Last Good Quote: Son's are the seasoning on our lives. - Someone on Facebook

Monday, March 2

Startup Weekend - Transformations in Business

I participated in the Charlotte Weekend Startup Event this past weekend. I had a great time, met some awesome people and learned a good deal about starting a business. I suggest it for anyone with a business idea.

That being said, I wanted to talk about Transformations. I was on a team of 7 folks and we spent 3 days working through a business idea. I won't go into the details of the idea as what I want to talk about is the transformations that I saw took place.

I think everyone could learn from the changes that I saw in my co-founders.

Shaun was the originator of the idea. He had been thinking of this business for quite a number of years and had some very strong ideas on what the business was about. While I think his vision is great, the scale of it was daunting. To be honest, I watched as for 54 hours 5 strangers poked and prodded at his "baby", criticizing and making "suggestions". He took it like a trooper!

The transformation came about half way through, he pulled the team together and said

"Look, I want this to be OUR business, we all have good ideas and I think the business will be better due to our collaboration". (I paraphrase)

From my stand-point this was an amazing way to engage your team and give them power to run with your idea.

Cris was our finance guy, I am not a finance guy. My eyes glaze over when you start talking assets, debits, bips and percentage points. (Not really, but you get the idea).

Cris could TALK the numbers! Within one hour of business planning, he was asking and pointing out concerns and benefits from a strictly finance perspective.

However, we were too early in the process, the value proposition hadn't been flushed out so conversations around revenue were pre-mature.

He must have realized that at some point. Because I noticed that suddenly he wasn't talking "numbers" but was talking general financing approaches and tactics.

I knew a transformation had taken place when I heard him mutter to himself "That's too much detail, that's too technical, how do I say it easier".

This was a transformation that I think we could learn from...bring our knowledge to bear at an appropriate level for the task at hand.

Filling the Gap
Dan was our "intern". He's a student at Davidson college and I think he came just out of pure interested and thought he probably wasn't going to have much to contribute, considering he was in a room of seasoned professionals.

He had come to learn as much as he could from the process and soak it in. (I apologize Dan, if that was not your first intentions, however that was my perception.)

At some point in the game he realized that he could contribute. He could organize the presentation.

See we had a lot of great ideas, our plans were coming together, but none us where slide show jockeys, or even that creative.

Dan saw a gap and filled it.

What was special was the smoothness with which this happened, we all just kinda turned around and there he was with the framework for a smooth "show", he just need the details.

I think his transformation was all about stepping up and filling the gap. There always is one, there is always "something" that needs to be done. You may not be the best for the job, but step up and do the best YOU can at it.

Learning to Sacrifice
Rama (short for a long Indian name that I can't remember, I apologize Rama)., he was our initial developer. Rama's transformation was "willing sacrifice".

It's an odd transformation to think about. A few hours into the project we realized we wanted some "demo" product to show, a simple website.

Rama was all over it. He jumped on Wix and began banging out some code.

Unfortunately, later in the game we decided to go with a mobile app. If I was in Rama's shoes, I'd have been a little pissed. All that hard work for nothing. However he took it like a champ.

He understood, and made some pieces of his work could be used in the mobile app, and he showed no remorse about us throwing his hard work away.

Sometimes in business, you start down one path and you find you have to back-track and take another. That's the way it is, and because of that hard work will be wasted. The best attitude to take is to salvage as much as you can and move forward.

Becoming the Glue
Maria was our glue. She held the team together. Typically you might call this a project manager. I don't think she knew that was going to be her role when she joined the team.

Her's was not a transformation but rather a catalyst for the transformations in the rest of the team.

I watched as she bounced from teammate to teammate and opened lines of communication, pointed out where we were not aligned and when an important concept was being missed.

All transformations need a catalyst to spark change, in your business you will have to be that spark or find people to give your business that spark. It is hard to see the transformation that need to be made from the inside of our problems. 

Transforming into a Leader
Carlos was our leader. He would NOT like me saying this. Other team members may lay claim to the title. But I watched the transformation. Carlos has a started a business, he had run large times, he was knowledgeable about management. Carlos was NOT there to manage. I think he joined the team because for once he wanted to sit back and let someone else run the show and just "help out" someone.

For the first 75% of our trip, we didn't have a navigator.

The business idea was too large

We were all trying to be "nice".

We were trying to incorporate all ideas and push nothing off the table.

It was GREAT...but we were getting no-where fast.

All this time Carlos sits quietly, nods his head, smiles, works a bit hear or there and generally goes with the flow.

12 hours to presentation time and we have nothing to show...we all go outside to talk about whey we were not getting anywhere. There's a 20 min circles. Frustration is starting to show.

Then Carlos looks up from his laptop and speaks.

"Frankly, I think we lack from leadership. We need some clear direction, even if it is wrong. We need to have some decisions made". (I paraphrase).

It was just a sentence or two... not more then 20 words. Said into the exact moment of silence when we all were thinking it.

Problem clearly stated, solution proposed and feedback requested. All said in a graceful but commanding way.

"Frankly", I was impressed.

For the reminder of our planning, I think he offered a maximum of 3 full suggestions. He didn't even go on stage with us, or come up after the presentation, or even mingle after the show. But he offered guidance and a beacon for a very large idea.

As for myself...

I'm not sure how I contributed or how I transformed. BUT I did learn a ton. And for me that was why I was there.

I thank all my teammates. I learned from all of you. I enjoyed my time with you. And find inspiration in what all of you did. Thank you.


Ramakrishna Ramadugu said...

Thanks Markus Great Memory :)

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