360 decision

Martin Wiedenhoff

Founder Institute 2016 – Montreal – Academy – Week 5 — 2016/02/12

Founder Institute 2016 – Montreal – Academy – Week 5

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Last week I shared how Founder Institute can impact your family and work balance when you are committed to your start-up as well as a very hectic 9-5 job. Tonight in the 11.30 pm train home after another great session with my Founder Institute peers there is a father sitting with his hockey bag next to me so whatever passion you got going now is the best time to continue working hard on it. 

I didn’t feel like this last Sunday because my main idea was lacking a Pocket Troop to conquer the first customer with a half ass prototype. Instead it felt like my investment in time and money left me with no more than pocket change that almost got me started to look for another idea to burn through the incubator process. I decided to sleep on it.

Until early morning when I looked at some feedback from potential target customers. First of all make sure to call back people who actually want to give you more feedback than you asked for. I got a long list of those to get done over the weekend. Because when people care you listen harder. Just like when the second job interview goes cold with your potential new boss. Tune in and listen to their concerns because they are sitting on the fence and want to make sure that the person showing up on Monday is the right one. Don’t pivot too fast and certainly not too often. The show must go on unless you really are on the scene pitching in front of a ghost audience. I stuck to my idea and didn’t pivot yet after looking at the other options that weren’t concluding enough or promising at best.

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In week one everybody told me you have to own your technology. Mentors, founders, developers, my kids Japanese hamster and even the little devil on my shoulder. In the B2B segment this can takes years and a huge budget. Instead I signed up with all my competitors to really see the technology behind their service platform only to find out that one of them actually offered a perfect “fit for demo” solution for $103 CAD per year.

Hence I now will build the service offering online, calculate the revenue model and test with a real customer. You can spend a fortune of frustration by trying to tweak a MVP (Most Viable Product) to one day reach the status of a KAP (Kick Ass Product). Or show something similar to your target customer faster and then make it exactly as you had envisioned the secret sauce without spending the winter in the basement with developers who hijack my sons Mindcraft Lego collection because it’s more fun. It’s like planning for a baby to come into your life. Some buy everything one year ahead. Get the wrong presents during the baby shower. Curse when the doctor made a mistake on the “It’s a boy!”. To then find out that the 4 kg baby girl won’t fit in the tiny blue pajama and nobody kept the receipts. Worse, your mother in law still thinks it’s a boy and won’t listen to you wanting to add earrings so this nightmare is finally over once and for all. Until you try for a second child. Hopefully a boy of 2.4 kg so that you can recycle the stuff and smile.

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We also had some housekeeping rules that needed validation in the working group and cohort overall. Not everyone uses technology the same way and for some it’s overwhelming to find the core information in all the noise. No hard feelings – just a great way to clear the air about what collaboration can do and what it will never do. I learned a lot from this because working with 200 different people all week long on a bunch of digital marketing projects makes me use half a dozen collaboration tools for everything. Now you pick up the phone when it’s urgent or confidential. You send direct message when you ask a personal question or help someone on something the others will never benefit from. Sounds like a Moment Of Truth, but honestly if you are not on Instagram you won’t know that one picture says more than thousand words thousand times over. I get a buzz from collaboration and guess moving 19 times does that to you. You just like to share the fun!

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Last, but not least I am looking for serious beta users willing to pay $50 USD per months for something that will pay itself in one day. Please shoot me an email if you know a company with 20-50 employees, no marketing employee and at least $1,000 USD in monthly marketing spending. All I need is their name, number and your relationship to them. I will treat them as Royalty and you will get the royalties from these customers once they sign a Letter of Intent for the real thing.

Come back next week to learn more about what’s new and exciting in the Founder Institute 2016 Montreal Academy.

Wishing you nothing but success with your Start Up in the meanwhile.

Martin

Founder Institute Montreal – Academy – Week 4 — 2016/02/05

Founder Institute Montreal – Academy – Week 4

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There has been a general request from parents with primary school or daycare age children asking me about how Founder Institute pivots your family agenda and harmony. As a father of two children age 8 and 10 my reality is that I am working as a full-time business adviser for a crown corporation that has to make profit so it’s anything but 9-5. I spend anything from 40-60 hours per week with customers or keeping up with Smarketing across a laptop, tablet or smartphone. I have to walk the talk and listen some more.

