Are You Ready To Finally Face Your Fulcrum Moment in 2013?

It usually comes down to one thing, doesn’t it?

It could be finally registering your firm. Or perhaps making that site you’ve been working on live.

It could be doing that big talk with a parent to say your heart isn’t in the family business and hasn’t been for awhile.

It could be deciding to resign from corporate. Or to finally using the savings you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.

It could be deciding to pursue funding to aggressively seize an opportunity for an existing startup, typically foregoing comfort and control.

It could be something as deceptively simple as writing someone an email or scheduling a meeting or talking to your boss.

It’s precisely THE ONE action which would push you to start things up, or to push your startup to the next level

I call it the Fulcrum Moment – because once you are able to cross this moment, it invariably, permanently, tilts your fate in a certain direction. It’s life-changing.

My big one was finally leaping from corporate a couple of years ago. Starting this blog was another. I’ve got another big one I want to tackle in 2013.

fulcrum
The Fulcrum Moment. Think of yourself walking on one end of a see-saw. At one point you approach the fulcrum. You hesitate. You just know that crossing over would make you lose balance. But you do so anyway. Then you experience a shift. You are suddenly tilted in a different angle, which also gives you momentum in crossing through to the other side.

But alas, like the proverbial smitten teenager getting tongue-tied asking the girl out, we often find ourselves failing rise to the occasion. We KNOW how potentially awesome the moment can be for us, but we talk ourselves into thinking it is quite rational to delay things. We think of a thousand reasons how it could explode in our faces. We allow ourselves into thinking the negatives outweigh the positives. Why?

Because we perceive this moment to be peppered with risk. 

Let’s get this out of the way: nothing great is ever done without risk. 

Nothing.

This goes double for startups. Think of your entrepreneurial heroes.

Jobs, Zuck, and Gates gave up the traditional college route to pursue their passions.

I think ALL of the renowned Filipino Taipans have great stories of how they started. Every single one of them took massive risks at particular junctures in their careers.

ALL the successful startup owners I know now ALSO have great stories to tell. The stories all become great because the protagonist always faces something uncertain and scary and risky. They faced their Fulcrum Moments head on and lived to tell the tale, ALWAYS for the better. Did they always succeed? No. But that’s part of it. But they persevered. And learned.  The learning which happens is worth much more than the price of admission. It is precisely the learning that leads to success.

So you know what? I’m throwing the gauntlet to start 2013 off.

I challenge you to finally face your Fulcrum Moment. Start the year the best way possible by finally tackling it.

Look at it straight in the eyes. Grab it by the horns.

2013. January.

Conquer it!

A Merry Christmas Never Comes too Late

Christmas can be a very busy time of the year, especially here in the Philippines. In the Philippines, Christmas is not just a one day celebration, but rather a series of celebrations that starts weeks and sometimes months in advance. Here, Christmas is a marathon of celebrations.

I attended my first Christmas party at the end of November and started exchanging presents at the beginning of this month. It’s been non-stop since then. Just thinking about all the Christmas parties I’ve attended makes me exhausted.

As I stop to think about how my Christmas has been spent, and is being spent, I’m starting to realize that I’ve been very selfish this Christmas. I’ve received so much, but given very little.

I’ve been blessed with so much. Blessed in coming here to the Philippines. Blessed with technology that enables me to connect with loved ones back home (though I haven’t taken the time to effectively use it, but thank you Lord for the time difference!)  Blessed in celebrating Christmas with so many: friends, relatives, officemates, street kids, passionate entrepreneurs, and just plain good and wonderful people! Blessed with good work, health, food, and shelter! It all so beautiful!

Christmas is a beautiful time! Time to rejoice, be glad, receive and accept all the gifts that God has given! Emmanuel!

It’s never too late to have a Merry Christmas!

Lets live one everyday! MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS 🙂

Photo Credits: Kristin A. Militante
Photo Credits: Kristin A. Militante

Don’t let Christmas be a Corporate Cliché

nativityI spent a twelve years in corporate, from one company to another.

Across these dozen years, I have bounced around in different firms.

