January 05, 2017

Help me help you

A former salesperson from Gold Systems emailed me recently to comment on an article I had written and to say that he was starting his own company.  David Colliver is his name and his new company is Colliver Technology Group. He's helping companies get a handle on their sales support technology.

Years ago David was a sales person at my company.  I remember he heard me speak at the University of Colorado and he made it his business to get a job with us.  I liked his attitude and we hired him to be our newest sales person.  Besides being a likable person, the thing that stood out about David was how effectively he would ask for assistance.  Many sales people were too afraid to ask the CEO to help them with a deal.  I don't think I was that unapproachable unless I was starting to suspect that they couldn't sell.  I did my best to help without stepping on their toes and I always believed that if I went on a sales call, they were the leader and I was supporting them.  Dave got that and we had many enjoyable and profitable sales trips together.

The idea of "help me help you" came from me noticing that many of the salespeople (not Dave) would ask for help by sending me an email saying "Can you help me with a client?"  I would answer, "Sure, who's the client."  They would answer "Big Insurance Company."  I would respond, "Great, I would love to work with you to get the sale, what do you need me to do?"  They would answer, "Can you send an email to their VP of Whatever saying how much we want their business?  Me - "Sure, who are they"  Them - "Jayne Smith."  Me - "Ok, what's their email address?"  If it was tedious to read that, it was really tough for me and each of my responses would get slower.

Dave was different.  He would send me an email more like this:

Hey Terry, I'd like your help with a deal I'm working on with Big Insurance Company. I'm to the point where I would like to ask them for a meeting where we will go out together and try to close the sale, and I'd like you to send an email to Jayne Smith at Jayne@BigInsuranceCompany.com.  I want you to send something like this if you would please.  Feel free to put it in your own words.

    Hi Jayne,

    David Colliver who is your account representative at Gold Systems has told me that he is trying to set up a meeting at your headquarters to discuss our proposal.  I would love to join David on that trip so that I can meet you and answer any questions about how we'll take care of you as our customer.  I'm sure David has done a great job and I would like to now introduce myself and accompany him on his next visit with you at Big Insurance Company headquarters.  If that's OK, I'll ask my assistant Angela to help us coordinate schedules.

    Thank you and I look forward to meeting you!

    Regards,

    Terry Gold

(Back to Dave's voice here)  If that looks good to you Terry, just send the email, copy me and I'll work with Angela to make it happen.  I've also attached a copy of our latest proposal to this email in case you want to take a look.

Thanks!  -- Dave

Do you see the difference?  Rather than me having to drag every detail out of the salesperson over multiple emails, Dave made it extremely easy for me to help him.  He anticipated everything I would need to know, and in fact gave me more than I needed.  I could have looked in our CRM system for the contact's email and our proposal database for the document, but that would have taken me more time and might have delayed my response to Dave.  You see he was making it so easy to help him so that I just did it as soon as I read his email and gave him what he needed.  Dave was and is a nice guy but he did this to improve the odds of getting my help and making the sale.  I've always appreciated him for that, and I've told this story in many mentoring sessions.

So before you ask someone for help, take a lesson from Dave.  Anticipate what they need to know to help you, and give it to them clearly and concisely in a way that makes it easy for them to help you.

Dave, all the best with the new company!  I'm sure you will do a great job of anticipating your customer's needs and making it easy for them to buy from you.  

 

 

January 5, 2017 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink

November 03, 2016

Sidebar in UniSA Business Magazine

This month's UniSA Business magazine asked me to write a sidebar piece for an article on entrepreneurship.  I answer the question, "What three things do you need to start a business?"  You can check it out here if you want.  http://ow.ly/1W4e305m3fa  You can find the sidebar by looking at the top of the article for the "Further Reading" tab.

UniSA magazine

 

 

November 3, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

September 20, 2016

Fail Good video with Brad Feld

This is one of many videos recorded of Brad Feld while he was visiting us at the Centre for Business Growth in Adelaide, Australia.  My Australian friends tell me that people here are much less tolerant of "failure" than in the US.  They say that you may not get to try again if something doesn't work here.  I'm not sure that's true, but it wouldn't be a healthy attitude for entrepreneurship if it was true.  I heard Brad say multiple times that he would invest in people who had "failed" as long as they were honest and learned from their experience.  We also talked quite a bit about what failure even is, or what a success is, and it's not just measured by return on investment.  That certainly is an important measure, but not the only measure.

 

Brad is being interviewed by Felicia Trewin from ANZ, who is one of our sponsors at the Centre for Business Growth.  They are great supporters of businesses and entrepreneurs!