My wife works as a full time legal professional in a global mining company with operations in every time zone. I was raised in Sweden where time management is part of your DNA and my wife pays attention to detail in whatever she does including our children’s public education. In a nutshell; we are a busy family however I haven’t taken off a sick day in the past 25 years because it’s all about finding a balance.

So do you have to quit your full time job prior to joining the Founder Institute is the question I asked myself last year. Not in my case. In fact – we prepared for this the past six months so that stress spikes were either an adrenaline rush or no different from getting a flat tire on your vacation trip to New York. There is no reason to panic. Ever.

Forget the Founder Institute assignment work for one minute and look at other alternatives parents have with their time after a day at the office. I have friends who did a MBA part time whilst being directors in a financial institution, kids training hockey three times a week and wife working 9-5 also. Others play in a soccer league four times a week travelling to tournaments on weekends. There is the odd one that tries to start a company since years or run it on the side like a hobby when in reality you have to be fully committed to the enterprise to make it grow. In other words even if you never spend one evening watching the Canadians get beaten up by Boston Bruins, play video games with a bunch of Millennials across the globe or read the Lord Of The Rings with a map of Middle Earth to trace every step of Gandalf there is always time left in the day for a parent. You just have to make your choice, block time and remain focused.

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So what changed in our family dynamics since January 12th? Here are my favorite examples and how much time I got out of it for Founder Institute

  • I used to do food-shopping every second Monday alone. Now we do it as a family activity in less than 2 hours every second Saturday. (+2 hours)

  • Last year we let the kids take downhill ski lessons whilst my wife and I did either skating or snowshoeing. Now we all ski 2 hours together and I do assignment work during their classes. (+ 2 hours)

  • I used to do all the math homework with my daughter. Now we hired a teenage tutor one evening a week and let her take responsibility for her success. (+2 hours)

  • We used to spend the entire Sunday together doing all kinds of activities or household chores without any second thoughts or rewards. Now my wife nails down a cool activity with the kids and friends whilst I work on the assignment. We then keep the “bonus” family time in the late afternoon together. (+5 hours)

  • My wife and I used to spend 1 hour per evening discussing work, friends & family, kids activities and hourly weather forecasts. Now we hire a babysitter and have quality time together with “dates” to talk about us and what we want to achieve. We even have time to go to the cinema again! (+4 hours)

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Let’s also put our values on the table. We put our relationships into three buckets

Bucket 1 

You have to take care of your nuclear family and the job that is feeding it first. Yes, you could launch a company that helps students do their homework online for free and end up with a divorce or hungry kids. Or you can create Gradeslam and look after your immediate family, colleagues and customers.

Bucket 2

You then have direct family members, friends, business partners, mentors etc. who are worth engaging with on a regular basis. It’s not a question of sending a Christmas card once a year. No, it’s with people that impact your life; personal or professional. You have to look after them just like a garden. Not just in April. All year around or you end up starting all over again, because they will eventually move on to their Bucket 2 people.

Bucket 3

Not to be anti-social here, but here we find the rest that cross your path and may catch your interest for a fraction of a second, hour, day or maybe even a full week. Then you move on and can’t remember their name, why they are on your Facebook page on your birthday or reason how that branch still sticks to your family tree. No hard feelings. We are after all over 6 billion people on this planet and there is only so much time to nurture your garden and try to move a handful of them into Bucket 2.

It’s a similar approach with work. Call them vision, mission and tasks. You always end up with endless tasks you can’t remember one year later. Some missions (projects) create strong bonds with colleagues. Last, but not least; you can count the number of leaders who touched you with a vision on your left hand. They become your second family.

After four weeks in the Founder Institute I can confirm that there has been friction in the family. Like when we had to rearrange our schedule with the tutor last minute. Or me running across downtown after work to get a valuable interview with my former director missing another family supper. Worst still when my short nights start to impact my attention span on weekends when we are on the way to the ski hill. Solution? Get help. Find friends that can carry out some of the tasks in the assignment. Set a max time and accept that it will be 100% vs. 120% awesome. Do Slack at 6 am in the morning whilst the family sleeps. Eat lunch with people who can help you close you assignment work faster.

Honestly; it’s just like when I trained for 70.3 Ironman races. It sucked up a lot of my spare time. It was stressful the closer I got to the race date. I even remember biking 20 miles at 5 am on a warm summer day with the sun in my face to end up on the street with blood over my arm after hitting a parked car because I almost feel asleep. Still have the scar. Still remember saying that this was it. No more biking at 5 am if too tired. Only to end up on the bike again the next day. Got my second Finisher medal the same year.