Christmas is celebrated more or less the same way:

A big “Christmas” party is planned

The party starts with a token prayer (typically by the HR guy)

The CEO starts a speech, usually beginning with something like “Hey, I know you guys want to party, so I’ll keep this short!” (he usually doesn’t).  It’s on       dreaded Powerpoint. It’s filled with graphs about the company, how it performed, how next year would be even more amazing.

Then the CEO ends the speech with something like a “KAIN TAYO!”

Food and drinks are served

A raffle ensues. Some games.

A band starts playing, people start dancing, and getting drunk.

There is nothing wrong with this per se.

But why call it a “Christmas” party at all?

Just call it a “Year-end company party”, since there is no mention of Christ anywhere but the token prayer. Not one of the CEO’s I’ve witnesses have ever mentioned Him. It’s all about those graphs and things.

To those of us building firms, we have a chance to do much better than this.

Let’s celebrate, but then let’s also remember why we are celebrating in the first place.

THINK: You Only Have 1 Peso

I started out my day with 50 pesos in my pocket.

php_coin_1_obv

By 5pm, I had 1 peso.

I had food waiting for me at home. True, I didn’t have any more expenses for the day, but I still needed to hop on the MRT to get home. Good thing, I had a stored value card to get me there.

On the journey home, I was drunk with excitement. I felt liberated without the resources that would usually shield me from hardship. I was ready for any obstacle because I literally had nothing to lose.

The only thing on my mind was to get home to food and shelter, and I knew I’d get there someway, somehow. 

While this romanticized anecdote is a product of my own recklessness and negligence, I savor that 1 Peso Moment. It reminds me of the rewards that come from making do with less. In this instance, I was pushed to the limit because I was down to my last peso and I was provoked to push back because I had to survive. In contrast, an excess of resources could do the complete opposite.

In the startup scene, they say that when a company acquires funding it actually increases the company’s likelihood of running out of funds. I see the concept play out in my own life.

When I’ve got a couple of thousand pesos. The money exits from my pocket without attachment. I can barely remember where it goes when I have more of it. Money, in this case, has less of an impact because it’s dispensable. Since I don’t value the money properly, I don’t foresee any consequences until I’m down to my last peso.

If I were to apply the principles of startup methodology into my own life, as I transition from life in a developed country to life in a developing country, I would say that bootstrapping is the way to go. I’ve heard so many stories about how funded startups fail because they get investors too quickly or how founders lose control of their businesses by giving up majority of their shares. The list seems to go on and on, but aside from the many reasons, I’d like to put emphasis on this Juan Great Thought:

If you’ve only got 1 Peso in your pocket, you stay hungry.

When you don’t have any money for a basic human need like food, you will work at any cost to fulfill that need.  That need to live is what will ferociously drive you to great measures, and that determination opens the doors for great rewards.

I’d like to work with that hunger to survive day in and day out. In days of doubt and despair, I will always remember that moment when I had just 1 peso.

 

How To Shut Your Way Up To Sales Success

zip itBack around 2007, I remember being thoroughly underwhelmed by the CEO of a multinational company our startup competed with. Our companies were summoned by a client in a joint meeting to compete for a bid.

I distinctly remember telling Pao: “The guy didn’t say anything and just wrote down notes. He was so unimpressive.”

Little did I know that not saying anything and taking down notes were quite strategic in one on one sales, so much so in B2B sales. Stubborn that I was, it took me a year or two to incorporate the same strategies in my own sales meetings.

Back then, whenever we did sales pitches, people would always react at how young we were – and this always felt like a hurdle in the selling process. (as the years went by, losing hair and gaining pounds remedied this – ah, the perks of baldness!) This, plus our being rookies in the industry, made me feel a gap in credibility.

So in the back of my mind, whenever I’d go to pitches, I thought – “I have to prove to this person how capable I am.”

So my pitches early on became exercises in hearing all about how great we and our products were.

One BIG problem: clients don’t care about how great you are. They only care about how you can help them out.

I remember seeing this in their faces before: they WANT to say something but I was so busy wanting to blurt out my “piece” that sometimes I didn’t let them get a chance to.

