Author: startupswami

The Importance of a One-Page Resume

pascal3I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting and hiring recently. It’s a time-consuming process, and over the years I’ve developed my own methodology for finding candidates that I think will be a good fit at Punchbowl. One important characteristic I look for in potential employees is the ability to express their thoughts concisely. One way I screen for this ability is to ask candidates to prepare a one-page resume.

In fact, in every one of our job postings, we ask candidates to send us a *one-page* resume (and we include the asterisks to make sure they don’t miss the instruction). We consider it the first test to see if the candidate has the ability to take a lot of information and distill it into only the parts that really, really matter. Regardless of how much experience you have, I believe that you should be able to highlight the important part of your experience in a single page. As far as I’m concerned, everything else is just color commentary.

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”

Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and mathematician

Look, I understand that you have lots and lots of experience. That’s great. Maybe other employers want to know where you went to high school, every camp counseling job you’ve held, and what you like to do on the weekends. I don’t need to know all of those details right now. At this point in the recruiting process, it’s way more important to me that you know how to take a lot of information and deliver a succinct summary of who you are and why you’re a fit for the position. I ask for a one-page resume because I want to know if you have the skill of brevity and the ability to communicate an executive summary. Do you truly understand the job you’re applying for and which part of your experience you should promote? Bottom line: can you get to the point quickly and help me to see why you’re a fit for the position?

One-page resume advice: It may seem daunting to you to whittle down your resume into only one page, so here’s some advice. First, get rid of the fluff. Remove all of the unnecessary language and use action words to describe your experience (managed, led, analyzed). Think about structuring the information on the page to make it very easy to read. Use bolding, bullets, and clear formatting to make it easy for someone to quickly scan your resume. Some of the best resumes I’ve read use the sidebar to highlight pertinent career details. Still struggling to keep your resume to one page? Then make sure you don’t tell me that your skill set includes Microsoft Word and the Internet. In this day and age, it’s like telling me that you know how to tie your own shoes. And please, oh please, I don’t need to know that you worked at a pizza joint when you were in high school. Only include relevant experience on your resume.

Exceptions to the one-pager: There are occasions when more than one page is warranted. For example, if you are in the medical or science industry, CVs are the norm. It’s expected that you will list all of your publications, presentations at professional societies, your teaching history, etc. More than one page is expected.

Other suggestions: Instead of listing every detail of experience on your resume, concentrate on your online brand. Spend a lot of energy on your LinkedIn profile, because it’s the first place that most recruiters will look. This is the place where you can list all of your experience with excruciating detail. If you have a Twitter account, make sure to update your profile with a little information about you. Along those lines, most hiring managers are going to Google the crap out of you, so do this yourself and address any issues you see. For example, be sure to get rid of any inappropriate photos (because I will find them).

SWAMI SAYS: I always ask for one-page resumes, so take the time to create and send us a one-page resume. Show me you are smart and skilled enough to communicate your value in a concise manner. That’s the first step to showing me you’re the right candidate for the position.


Why the ‘Best User Experience’ MITX award means so much

Last night at the 2015 MITX awards, Punchbowl won the award for ‘Best User Experience.’ This award meant a lot to me — let me tell you why.Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 7.19.11 AM

On February 25, 2014 (15 months ago, and just days before my second child was born), I held an offsite meeting with key members of the Punchbowl team. At this “eTeam meeting” I brought up a radical idea: what would happen if we removed 50% of the features in our product, drastically simplified the user interface, and focused the product on our core offering of digital invitations? After several hours of discussion, “Project Megadeth” was born.

For the next several months, I worked on strategy with close advisors and mentors. We worked through some of the tough business issues, thought hard about tactics, and plotted a plan of attack. A few months later, our product team had cleared their plate and was ready to go. In June 2014 at our Q3 kickoff meeting, I unveiled the bold plan to the whole Punchbowl team, and we set out on the most ambitious project in the history of the company.

Every day, for weeks and weeks on end, our design and product team met. Lead by our Director of User Experience, we explored, iterated, designed, thrashed, re-designed, and iterated some more. We built from the ground up with tablet and mobile phones in mind. Seven years of experience paid off, and eventually we had a design that we believed met all of our objectives. Our development team dove headfirst into implementing the design, and within a few months we began to see the new user interface come to life.