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Conclusion:

Parents are used to all kind of stress. Good. Bad. Ugly. So if anyone can handle Founder Institute I must say my role as a father is very much similar to a CEO already. You are the role model. You have a co-founder that puts in the same lifting or even more. Payday may happen, but don’t bank your future on it in today’s fragile economy. Kids love you for trying and are your best fans. Shareholders want results – both at Founder Institute and my 9-5 job. So is it doable? I don’t know. Yet. I take one week at a time. Just like I took one mile at a time during my first marathon in Levis back in 2001. At the finish line my future wife to be waited for me. That’s what I kept thinking about for 123,000 steps.

For sure there is always the risk that you may fail no matter how well prepared you arrive to Founder Institute. It’s part of the deal. Be prepared should it happen. Not trying is epic failure guaranteed. That’s all really.

Come back next week or sign up in the footer of the blog to learn more about what’s new and exciting in the Founder Institute 2016 Montreal Academy.

Wishing you nothing but success with your Start Up in the meanwhile.

Martin

 

Founder Institute 2016 Montreal – Academy – Week 3 — 2016/01/29

Founder Institute 2016 Montreal – Academy – Week 3

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First time that I questioned the capacity to get quality work out of a high pace incubator program. I mean it’s really easy to “just do it” in a heartbeat and move on to the next task. It’s way more difficult to listen to your group constructive feedback and say to yourself “Not good enough and plenty of time left to get back to the drawing board”. Some Spartan Races are like that according to my colleague that runs a bunch of them. You get to the finish line to hear that the race continues. You can have a flat tire, but you can’t just sit there and think it’s cool to be waiting for somebody to fix the problem.

You can also read the clue (task) and totally under estimate the effort required to get it done. For those who watch Amazing Race you know that even the best team can get eliminated by reading the clue upside down. It happened to me with interviews. 

I hired an awesome freelancer on upwork – formerly elance – to explore the the US market whilst I was going to attack Montreal and Canada. After one day I got the answer “Sorry, this is going to take more time than anticipated”. Pause. What do you mean “more time”? I did it in half that time so just do it! Rewind. “How long do you need?”. No comment for some hours and then the most bizarre answer that unfortunately the husband had to have a surgery in two days so can’t do it. Replay. “Sorry” doesn’t work at Founder Institute. Not yesterday, not today and certainly not tomorrow.  Play. You just have to rethink the “how” and pivot. Get it done. Called three firms in Florida at night and got more than I bargained for because they were so passionate about the business problem that wasn’t available in Montreal due to the season. Felt awesome. Check. Period.

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Another valuable lesson this week was to meet a Mentor “offline”. In 30 minutes you don’t do much story telling. You get to the core of the question and listen. Your vision doesn’t change. Your approach how to get to the next step does though. Partnerships and joint ventures at this stage of your company is like asking a date to marry you before the first drink. Park that idea and move on to problem validation. How did they do it? Why did they do it that way? Oh, you actually have to take risks and stick to your guns; really? Yep. The vision is yours. The rest is up for discussion and tweaking. So get out of your home and LinkedIn bubble to meet mentors. Often.

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Do you buy his vision? Well, how many co-founders didn’t see it first?

We lost another couple of cofounders in the cohort this week. Nothing personal and certainly not public information on the why however an important fact has to be shared here. If you ever have a doubt about your co-founders capacity to scale the business or make the vision come true Founder Institute is like the Testing Tough. Just like Columbia – my favorite brand – it puts both founders under pressure and the feedback is coming from two different groups of peers. Not from your mother. Not from your cat. No – from the very best Founders to be in town!

Having Sergio follow you through that process is like having Master Yoda teaching you how to lift that spacecraft out of the swamp. Because there is no try. Do or do not get rid of your cofounder as early on as possible in the process. It will save your fear to turn into anger that leads to hate and ends up with you suffering. Or him. Or her. I have been there in the past and know how it feels. Then turn the page and move on. Most come back the following year with the same vision and a new co-founder. Once bitten twice shy they say.

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The most fun moment this week was when I ended up doing market research thinking my ideas were ground breaking only to find half a dozen companies in the world that already raised millions of dollars to do something similar. Not the same. Similar. I am like cursing to myself in my home office at 11 pm thinking “Arrg, why did I wait this long to get started?”. Two ladies in Australia got a similar idea back in 2013 and it’s still working wonders today. Punch me in the face someone; please! So you pivot some more. Call a couple of other companies to tweak the problem description. Feel the buzz of them actually confirming what you pivoted. The vision is not up for grabs. Not in a million dollars. 