HUGE mistake.

The whole pitch has to be about the client. How can the product help them out? What’s in it for them? It only becomes a great product if they can see how it helps THEM to be great.

Listening and writing down notes are great visual indicators that the client’s needs are precisely what you are prioritizing. I’m not talking about putting on a show though – you really have to listen. Authenticity is pretty easy to sniff out. The client’s needs HAS to be first.

A client who is excited, talking, and feeling good about herself and her company is a much more likely sale than the one who is repressing herself to listen to someone saying how great they are.

Putting themselves first is a great temptation especially for new entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs precisely because they have a lot of confidence in themselves. They also usually have a chip on their shoulder – a great need to prove something to the world. Inviting them to talk about their passions could easily turn into a couple of hours of monologue.

Overall, this is a good thing. Entrepreneurs need this to go through the roughest cycles of the job.

Just remember to rein it in sales meetings: just give a concise, well-thought pitch…

And then shut the hey up.

Why Slow and Steady WON’T Always Win the Race For You

turtleGrowing up, I was always told that it is through consistent, regular effort that we make great things happen.

Experience has taught me that this isn’t always the case, moreso with a number of “great” things.

For example, the people I know who have undergone uber-dramatic (and lasting) weight loss did it by doing something drastic in the beginning – like a month of little to no carbs coupled with really small portions. For those of us who love eating, you know how difficult this is – a truly supreme effort. In a month, results became obvious and motivated my friends even more to see things through.

For these friends of mine, “slow and steady” efforts over years never yielded the results they wanted.

True progress only started after a relatively short period of intense, concentrated effort. Results are obtained. Maintenance, as everyone reports, is much easier afterwards.

There are examples all around.

I know certain people who have carved out successful careers out of working their tails off in landing ONE humongous account.

Law and medical students studying the lights out for one exam which will dictate the course of the rest of their lives.

Slow and steady doesn’t always apply because life itself isn’t slow and steady, right? Life is composed of seasons -peaks and valleys. Times of abundance. Times of scarcity.

Times of varying degrees of opportunity.

Opportunity doesn’t come from a slow and steady stream, doesn’t it? It just presents itself.

This is where intense bursts of effort trump steady distributed effort nearly every time. When the opportunity comes, you usually have to be able to exert a great, drastic effort to grab it. The great effort will usually allow you to grab a foothold – something that slow and steady effort might not have allowed you to do so. Then, in a lot of ways, it becomes just a bit easier.

This is very very true in startups – especially in the early stages.

Looking back when I was starting, this was so true in so many ways:

Recruiting the right partners – and casting a large enough net to do so – for STORM required me to spend almost all of my weeknights for around a month talking to people.

Landing that first client in as a B2B firm (so crucial to get a first reference) required a great, drastic effort on our part.

Finally leaping from corporate required a great burst of sacrifice, planning, and work. (and prayer)

concentrate

Want to put up a startup? Your slow and steady approach might not cut it (and for some of us, I know it’s been frustrating)

Do something drastic in a short, concentrated burst of great, grand effort. Focus this intense effort on the fulcrum issues which are causing your startup to stall.

Need funding? Reach out to 100 strategic individuals. Give yourself 5 working days to do so.

Need a co-founder? Arrange 8-10 interviews a day for a full week.

Need an idea? Need to validate with the client? Need to build a prototype?

Instead of spreading things out, try bursts.

Oh, you’re doing this part-time? Just take your 5 “vacation” days off and do the exact opposite. Plan these 5 days out carefully – what you’re going to be doing for your startup in every hour.

Try bursts.

How many times have you been called CRAZY?

How many times have you been called crazy? How many times has someone told you that you couldn’t do something? How many times have you had a good idea and let it disappear into nothing? How many times have you despaired? How many times?

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I’ve been called crazy for thinking I can change the Philippines, so many times.

I’ve been told that it’d be impossible to start a business at my age, so many times. I’ve let ideas disappear, so many times. I’ve despaired too many times. So many times… and yet I’m here.