However, with any radical new design, there were several challenges. Our CTO is fond of saying “a spec is just a suggestion” and in this case it was definitely true. There were several issues that we had to solve during the implementation phase, as we balanced simplicity with powerful features. One example: we wanted to preserve our ‘Potluck’ feature, but we didn’t want it to be a required step for every user. We solved it by branching the feature from the ‘Invitation Options’ page and creating a mini user workflow for creation and editing. Sounds simple, but the devil is always in the details.

On October 20, 2014 we launched the new site. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we were really excited about early usage. Over the next few months, we measured conversion and improved some of the user interface based on the metrics. We saw incredible growth, especially in our kids birthday segment. We knew we had a winner on our hands.

Fast forward to May 14, 2015: it’s now been well over a year since that fateful meeting with my eTeam. And yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to demo our fantastic product to a group of MITX judges. Several hours later, I sat with over 1200 people at the MITX awards ceremony. The event was elaborate and very fancy — and for the companies nominated, it felt like the technology Academy Awards.

When they announced the winner in our category, I pumped my fist and thought about the hundreds of hours that we spent designing and implementing the new user interface for Punchbowl. And I thought about the awesome people on the Punchbowl team, and just how very far we’ve come. I jumped up on stage, took the microphone as the lights shined brightly in my face and said  “Here’s the thing about great UI:  we spent literally hundreds of hours making a website that works on mobile, works on tablet, works on desktop and when you use it, it just feels like it works. I’d like to dedicate this award to every single entrepreneur who is not getting the notice that they deserve, who are taking one little step at a time, which is what we’ve done for the last seven years. So to the Punchbowl team, to Devin, to Blake, to Ryan, to Stephanie, we did it baby – let’s go!” (video of my acceptance speech below)

SWAMI SAYS: Some awards are just marketing gimmicks — and some awards mean a lot. The MITX award for ‘Best User Experience’ means a lot to me and the Punchbowl team. I’m very thankful and proud of the award.

My first boss: a tribute to Ben Lenz

This past weekend, I learned the sad news of the passing of Ben Lenz, a life-long family friend. Ben was the step-father to my brother’s friend Robert. Ben and his wife Pam (and her children) lived down the street from mine in the small town of Sea Cliff, NY. For many people, Ben was best known as the leader of the North Shore High School Explorers’ Club — for me, he was the first boss I ever had.Ben Lenz Bus

Ben Lenz was one of the most quirky, interesting people you could ever meet. No strike that — Ben defined the word eccentric. With his bushy gray curly hair, a cackling laugh, and his endless stories, Ben was a presence. He was very tall (probably over 6 foot 4) and the upper half of his body seemed to lean towards you [edit: according to his family, he wasn’t actually this tall. He just looked that tall to me!]. His gait was marked by a shuffle and a limp. Later in life, he used a cane as a walking stick. He drove a dark yellow VW bus, which he had converted into a camper.

In the mid 80’s, Ben decided to build a garden in his sprawling back yard. This was not just any garden. It was a Japanese inspired garden that was a tribute to his wife Pam. The garden had plants from all over the world, water features, sculptures, windmills and much more. He named the garden “Pam-Ben-monium” – and it was.

Sometime around the 5th or 6th grade, Ben offered me a job helping him with the garden. I’m not sure how this came to pass, but I loved the outdoors and probably was hanging around near the Lenz’s house anyway. He put me to work right away, and boy oh boy did we work. We moved huge rocks, dug dirt, and weeded on our hands and knees for hours under the hot sun. Ben barked out orders, and set the expectation early on that he wouldn’t put up with any complaining. He believed in hard work.

Ben had his own vision for the Pam-Ben-monium garden, but he also solicited my opinion. Without hesitation, he agreed to implement a few of my ideas. As a 10 year old, I welled with pride as I saw the newest waterfall in the garden take shape. For years afterwards, I thought I would become a landscape architect. I still love to garden.

Without fail, we always ate together after we were done with work. We would climb down rickety stairs into the basement, where Ben kept his “emergency pantry.” The shelves were lined with cans and cans of food, and he would choose one for our meal. Then, we would climb the wooden front stairs (even more rickety, the whole staircase leaned towards you) up to the kitchen and ate like we were camping. He asked me questions about school, baseball, and my brothers. And he was genuinely interested in my answers.