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This is how you answer questions today

By the way – if you have a marketing question that bugs you please feel free to text it to me on 1 514-559-5754 and I will gladly help for free. I try to do that on Slack for my peers as often as possible since it’s fun to be challenged on the spot. It’s much more difficult to be precise and answer on the fly than a 15 minutes call! No strings attached.

Come back next week or sign up in the footer of the blog to learn more about what’s new and exciting in the Founder Institute 2016 Montreal Academy.

Wishing you nothing but success with your Start Up in the meanwhile.

Martin

FI 2016 Montreal Academy – Week 2 — 2016/01/22

FI 2016 Montreal Academy – Week 2

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Founder Institute Directors and Mentors know their stuff.

Where does one start? It’s been a crazy, crazy, crazy week and the honey moon is over. You really have to sort out your priorities. Yes – Slack is your new best friend and together with your team things move very fast to keep up with the drum beat. In my case one must master the skill of drawing a clear line between 9-5 work, family and Founder Institute agendas. Like a DJ you juggle with keeping a perfect balance between the audience, the music and the electrified experience. Drop one and you are done. Epic failure guaranteed.

You also know that the refund policy is only valid until a certain date after which you can exit the program in several different ways – one more painful than the other!  However you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself am I up for this Amazing Race? It turned out that those who weren’t ready decided to get their $1,250 USD back whilst they could. Who knows – maybe they will be back next year and be better prepared. For us who decided to stay it’s business as usual. No hard feelings. No Kleenex. Just some team members jumping boats and keep on rowing.

Besides reducing your nightly sleep by 1-2 hours and seeing Montreal By Night again after many years of being a father there is an adrenaline rush similar to running I have discovered. Say you run a 21K race and come up in cruising speed after 2K there is yet no fatigue, no stress, no pain or question did I really pay $100 for this moment. Then you see different runners take off, others breathing like Darth Vader and you picking the one that runs just that little bit faster to keep momentum. You just keep pounding away one step at at time. Until you get a cramp and panic.

Here are situations where you cannot abandon even with a small handicap:

Connect the dot(s) com

First of all when you work on a tech start-up you must master technology. Sounds obvious however the number of tech questions  by peers can be mind blowing for beginners. The more links to awesome apps I see the less I click on them because eventually you have to apply the 37 Signals rule of “Start by saying No”. Some tools work wonders on your mobile phone, but not on a Chromebook or Linux like Skype web beta. If you get easily frustrated using cloud solutions that don’t work on the first attempt you better make friends with those who know or look for another program. This is not a stimulating environment for Entrepreneurs launching a company that makes furniture! Reading the IKEA Testament of a Furniture Retailer will do the magic. Actually for any start-up.

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Shakespeare – To be or not to be – well you know the answer

Second if you don’t master the English language it’s going to be a culture shock. Sergio speaks three like most people in the room. I have an accent too. Accent is totally OK. Mumbling something that nobody will understand is Pitch Horror Show. You don’t have to tell me that learning a language is hard. I speak five with six different accents. Learning how to write five compelling interview questions in less than half an hour is next to impossible if you depend on Google Translate. You are not writing The Hobbit, Harry Potter or The Never Ending Story however it has to be easy enough for you to write. 

Stumbling on a word happens to the best and at times it might work anyway. However don’t bank your startup on French or any other mother tongue if you are aiming for Silicon Valley investors and global expansion. There is Berlitz if you have the money. Duolinguo if you have the time. Normally you have none of these once you start the Founder Institute program. I saw great improvement when you slowed down, articulated less words well and recorded your pitch 10+ times!

 

Bill Gates Law of efficiency

Assignment work is like Bill Gates statement on how to use technology to amplify efficiency. If you do a crappy job on the first Assignment it will eventually show maximum two weeks down the road, because you will have exponentially optimized garbage into epic crap out in the process. So be smart, collaborate and don’t take short cuts. Just do it right the first time and watch it grow.

Read the assignment questions carefully and follow the order. I mean – when was the last time you built Lego or an IKEA piece of furniture starting with step 8 out of 14 because it looked the easiest? Some of the tasks actually make you fail in purpose to confirm that your assumptions were biased by your opinion validated by friends who know that you are a crazy guy and like crazy answers.