If you would like to see more videos of Brad, check out his blog here at feld.com.  It was fun to spend a week with him here in Adelaide!  Thanks Brad!

September 20, 2016 in Blogging, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

June 15, 2016

My new job in Australia - From Longmont to Adelaide in less than three months

The story of how I ended up in Australia begins almost 20 years ago.  I was given a copy of a manuscript for a new book to be published called Leading at the Speed of Growth.  One of the authors was Dr. Jana Matthews and I knew she was a friend of Brad Feld’s and had been a leader at the Kauffman Foundation.
 
I read Leading at the Speed of Growth at a time when I was struggling as an entrepreneur.  We had grown the company, hired a lot of employees, moved into new space and I was not having fun.  Reading Jana’s book made me realise that I needed to change and grow as much as my company was changing and growing.  I decided I had to go from being the hands-on startup techie guy who liked to code, to an actual leader of a company.  Fortunately Jana lived in Boulder, and I was able to meet her and spend time talking about the concepts she had developed over the years working with high-growth companies.
 
We both still remember having breakfast together the day after the September 11th attacks.  Like everyone else we were still in shock but I felt better after that breakfast because Jana inspired me to focus on being a good leader and to be there for my employees.  After that, we got together regularly to talk about growing companies.  Often we talked about culture, core values and the challenges of growing as a CEO.  My assistant at the time sometimes suggested I get together with Jana whenever she noticed the stress of the job weighing on my shoulders - it was that obvious that Jana was helping me cope and learn.
 
Jana is often introduced as a “Global Thought Leader” and she earned that title by literally going all over the world to work with CEOs and their teams.  She traveled to Australia to work with growth companies, and soon helped found an accelerator for startups with growth potential.  I had been a mentor at the Boulder Technology Incubator and at Techstars, so Jana called me up and invited me to visit Adelaide and be a mentor to their first cohort of entrepreneurs.
 
I fell in love with Adelaide, and as Jana likes to quote, I said, “How can you miss a place you didn’t even know existed until a few week ago?”  I was fortunate to be invited back for the third cohort, and enjoyed working with Jana and being in Adelaide even more.  When I heard that Jana had become the Director of the Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, I wondered if I might be so lucky as to get a third visit back to Adelaide to work with her again.
 
In October of 2014, Jana invited me to come down and be a “Visiting Growth Entrepreneur” but I was in the midst of getting Launch Longmont started and I reluctantly declined.  On March 5th, 2016 I emailed Jana to say that I was done with Launch Longmont and that Cindy and I were thinking about a trip to New Zealand.  Instead of getting vacation tips back, Jana called me a few hours later to ask me to consider coming to Australia for a year (at least!) to be the “Growth Entrepreneur in Residence” at the Centre.  I've now joined Jana, a growing group of researchers and managers, and other CEOs/mentors to help grow companies in South Australia and beyond.
 
In less than three months we went from thinking about “what’s next” to living in Adelaide, Australia.  I am so grateful to Jana for making all of this possible and I’m honoured to be working with her and the team.  When I first read Leading at the Speed of Growth, I never imagined how far it might take me!
 
 
 

June 15, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

April 29, 2016

It's Official, I'm off to Australia!

My Work Visa was approved this week, so it's official - I'm moving to Adelaide Australia!  We've given notice on the rental house that we've been in this past year in Longmont since we sold our house in Boulder, and now it's just a matter of packing up stuff into storage and getting on the plane on May 25th.  That gives me less than a month to do a lot of organizing, donating and saying goodbye to many friends and family.  

At times it is a little overwhelming to think about, but mostly it is just exciting to consider how lucky I am.  I'm going to get paid to hang out with entrepreneurs who are growing interesting companies in a country that every single person I know has said they wished they could visit.  Adelaide, the city where I'll be living, isn't as well known as larger cities like Sydney but it is listed in the top ten most livable cities in the world and I can't wait to start exploring!

I'll do updates to this blog in the future about what it's like to make a move half way around the world, and about the great people and companies that I know I will encounter in the process.  If you want to get email updates, you can sign up to be notified whenever I do a new post or just check back occasionally.

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Hawkes Building, photo courtesy UniSA.

For more on my move check out this post: http://www.terrygold.com/t/2016/03/life-after-part-2-big-news.html

 

April 29, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

March 22, 2016

Life After, Part 2 - Big News!

