Archive for December, 2011

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–December 2011

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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“When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.”
William Somerset Maugham

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“It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.”
Edwin Land

This reminds of Peter Drucker’s “organized abandonment” model for firms. He suggests that every year a business re-evaluate products and markets by asking themselves “if we did not do this already, would we go into it now, knowing what we now know?” If the answer is no then it no longer represents an opportunity. Further investment should be considered very carefully and deferred where possible in favor of new and emerging growth opportunities.  See also:

  • Brad Pierce’s “Reversify Your Product Offerings:  Do Less with More
  • Carmine Gallo’s Fast Company article on “Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs” in particular this excerpt:
    Early in Apple’s history, lead investor Mike Markkula sent a memo to Apple’s employees that outlined his marketing strategy. In that memo he talked about the importance of focus. Markkula wrote, “To do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all the unimportant opportunities, select from the remainder only those that we have the resources to do well, and concentrate our efforts on them.

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“Bootstrapping is not  seeking outside funding until you have a business that both requires and merits investment.”
Sean Murphy

This is similar to an entrepreneurial proverb that Marc Hedlund offered:

The pitch that goes, “We could accelerate our growth with more money” is much more compelling than, “I need your money or our doors will close.”

More context:

The best way to get investment is not to need it — if you have a running business with real customers and you’re paying all your bills, you are much more likely to get a funding round than if you need the round in order to survive or succeed. The pitch that goes, “We could accelerate our growth with more money” is much more compelling than, “I need your money or our doors will close.”

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“Few things are impossible to diligence and skill.
Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”
Samuel Johnson

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“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”
Edwin Land

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“Zoom in for traction, zoom out for impact.”
Sean Murphy

I used this as the title for “Zoom In For Traction, Zoom Out For Impact

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“Science is a method to keep yourself from kidding yourself.”
Edwin Land

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“Treat your customers as if they were newspapers reporters; this is the new mantra for savvy companies of all sizes.”
Matt Mickiewicz in “Why Customer Service is the New Marketing

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“It’s the picture on the box that sells the LEGO set.”
Sean Murphy

I used this as the title for “It’s the Picture on the Box that Sells the LEGO Set.

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“It’s a whole year between Christmases, but it’s a short Christmas between years.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

For Christmas I was given a CD that collects all of Ashleigh Brilliant’s Pot Shots (epigrams). They are quite good: I will be weaving more of them into my quotes for entrepreneurs in 2012.

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“We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.”
Alexis de Tocqueville

I used this quote to open “Record to Remember, Pause to Reflect

Entrepreneurial Imagination

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

John RzeznikBetter Days

Entrepreneurs are by definition optimists. They see possibilities that others may discount or overlook.  If we are to reach better days we need as much entrepreneurial imagination applied to the hard challenges facing us.

“The only certainty is a reasonable probability.”
Edgar Watson Howe, “Country Town Sayings”

December Bootstrapper Breakfasts Recap 2011 To Prepare for 2012

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

Compare notes with entrepreneurs who eat problems for breakfast.We have four Silicon Valley Bootstrappers Breakfasts® scheduled in the last two weeks of December. All of these Bootstrapper Breakfasts will feature a facilitated roundtable conversation among bootstrapping entrepreneurs, a chance to network before and after the formal meeting, and the opportunity to compare notes with other bootstrapping entrepreneurs who eat problems for breakfast. At a Bootstrappers Breakfast we have serious conversations about growing a business based on internal cashflow and organic profit: this is for founders who are actively bootstrapping a startup.

What Have You Learned That Will Make You a More Effective Entrepreneur in 2012?

In addition to our regular roundtable format of introductions followed by each attending suggesting  issues they would like to discuss or questions they have for the group we are going to discuss “What did you learn in 2011 that will make you a better entrepreneur in 2012?

Four Bootstrapper Breakfast in Last Two Weeks of December

Here are the four Bootstrapper Breakfasts we have scheduled in the last two weeks in December

Cost is $5 in advance / $10 at the door plus the cost of your own breakfast (separate checks). Check us out over the holidays if you want an early morning conversation with other technology entrepreneurs.

Book Club: The Innovator’s DNA: Associating

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Events

Call-in Book Review recorded on February 22, 2012
Terry Frazier, Steve Hogan and Sean Murphy recap Christensen’s’ “The Innovator’s DNA chapter 2” with insight of how they have incorporated associating into their work.

Chapter 2:

Discovery Skill #1 Associating

The Innovator’s DNA

by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen

Practical and provocative, The Innovator’s DNA is an essential resource for individuals and teams who want to strengthen their innovative prowess.

The authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting.

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Related Resources:

Innovator’s DNA overview

Discovery Skills

  1. Associating
  2. Questioning
  3. Observing
  4. Networking
  5. Experimenting

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Additional Book Reviews

Managing Oneself Article
Boyd-OODA The Lean Startup
Moore's Darwin and the Demon HRB article
Cohan Great Demo
Origin and Evolution

Zoom In For Traction, Zoom Out For Impact

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, 5 Scaling Up Stage, skmurphy

Your startup is  a work in progress.  When most entrepreneurs evaluate where they are it’s difficult not to include the promising future they foresee naturally ensuing from current efforts (or on bad days the certain doom no matter what they do). If you are not getting traction, if you don’t have the ability to reliably set and hit goals, then you need to narrow your goals. Zoom in for traction.

“If you’re doing something big, people will compliment you. Most will give you accolades or be quietly supportive. But it’s those who simultaneously support and challenge you who can help.  The best teams know this. They embrace feedback and seek criticism. They find ways to change and improve. And they know that when someone criticizes them, it’s an indication of respect. Only the people who really care risk helping us improve. ”
Brendan Baker in “Seek Knowledgeable Criticism” h/t to Rafe Needleman

First Assessment: Do We Have Traction?