I saw Ben Lenz sporadically over the past 20 years, usually at my brother’s house. He remained as eccentric as ever, with stories to tell of his latest hiking expedition or special project he was working on. He always greeted me warmly, with his large hand firmly gripping mine as if to remind me: don’t forget where you came from. The last time I saw him he told a tale of a horse that had escaped from a barn: I don’t remember the details, but I remember his hearty guffaw and deep broad smile.

I didn’t know it then, but Ben Lenz taught me several life and work lessons that I still keep with me everyday:

  1. There’s no substitute for hard work
  2. Have a vision, but don’t be afraid to implement other people’s ideas
  3. There is deep joy to be had by getting your hands dirty with the earth
  4. After you work hard, make sure to eat
  5. Keep emergency supplies in the basement
  6. Eccentric is what makes you memorable
  7. Invest in young people: the impact you make will far surpass your expectations

Ben Lenz died on March 4, 2015. As my old friend Ted pointed out, the date of his passing sent one last message: march forth. I think he would have liked that as the epilogue to his life’s story.

SWAMI SAYS: Rest in peace, Ben Lenz. May your soul live on in all those you have touched, and may you find endless pandemonium in the great beyond.

How to Kick-off the Year Right

start_the_new_year_off_rightLast week, I wrote about how I spent the last few weeks of December working through our strategic plan for FY2015. As I started the new year, I felt prepared and confident about the road ahead. But when you run a company, it’s not good enough for YOU to understand the plan. Your most important job is making sure ALL of your employees and contractors understand the plan too.

To kick-off the year right, I think there are four things that you have to do:

1) Preview your plan with a few employees: When you kick-off the year, you want to make sure that you have a few people in the room that have heard part of the story ahead of time. Choose a couple of people from your organization, and tell them a little about the plan. In my case, I made sure that the Executive Team was all on the same page, and I spoke ahead of time with a few other people. You don’t need to provide all of the details in these meetings. Just share enough so that the important pieces aren’t a total surprise to everyone in the room. This will go a long way towards helping you build consensus and momentum among the whole team.

2) Hold a kick-off meeting: At Punchbowl, I hold kickoff meetings for each quarter. But none is more important than the fiscal year kickoff. I spend several weeks preparing for our yearly kickoff meeting, and I think about the kinds of questions that I might be asked. The kick-off meeting is important to me as a leader, and I know that employees value it too. Consider this feedback I got recently from an employee, “Our quarterly meetings are one of my favorite things about working at Punchbowl. After working for a company where the priorities were never articulated, and I never understood the motivation behind any major decisions, this time we spend together as a team, getting on the same page, is something I really value.”

3) Set the company bonus: Once you communicate the strategy for the year, I believe it’s important to set a bonus for employees that aligns with your strategy. At Punchbowl, we offer a cash bonus of 10% of your base salary based on achieving the goals. I split the bonus between the quarterly priorities (50%) and year-long goals (50%). For each quarter, there are 3 business priorities and 3 product priorities. That’s a total of 24 priorities for the year. In addition, we set out ambitious objectives based on our company’s strategy. This methodology helps align what employees do everyday with their bonus, and also ensures that employees succeed when the company succeeds.

4) Ask for feedback: The last part of your kick-off plan is to ask your team for feedback about the kick-off meeting and strategy. Include questions like “What did you think of the kick-off meeting? Are you clear on our fiscal year strategy? Why or why not?” and “What components of our strategy are you most/least excited about?” You’ll find that certain people who don’t have much to say in a group setting have a lot to say over email. And you’ll also see commonalities among what people think. Finally, it’s an opportunity to learn what parts of your strategy still need to be emphasized in future team meetings.

SWAMI SAYS: As a small company CEO, it’s critical to kick-off the year right. If you follow my plan, you will have everything you need to get your team on the same page and be successful for the year. As I write this post, it’s still early January — so it’s not too late to kick-off the year right. There’s nothing else on your plate that’s more important.

The most wonderful time of year (to work)

Wonderful time of year imageThe past couple of weeks have been busy with Christmas, and New Years Eve holidays. It’s the time of year that lots of people take time away from work, and email inboxes quiet down. Many of the days around the holidays have fewer people in the office, and there are very few scheduled meetings. It all can amount to a unproductive environment at work.

