A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Noted American architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously cautioned his design disciples that form should not compromise function. However, for many online startups, form should drive the design process. I hesitate to write about design, as I have never considered myself to be a "color or font" person. Steve Jobs might have felt that an improper level of font worship was grounds for termination, but I usually erred on the side of utility. Good thing I was never entrusted with product design. At Expertcity (acquired by Citrix), I have had the pleasure of working with two executives who shared astounding aesthetic sensibilities: Klaus Schauser and Brian Donahoo. This dynamic duo, who now head up AppFolio, led the design and development of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting. Their focus on ease-of-use form over function resulted in a series of products that defeated stalwart incumbents, including marketing-leader Symantec.
A version of this article previously appeared on Inc. Bob Wood has been a mentor to dozens of professionals during his long career in public service. Despite retiring several years ago, he continues to provide guidance to young (and not so young) professionals. As noted in You're Never Too Old (Or Too Successful) For A Mentor, Bob has become not only my mentor, but also my friend. Thus, I was honored when Bob agreed to share his insights regarding mentorship with my UC Santa Barbara entrepreneurial students.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. I have a confession: I used to quickly become frustrated whenever I tried something new and I didn't quickly excel. Rather than attempting to master the new activity, I would moved on to another task, seeking a gentler learning curve.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Much has been written about social entrepreneurship; ventures in which an explicit goal is the betterment of society. However, far less attention has been applied to entrepreneurial philanthropy, in which a startup mindset and accountability is applied to issuing non-profit grants. Intrigued by the concept, I was turned onto one of the leaders in this emerging field of philanthropy, A Better Chicago (ABC), by friend and ABC Board Member, Brent Rasmussen. ABC is applying entrepreneurial principles to the art of charity. Even the organization's lexicon reinforces its startup mindset. It performs "due diligence" before it makes "investments" and it measures results as a "return on its investment."
A version of this article previously appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Startups are an emotional rollercoaster; moments of sheer terror interlaced with bone-crushing, mind-numbing and highly addictive exhilaration. However, if unmodulated, the highs can become too high and the lows way too low. Long-hours, uncertainty and the never-ending pressure to survive can cause you and your team to overreact to wins, as well as setbacks. As Capitan of the startup rollercoaster, you must manage your company's mood swings, while doing your best to not puke (at least not while your team is watching).
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Note: This is Part III of a series exploring the power of mentorships. Access Part I HERE and Part II HERE. My relationship with my friend and mentor, Bob Wood, has matured over time. When we first connected, I was in listening mode most of the time, much like a dutiful student. However, as we established mutual trust, the balance of our exchanges shifted to the point that I am now a respectful but outspoken contributor to our friendship. This transition from a unilateral, teacher/student paradigm is essential to sustaining a mentor relationship over the long term. In our case, this evolution has resulted in a rapport which enriches both of our lives, which should be the ultimate goal of any mentor/mentee combination.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Stop complaining about how difficult it is to encourage well-mannered, highly educated, civilized professionals to work together. Instead, consider how difficult it would be to transform twelve convicted felons, with an affinity for violence and no desire to work together, into a cohesive, effective team. That is exactly what Major Reisman is forced to do in E.M. Nathanson’s World War II novel and subsequent film entitled, The Dirty Dozen. The steps Major Reisman takes to create this unlikely team are enlightening to entrepreneurs seeking to unite far more willing teammates.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. In the Fall of 1990, H. Jackson Brown sat at his kitchen table, pulled out a pad of paper and began writing advice to his son, who had just entered college. Mr. Brown's aphorisms eventually evolve into twenty one books, including four New York Times bestsellers. With Life's Little Instruction Book, Mr. Brown became the first author to simultaneously hold the number one positions on both of the NYT's hardback and paperback lists. Many of Mr. Brown's quotes have become so well known that they are often mis-attributed to historical figures, including the following, which is widely credited to Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Ms. August Scott began her Zappos career in their customer support call center. Her positive attitude and willingness to take chances rapidly propelled her to the coveted and influential position of Coach. I met Augusta when I toured Zappos' headquarters as part of the Downtown Project's Catalyst Creative Speaker series (you can view my talk here). Several Zappos employees had mentioned "Coach" and the impact she has had on the corporation during our tour. When we passed her in the hall, her face lit up and she gave us a joyous greeting. Despite our brief encounter, it was clear to me that Augusta Scott has charisma and charm at a level few people possess.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Craig Harris, Co-Founder and CEO of HG Data, knows first-hand that it is possible to recruit top talent, without the benefit of a lot of cash or equity. Early in his career, Craig spent nearly 4 years with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, creating an agro-forestry farm that remains in operation over 20-years later. Entrepreneurs can learn much from successful, yet cash-strapped organizations, such as the Peace Corps and the Marines, especially when it comes to attracting, retaining and motivating employees.