Yes I am here, and so many times people have asked me,

“Why are you here?”

What I want to tell them is:

“I am here because I choose and want to be here. I see a brighter future for me in the Philippines. I love the Philippines. I am Filipino and I know God made me Filipino for a reason.”

Ask me how many times I’ve actually articulated this.

Why can’t I say it more times?

It’s a lot to live up to and I see myself as no one to speak in those terms.

But how does a person define one as a nobody? Dapat bang maging sikat before one is recognized for existing? Are one’s thoughts, values, and actions worth more if you are more popular?

Why not be crazy, if you have a persistent itch…be unreasonable, if you have a clear vision..be stellar, if you’re gifted?

No matter what they think of you, why not just be your best self?

Giving it your all is how you’ll see the path that’s truly made for you.

Photo Credits: Tony Wijaya Model: Charis Yue
Photo Credits: Tony Wijaya
Model: Charis Yue

“LET IT SHINE! LET IT SHINE!”

Do you feel me?

The truth is, no matter how many times I fail to articulate with conviction, I know what I want. I want to be a successful entrepreneur, and in my own way, help build the Philippines and its people to new heights.

I’m still finding the exact steps as I work towards my end goal, but the opportunities are endless, I am telling you. The more I am exposed to, the more my horizons are stretched, and the more I see that impossible IS nothing.

It’s just a matter of believing and seeing the light in a bright and beautiful Philippines.

Hope Is the Common Entrepreneurial Thread

I have interacted and talked to a multitude of startup entrepreneurs over the course of these last few years.

You can bet I have tried to figure them out.

What is the common thread?

What makes an entrepreneur?

There are a number of things which stand out: tenacity, hard work, execution, with good doses of people skills and creative problem solving.

You’d probably find these characteristic in a number of entrepreneurial books and blogs.

What I realize now though is that perhaps the most common thread is a bit more rudimentary. It isn’t a skill in as much as it is a paradigm, a state of mind, a way of looking at things.

It’s hope.

sunrise

All startup founders I’ve met are hopeful people.

It sort of comes with the territory.

Lean Startup author Eric Ries describes a startup as:

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

If you take this level of uncertainty and couple it with the sobering thought that up to 70%-80% of startups fail?

Well, you sort of NEED to be a hopeful person, right?

But there’s more.

Perhaps the best illustration of hope in the entrepreneur is the way she conquers Hope’s polar opposite – Fear.

“This will never work!”

“This is going to be B-I-G!”

“I will be out in the streets begging for food if I fail!”

“If this doesn’t work, I can just go back to corporate. No problem.”

“I will be laughed at!”

“I will be the next Zuckerberg!”

“It’s a recession. This is a very bad time to startup a company!”

“It’s a recession! There’ll be hundreds of opportunities to start a company!”

How we see what the future holds largely dictates what sort of risks we take.

A hopeful person will take many leaps. Even if some of those leaps fail, they’ll think well enough of the future that they’ll take even more leaps.

A fearful person might not take a single significant leap at all. (not realizing that stagnancy in this new, ultra-dynamic economy is the worst risk of all)

In fact, the very interesting thing is that a hopeful person doesn’t see risk at all. She sees opportunity.

opps

When you attend meetings of entrepreneurs, want-to-preneurs and startup owners, there is a certain energy that fills the room. It is palpable. Get these people together, and almost immediately, discussions about a better future happen – a new business concept, possible partnerships, new ways of working together.

This energy, this hope, is what I love about the startup scene and talking to entrepreneurs. I seldom saw this in my corporate stints. Hope is engrossing, uplifting, and contagious.

Want to put up your own startup someday? Perhaps one stumbling block is your mindset.

You just have to get rid of your dark glasses and look at the world with rosier lens. And you know what?

You CAN change a mindset.

Like love, hope is very much a decision.

For the Young Entrepreneur: Do not Fear the Lingo, Get down with it! (Even more fun with wise friends!)