And yet, for me the holiday weeks have always been some of the most productive times of the year. I relish the days where I don’t have any scheduled meetings, there are fewer emails to respond to, and I can focus on the big picture. For this small company CEO, these past couple of weeks are critical to success in the new year.

I’ve spent the time working through our strategic and financial plan for year ahead. I’ve pored over financials, dug deep into the strategic possibilities, and had long conversations with advisors and mentors that I trust the most. I’ve read business related materials that have helped round out my thinking, and I’ve had quiet time to contemplate the year ahead. Indeed, for me it’s the most wonderful time of the year to work.

This first week of the new year, I’ll meet with the whole Punchbowl team to unveil the fruits of my labor: a well-thought out strategic roadmap for the year. It includes not only a clear description of how I made decisions, but also a product and marketing roadmap for the year. While I can’t predict whether or not the plan will be well received, I can be assured that I’m well prepared and that the plans have not been made rashly.

Even though I’ve worked most days over the holiday period, don’t be mistaken. I also had lots of time with my family, and plenty of time to see friends. But I was in the office on all of the work days, and spent evenings and some of the weekend at home thinking about work. I never shut off work like I do on vacations.

I’m not a fan of cold weather, and I would gladly trade one day in the summer for two days working in the winter. I’d rather work hard during December, January and February than during beach weather. I look forward to this coming summer when I’ll take a couple weeks off and enjoy the weather. That will be my reward for working hard through a time of year that lots of people shut it down.

SWAMI SAYS: Did you take a lot of days off this holiday season? Next year, consider working as much as you can during the holidays, and taking more time off during the warm summer months. You’ll start the year feeling ready to go and fired up.

How to Beat Your Competition

When I started Punchbowl, I read a formative book called “Blue Ocean Strategy.” The essence of the book is that when you enter a new market as a startup, you should seek new markets or niche customer segments that you can claim for yourself. If you try and compete head to head with your competition, you will find yourself in a bloody battle for survival (e.g. a “red ocean”). The goal is to make the competition irrelevant and create and capture new demand.

For the first 7 years of Punchbowl, this was our strategy and it has been successful. While many companies have entered our space, there are only a few that remain. It’s amusing to think about all of the companies that got so much press only to fizzle out a few years later: Renkoo, Skobee, Pingg, Cocodot, Crush3r, Planypus, Socializr (acquired by Punchbowl) and many, many more. Heck, even Microsoft entered the market at one point. We remained steadfast to our approach, and carved a sizable chunk of the market as our own. Our customers love us, and our business is strong.

At some point in your company’s lifecycle, you’ll build a bigger, more defendable “moat” around your business. Your moat may come from your customer base, your partners, your technology, your team or the strength and success of your business model. And at that point — and only at that point — it is time to take on your competition head to head.

For Punchbowl, October 20th, 2014 is that day. Today we are announcing a brand new, stunning user interface and an invitation collection called “Characters Kids Love.” This is the result of months of work, and we’re excited to unveil it. But more importantly, today is the day where we are publicly stating that it is time for the world to say goodbye to Evite. We want to own the entire market, and we believe we have the product, team, and business model to make it happen.

adiosevite_blogWe’ve orchestrated an exciting, impressive launch for today, which includes traditional press, print ad placements, digital ad placements, and a coordinated social media campaign. We’re taking on our competition head to head, and we’re excited to see the results. Evite is an Internet dinosaur that should be extinct. Our campaign will help the world know that there is a better alternative.

The next chapter is yet to be written, but we know how we want the story to end. We want to beat Evite and become a household brand for online invitations.

Help us say goodbye to Evite. Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and ask your friends, family, and colleagues to reshare it: “Say hello to the new @Punchbowl. It’s time to say goodbye to @Evite. #AdiosEvite.”

SWAMI SAYS: Startups should enter an existing market using “Blue Ocean Strategy,” but pivot to direct head to head competition once they have built a moat around their business. That’s the blueprint to beating your competition.

