I learned how to write business models in graduate school. Although, it really felt more like writing long and complicated novels. I once spent three months working on one for a hypothetical home services referral website. I even conjured up crowd-sourced reviews for my would-be business. The process revealed a depressing plot twist.
I studied philosophy. (True.) You know the old cliché about the tree falling in the forest. If no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? Well, remote work may seem that way for some. After all, how can you be sure people are actually working if you are not there to witness it?
I am always thinking about what’s next at work. (Even on vacation sometimes, like now.) But at our recent, all-team meeting I made a conscious decision to stop. And I did something I have never done before — I interrupted my presentation and asked everyone to stop too. I wanted us all to take a moment to be in the “now.”
Do the words “offsite quarterly business review” or “annual sales kickoff” make you want to run far, far away? You are not the only one. Sitting through endless presentations in stale conference rooms — ugh. But these kinds of large group meetings are especially important for remote teams.
It started with two people in a garage. The quintessential beginning we hear about many startups. And for good reason — you do not start out with 100 people. Companies begin with a founder or two. Some never leave the garage. The ones that grow solve a real problem and learn how to do it at scale. They do not learn how to scale and then figure out a problem to solve.
There is a new animal in Silicon Valley. And it is nothing like the unicorns you have read about in the past. This new beast is not quite as flashy. It moves a little slower than its spiral-horned counterpart — the one who galloped to ridiculous valuations at breakneck speed. And you probably will not see this new creature in the news. Why?
“We no longer want to work with you.” I once had to say this to a well-known multinational technology company. Our team at Aha! had met with them eight times and they were still asking for an additional (free!) six-month product evaluation. The value exchange simply was not there. So, it was time to kindly say goodbye.
“Dear Future Me, I hope I work at Aha! And live at the beach. Love, Carson” An Aha! teammate recently shared this note with the company. It was from his 7-year-old son’s school journal. And I was blown away. Aha! is the type of company our kids aspire to work for? Mouth-wide-open speechless.
I bet at some point, you have done it — you hid from a salesperson. You did not want to be rude, but you also did not want to be bothered with the hard sell. The goal was to get done and be gone before they could harass you. This happened to me recently when I was test-driving a new car.
My career will be defined by the prevalence of the internet. Yours likely will be too. And we are still experiencing an incredible acceleration of the use of technology. But one thing remains the same — we are human. We still crave personal connection, even when so many of our interactions are now made possible by technology.
Have you seen the real “real” news? A few well-known companies are behaving badly. They made some money in the short term and felt like long-term winners. People were celebrating their success loudly. And the companies themselves were banging their collective chest with pride — look at us. Yet when their lack of integrity and questionable tactics were revealed, all that hype was replaced by scorn. Sound familiar?
“Can we grab coffee on Tuesday or Thursday next week?” This is the sign-off on so many email pitches from associates at venture capital firms who are sourcing deals. Deals — yep, companies with real products and growing customer bases who are going places.
I once worked for a CEO who thought he was the next Larry Ellison. He was an early Oracle employee but did not go so far as owning a yacht or racing team. What he did do was adopt Ellison’s intense leadership style — ultimately creating a workplace of unhappiness and fear. He owned the company so he could do what he wanted. But he pushed out almost everyone who ever worked there.
It was the best of companies, it was the worst of companies. One built something that the people loved. It poured energy into delighting customers. Eventually, it was rewarded with a great fortune. The second company disregarded people. This company was mischievous and greedy. While it succeeded in the short-term, customers and employees eventually revolted. The company lost trust, along with its great fortune.