The first self-assessment to make is “do we have traction?” By traction I mean the ability to set and hit goals that increase your knowledge of the market or reduce the risks associated with becoming viable. There are many milestones that are necessary to enable a real goal that in and of themselves don’t increase your knowledge of the market or reduce the risks associated with viability. Some examples:

  • Getting incorporated, registering a domain, getting a bank account, getting a Federal Tax ID, etc.. These are all important steps to be able transact business that no one on your team may be familiar with, but they are  not goals. They don’t reduce your risk or increase your knowledge of the market.
  • Spending money on tools, equipment, services, etc… You may never have hired an attorney or an accountant before or setup an account on a cloud service , and it’s possible to pick the wrong person or provider, but it does not reduce your risk.

If Not, Zoom In For Traction

If you don’t have traction you need then zoom in and narrow your focus. Ask for specific advice on how to understand the market opportunity, verify that you have identified the key risks that you face in the near term, and how to reduce or minimize one or more risks that you face. Here the most helpful criticism can take the form of questions:

  • How are we measuring … how far have we come since…
  • Who are we benchmarking our progress against and why?
  • What have we already tried to solve this problem and what has been the result? What have we learned?
  • What is the real problem that we are trying to solve?
  • What can we accomplish in the next two to three weeks with the folks already committed to the team.

These questions can provoke a conversation that can help you form a plan of action for the next few weeks that will improve your traction. Once you have that plan you can present it to friends and advisors for feedback and critique.

If You Have Traction: Zoom Out For Impact

The second self-assessment to make, if you are satisfied that you have traction is to determine what are the next set of  realistic goals that, once achieved, will significantly enhance your viability or impact for your customers. Now is the time to zoom out and consider a broader context for your next set of actions.  Here the most helpful criticism can take the form of different questions:

  • How close are we to your next goal? What should we start measuring once we achieve it? What metrics no longer matter or are now counterproductive?
  • What relationships have we created that can now help you grow your business?
  • What are the most significant constraints on our growth or ability to add value to customers?
  • What problems have we promoted in solving the ones that we faced earlier?
  • What core values do we need to hold on to as we grow?
  • What specialists do we need to add to the team on a temporary,  part time, or full time basis?

Once you have those answers reviewing them with customers, partners, and advisors can yield additional insight.

Related Blog Posts


Anne Rozinat of Fluxicon Joins Business Book Panel for “Second Economy”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Events, skmurphy

“Every so often—every 60 years or so—a body of technology comes along and over several decades, quietly, almost unnoticeably, transforms the economy: it brings new social classes to the fore and creates a different world for business…something deep is going on with information technology, something that goes well beyond the use of computers, social media, and commerce on the Internet.”
Brian Arthur in “The Second Economy

SKMurphy Business Book ClubAnne Rozinat is co-founder of Fluxicon, a provider of software tools and services for business process mining. She has project experience with a number of major European firms in customer service, healthcare, IT services, healthcare and government. Her training is in software engineering with a PhD in Process Mining and she is a founding member of the IEEE Task Force on Process Mining.

She is joining us on Wed-Dec-14 at Noon PDT to discuss Brian Arthur‘s “The Second Economy” article in the October 2011 McKinsey Quarterly.

“Business processes that once took place among human beings are now executed electronically. They are taking place in an unseen domain that is strictly digital. This shift is quietly creating a second economy, a digital one.”
Brian Arthur in “The Second Economy

In addition to her published research and her private client work Anne is an active blogger and has several posts that bear on Brian Arthur’s “Second Economy” thesis:

“In any deep transformation, industries do not so much adopt the new body of technology as encounter it, and as they do so they create new ways to profit from its possibilities.”
Brian Arthur in “The Second Economy

In the same way that computer networks required much more sophisticated network management and systems administration tools and methodologies,  the increased digitization of business processes–blending automation with human expertise in extremely complex workflows–will require us to invent new tools and methods for specifying and managing them.

“This second economy that is silently forming—vast, interconnected, and extraordinarily productive—is creating for us a new economic world. How we will fare in this world, how we will adapt to it, how we will profit from it and share its benefits, is very much up to us.”
Brian Arthur in “The Second Economy

Our hope is that conversation will touch on impacts, risks, and some early examples:

  • Understand Pervasive Impact of Process Digitization on Business
  • Key Risk  Is to Make Work Processes Invisible
    • Complicates “Management By Walking Around”
    • New Tools & Practices Needed to Leverage
  • Early Example:  Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
    • Blends Automation and Human Expertise
    • Creating New Kinds of Business Models

Please Register and join the roundtable discussion Wed-Dec-14 at Noon PST.

Silicon Valley Bootstrapper Breakfasts in December/January

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events

Hot Coffee and Serious Conversation with Entrepreneurs at the Bootstrapper BreakfastWe have been facilitating Bootstrapper Breakfasts® since 2006 in Silicon Valley.  Our promise is serious conversations about growing a business based on internal cash flow and organic profit. This is not for entrepreneurs who want to meet VCs–there are plenty of meetings in Silicon Valley that already enable those conversations–this is for founders who are actively bootstrapping a technology startup.

We define bootstrapping as growing your business based on organic cash flow, not seeking outside funding until you have an opportunity that both requires and merits outside investment.

Here is a list of the next set of breakfasts scheduled in Silicon Valley

Cost is $5 in advance / $10 at the door plus the cost of your own breakfast (separate checks). Check us out over the holidays if you want an early morning conversation with other technology entrepreneurs.

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