text over listening to audio. This was enough to take the side project seriously, but I only decided to fully commit to Mypodnotes once I saw actual traction on the blog.

It will take much longer for me to figure out a business model that works, but I’m in it for the long haul. All you need for building a company is time and determination, because you only fail when you give up on your idea.

How to name your business

The name Mypodnotes came to me randomly, and is pretty straightforward because that’s what appeals to me. Ignore the pressure to spend time searching for the perfect name, because you can always change it later on. Finding a name that’s unique and playful isn’t as crucial as making sure people can pronounce properly so that it catches on. Once you come up with a name, don’t get too attached to the spelling before you secure a domain and a Twitter handle. Try adding words like “The” and “App”, switching up vowels, or experimenting with new top level domains.

The Website

If you’ve ever heard of Lean Startup Machine workshops, then you know a business can start with a single piece of paper. Remember that when it’s time to create a website for your new idea. Instead of spending the next few months learning how to code, or figuring out WordPress.org again, I decided to go with Tumblr so I could focus on growing an audience for Mypodnotes. Your site is just a means to end, and the functionality you need to test an idea is usually offered by a third party platform. You can always build a custom site later on, when it’s time to scale. As you probably figured out, this section isn’t about how to magically create something out of thin air or how to hire a web developer. I’m a bootstrapped non-technical founder, so it’s all about distribution.

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Think like an entrepreneur

danielle geva think like an entrepreneur

Life is a journey, but I’m impatient so I spend all lots of time reading career blogs trying to figure out what I should be doing next. Recently, I read that INTJs aren’t motivated by compensation which is why freelancing isn’t ideal. I gravitated to consulting because structure is boring to me, and clients in need of startup marketing always seem to find me. But in between clients it feels weird to spend any time thinking of how can I make money over actually helping as many companies grow.

Career advice starts by telling you to find the intersection between what you’re good at, what you like doing, and what people are willing to pay for. So I end up stuck wondering if I should hop on the learn to code train because I can’t seem to check off all three. The problem with this perspective is also that it’s all about the individual, especially talented ones and I already know I’m more of an agent type of person.

Then I look over at jobs, to see which companies actually need me and where can I make the most impact. There’s a huge demand for startup marketers, and even more applicants. Interviews aren’t my forte, and the process ends up being more about the resume and how many connections you have to the hiring manager.

I’m sure I’ll always spend time over-analyzing the meaning of life and my purpose, but I want to make sure that I keep moving forward. I want to spend the next 5 years working towards some crazy awesome idea and feel like I’ve achieved something great instead of being stuck in the same cycle. I’m starting to think the only way to do is this is by thinking like an entrepreneur.

Instead of obsessing over monetizing your skills, you uncover how to add value:

  1. What’s a problem that many people have?
  2. What’s the solution?
  3. How can I help those people solve their problem?

Once you have a solution, it becomes all about distribution. Which I love.

This how both mypodnotes.com and whistlenow.co were born. I’ll leave the details for another post, but I’m pretty excited to start working on these and learn from some new mistakes.

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The Five-Month Term

Toronto SkylineWhile checking out some local Toronto startups, I came across one that had an interesting take on the probationary period. They stated that the ‘project’ was for a five-month term, with the option to extend it indefinitely.

Outside of the startup world, it’s common to have a three-month probationary period. However, you can usually tell long before that if an employee is the right fit, especially within a small and nimble startup. After the first week, it’s pretty clear if the new hire can actually code or close. After the second week, you can usually tell whether they’re a good cultural fit.

If the startup has been burnt before by low-performing hires, then the probationary period would be shorter. Perhaps it’s based on some legal advice, or maybe the founders are simply being honest about their current resources. Instead of using the five-month term as a cop out, this might simply be a way of letting candidates know that they might be let go if the business doesn’t become profitable.

The honesty is refreshing, but it seems that some people might be turned off. Even after they realize the five-month term doesn’t have anything to do with a lack of belief in their skills, the thought that the founders are ready to give it all up in five-months isn’t very inspiring. Even if it is realistic.

Working with startups, you’re always ready for funding to run out. But you’re also ready to make compromises and eat ramen together until the vision finally becomes a reality. If you have the determination it takes to succeed, you don’t schedule an end date.

 

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Entrepreneurship: What are three most important traits of an entrepreneur?

Quora

The three most important traits of an entrepreneur are curiosity, persistence, and adaptability.

Curiosity

Entrepreneurs never tire from asking questions and learning about how things work. They are constantly seeking new experiences, processes, and products, while trying to figure out how to improve each one. Their curiosity inspires them to explore new avenues as they attempt to discover a better way of delivering value to the world.

See: Elon Musk

Persistence

Entrepreneurship is hard work. The failure rate is high, and entrepreneurs’ emotional connection to their ventures makes each loss highly painful. However, successful entrepreneurs don’t give up. They are ready to prove the naysayers wrong, and are determined to turn their idea into a reality. Entrepreneurs persist despite any hardships, as they are fuelled by their desire to make a difference.

See: James Altucher

Adaptability

Continuing to pursue goals at any cost shouldn’t come at the expense of adaptability. While successful entrepreneurs are committed to their vision, they are also willing to adapt their methods or product. As the market changes and new findings are made, entrepreneurs are constantly re-evaluating their efforts and willing to adjust their execution to better serve customers.

See: Yelp

Originally posted on Quora

 

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Social Media for Founders

Keeping up with social media can be overwhelming, especially once you start using it as a business tool. Gone are the days of chatting to random strangers and friends all night, you now have a company to run and promote.

There are three main activities that you shouldn’t neglect, these include: responding to feedback, joining the conversation and growing your network. The frequency and time spent on each one of the above tasks depends on your goals for both your personal and company brand. Below are some guidelines, which will hopefully help you spend your time more effectively.

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