From Cold Calls to Cocktails: Making the Connections that Will Transform Your Startup (and Your Social Life)

Looking to scale up your business development efforts and generate new opportunities?

Then join Sara Grace on the Social Capitalist, August 23 at 12ET, as business development expert Andy Ellwood generously opens the book on his stories, strategies, and wealth of hard-earned advice.

Click here to register!

Drawing on his popular Forbes blog, Andy will take questions and cover topics both tactical and strategic:

  • Why checking your cell phone at dinner is bad for business
  • How to make the perfect email introduction
  • The only three people you need to know at a party
  • How to host a happy hour that’s worth quadruple the bar tab
  • The key to balancing hustle with flow so that your interactions are both meaningful and productive Continue reading

Don’t Hire Someone Else to Talk to Your Customer, and Other Lessons

Today marks my last day as myG’s Program Director. With amazing support from Keith and the team, I’m striking it out on my own in the online editorial and publishing space, a pretty exciting scene these days where I’m looking forward to making a mark.

As I pass the torch to my beyond-capable colleagues — Kibibi Springs helming at myG and Kevin Strehlo running editorial for the parent company — here are a few things I learned launching myGreenlight. Some I learned from doing it right, and some from doing it wrong.

1. Executing in near total uncertainty is what it takes to create something new. Get used to it and get something out there so that you can get help making it better.

2. Flatfooting on firing people when the fit isn’t right is bad for everyone involved. And if the conversation completely surprises them, you screwed up.

3. Customer feedback is most essential in the idea formation stage of the process. Don’t base your foundation layer on a hunch; back it up with data. Ask questions and do your research upfront so that you can “fail fast,” Lean-Startup style.

4. Communicate transparently with customers and set reasonable expectations. Your early adopters will be a lot more patient if they understand what’s happening and know you’re working hard to get it right.

5. Don’t hire someone else to talk to your customer. Obviously, there are exceptions, but as a rule of thumb in the early stages of a product or company, these relationships and the learning that comes from them are the most important to your success and should never be outsourced.

6. Invest in your employees by paying them well and mentoring them. Cut every other corner before you cut this one.

To everyone I’ve worked with at myGreenlight – and I’m talking about our ambassadors, founding members, and coaches, not just our team – thank you SO MUCH for being my partners in learning and growing. You are a caring, resourceful bunch, the only kind for me.

Please continue to “hang out” with me at least once a month on the Social Capitalist calls, which I’ll continue to produce and host. This month’s call is July 26th, with Jeff Hayzlett, the author & marketing expert about whom Gary Vaynerchuk has written, “If Jeff were a wine, it would be strong, sassy, and bold – just like his savvy business advice.” Register here.

Creating a Work Culture that Gets Things Done

Creating effective company culture is a core focus of Ferrazzi Greenlight, so Keith and the team at FG were very interested to hear how LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman, our recent Social Capitalist guest, ensures that his team is aligned, friendly, and efficient.

Here were a few things Reid mentioned as being important to a culture at LinkedIn that gets things done:

  1. Spend your time on customers, not internal dialogue: “Stay focused on the classic stuff—on getting the work done, on customers, and so forth, and not get overly distracted by internal meetings, internal dialogue, where your primary universe is very naturally all of you talking to each other, as opposed to what you’re doing in the world…things for customers, projects you’re launching, these sort of things. Continue reading

Company Cultchah: Habit Labs

Recently I highlighted to-do managing app Asana’s list of Company Values. This week I ran across another company with a great list.

Habit Labs is devoted to “writing the code for human behavioral change” – literally. They build apps designed to (so far) help people adopt new habits, achieve goals, and empty their email inboxes.

HL has an entire page devoted to their Company Axioms, part of which covers 8 Core Values:

  1. Believe, or leave
  2. Everyone gets true autonomy
  3. Create opportunities for everyone to do their best work, every day
  4. Show people how they are making an impact Continue reading

Contact Management Tool Review: Contactually

As you may know, I’m working my way through trying out all the new smart contact managers. As someone who is considering a client services business (more on that soon!) the need to button up the data management side of my network and relationships is becoming ever more pressing.

This week’s trial: Contactually, recommended to me by Get Storied’s Michael Margolis.