Get out of the building doesn’t mean your basement to see a friend one block down the street. It means going to a shopping mall if you want to talk to consumers, a street full of restaurants if you want to talk to chefs, a university if you want to talk to students etc. Don’t come with excuses like I need to talk to runners and it’s freaking icecold winter in Montreal right now. Just put on your running shoes at lunch time on Mt Royal and talk to those running next to you. Call runners in Florida and have Skype interviews. Building means your bubble eventually.

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Never panic. The mentors are Class A and your team is your new family. Even when things go wrong outside the Founder Institute keep your calm. Real World example:

The most hilarious moment of the week? Me running home after a get together with colleagues to see kids at least one evening before bedtime and putting garbage bins in the garage so fast that I forgot to close it. All night. With -27C temperature. So next morning my wife says “We have no water”. Hmmm. I put on my plumber hat doing a general inspection.

Indeed the main water pipe was frozen in the garage and the car covered in snow. Kids made fun of me. My wife made fun of me. Everyone made fun of me including our Handy Mandy who sent me a SMS about what to do at 6.50am. Lessons learned? Laser sharp focus on your 9-5, family and Founder Institute agenda. Do one thing at a time and do it well. Oh, it also confirmed Micheal Moore’s theory about how nice we Canadians are since nobody took our car. I turned the page and will remember this for the rest of my life.

Come back next week or sign up in the footer of the blog to learn more about what’s new and exciting in the FI2016 Montreal Academy.

Wishing you nothing but success with your Start Up in the meanwhile.
Martin

FI2016 Montreal Academy – Week 1 — 2016/01/14

FI2016 Montreal Academy – Week 1

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Das Experiment – must see movie about human behavior under extreme stress and controlled environment

The first Assignment prior to attending the Orientation session on Thursday January 14th changed my entire weekly routine since you only have so much spare time in a day when being a full time employee and family father. The strange thing is change felt great!

Instead of jogging twice a week on the Mt Royal during lunch time stressing to the shower before the next client conference call I wake up 5.45 am running at home again just like in 2012 when training for my first 70.3 Ironman. Lunch is now home work time.

Before I used to accept 2-3 lunches a week with anybody who needed my career mentoring advice or wanted to learn more about digital marketing trends. Now I have to cherry pick very important people since one missed homework lunch means one hour less sleep.

Then you get creative with how to get the most of family time because they need to know why you are doing all this extra work. Our first ski lesson ended up with me working on the Assignment and then take on a hill for the first time in 30 years feeling like a Boov!

Now you must think “So is it really taking 15-20 hours per week to complete an Assignment?” since you make it sound like a walk in the park. Well, it depends.

Read the rules is normally a good place to start. Timing is everything and going back to my 70.3 Ironman the one thing that kept me going was this simple guideline: Each athlete will have 8 hours and 30 minutes to complete the race

If you get 1 hour to watch two Founder Institute mentor videos that both last 45 minutes there obviously something wrong with either your capacity to make the most of one hour or need to get everything 100% right the first time. I used the fast forward button on slides that didn’t tell me anything new and replayed those that made me think “This is freaking genius”! No matter what it had to be done in 1 hour including my notes.

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Another aspect of the Founder Institute that you have to overcome is the need to touch their code. I mean when was the last time you typed a DOS command in Windows? Well, why would you then try to mess with the FI operating system that Entrepreneurs across the globe are using on a weekly basis? Just get it done in the allotted time and move on to the next task. You can easily burn precious hours on trying to do it your way.

When it comes to tools being used among team members for collaboration you quickly understand that less is more. I had used Slack , Doodle and Trello before however you kind of need to identify those who confused “Be Less Busy” and “Free” with creating epic noise on the line that quickly can consume more of those precious Assignment hours. Checking in six times per day is not required until Sergio launches the official FI Slack group.

I made a couple of mistakes myself and then learned that when you don’t know; you don’t know and keep listening instead. For my Assignment research I use Google Apps for Business on the go since it works well with my Chromebook, Nexus tablet and phone. I reopened my Evernote account however haven’t used it much yet.

So in the end do you need to be a Collaboration Ninja and check in on your personal smartphone every two minutes to get going? Nope. The FI online portal is really all it takes to deliver what is required. Start nimble. Aim for 8 hours 15 minutes. Have fun!

Last but not least you need some music to keep up with the drum beat and my favorite weekly Group Therapy is called Above & Beyond 

May the Games begin and thanks to La Gare for letting us use their awesome collaborative work space for the next 12 weeks.

