Business

It’s funny. Startups seem to have become such a holy grail that they are almost immune to critique.

No day goes by without me seeing articles touting this next startup that have raised X amount of money for some service. In a majority of these cases, a number of clearly relevant questions present themselves. Most often there is something odd in the finances, or the business model, or sustainability in the premise of the validity of the idea.

Arguably a startup is indeed in a constant search for a business model. True as it may be, we seem to be allowing these types of businesses much more leeway than they deserve. It is as if the entire broader startup/business community have developed a great fear of missing out.

I recently had an exchange with one such startup founder. Not fully understanding what made the company unique, I took to Twitter to try and find that out. What met me was an apparent lack of understanding why I:

a) wasn’t just trying out the service, but actually asking why it would be beneficial to me, and why it was different than others before, and,

b) was even questioning it in the first place.

As you might suspect, I got no real answers to my questions. This had me at a loss for words, and slightly worried. Apparently it did not seem to matter for this founder if someone did not at all understand at all what the company brought to the table.

Yes, startups are looking for a sustainable business model. But that is why we should be questioning their business models and logic constantly. It is in questioning, defending and thinking that we develop the greatest ideas.

Recently it has dawned on me exactly why I decided to found my own company and run my business instead of just getting another job. What struck me, is that it really boils down to one critical thing.

I believe in changing the world. It may sound pretentious, but it is true. Where others simply say “that’s just the way it works”, I decide to question why, and if it is something that could be improved, I want to improve it.

Practically speaking, I started my own company because it was at the time the only way that I could do what I wanted. Getting the job just wasn’t a possibility then. As the years have passed, I realize that part of my success is because I question the norm.

Those who follow me on social media know that I like to call out bad practices and question illogical and unreasonable things. My goal is not to be mean to anyone (though I do understand if that’s how you view it), but to spur discussion around improvement.

It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite philosophical “laws” is Hume’s Law, or the “is-ought problem”: Just because something is a certain way, doesn’t mean it ought to be.

I want to make the world a better place in the way that I can contribute. Having, broadly speaking, chosen marketing and business could then be seen as quite the paradox. It doesn’t have to be.

So when you hire either of my companies (or myself), you hire my grand plans of how great something could be. A wish to make everything function excellently.

And that’s why I take the lone road of running a business, being a public person and not backing off. Because someone needs to, and apparently, I’m one of those “someones”.

Did you make any new years resolutions this year? Many people have already given up on theirs. Partly because they forget them in the daily buzz, and partly because we give up too easily.

Most new years resolutions are about building a habit. If you don’t allow yourself to fail a few times on the process, you’re probably never going to succeed in changing.

For this reason, I always write yearly goals. It’s a semantic discussion what difference this is to a new years resolution. But that’s not the important point. The important thing is that I write them down.

For both my business and personal goals, I keep a note (stuck at the top in Evernote) with the goals I want to reach this year. I make sure to refer to it continuously to remind myself of the goals. Otherwise I know I’m going to forget.

But here is the fun fact. Even if you never ever refer back to this list of goals, you are still more likely to reach them after having written them down! Fascinating isn’t it?

I have another trick for you in how you write them down. Write your goals as though you have already reached them. For example: “I am working out 2 times a week” instead of “Work out twice a week”. See the subtle difference?

It’s never too late to set some goals. Make them fair to yourself and you’ll be surprised at how many you can reach within a year. Just by writing them down.

Every once in a while, a business relationship goes sour. It sucks, but it happens. As usual, it’s probably nobody’s fault specifically, but a combination of things that over time doesn’t work—and no party is working hard enough to try and make it work.

A few times in my eleven years in the business, someone has come along and tried to force me to take on their project. I have always found this fascinating. If you say no, how is an angry tone supposed to convince me?

Why am I sharing this you wonder? Because it leads me directly to the most important factor in a business relationship. Or rather the two most important factors: Trust and joy/appreciation.

Both are interlinked. Just like any other relationship, in order for a business relationship to thrive, you need trust. If you don’t trust the other party to do their job, and a good job at that, it’s going to go south quick. Likewise, if you want to micromanage them, it’s a sign that you believe you know better. And that’s not a sign of trust, and it is going to cause the relationship to deteriorate quickly. It’s bad.

Joy and appreciation are also important. You need to be happy with the people you do business with. You need to appreciate them being there and be in a good mood when you are with them. If exchanges drain you of energy, it’s not a good sign. Consequently, if you don’t appreciate the person you do business with, you won’t be putting in any effort.

When we trust and appreciate each other and are happy together, we create an environment which fosters positive collaboration. We will go to great lengths to ensure that the other party is happy and satisfied, and they will do the same back. That’s a happy business relationship.

Given my line of work, I am in a lot of meetings. It might just be that meetings are the thing of the century to hate and want to dispense with. I disagree.

At least I partly disagree. I love meetings! I like meeting people, because talking to talented and smart people always makes me gain insights that I couldn’t do by myself.

But then there are the really bad meetings. You know those who drag out on end, where you just rehash a topic, never move on and never conclude anything useful. There is one, very simple, technique which will solve that for you forever. An agenda.

If you have an agenda for your meetings all attendees know in advance what will be covered and most crucially, what is expected of them. Attendees can make suitable preparation to discuss something, resulting in proper and informed discussions.

Better yet, an agenda should come with timing notes. How long you are allowed to spend on each subject. Keep to them religiously. If you need more time, schedule something new for it. Keeping to them respects people’s time and forces you to be brief, informed and effective, while still not rushing. The goal is to be effective, not careless and rushed.

I’m on a mission this year to make sure that no meeting I attend by the end of the year doesn’t have an agenda. There is no reason why I don’t know up front before a meeting exactly what is expected of me. If I can’t prepare and make an informed contribution, you are wasting everyone’s time.

Let’s make 2016 the year where all meetings have agendas. Finally.