First time entrepreneurs should avoid two-sided marketplaces

marketing-challengesIf you are thinking of starting a company, there is one decision that you need to make right up front. Are you trying to create a product or service for one market or are you going to attempt to create a two-sided marketplace? Most of the products and services that we use are one-sided. A company builds a product that certain users demand. A two-sided market (e.g. marketplace)  is one that requires demand from TWO different types of users. That’s really tough to build.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I made a smart decision when I started Punchbowl. Although I had ideas about how to create a two-sided marketplace, we’ve created a product that is fairly simple to market and grow. To be successful, all we need to do is to get more people to plan an event. We’ve tested some ideas around creating a two-sided marketplace, but our bread-and-butter is a simple one-sided market.

Two sided marketplaces are very difficult – they suffer from the “cold-start” problem because you need demand from two sides. Most of us know the “original” two-sided online marketplace: CraigsList. When CraigsList started, the site needed both people wanting to sell things and people wanting to buy things. In the early days of the Internet, this wasn’t a sure bet. But CraigsList was able to create demand on both sides of the market with a simple user interface and by being one of the first to market. And it didn’t hurt that it was free!

Here are a few other two-sided marketplace examples:

  • eBay (EBAY): Needs both people who want to sell things, and people who want to buy things in an auction style.
  • Homeaway/VRBO (AWAY): Needs both people who have vacation homes that they are willing to rent and consumers who are looking to rent vacation homes.
  • (CRCM): Needs both families in search of child care providers, and people who are seeking child care jobs.
  • The Knot (XOXO): Needs both brides seeking DJs, caterers, and bakeries and local vendors who offer their services for the wedding market

Several times a month, an entrepreneur reaches out to me to get my take on their startup. And more often than not, I’m being pitched a two-sided marketplace. Here’s the problem: to create a two-sided marketplace, that means you need to do TWICE the amount of marketing to be successful. And while two-sided marketplaces can be very lucrative, more of them fail given this intrinsic challenge. If you’re a first time entrepreneur, I would strongly recommend that you build a company for only one market, and leave the more difficult two-sided marketplace for your next rodeo.

SWAMI SAYS: Starting your first company? Don’t try to build a two-sided marketplace. It’s difficult enough to build a great team, get your product to market, and find users. If you’re successful building your first startup, you’ll have the experience to try and build a two-sided marketplace. One last thought: successful two-sided marketplaces can be very lucrative. All of the companies I listed above are publicly-traded companies. Take a look at their financials and quarterly reports to learn more about what it takes to build a successful two-sided marketplace.

Roy Hobbs, Single Malts, and Destiny’s Child

Over the years, I’ve been interviewed many times for various publications. The most recent time was this week when I was interviewed for an article that appeared on BostInno. It’s sometimes hard to convey who you really are when you are asked a series of seemingly random questions — but I thought the questions and my answers in this interview provides nice insight into how I think and what matters to me. Special thanks to Connor Barnes and Linda McDonough of Cassidy Turley Boston for the opportunity. You can read the entire interview on BostInno, and I’ve chosen my favorite questions to re-blog here. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

If you could have had the starring role in any movie, already made, what movie would it be?

MjD: Well, the obvious answer would be Groundhog Day and I would love to play Phil Connors. The scene where he drives down the railroad tracks, gets stopped by the police, and proceeds to order fast food when he rolls down the window still gets me every time. But I think the movie “The Natural” would fit me better: a total unknown comes out of nowhere and possesses unbelievable talent. I’d like to think of myself as a modern day Roy Hobbs in the tech startup world: no one believed I could build a company from nothing, but here I am. Above all, I’ll have a huge love of the game of baseball, and in my opinion “The Natural” is the greatest baseball movie ever made.

What do you do for fun?

MjD: I have two kids now, and I spend most of my time with them. Those who don’t have kids will never understand the unbelievable joy you can feel showing them something new for the first time. Last weekend, I took my 4-year-old daughter to a local pond and we set sail using my inflatable raft. Splashing each other with water as we paddled around was more fun than I could possibly describe. I’ve also developed a habit for great beers and whiskey. It’s lots of fun to taste new craft brews and single malts. And the more you taste, well… it gets more fun.

What is one thing the startup scene is missing in this area?

MjD: The startup scene is missing enough early-stage investors who can suspend their disbelief of new entrepreneurs. We almost didn’t get funded simply because I didn’t have a track record of startup success. Meanwhile, second-time entrepreneurs are getting silly, ridiculous money for bad ideas simply because they had some success in the past. We need more investors taking risks on first-time entrepreneurs with good ideas.