Come back next week or sign up in the footer of the blog to learn more about what’s new and exciting in the FI2016 Montreal Academy.

Wishing you nothing but success with your Start Up in the meanwhile.

Martin

FI2016 Montreal Academy – Launch — 2016/01/08

FI2016 Montreal Academy – Launch

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Welcome to a series of weekly blog posts that will tell the story of a journey with the Founder Institute 2016 Montreal Spring cohort through the looking glasses of one of its founders; Martin Wiedenhoff. Let’s start!

Every story begins with a great mentor. In December 2014 when I asked the best Founder Institute Director in the World – Sergio Escobar – if he was willing to have a lunch with my wife to explain what Founder Institute means for a family father he said “Sure” with a smile on his face. From that very moment I trusted him to become my Start Up mentor.

The Founder Institute – About web page says “The Founder Institute is the world’s premier launch program for talented entrepreneurs.” I also like the definition that Adeo Ressi – Founder and CEO – described during a webinar on December 31st, 2015 “The Founder Institute (FI) is a start up operating system; not a Lean Most Viable Product (MVP) which is used to test an assumption of a product/service.”

As a digital marketing expert by trade it took me little time to scan the Founder Institute on the web and see that their global entrepreneurial acumen was worth more than the high profile glamour of other Start Up incubators. There was a local team spirit unique to FI that I was attracted to from the very beginning. The affordable course fee of $1,250 USD for an entire 3-6 months program was the tipping point. I decided to sign up.

From the online application form to the test that would “make it or break it” to be accepted to the FI2015 spring cohort I was surprised how well organised FI is when onboarding talented entrepreneurs. Many universities could learn from this enrollment process! However it went so fast that I almost skipped the most crucial element of a Start Up – getting timing right.

So I asked Sergio if it was possible to follow the FI2015 Montreal spring cohort and prepare for FI2016 with a greater knowledge on what this program is all about in the Real World. Again he answered “Sure”. So after meeting one of the cohort founders Sebastien Roy the solution was to follow his awesome blog about what he was experiencing every week. I cannot stress enough how important it was to me committing to FI later.

I kept reading about the success of other FI Montreal graduates and attended several Meet Up events that answered specific questions. The risk with most Start Up communities is to be sucked into all the dreaming when we know that “Work hard, play hard and have fun” is the real success formula. Say no to Time Thieves and futile activities. Often.

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Adeo Ressi – FI Founder & CEO

So here we are 14 months later and ready to deep dive into the epic journey of the FI2016 Montreal Spring Cohort next week. I won’t say who joined or any offline discussions going on right now, because Sergio will have the honor to make a public announcement first. It’s why I signed up in the first place remember – being guided by great mentors that you can trust.

To conclude Sergio never had to have lunch with my wife; however I am sure we will have an occasion to catch up with the family introductions later this year. Because joining the FI2016 Montreal Spring cohort was not just about launching a great company. It’s a second family in the making.

Come back next week or sign up in the footer of the blog to learn more about what’s new and exciting in the FI2016 Montreal Academy.

Wishing you nothing but success with your Start Up in the meanwhile.

Martin

 

 

Unlearn What You Have Learned — 2015/12/03

Unlearn What You Have Learned

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With all the Star Wars® hype going on right now and the fact that we are approaching the Dark season (winter) in the Northern hemisphere this is my first blog post about change. Not a Force that awakens. Not a Padawan trying old tricks expecting new results. Not four quarters change to a dollar neither. One could even go further and analyze all the different meanings of the word change in Wikipedia – please make a donation during their yearly fund raising whilst you are reading their great analysis of change.

I am not asking if you are going to challenge a vision of creating a better everyday life for the many (IKEA Vision) since these things take a lot of time and efforts to nail down often without a user guide. In our connected world we are already having difficulties to keep up with our own thoughts not to mention what everyone else is sharing on Facebook.

Instead take a deep breath, close your eyes and think:

What was the best moment of 2015 and why. Write it down here as a comment to the blog and come back in one year to see if you changed.

May The Force Be With You

Martin

Montreal

 

 

Know When To Make A U-Turn — 2015/04/26

Know When To Make A U-Turn

360 Decision - The Amazing Race - Know When To Make A U-Turn

The Amazing Race it the only TV program that I watch on a consistent basis year after year and now both the Canadian and US version. The reason is very simple: no matter what city they visit again or challenge they tweak there is always a different dynamics to the teams running to the finish line. You can argue that it becomes “here we go again with a double U-turn in Paris” however in that given time it’s unique because the circumstances and teams left running are totally different from one season to another.

