Why Culture is More Important Than Capital

Attitude is the most valuable currency in today’s business environment and it is a key indicator of future success. Never before in history has innovation been so celebrated, encouraged, and ubiquitous. Leaders are everywhere.

A business is the orchestration of people serving a common goal. No surprise there. Establishing the success ecosystem – those who will advise, direct, recommend, and implement your ideas – means carefully choosing people who have experience, integrity, loyalty, and honesty. The first role of a chief executive officer or founder is to establish a corporate culture and communicate core values. More importantly, live by them and practice them. The practice is challenging and we jump on and off the horse depending on family, friends and finances.

In my perspective, too much cash is actually detrimental to the business when it comes to funding vs. revenues. There are enough examples of venture-backed dreams and acquisitions gone wrong. Why? Because capital destroys culture.

Angel funding and venture capital may be the motivation of my fellow entrepreneurs, but many of my well-funded colleagues struggle with the ideation of a product, the development of culture, and the financial integrity of the daily business. Plus an additional layer of mania to satisfy investors. No thank you.

I have two primary passions: operations and recruiting. I don’t have a perfect track record of either, product ideas or people. However, one of my hard-won secrets is that I protect my people, my business, and my values. I try to live with transparency and unfiltered honesty, mixed with humor, metaphors, and associations to ease any sting. Doesn’t always work as I intend.

I typically interview potential employees before introducing them to anyone within my company. This is an uncommon approach for many CEOs and may not seem scalable. However, this behavior allows me to carefully select the type of personalities that will amplify the business and enhance our ability to execute as a team. Chemistry creates culture.

Proudly, I’ve made six pivots in as many years. I’ve retained almost the entire original founding team (when this was written). We have never missed payroll, we have no debt and loyal customers. It has not been perfect and we have struggled, but we stand together and find ways to make things work. People are what make me get up earlier and stay later.

Here is what I have learned and what I do to maintain our core values:


You must make the decision to regularly and publicly show gratitude to every person you encounter. This does not mean purchasing expensive gifts or dinners – it simply means showing genuine thanks. Most people are good-natured and generous until you are not generous and thankful in return. Choose random acts of senseless kindness.

The phrase my staff uses to elevate our gratitude to one other is “I appreciate you”. It’s the protocol now because I made reciprocity a part of our work ethic and company mantra. The more you give, the more you want to give.

Raising capital is a distraction, going public is a prison sentence

While it may be necessary for holistic ideas, preparing presentations that describe fantastical liquidity events for investors is a poor use of our mental capital and it attracts the “wrong people”.

Growing a business is about scars, not trophies. You need fighters with charisma, integrity, humility, attention to detail and most important of all, faith. Focus on providing value in what you sell and being genuinely interested in the success of others despite your own.

If you blindly follow the money, you may not like where your culture ends up. Be hungry, not full.

Products are not exceptional, people are

There are dozens – if not hundreds – of people behind every idea. Execution of an idea by your carefully selected team is the magic. Products with true business value are governed by the culture you created; magic creates unstoppable cultures. People first. Choose them well.

Tony Hsieh (RIP), Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Mark Benioff, Tim, Howard Schultz – true leadership and personal transformation. They have all gone from zero income to startup, to multi-million/billion-dollar organizations.

Entrepreneurship means accepting anxiety, competition, and despair. Setbacks occur daily and stress accumulates. The psychological price of entrepreneurship is already too high. Playing it safe, taking calculated risks while growing revenue organically, can result in happier and more rewarding business owners. Delivering products or services that generate profit and income without liability and debt is a true paradise.

This is the focus for my life and career, zero to profit. Or not.

Culture creates a business and happiness is not always profitable.

We are all a work in progress. Entrepreneurship is not science, it is imperfect and most importantly, it is rarely, exactly repeatable. I’ve never met an entrepreneur that followed their original business plan from beginning to end. Budgets change, expectations are reset and companies often pivot into new markets based on the economy, technological shifts, or simply the need to survive.

Culture is currency and attitude makes it profitable. Teach people to reciprocate, focus on and align with core company values, follow their heart and their gut instinct, and encourage them to be exceptional. The ultimate goal is to have a business grow with and without you.

Cultures survive even when capital does not.

Valuation of Your Business

A sustainable business also focuses on valuation which is the amount your company will potentially sell for over time. Your valuation is a formula that takes into account your assets, your profitability and your cash flow and that equation results in what your company might be worth in a one, three or five year period to another company.

There are several different reasons why you might want to know the value of your business, including selling it, merging with another business, tax or loan purposes, for estate planning, allocating the purchase price among business assets, establishing an estimate of the value of partners’ ownership interest for buy-sell agreements and more. Whatever the reason, it can be a challenging process to come up with a valid number.