A lot has happened since my last blog post, which was just over a year ago.  We closed the doors to Launch Longmont on February 29th this year.  The coworking space was a success in that we brought in some great members and had a positive impact on the community, but construction that was supposed to be started and done in three or four months never got past the demolition point.  Because of the delay we decided to shut it down.
 
And now for Part 2 . . .
 
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(Jeffrey Smart Building, University of South Australia - photo courtesy UniSA)
 
So you know how everyone tells you “when one door closes, another one opens?”  I am living proof.  Last week I received an offer to spend a year as the Growth Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of South Australia, in Adelaide.  UniSA is in the top 3% of QS World University Rankings, and the UniSA Business School ranks in the top 1% globally.  Wow!  There are over 36,000 students and yet the University was just founded 25 years ago.
 
Australia Map
 
After a quick trip over to observe and look for a place to live, Cindy and I will be moving there sometime at the end of May, and I’ll be starting in my new position June 1st.
 
I will miss Longmont, and I will have to resign as President of Startup Longmont.  I’m very proud of all the people who have made this organization what it is.  When I arrived in town about a year and a half ago, the Startup Longmont Meetup had just over 30 members.  Yesterday we added our 800th member, and earlier in the month we became a real 501(c)(3) non-profit.  It has been my pleasure to work with all the people of Longmont, and though I will be half a world away soon, I will always be a Startup Longmont member!
 
TGS Banner
 
I also won’t be the “Resident Entrepreneur” at the Temple Grandin School for at least the next year, but perhaps my new title can be Entrepreneur At Large or some such thing, as I do plan to stay involved.  The great staff and students have been a highlight of my past year and I am proud to remain a supporter of their work.  Although I will be 17 1/2 time zones away, I plan to occasionally occasionally call into Entrepreneur Thursday Morning Meeting.  If you are in Boulder on April 4th, check out the Meeting of The Minds, it's going to be a great event, or let me know if you would like an introduction to the great people at the Temple Grandin School.
 
My plan is to spend as much time with friends and family over the next two months while getting rid of stuff and then packing up what's left for storage.  We’re going over with two suit cases each and a big smile on our faces!  (And my mandolin of course - I'm sure I can find a bluegrass jam in Adelaide!)
 
Update March 23, 2016
 
So far I think everyone I've told about this has either said they would visit me in Australia, or they asked me to take them with me when I go.  I'm not surprised, everyone I know is fascinated by Australia and would love to visit.  The long plane ride scares most off, but it's really not that bad.  (Ask me again after I've done it twice more)
 
Some people don't grasp the size of Australia, so I found this graphic to help from the Australian Government's Geoscience webpage.
 
Australiasize
 
It is both the "smallest continental land mass, (and) it is the world's largest island."
 
This very cool map created by someone (wish I could find their name!) at The Guardian shows the population distribution of the country.  It looks like there are a lot of people on the coasts until you look at the map key.  Most of the people do live on the coasts, but even so it is not a crowded place unless you are in one of the city centers.  Check out the article and other maps here at The Guardian.
 
AustraliaPopulationMapTheGuardian
 
 Since so many of you have said you'd like to follow me down to Australia, here is a website I've found that has been helpful as I start to get my bearings.
 
 BobInOz
And here is one of Bob in Oz's maps of the Australian States, and a link to information about each one to help you decide where you want to live!
 
States-map
 
 
 

March 22, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 25, 2015

Life after Gold Systems

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I've been done with Gold Systems for just over a year now.  The one year aniversary passed, and I thought that maybe it was time to tell the story, but really I've been looking forward much more than backwards so I'm going to save it a while longer.  I will say that when I do look back, I think mostly about the great people who worked at Gold Systems.  I've started a new company and not a day goes by where I don't think of the people I've worked with, the lessons I've learned and I'm reminded how much they helped me over the years.

Late last year I was asked to join a new venture firm as an operating partner.  The founders were people I had known for years and I have great respect for them, and I wanted to be a part of whatever they were doing.  They were the founders of a great company in Longmont, Colorado so it was natural that we would look for space for the new venture in Longmont.  One of our first meetings was with the Longmont City Manager, the Assistant City Manager and members of the Longmont Area Economic Council.  I was so impressed by how supportive everyone was and how much they were committed to making Longmont a great place for people and businesses.  As I've spent time in Longmont I've realized it is a community of wonderful people and they've quickly adopted me and become friends.

While exploring the creation of an accelerator to compliment the venture firm, I realized that there was an even greater need in Longmont.  While Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins have many places for entrepreneurs and startups to work and connect with mentors and like-minded people, Longmont didn't have a single coworking space.  There is TinkerMill, which is the largest maker space in Colorado, but there wasn't a single coworking facility.  That's just changed.