Now if you zoom in on the U-turn twist of the game – where one team arriving first can choose to force any other team to do two tasks instead of one – it often means that you are pretty much certain to eliminate that team unless they have a Fast Pass allowing them to not do the task. In the Canadian Amazing Race most teams would not U-turn any other teams either because they are too kind or certain about making it to the finish line no matter what the other teams run up against. In the US version teams “shoot first and ask questions later” which means they U-turn who ever they don’t like or think is easiest to eliminate when in reality this decision is very strategic and requires some data analysis on each teams strengths and weaknesses on the previous legs.

So why write an entire blog post about “Know When To Make A U-Turn” and mention Amazing Race best practices? Well, since the beginning of this year I have been approached by professionals, friends and immigrants here in Montreal who keep saying that either their employer is about to eject them from their cubicle, already got shown the Exit door or have great difficulties to get their foot in to the HR interview process. It isn’t just the low petrol price or interest rate that takes its toll on the economy – read job satisfaction – but also the feeling that you are running for $1 million dollars to the finish line after weeks (years) of completing tasks. It can be very hard to remember why you initially signed up for the Amazing Race.

Is it perhaps time to accept that U-turn and return to that other task you never got to do? The one you chose to leave to the other teams because you thought it was going to be too difficult and put you in the back of the pack. It may have looked more fun, but you are not here to have fun remember. You are only here to complete a task and make sure to not be eliminated in this leg of the race. Some of the people I met mentioned the degree they never finished. Others about the profession they never chose. Few still dream about the job experience abroad that they can’t do because of being parents today. You name it and there is a U-Turn in every story.

What if you actually did that task and enjoyed it more than the first one? What if you had to step up and get your team player to hit the pedal to the metal? Double your adrenalin rush and run for $1 million dollar that suddenly was twice as hard to reach? You know that feeling when you just forget about all the worries in your life and focus very hard on getting back in the game. Beat the competition twice. Including yourself.

I have seen this happen numerous times in The Amazing Race. There is something special in the look of that team who defeated not only the blow under the belt from another team, but also their own disbelief that they already were eliminated. Because they know that the next day when the other teams see them standing there with a smile that you better watch out for the team who made it to the finish line doing one task more than the rest. It builds respect that is worth $1 million dollars before getting to the finish line.

So next time you are U-Turned by your career ambitions, employer, dreams of starting a new life in a new country, start up etc. look your partner in the eyes and focus on completing the extra task and make it to the finish line before the last team. Because there is always a last team that takes it easy when they see that you have been U-Turned. They don’t see it coming and I have learned from The Amazing Race that until you step on that Pit stop mat the game ain’t done yet. You and your partner in crime neither.

Wishing you nothing but success.

Martin

Montreal, Canada

Join a Community of Experts — 2015/01/29

Join a Community of Experts

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Experts are people devoted to the same cause having a mythical passion to get further in the evolution and push innovation for the better. Eventually they will share their findings with “late adopters” and care little about “laggards” since they are already light years ahead of the game themselves. In their opinion the next gig is far sexier than explaining an old story to those who dislike change anyway. Because being an Expert requires change no matter with subject matter of expertise. Even the Pope is an Expert and recently said to “laggards” in Europe it was time to change!

So which group of Experts does one ask permission to join? Because often Experts are very picky about who can talk to them not to mention join their club of Experts. Here is what I recommend:

1. If people – read Expert material – have mentioned you are really good at something and it shows you have a passion for the subject typically there is where to start. Write down 1-3 subjects/skills that fit that category.

2. Now test this with like minded individuals by lunching at least once weekly with an Expert or Expert to be. It’s important to pick different levels of Experts since the best ones will either ignore your lunch invitation or wait until you hang on their shirt literally begging about 60 minutes of their time. Remote Skype, Hangouts or phone calls are OK too.

3. Now that you know your level of expertise it’s time to hang out with those who are one notch above you. The ones that can explain things, see the future and love telling a story about it. Forget those who give you books to read, seminars to attend or hours of YouTube content to watch. They are just fobbing you off really.

4. Join a group of Experts on LinkedIn, MeetUp, Facebook etc. in your city before aiming for the Fight Club Membership. You show up sharp, smart and sexy so Experts notice you no matter which subject. Geeks have a dress code too if you didn’t know!