Valuations might also be used to calculate stock options (aka, ‘funny money’). These are not publicly traded stocks, but rather, a metric for developing and managing ownership in the business. Some people want possession of more or less shares, which doesn’t mean much at the early stages of your business; stock options in this case are simply a metric for dividing business based on the principals involved. The only division of stock options should be to people who have invested money in the company (you do not want to give away the company at all, especially to outsiders). There are a lot of ways to do shares and ownership and contribute back, like sharing the success of your business into your employee base. However, early on, giving away shares and ownership in your business isn’t one that’s recommended.

Another developmental metric that will be used in the valuation process is insurance policies. All principals of your business should have what’s known as a Keyman Policy. This is good both for the company and for the families of the principals if someone is unexpectedly killed as a measure of fiscal protection.

There are various types of insurance policies that will be accounted for during the valuation process, such as a general liability policy, accidental death and dismemberment, life insurance on all principals and others. Ideally, your business will pay the premiums on these types of insurances because should they ever be exercised, it is the company that will receive the benefits.

A valuation requires a complete analysis of historical operation of the business itself as well as a study of the projected future for the industry, the economy and the competitive advantage of the company.

To do a thorough valuation is more than adding up numbers from different reports because it takes into consideration intangible factors that are not easily quantifiable. There are more than a dozen different methods of valuation, and the mastery of the professional actually doing the valuation has a tremendous influence on the outcome. In fact, to insure integrity in the number, many valuation professionals use more than one method and compute a weighted average to come up with a final number. The main thing to know is that it’s important to choose both a professional and a method that knows and applies to your industry to get a viable value. And you have to understand the method used so you can defend the end result.

In valuating your business, assets will be considered to see what you have that supports the value of your company. Assets can be a lot of different things including equipment, furniture, electronics, cash in the bank, the customers you have signed up for your program, consistent purchasers or the email list to which you regularly market and sell your company. An asset can also be the copyrights, trademarks and patents that you and/or your company holds; when you exercise to sell your business, the valuation professionals will look at all three of these as adding value to your business (and the more you have, the better).

Regardless of the asset, every asset you have depreciates on an annual basis. Your goal is to refill what depreciates and evaporates in your business to balance this natural shrinkage. This can occur through an existing customer with new opportunities and /or by using their referral network; other times you may need to seek a new customer to replenish that gap.

Historically, studies have shown time and time again that it’s easier to gain revenue from an existing customer than to create from seeking a new customer where you have a proven relationship. Certainly, it’s possible for you to have major wins but primarily ‘organic’ growth through referral strategies will produce more efficiently than cold calling strategies (although this depends on the type of company that you have and your marketing strategy). The big takeaway is that it is vital to create a foundation of strength such that from an external point of view your business would be seen as asset-strong.

Companies and venture capital firms buy or invest in people, patients, predictable revenue and potential, not products nor your pride.

You can have a great product that’s generating income but as soon the due diligence process evaluates the people and the values of your company, the deal could be lost. Toxic cultures taint many acquisitions and funding efforts. Respect and commitment to your employees comes first, your customers are next, everything else, is an extension of those those values that your business represents.

Why the IoT Has to Make Sharing Data Worthwhile

Even while businesses start to incorporate products and services that leverage the Internet of Things into their strategies, they still think it belongs to the technology department. What most people don’t yet realize is that we are on the verge of a sociological shift in perspective about the transformative power of the Internet of Things—and that shift means the IoT is vital to marketers as well.

The IoT is no longer just about smart cups or refrigerators with attached touchscreens. Sure, people are interested in the latest trends, but the real power of the IoT is in how it can respond to the needs of businesses and individuals, and transform our lives in the same way that mobile computing has. In other words, it’s a marketer’s dream: actionable information, at a most granular and human level.

Apple Is Not Selling a Watch
For example, the Apple Watch is not at all what you believe it is, nor what we think it should be. History marks our ignorant mockery of Apple’s seminal products, from the first-generation iPhone all the way back to 1993 and its Newton personal digital assistant. The clues are already out there. Read the patent history and the upcoming patent registrations. And read about the personal passions of the leaders at Apple. Think different.

The Apple Watch is an early-stage product, but it isn’t for the geek, nerd or techy. Neither is it about fashion or luxury.

Read more at the Internet of Things Journal 

Interview with CMO Christopher Justice

Christopher Justice (pictured on the left) is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Magnolia International, an open-source content management system (CMS) developer that works with clients such as Sony, Virgin America and Thomas Cook.

In this interview with CX Network, he talks about challenges the marketing industry faces today and how you, as the CMO, can overcome these. “Listening becomes your default behavior,” he says.

Read more at CXNetwork

How a CMO Can Use Marketing Automation to Guarantee the Success of a Website Relaunch

As CMOs, our hearts are driven toward creativity but our jobs are measured by the metrics we collect. We use data like page views, unique site visits, recorded contacts and average time on site to determine if what we do actually has an effect on the bottom line of the business.