In January we opened the doors to Launch Longmont.  It's a place for entrepreneurs and startups to meet and work together, and to make the random connections that don't happen when you're working out of the spare bedroom at home.  Members can get a desk or a seat on a monthly basis with no long term commitments, and as we build out the space on the second floor they will even be able to get small suites.  Ultimately success for Launch Longmont is that these members will grow out of the space, become successful in the Longmont community and then return as mentors and speakers to help the next generation of startups.

Soon after starting Launch Longmont, I realized that I am not just helping startups, but I am in a startup myself.  I'll be sharing some of the new lessons learned, and talking about the people who have helped to make it happen over on the Launch Longmont blog, and I'll also be posting here about the journey.

If you are an experienced entrepreneur or business expert, you can help me out by visiting and getting involved as a mentor or speaker.  If you are a new entrepreneur, or you just want to get out of the garage and join a community of entrepreneurs you should also check us out.  Email me at terry@launchlongmont.com.  Thanks!

 

January 25, 2015 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | TrackBack

June 01, 2014

Trakdot - An Internet of Things Cautionary Tale

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(Photo credit Craig)

This morning my sister sent me a link to a USA Today story "Ultimate Travel Tech Tools and Tips for Families."  She knew I would want to read about the new Trackdot, a wireless luggage tracker for frequent fliers.  Trakdot's idea is you put this little battery powered device in your luggage before you check it, and then when your luggage arrives at it's desitation, it sends you a text message saying where it is located.  That's nice when it lands the same place you do, and really helpful when it lands somewhere else so you can tell the lost luggage department where the luggage actually is.  Because you know they don't know where it is most of the time!

The Trakdot costs $49 with free shipping, and there is a $19 per year service plan to pay for its wireless usage.  You can also buy it on amazon.com.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I have not yet ordered a Trakdot.  I really could use this product, but I found most of the reviews on Amazon, sorted by "most helpful" were pretty bad.  To be fair, the most recent reviews are mostly very good.  

And this is the point of my post here. The Internet of Things market is going to be full of very cool, inexpensive and useful sounding technology, and some of it is not going to work very well especially in the early days of the products.

What I saw in the early reviews of this product were typical of many new tech products:

  1. Poorer than advertised battery life
  2. Confusing and poorly written documentation
  3. A human interface that is not obvious to use, requiring the use of the poorly written documentation
  4. Customer service that is either overwhelmed or doesn't care and leaves the early customers who believed in the vision of the product wondering if they made a mistake being an early adopter
  5. Lots of mentions in the press and in blogs by people (like me) who did not actually get to use the product before writing their breathless reviews about how great the new technology is or is not going to be
  6. Poor reviews by actual users who are frustrated and want to warn others away from the product

Whenever there is a gold rush mentality in a market, people rush in, money follows and products get shipped before they are ready because the inventors and investors are afraid that someone else is just about to ship and steal the category.  In the early days of the gold rush the press believes the PR machine and knows the public is interested in the newest thing, so the reviews tend to be uninformed and glowing.  

I am so excited by the Internet of Things - cheap little computers, connected to sensors and to the internet - and it will bring amazing new devices and services to our lives.  But I do hate to see companies get caught up in the rush to market with a product before it is quite ready.

Getting back to Trackdot, and reading the latest reviews on Amazon, I see a company that seems to be trying to get back on the right foot with their product launch.  The more recent reviews are almost all positive.  One reviewer mentioned getting an unsolicited email from the Trackdot CEO applogizing for the issues the reviewer had and then got them replacement devices.  They are getting (or generating) great stories in the press.  I love the idea of this product, and the price is right for the frequent traveler.  I hope they can overcome the early growing pains, but I know if they can't, someone else is right around the corner with a competing product.  Either way, in a little while I'm going to be able to track my luggage and most other important things in my life by cheap little devices.

I am a little cautious about the most recent reviews for Trakdot on amazon, because very few seem to be from people who have ever done a review on Amazon before or are verified purchasers of the product, and they also tend to be just a few sentences long.  I'll tell you what.  If I get 10 comments on this post, I'll buy a Trakdot and try it out, and I'll write an informed review.  Until then, consider this post as a cautionary tale about launching new products in general, and not a product review of the Trakdot product.

(Disclaimer:  I have not purchased or tested a Trakdot.  I am also an amazon.com shareholder.  Because I live in Colorado, I will not get even a few pennies if you click through and buy a Trakdot or anything else from this post.  I do my best to be independent.)