If you had a theme song that played every time you walked into a room, what would it be?

MjD: Probably the chorus of the song “I’m a Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. The lyrics “I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna to give up, I’m gonna to work harder, I’m gonna make it” are all you need to know about me. I may lose a given battle, but I’m not going to lose the war. And I have a very long memory for people who stand in the path of my success.

Who is the most fascinating person you know?

MjD: On the street where I live, there is a man who walks to the train at exactly the same time every morning like clockwork. He wears a fedora and carries a briefcase, looking straight ahead with no expression on his face. In the evening, he comes home at exactly the same time every day, briefcase in hand, with barely a nod to people he passes. One day, I stopped him to say hello and asked him what he does for a living. He told me he’s an engineer for Verizon and his primary job is maintaining code for landlines using an outdated language called Cobalt. He’s worked at the same job for 30+ years. Here’s why I’m so fascinated: this man is the polar opposite of me. I can’t imagine doing the same job for 30 years, working on outdated technology in a declining market. This guy clocks in and clocks out, happy to collect a paycheck and inch his way towards retirement. The mindset of someone like that is fascinating to me.

Any advice for the young entrepreneurs out there?

MjD: Here’s what I wish someone had told me: as a young entrepreneur, your instinct is to solicit advice from those who have been successful and those who might know something about your market. This is a great way to meet a lot of people and grow your network. But don’t mistake their quick take for anything more than a 15-minute look into your world. They don’t understand the nuances as well as you do and they don’t understand the context as well as you do. So while it’s important to surround yourself with people who can help, it’s more important to listen to your inner voice. Look deep inside and ask the question “what do I really think?” You see, it doesn’t really matter if you’re right or not. What matters is that you have the conviction to keep going, to not give up, and to learn along the way. Successful entrepreneurs listen to their inner voice more than they listen to the opinions of all of the people around them. The first step to success is to truly believe in yourself.

Just pick up the f*#@ing phone

Like most people, I send dozens of emails a day. Pretty much anything that I work on can be dealt with using email. But is that always the right choice? Most of the time, the communication is simple and requires a simple answer so email is a good choice. Other times, emails fly back and forth, sometimes spanning an entire week, before any resolution. I’m shocked at how much time is wasted, and how much can be lost in translation. Email replies become long chains, hours become days, and progress is slowed to a crawl. Which begs the question.. why didn’t we just pick up the f*#@ing phone?

On March 10, 1876 (138 years ago!), Alexander Graham Bell successfully called his assistant, Thomas Watson and said, “Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.” In that moment, he enabled us to make an instant connection, wherever we are, with anyone we want. We forget that the ability to make a phone call is something miraculous. The phone is still the way big business is done and how major deals transpire. Ask any investor, investment banker, or CEO and they will tell you that for most of the significant deals in their career, the telephone played a critical role in communication.

I get it — not everyone likes to talk on the phone. There are niceties to be exchanged, needless small talk, and awkward silences. However, if it’s important and time-sensitive, calling someone to hash it out is so much easier than the inefficiency of email. Countless times a month, I’ll challenge one of my employees who is having trouble making progress. I’ll simply ask “well, did you call them?” (What I’m really thinking is “why didn’t you pick up the f*#@ing phone?”)

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 3.55.24 PMHere are four situations where a phone call could accelerate your progress:

Situation #1: You are knee-deep in legal documents, and have gone through several iterations of changes. You’re sending ‘track changes’ back and forth with your comments, but neither party really understands the reasons for the changes.

Solution: Just pick up the f*#@ing phone. Spend one hour hammering out all the changes together and be done with it.

Situation #2: You’re working on a new business deal. You have a proposal in place, but there’s a significant gap in your partner’s understanding of the product. They are asking questions, but all of the questions are a little “off” because they don’t understand some basic things.

Solution: Just pick up the f*#@ing phone. In a matter of minutes, you can educate the partner about the product and get over this hump. Time is money so get on the phone and fast-forward the partnership.

Situation #3: You’re raising money for your startup, and you haven’t heard back from an investor who has expressed interest. How do you get a firm commitment?

Solution: Just pick up the f*#@ing phone. Raising money is a sales job, so do the hard work. Pick up the phone, call until you reach the person, and ask for the sale. I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars just by picking up the phone and being persistent. You can too.