(Matt Lapid will be regularly posting original articles with me here on JGL, with the perspective of being brand-new entrepreneur. Heres his second article. As usual, please tell us what you think with the content we are pumping out for you. Gracias! – Peter)
256px-Math

“So is it a B2B or B2C…Kasi pwedeng B2C…Pwede rin B2B, but you need to define your niche market and validate…BOOTSTRAP…Looks like you have an MVP!”

This is the lingo that resonates after being with JGL for one week. Initially, I felt like “huh?” all the time.

“What’s a B2B? I never took calculus.”

In spite of my ignorance, I understood that even if I were to attain a tiny bit of knowledge of simple business terms it would give me a deeper understanding of the negotiations being made around me. So I made sure that if I didn’t know a word, I’d jot it down and look it up. That simple act of discovery made all the difference.

As a result, when Peter articulates that tech enterprises can be looked at in terms of both B2B and B2C, I can at least understand that he is saying that their business relationships can be based on a Business to Business or a Business to Consumer interaction. It’s a small feat, but understanding the lingo that’s being used nurtures free-flowing discussion, in which the speaker doesn’t feel confined. In my relatively minimal exposure to entrepreneurship, I’ve observed that the free-flowing, out-of-box thinking is where the best ideas are conceived and the best work is produced. If we do not allow our minds to run free, we will not create our best work.

In addition, if we seek to work efficiently, we must equip ourselves with the right tools to do so. At times, as young and passionate people, we want to do and do out of anxiety, but if we’re doing things on our own without the proper knowledge and guidance, success will be near impossible to attain. There are so many of us who have the passion and allow it to drive us, but that passion will eventually burn out, if we run without an understanding of business.

On a brighter note, there are many seasoned entrepreneurs that would love to teach you. I’m not sure exactly why this is because entrepreneurs are some of the busiest people around, but from what I have inferred it’s a type of pay it forward approach, and perhaps even a little narcissism that goes into play.

Let me explain my hypothesis.

Seasoned entrepreneurs see themselves in us. That entrepreneurial itch that you have is the same type of itch that compels entrepreneurs to move. That passion and tenacity that you possess is the same force that drives entrepreneurs day in and day out. Seasoned entreps can spot that entrepreneurial energy and determination. They see themselves in us young folk, and want to help by sharing their knowledge and experience because it is actually gratifying for them to see us succeed, as so many others have done for them.

For us young and aspiring entrepreneurs let us not fear what we do not know. Let us not act like we have all the answers. Let us be real and learn from one another.

I leave you with this list of common terms I hear on a regular basis, which are simply defined. Taking in consideration that these are the bare bones of rich definitions, let’s spark some discussion and provide some insights! Perhaps, we could even add to the list to gain more knowledge! Anything goes, as we long as we learn together! Do hit the comments!

List of Terms Defined:

1) B2B– Business to Business

2) B2C– Business to Commercial

3) MVP– Minimal Viable Product

4) YTD– Year-to-Date

5) Bootstrap– act of starting your business with the resources you have without any outside funding at all

6) Traction– indicator that tell us if the business has generated revenue

7) Cash Cow-moneymaker but possibly stagnant

8) SRP– Suggested Retail Price

How to Avoid The Marshmallow Career

marshmallow_test

In a landmark study done in 1972 by Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel, hundreds of children were offered a marshmallow. However, each child was told that if they could resist eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they would receive a second marshmallow.

Decades after, it was found that the children who delayed gratification (around a third of the 600 students who participated), were described as more competent, had higher SAT scores, and went on to have better careers.

A few days ago an entrepreneurial friend of mine posted a quick “Pera o Passion?” poll on his Facebook page. The last I checked, “pera” was leading.  It was understandable, but I have to admit, I felt a bit disheartened.

Quick money is almost always un-strategic.

Let’s talk about this overused word for a minute. For me, to be “strategic” means that decisions are always made to support a much bigger picture. To be truly strategic almost always means to defer gratification. Think Amazon delaying becoming profitable for so many years (CEO Jeff Bezos was barbecued in the media in those days). They were burning hundreds of millions to acquire customers year after year because they were after the bigger picture (a much larger community). This long-term plan paid off. Amazon is now one of the world’s most admired and successful companies.