June 1, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, Internet of Things, Travel | Permalink | TrackBack

May 24, 2014

Startup Week

Bsw-logo

Boulder’s fifth Startup Week is in the history books, and I want to thank everyone involved, especially the founder Andrew Hyde and his great team of hard workers, volunteers and speakers.  This was the first time that I’ve been able to participate fully, and it was just what I needed.  In the past I’ve been too caught up in my own business to spend the week hanging out with other people who were just starting their journeys in the startup world.  I’m sure I would have benefited from the enthusiasm and great ideas being tossed around if I had made time to go in the past, and I expect I’ll spend even more time with the startup community at Boulder Startup Week next year.

During the Keynote (which was not a Keynote) David Cohen, Brad Feld and Andrew Hyde took the stage to talk about not just the startup community, but about the many communities we have right here in Boulder.  They all made it clear that while they love the Boulder community, we need to work with all of the Colorado and even world communities to collaborate to support each other, and to make the world a better place.  In fact when they asked for a show of hands, it looked like half of the people in the audience were from outside of Boulder.  That was so cool and I enjoyed my talks throughout the week with people who had just arrived, were just visiting or were thinking about moving to Boulder.
 
One simple way to participate in the vision of connecting is to just get out and visit one of those other communities.  Although Startup Week started here in Boulder, it has spread along with http://startupweekend.org all over the world.
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I was able to make it up to Fort Collins for the last day of their Startup Week of celebrating and supporting startups.  As part of the work I’m doing for 6kites I was interested in attending the panel discussion they had on Agriculture and the Internet of Things at CSU.  It was a very well done event with three different panel discussions and all taught me something and made me think big thoughts.  With 7 billion people needing to be fed every day, farmers are using technology and looking at the Internet of Things to better monitor, control and produce their crops and animals.
 
Even though Boulder Startup Week is over for another year, it is so easy to get connected to the startup community in Boulder.  I am thankful to have landed here and to be a part of a group of wonderful people who are happy to share and support entrepreneurs.

 

May 24, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, Internet of Things | Permalink | TrackBack

May 21, 2014

Autism and Robots

The CDC reports that 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with Autism, and it is five times more common in boys than girls.   The rate of diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to AutismAction.org, has been increasing by 10 to 17% per year.   Certainly some of that increase comes from better diagnosis, but my understanding is that it is actually increasing in society for as yet not well understood reasons.   

As part of my time off and figuring out what I want to do next, I’ve been hanging out with a lot of entrepreneurs and start up teams.  One that I just have to write about is Jalali Hartman, a Boulder entrepreneur who is trying to help children and adults with Autism, and he’s doing it with a low-cost robot.  I think that is so cool to use technology to help people, and he seems to be getting results.  His company ROBAUTO is getting great press, and it’s not because he’s got a PR machine behind him, it’s because people see what he’s doing and they want to see him succeed.  I know I do.
 
The first version of the robot from ROBAUTO is named ONE.  It’s already been selected as a 2014 Global IP Champion by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  He was selected, and successfully completed the 2013 HealthBox Florida Accelerator class.  He’s demoed at New Tech Meetup, this year’s Boulder Startup Week, and he’s been written up in UX Magazine, FreeEnterprise.com, Autism Daily Newscast, and most recently there was a great article in Health Source Magazine (page 24-29).  Check out the robauto.co website for even more.
 
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Jalali tells how some people who just can’t interact or even speak, become captivated with robots.  Just interacting with the robot seems to help some of the people, but Jalali even involved them in the design process.  The great thing he says is some of the least expensive devices showed some of the most promise.  Autism can be very expensive and health coverage varies, so a multi-thousand dollar robot would be out of reach for most families even if it could be shown to help their loved ones.  ROBAUTO ONE is expected to come in at the low hundreds price point.
 
There is a lot of work to be done, but it is wonderful to see someone combining their love of technology with their love of people and a strong desire to help make the world a better place.  Jalali recently moved to Boulder from Florida to be part of our start-up community.  Buy him a cup of coffee and ask him how you can help.  He'll be the guy in the back of Amante coffee with the robot on the table and a big smile on his face.
 
I have to also add that Autism has not touched my family directly, but my daughter-in-law Tori Gold works with children with Autism, and I admire her so much for the work she does.  She loves her kidos, and her and my son Christopher have worked hard to to raise awareness of Autism.
 
 

May 21, 2014 in Entrepreneurship, Robots | Permalink | TrackBack