Situation #4: You’re hiring a new employee. After a few rounds of interviews and some internal conversations, it’s time to make the offer. Yes, you can send an offer by email, but you really want to convey how much you want them to join the team.

Solution: Just pick up the f*#@ing phone. Call and personally ask the person to be a member of your team. It will differentiate you from other employers and set the tone that you really care about them as a person. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference this makes in the final stage of recruiting.

SWAMI SAYS: Email is great for lots of communication, but sometimes the most efficient solution is to pick up the phone. Don’t hesitate to call someone to work out the hard parts, and leave the simple stuff for email. Make a personal and instant connection via phone, and watch how you much more you can get accomplished. Just pick up the fucking phone!

The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work

A few years ago, my boss at Bose Corporation gave me a simple 2-page document that changed the way I thought about “managing my boss” forever. It really opened my eyes for what he expected and how to get the most out of our relationship. Last week in a conversation with one of my employees, this document popped into my mind. After a quick call to my old boss, he instantly recalled the name of the document and I quickly found it on Google. The document is called “The Doctrine of Complete Staff Work.” I think it should be sub-titled “How to Manage Your Boss.”

Although the words below were originally written as a Canadian Army staff memo in 1942, the essence of the memorandum is fantastic. I believe that these words are a blueprint for how employees should manage their boss.As you read it, try to look beyond the formality and military-speak. Instead, focus on the the content and you’ll quickly see why it’s so brilliant.

Are you frustrated with your manager? Do you wish your boss provided more direction? Whether you are in a start-up like Punchbowl or an established company like Bose Corporation, this document — in only 575 words — provides guidance for any employee on how to manage their boss.
Special note: I’d like to thank Mitch Nollman of Bose Corporation for sharing this document and encouraging me to look beyond the army formality so that I would internalize the key points. I’d also like to acknowledge the source of this piece. The best information I could found online suggests that the piece was written by Canadian Major W. H. (Hazen) Codner, Detachment Commander, RCSU (Prairie) Det Edmonton. If you have better information, please let me know.
The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work
Completed staff work is the study of a problem, and presentation of a solution, by a staff member, in such form that all that remains to be done on the part of the boss is to indicate approval or disapproval of the completed action. The words “completed action” are emphasized because the more difficult the problem is, the more the tendency is to present the problem to the boss in a piecemeal fashion.It is your duty as a staff member to work out the details. You should not consult your boss in the determination of those details, no matter how perplexing they may be. You may and should consult other staff members. The product, whether it involves the pronouncement of a new policy or affects an established one, when presented to the boss for approval or disapproval, must be worked out in a finished form.

The impulse which often comes to the inexperienced staff member, to ask the boss what to do, recurs more often when the problem is difficult. It is accompanied by a feeling of mental frustration. It is easy to ask the boss what to do, and it appears too easy for the boss to answer. Resist the impulse. You will succumb to it only if you do not know your job.

It is your job to advise your boss what she or he ought to do, not to ask your boss what you ought to do. The boss needs answers, not questions. Your job is to study, write, restudy, and rewrite until you have evolved a single proposed action–the best one of all you have considered. Your boss merely approves or disapproves.

Do not worry your boss with long explanations and memos. Writing a memo to your boss does not constitute completed staff work. But writing a memo for your boss to send to someone else does. Your views should be placed before the boss in finished form so that the boss can make them his or her views simply by signing the document. In most instances, completed staff work results in a single document prepared for the signature of the boss without accompanying comment. If the proper result is reached, the boss will usually recognize it at once. If the boss wants comment or explanation, she or he will ask for it.

The theory of completed staff work does not preclude a rough draft, but the rough draft must not be a half-baked idea. It must be complete in every respect except that it lacks the requisite number of copies and need not be neat. But a rough draft must not be an excuse for shifting to the boss the burden of formulating the action.

The completed staff work theory may result in more work for the staff member but it results in more freedom for the boss. This is as it should be. Further, it accomplishes two things:

1. The boss is protected from half-baked ideas, voluminous memos, and immature oral presentations.
2. The staff member who has a real idea to sell is enabled more readily to find a market.

When you have finished your completed staff work the final test is this: If you were the boss would you be willing to sign the paper you have prepared, and stake your professional reputation on its being right? If the answer is no, take it back and work it over, because it is not yet completed staff work.