Contactually immediately made me happy with two features I’ve been looking for and haven’t found elsewhere:

  • pinging reminders based on groups (‘buckets’)
  • drag-and-drop contacts to groups

I wish you could put someone into more than two buckets, although Michael immediately had this counterargument when I complained: It can be good to be forced to keep things simple. Still, I really enjoy the easy and flexible tagging system in the competitor product Connected. Something about their UI makes everything feel so organized and easy. Contactually does more, which is theoretically good, but it makes the dashboard there a lot more cluttered. Continue reading

Is “Being a Mensch” Among Your Company’s Values?

At the risk of sounding like an Asana fan girl, having written about it just last week, I wanted to highlight something else they did right.

On their About page, you’ll find this list of Company Values:

Awesome, right? I’m sure they had fun hashing them out.

My favorites are 1-4, 9, and 13-15. Which of these resonate most strongly with you, and which do you actually see reflected in your own company’s culture?

Sara Grace is myGreenlight’s Program Director.

Asana: An Easy to Use, Collaborative Task Manager

There’s a new(ish) task-management collaboration tool getting some hype. I signed up. So far, I like it.

It’s called Asana and The New York Times just ran two articles about it, a long, reported one here and a shorter item here.

It’s a “souped-up to do list,” per the Times. The company’s own copy says it is “the single place to quickly capture, organize, track, and communicate everything you and your team are working on….Asana will help your team stay connected, move faster, and get more done.” Founder Dustin Moskovitz, a Facebook alum, says it’s more focused on productive workflow than Yammer. It’s true that Asana is built for tasks, tasks, tasks, and discussion about tasks. But that means it’s not as relationship-oriented, which can be as important to office productivity as administrative factors. Continue reading

How to Advance Your Career, Stand Out as a Leader, and Like Your Life

While corporate trailer blazer turned business owner Patty Azzarello and I were chatting after our recent Social Capitalist Skills Session, I asked her the question that I had run out of time for during the interview: Did her collaborative, relationship-centric leadership style – the secrets of which she shares in her book Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life – strike her as a more female than male model for getting things done? While she acknowledged that women are hard-wired to communicate problems and find solutions in their social networks, she also laughed at the question: “The fact is that most of the tactics I share in Rise I learned from men.”

Whatever its origins, Patty’s social and collaborative approach happens to be widely heralded as the one best suited to the digital economy’s rapidly changing workplace – and workforce. As previous Social Capitalist guests John Hagel and John Seely Brown have written about in The Power of Pull, a strong internal network is key to leveraging informal learning. Nothing is more important to individual and corporate success in today’s constantly changing economy – so listen up!

You’ll hear more about Patty in the interview – and meanwhile here’s a few takeaways from the lessons she passed on, gleaned from a career that took her from Hewlett-Packard’s youngest GM to the head of a $1 billion software business to CEO at 38:

  • Why “follow your passion” can be career – and soul – destroying advice, and what to do instead;
  • The two-step personal branding secret that quickly established her husband as a superstar at his new company;
  • How the world’s most respected executives make it seem like they know all the answers, even when they don’t.

Call run time is just over 30 minutes. Download it to iTunes and take it on your next commute! Click here to get the transcript: Social Capitalist – Patty Azzarello.

Sara Grace is myGreenlight’s Program Director.

I’m a Fraud – Are You?

I interviewed corporate-trailblazer-turned-business-owner Patty Azzarello this week for the Social Capitalist (transcript to come soon!) and I particularly loved this quote:

“People who achieve success are willing to be scared and uncomfortable to do it. If you try to build your career and be comfortable and confident that you know everything along the way, it just takes too long. You just cannot get there. What I realized is that all executives are bluffing. This actually came to me through an executive coach. I was confessing, ‘You know, I feel like I’m going to get found out, because I don’t know everything.’ And she just laughed at me. She said, ‘Patty, every executive in the world feels the same way.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ And then I realized, ‘Man, is that ever true.’”

I think this is particularly great advice for women. As Jodi Glickman, another previous SC guest, once told me, “Women tend to round down. Men round up. It’s time to round up.”

In other words, sometimes it’s OK for a little bit of confidence to float the gap between our expertise and our vision. We don’t have to have done something 100 times already to feel we have the right to stand up and say, “I can do this.”

When your work takes you to new places, you’re not a fraud. You’re a bright, intrepid do-er who can roll with a hefty dose of learning. The key is to make sure you’ve got the tenacity, the persistence, and most importantly, the right partners, to follow through with excellence.

Sara Grace is myGreenlight’s Program Director.