I think very few of us  really think about our careers strategically.

Instead, most people eat the marshmallow.

A friend of mine recently reached out to me about career advice. He was explaining that he wanted out of the industry he was in, that he would never go back to it. A few weeks later, a high paying job became available in a company he really admired. I noticed it was in the same industry he was in. In a recent email, he was asking me for tips on how to get into the that firm.

Huh?

He’s eating the marshmallow.

We fall for it early. After years of not earning anything, we finally attend job fairs and get dazzled by the offers we get. Sadly, most people still decide to go to the highest bidder, where the assembly line starts and is built to keep you in.

As we get older, we then feel it:

This money thing isn’t as cool as I thought it would be. 

I’m earning, but I’m not living. 

What field/job can I be truly happy?

or even

Hindi ko natutugunan ang aking pagmemeron.

Quarter life, or even mid-life crisis, at its full hurricane force.

If we ask the people who voted for “pera” in that earlier casual survey 20 years from now, I’m guessing the pendulum would shift to the other side.*

So what am I getting at?

Young people. I’m talking to you. Don’t fall into this trap. Take it from us (slightly) older folks. Think about your careers strategically.

Repeat after me. Big picture. Big picture. Big picture.

Here are some tips on how to avoid the marshmallow career:

1) Take Time to Understand YOUR Big Picture

I think this is where a big chunk of the problem lies. We lack self-awareness. We don’t invest enough time understanding who we are, what we like doing, what our natural gifts are, and what we want to be when we “grow up.”

As some great military people once said “knowing is half the battle.”

Take time to assess. Ask friends about what your strengths and weaknesses are. Take personality tests. Ask people about other careers.

Granted, this won’t be automatic, as “finding out who we are” can take a long process. But I think part of that problem is, we don’t really put enough investment in consciously trying.

Try. Perhaps asking this simple question can help start the process: who am I?

Also, think about YOUR big picture. Not your parent’s. Not anyone else’s.

2) Work Backwards

Once you have a reasonable idea of your Big Picture, do a Covey and try to Begin With The End In Mind.

begin

What career move can you do NOW that will inch you closer to your Big Picture?

Since this is an Startup Blog, here’s my quick tip on what next career steps you can do if you want to own a business someday:

A) Go fulltime and take the leap! Startups are all about learning through doing. Anything else is a bit of a  compromise. Try naming a great startup which was done part-time.

B) Work for a startup. Next best thing.

C) If A & B are too unpalatable, you could: 1) get into sales – it might not be that sexy to some, but selling is an extremely valuable skill to develop in any startup, 2) get into the industry you plan to develop your startup in, the smaller the firm, the better, 3) get into anything which expands your personal network in a hurry.

3) Just Say No

Okay, you’ve got your Big Picture. You’ve got some semblance of a plan on how to get there.

What are you going to do when Company X offers you a big package from out of the blue because your friend gave a good recommendation?

Think Amazon. Think strategic.

If something tempting comes and shows you all the shiny things you can have now if you break your plan, well, just think of all the SHINIER things you could accomplish sticking to the plan.

This is easier said than done, of course. But possible.

4) Pray

By far, my best career advisor has been God. My best career decision-making process has been Discernment. I’ve always maintained that it was He who really pushed me into an entrepreneurial path.

Here’s an interesting thing.

I belong to a Community  which really encourages its constituents to pray, talk to God, and surrender to His will. This group has a disproportionate amount of people who have taken leaps from their long-standing careers into what they truly want to do. A longtime banker who has become a pre-school teacher. An longtime FMCG executive who now works for a foundation. Another longtime marketer who put up her consulting practice. A longtime IT employee who’s put up multiple small businesses. There are more. All of which would tell you they had the courage to take the leap because of prayer.

You should see their faces when they explain how happy they are in their chosen fields. Passion is always evident.

As is the lack of it.

(know anyone who will benefit and resonate from this post? be a blessing and share!)

self-awareness

*The big assumption of course, is that we are earning enough to cover our basic needs. Maslow’s hierarchy in full effect.