5. Make it a habit to contribute content in online forums, social media and most of all recognize your peers. You wont’t become an Expert unless this starts happening to you i.e. people hang on your shirt go get 60 minutes of your valuable time over lunch!

I started 2015 with getting closer to the Start Up community in Montreal having spent six months observing the Experts, lunching with them and getting a better understanding of what makes them tick. Then I decided to focus on one place where they meet – The Notman House. After a series of events I really liked the buzz of a specific group of Experts and joined their network. Now this year I will do my very best to be recognized as a beginner in Montreal!

Website: Start Up Canada

Cost: Most events are free and happen after office hours. When an attendance fee is charged it rarely costs more than $50.

Time to make decision and execute: 5 minutes it took to sign up for my first Start Up Canada event at the Notman House last autumn.

Benefit: The value is often not measured in dollars, but in time saved to learn the skills on your own or at university! Not to mention the network reach for future Expert advice! Getting out of your comfort zone is priceless too!

Get Smarter and Collect Stamps — 2014/11/11

Get Smarter and Collect Stamps

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Continued Education in North America is a lucrative business for universities, colleges and private institutions alike. Being a Digital Marketing professional it has been very difficult to find appropriate evening classes in a field that changes every week when traditional education needs 2-3 semesters to adapt a new course and find the right teacher to deliver the message. I have met professionals that do this part time and excel at doing so. Others tell me save your money and participate in social media groups about the topic. At best you can benefit from a certification that is supported and sometimes sponsored by your employer. All of the above is never going to cost you a fortune in money; more so in precious time.

So when my colleague who knows everything about Communication and how to participate in a webinar said there was a course about Effective Public Speaking available at McGill Continued Education I immediately grabbed my mobile phone to surf the page. Flash animation didn’t work on Android so I had to get back on a Windows laptop to see the great video.  After listening to Monica Carbonneau there was no way I would miss this class next winter for a symbolic investment of $20 per hour. It still baffles me how fine universities like McGill can hire Class AAA teachers for that fee.  My kids piano lessons cost more for crying out loud!

So off I go with the online application form that became a print out of four pages one had to fill out manually and then go home to scan it on a printer before emailing the entire information back to the email provided on the registration webpage. All in all 48 hours to actually get it done. Kind of done.

Because suddenly I get the email confirmation that my registration worked and because I took a course back in September 2000 my McGill student ID was still valid. WOW – they kept it on file for 14 years and now asked me to log in. Back to that folder with the paper I kept for a decade and some to find the McGill Student ID. Well, then you log in and get the security question “What was your fathers birth date?” I knew it of course and typed in all possible ways until it was obvious that Minerva wouldn’t let me log in. So I click “Forgot password” and get the confirmation that an email with the password reset was sent to my 14 year old McGill student email address which of course I was unable to remember the password for neither. Now it was getting rather annoying with this “old school” way of going in loops and I picked up the phone selecting the “French” support since that always works faster in an English speaking institution. Nevertheless I was immediately served in perfect English to reset the password in less than one minute. Bingo – that was easy! I had completed the online onboarding one week later. I can’t imagine how a student from New Delhi, Shanghai or London would have worked this one out, but they pay higher tuition fees and must have more patience to onboard than a marketing professional being used to do everything on his smartphone within minutes.

So now you ask why I write all this stuff when the point was to take on further education, invest time in attending courses that will make you a better person and most of all collect these “stamps” that you can put in your LinkedIn profile. Right. Well, it’s so that you can comprehend what new employees coming out of these same universities feel about when “old school” doesn’t really fit with “new world” and you constantly have to revisit the customer journey like if it was your first day at work. It’s so that you go to these fine universities and help them get smarter about taking care of brilliant students. Because my kids will ask me to invest a fortune for their education once they get there and collect their stamps. If they don’t trust that this is the best place to learn they will go and look elsewhere.

Website: www.mcgill.ca/continuingstudies

Cost: Most courses are very reasonably priced and often the hourly rate is below $40 CAD which is 3 times less than what my Volvo mechanic charged to change winter tires.

Time to make decision and execute: 5 minutes it took to see Monica Carbonneau sell her course on the video and honestly how can one not listen to her value proposition!

Benefit: You get the student status with all the perks at McGill. Library, group of great students, down town location within walking distance to the office and most of all a stamp for your collection. If you are interested in knowing how the course went contact me late March 2015 for references.

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