One of a CMO’s most challenging tasks is rebranding and launching a new website. How can a CMO guarantee that the substantial investment in a brand and website relaunch will have a positive effect on the company?

I believe that the answer lies in setting your website infrastructure up for digital business success, while using marketing automation to verify and optimise it all. I’m not alone on this path. According to SiriusDecisions, there are nearly 11 times more B2B organisations using marketing automation now than in 2011.

Read more at Digital Marketing Magazine

How CMOs Create Golden Ticket Marketing Teams

There are as many opinions on what marketing does, what it should say and how it should be measured as there are people in a company. That makes the role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) the most subjective position within any company. But even brilliant CMOs don’t last forever. This means we have to work quickly, build great teams and establish clear metrics for success.

Read more at CMSWire

Content Driven Commerce – The Red Carpet Checkout Experience

Picture the scene: you walk into a stunning boutique or the perfect shop for your favourite pastime. You find yourself surrounded by all the treats you have been promising yourself for ages. These are combined with an array of new products that you have never seen before, but that you want even more.

The shop is filled with people you like: some you know, some you admire. A few are chatting, openly swapping tips and opinions and inviting you to join in the discussion. A welcoming salesperson walks over to you, recognises you, sits you down on the VIP seating and offers you a drink. They talk with you, no hardsell, they listen to you and then offer profound, useful advice around what you might want. 

OK, so now you are feeling really comfortable and thinking you probably know what you want to buy. Suddenly the salesperson’s demeanour flips:

“GIVE ME YOUR CREDIT CARD”, they scream at you!

At this point, you become a little more uneasy, perhaps cornered, and less sure of your potential purchases. You attempt to rewind to some of the earlier, relaxed conversation, but they are having none of it:

“I SAID GIVE ME YOUR MONEY….” the salesperson shouts. “….. And what is your date of birth? Where do you live?….And is your card still valid, what’s the expiry date? ….And what about those three numbers on the back?”

“Look, I haven’t got all day,” they say impatiently. “My session will expire in three minutes!”

Welcome to the average online experience.

Read more at Digital Marketing Magazine UK

How to Pick the Best Browser for Your Enterprise

Knowing which browser to deploy in a large company is no easy task. The default option is Internet Explorer, but many users balk at this older, more cumbersome browser that seems to attract the most malware. Google Chrome gets most of the attention these days (as proven by a growing market share) and Mozilla Firefox offers good compatibility and speed. To determine which browser is the best for business, it’s important to keep tabs of the latest improvements. Here’s a look at the Big 3 with an eye on the enterprise.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is the oldest and most business-centric browser, mostly because businesses tend to deploy it as part of the standard desktop for large companies and fits in with other Microsoft products. A recent update to IE 11 includes Enterprise Mode, which ensures better compatibility with ActiveX controls and legacy Web apps. There are new tools like the Site Discovery Toolkit to help admins understand which apps are most commonly used.

Christopher Justice, a spokesman for the open-source content management system Magnolia International, says the advantage for enterprise developers is that IE is the most widely used browser, It’s installed on every Windows computer, so even if the end-user opts-out and picks a different browser there’s still an option for compatibility.

Because IE is so widely used, it is also a popular attack vector. Net Applications estimates a market share of over 34 percent for all versions of IE compared to just 13 percent for Chrome and just under 8 percent for Firefox. This makes IE a leader but also the browser business users tend to ignore or replace. The interface is cluttered and prone to attracting malware.

Read more at CIO.com

5 Tipps für eine bessere Online Customer Experience

Die Erfahrungen, die Kunden mit Ihrer Marke machen – ihre Customer Experience also – beeinflussen die Interaktionen mit und die Bindung zu Ihrem Produkt oder Ihrer Dienstleistung. Um diese Erfahrungen zu optimieren, muss auf jedes Detail geachtet werden – Kleinigkeiten können nämlich ein “Game Changer”, also ein entscheidender Faktor, sein. Dies ist ohnehin schon eine Herausforderung – weitaus schwieriger wird es, wenn die Anzahl digitaler Kanäle, die dem Konsumenten zur Verfügung stehen, ansteigt – Web, Mobile, Soziale Netzwerke und bald auch Connected Appliances.

Erinnern Sie sich an das letzte Mal, als Sie in einem 5-Sterne Restaurant gegessen haben? Wurde das Essen ansprechend präsentiert, war der Wein passend und der Nachtisch verlockend? Wurden Sie professionell bedient, wurde Ihnen große Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt? Und – am wichtigsten – würden Sie in das Restaurant zurückkehren?

Read more

Entrepreneurs: What Are You Most Thankful For?

“I am extremely thankful for the freedom entrepreneurship has given me to influence ideas that impact people’s lives and inspire people to create solutions to the challenges of the modern world. I am most grateful for the mentorship from those who saw what I could and should become. Their words guide me every day.”

Read more at Forbes