“Your panel has over 650 people registered and we only have room for 150,” our PR team reported.
650?! We were 500 over capacity for a Denver Startup Week panel we hadn’t even actively promoted. 500 people we had to turn away at the door.
Now, I’m always surprised to see even a few people line up to get a glimpse of my mug, but this level of interest was something new and startling.
The panel was called “Sifting Through The BS: The Advice You Actually Need When Building a Businesses,” something I have always looked for when seeking advice regarding PivotDesk, and also something I try my damnedest to bring to the table in my work as a Techstars mentor.
We weren’t sure how much interest the topic would generate, but we knew we had stories to tell.
Between Yoav Lurie, CEO of SimpleEnergy, Erika Trautman, CEO of Rapt Media and myself, we took down our guard and discussed the hard, painful truths about what it’s like building a business. A rundown of our less-than-glamorous experiences.
But I left with the realization that the outstanding interest in this topic meant that with all the advice out there (ours included)…
There remains a very strong need among those of us who are in the trenches of building a business to connect on a more REAL, less filtered level.
I left thinking we should have done more — that we should have worked harder to rid ourselves of ego and share the real, actionable side of the things we learned from our failures and successes — and I plan to make up for that.
I’ll tell you how I plan to make up for it in a little bit… But first, I need you to understand one key thing:
Most advice out there is BS.
Most of the advice you hear ‘on the street,’ is full of inflated stories, usually filtered and glittered up by the media, about people who’ve already achieved a perceived level of success. (And I mean ‘perceived’ in a very real way. Success is very rarely defined in terms other than raising a big round at an obscene valuation.)
Or, it’s from people who have watched others do it, either from the Board or advisor level, but who never experienced what it’s like to be in the trenches of building a business.
Or, it’s from people who have done it, but are so hesitant to tell you the truth due to fear that it might damage their desired reputation as a ‘wunderkind.’ So what you end up getting is not much different than what you get in the media.
The fact is, we all go through a lot of the same shit. We’re just not sharing it.
When you’re growing a business, there are a series of fundamentals that have to be put in place for anyone to succeed. And right now, too many people, including me, waste a LOT of time and money on trial and error because we don’t have the exposure to how everyone else has done it.
So let’s stop presenting only the best versions of ourselves and instead, expose the dirt.
We’re in the era of the shared economy: we share cars, homes, wardrobes, bikes, offices, even kitchenware and musical instruments. We’re willing to share our most private spaces and belongings, so why can’t we also share real wisdom and experience?
Nothing costs less; nothing is worth more.
Here’s how we at PivotDesk plan to contribute:
We’re launching a new initiative called ‘Been There, Done That’ that features an ongoing series in which we’ll be stripping ourselves of ego and giving you a raw look into the fundamentals of what it takes to grow a business.
We’ll do so in two ways:
First, we’ll share the inner workings of PivotDesk — how we fought to get here and all of the struggles and successes we run into, as we run into them.
Second, we’ll connect with YOU and the rest of our community to help tell your stories so we can all learn from your most valuable experiences (good or bad!).
For many of us who are in the trenches, there is this feeling that we’re in it alone.
But that’s due to the overwhelming amount of hype out there —and potentially a bit of our own ego.
Today, I’m asking you NOT to fall victim to it.
I’ll be blunt: you’re putting your success at risk if you’re attempting to grow your business in a vacuum. I’ve seen it a million times in my work as a mentor. By isolating yourself, you waste vital resources on reinventing the wheel.
I’ve been there and done that a few times over…
And I want to help by telling my stories. I want to break down the hype and kick the “we’re killing it” version of the story right out of the conversation. We’ll be hosting REAL conversations, the ‘behind the scenes’ stories: our strategies, implementations, the obstacles and unexpected dead-ends.
What can you expect to see in this series?
I’ll start by sharing my own experiences, as well as PivotDesk’s ongoing struggles and successes. We’ll also share stories from our community of guests, hosts, and mentors. We’re dealing with a lot of the same challenges you are and even though I’ve been here before, something new always arises.
I crave this shared knowledge, too!
Here’s quick look at a few of the topics I intend to cover:
– How we built the best teams I’ve ever worked with (on a tight budget!) and what I do to retain them and manage a great culture
– How we set up and manage a remote team across 5 major markets
– How we try and function as a metrics-focused business without crushing creativity
– How we managed our technical Salesforce integration: how we did it, why we did what we did, and how we rally our sales team around it
– Why we avoid traditional project manager roles and instead align the team with one analyst across sales, marketing, and product
– How we try and avoid spending marketing dollars on businesses not presently in need of our service
– The communication and planning tools we use to provide transparency between our departments and decrease the number of email chains in our inbox
– How we try and manage HR without hiring for the role internally
– How we are trying to overcome a perception issue in our marketplace—and why, if we don’t, we risk getting stuck
– How to interact with mentors and peers in a manner that feels authentic and not as an ask
There’s no shortage of content here, but it’s real and it’s raw.
If I had this exposure when I started, it not only would’ve saved me time, but it could’ve altered the way I built other businesses and maybe they would have done better.
What makes ‘Been There, Done That’ unique?!
It’s the dirt. No bullshit, no holding back. Real people sharing real fundamentals without ego. The same fundamentals that you, too, will most likely deal with in your own business
It’s actionable. Screw the outcome. We’re giving you the steps it took to get there so you can implement them on your own.
It’s a conversation. This isn’t a monologue. It’s a dialog. I’m looking for engagement and I am making it a priority of my own to respond to emails, blog comments, social posts etc. I’m here to hear your stories, answer your questions and participate in your debates.
Consider for a minute Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I mentor because I know how damn hard this all is and I want to get to a point where we’re HONEST about this fact. It’s time to cut the bullshit and start helping each other get beyond the inevitable struggles.
I ask you to make a mental shift from guarded to open… To stop comparing yourself to the progress of others and, instead, learn from it.
So join me with the ‘Been There, Done That’ series. We’ll be releasing each new post in advance to a select email list. To get a copy of the post emailed to you before it’s live, sign up below.
Remember, I’m dedicated to the conversation I hope this series creates. I encourage you to respond to the early access emails, leave comments on the posts and reach out via Facebook and Twitter. I’ll be reading and responding to each and everyone.
Have specific topics you want to hear about or share?
Leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to get them slotted into the calendar.
And if you have extra space in your office, please think about sharing it with one of the great early startups out there that could use it. Remember, we’re in this together.
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