Summary: What happens when you get a 40+ person company to design its own office space? More importantly, will they want to? Turns out the results are better than expected, speaking in large part to an incredible culture and a great group of people. See for yourself.E-mail. Tweet. http://rdean.me/ez369R
Well, if you haven’t heard, we at Visible Measures recently moved office space. However, what you probably didn’t know is that this move, and all of the office space design, was performed entirely by the company employees….this is a lesson in crowdsourced design.
As a growing technology company, with state-of-the-art technology, and in a really hot market, we were bursting at the seams of our former office space…so it was time to move on to bigger, and better office space.
What we did
This approach meant all of the basics would have to be handled; like boxing stuff up, moving furniture, renting a U-Haul truck, and lots of little trips back and forth. However, in taking this approach, we were afforded to do something very unique: to all pitch in to design our own office space. To make things fun, we enacted an HGTV-style competition where teams signed up and developed their own concepts on a limited budgets, and timeframe, to execute their concepts. While the budget was fixed, we erred on the side of fewer rules, in order to let the creativity flourish. Additionally, we employed the best interior designer I know (um, well…ok it’s my wife) to provide guidance to the teams, and to help out with our other common areas.
See pictures of the space
Summary: While designing and building culture anywhere is difficult, startups have unique qualities that make it especially challenging. Here I give a mini-model, called the “Three Ps”, which can serve as a reminder of the key elements to create, maintain, and align culture. E-mail. Tweet.
I was recently asked by good friend, and coach Bob Radin, a professor at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, to speak to his MBA class, called “Managing People in Organizations”. Bob asked me to give them the perspective of what it takes to design and build culture at a startup; for which I provided some perspective, as well as a mini-framework, to help students think about how culture plays an integral role when founding a startup, or even selecting where to begin their post-MBA career.
In addition to the slides, here is a description of the main takeaways of the discussion.
One of the most challenging thing to do in a startup is to keep your eye on employee growth and development, while fighting the day-to-day grind of helping to build your business. On the one hand, there is no point looking at employee career development since if the company doesn’t succeed it doesn’t matter, whereas on the other hand to build a sustainable and successful company, investing in employee development is a must.
So the essence of employee reviews is to make them relevant in a specific, timely, and succinct manner without any ambiguity. Let’s examine how we may do that with a single question that can sum up any other form of evaluation.
While I try to keep topics on this blog related to innovation strategy, and product development (rather than being a pure “startup” blog) sometimes I need to weigh in on topics that get me a little annoyed. That is, in nearly every meet-up of young startups (the best places to find the seeds of innovation sprouting) the discussion is centered around raising money. All too often venture capital financing is lauded as the holy grail for a startup, over running your business. However, if you’re supposedly operating as a “lean startup”, these are the financials you should be focused on…not raising money.
Financial Management vs. Raising Finance
There is much more that goes into the financials of a start-up (I almost called this post “Why Startup CFOs Matter”). Consider that if the core objective of a business is to make money, and likewise its death is to run out of money, it’s worth examining how the areas of day-to-day financial operations of a startup.
Here I propose “5Ps” of start-up financial management:
- Process & Policies
Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
Brian and I are flattered and humbled to join the Entrepreneurs in Residence at the MIT E-Center. Hopefully our war stories can help other aspiring student entrepreneurs launch successful ventures, and let the cycle of innovation continue.
There is a stellar crop of EIRs that we hope to learn from as well:
- Reed Sturtevant (Microsoft, IdealLab, Eons, Lotus) & Katie Rae (Microsoft Startup Labs, Eons.com, Lycos, AltaVista, Zip2, MirrorWorlds)
- Jean Hammond (AXON Networks, Quarry Technologies, Spider Systems, ZipCar, HubAngels)
- Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot – and classmates of ours)
- Susan Whoriskey (Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Whoriskey Associates)
It’s really something to be back at MIT on a regular basis, and to be on the other side of the room. Also note, that for MIT alums, we’ve started a regular breakfast series for networking and discussing pressing issues – if you’re interested you can join our LinkedIn group.
When you’re deep in the trenches, these are often heard phrases, which if you don’t take with a little humor, can drive you nuts:
- “Why don’t you just…” This also crops up under variations such as: “What you need to do is…”. To me, this one implies that you aren’t doing something obvious, and that obvious thing is simple to execute. This phrase is most uttered by current MBAs who just read a case study, or management consultants.
- “That was my [friend/aunt/cousin's] idea…” Now I don’t mean this as they actually started a business, more that they had a tangentially related idea in the shower, or over beers, and never did anything with it….Kind of like how I “thought of” LinkedIn in 2001.
- “Since you work for yourself, can’t you take today off?” Uttered by those who don’t understand your internal sense of urgency driven both internally (your desire to change the world), or externally (customers, competitors, or distaste of Ramen noodles).
I gave this talk last week to the members of the TiE Leadership Program, aimed at helping to frame what it takes to develop a product organization — aimed at an audience of non-product start-up execs, and existing / aspiring start-up CEOs. Take a look at the slides for the specific “tips”, but here’s a brief summary of the areas I covered, along with specific references I made to concepts, ideas, books, and people that I have learned a lot from along the way.
There’s no such thing as unequivocal success in a start-up
Too often in start-up life there is the elusive ideal that you will have those “unequivocal successes” to celebrate. The truth is, those never happen. Too often things move in such a way that there is never a natural moment to stop, take a breath, and soak in what you’ve done.
For instance, suppose you’re working on a big deal with a major strategic partner or sales agreement, when is the right time to pop the champagne? After you reach verbal commitment, you’re probably embroiled with lawyers, terms, and conditions, knowing that things could change with any moment. When the signature finally does come, you’re waiting already for a ong time, and have moved onto the next pressing matter of implementation or transition such that actually receiving it seems trivial when contrasted with what lies ahead. So, there really isn’t such a time where you can have that feeling of “unequivocal success” — it may happen in movies and sports, but not in a start-up, so you have to make those moments happen by celebrating the little victories.
Raise a glass to what you have accomplished so far
So many times, you don’t know when the next big thing is going to come, you’ve been working your tail off so the only way to celebrate your success is to take a pause and look back on what you’ve accomplished. It could be getting your product to market, reaching a sales milestone you didn’t expect but somewhere along the way, I’m sure you’ve made more progress than you thought, in a lot of areas.
So this evening, raise a glass and look back on 2009 (and even the previous decade) and celebrate your hard work and accomplishments, whatever they may be…knowing bigger things are yet to come.
Happy New Year to all.
This past weekend, I finally watched the latest Star Trek movie (quite entertaining). In reconnecting with the franchise, it reminded me how innovative Gene Roddenberry (and his writers) were in developing some remarkable ideas, like the Transporter.
But despite the “genius” of Roddenberry’s ideas, it’s a stark reminder that ideas aren’t inventions; meaning just because you’ve thought of something doesn’t make it your invention. Last time I checked, Gene doesn’t have a patent on the Transporter, the Replicator, the Warp Drive, or any other Star Trek created idea. Turning ideas into reality is hard, and that’s where the true genius is – let’s not forget the words of Thomas Edison:
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Here we’ll explore the requirements for an “invention”, and the stages for successful commercialization.