13 Lessons I Learned in 2006

January 1, 2007

Print This Article

  1. Yes And Life
    One of the key lessons of improv is to say yes to the scene that your acting partner is creating. If your partner suggests you’re kissing cousins in a ski lodge, then you are kissing cousins in a ski lodge AND something else. By saying yes, and in response to people instead of no, but you often create better outcomes and build a much stronger relationship with the person you’re interacting with.

  2. Judging People is Necessary
    As a child you learn never to judge people. Judging people perhaps even has a bad connotation. But in business, you must judge and you must judge often. You must judge based on intelligence, effort, and more importantly results. If you don’t judge, you end up with unexamined, unmeasured mediocrity. All humans have equal inherent value, but not all humans’ productive efforts are equal.

  3. The People You Surround Yourself With Matters
    Venture Capitalist Steve Nelson shared some advice with me this year that has stuck with me: Stay involved with only the best. Ask yourself – are these outstanding people? To know, you only need to ask yourself: do they possess great intelligence, keen business insight, outstanding people skills, and unquestioned integrity?”

  4. Life Reveals The Rules Only After You Start Playing
    Life is a game; and a game that doesn’t exactly reveal most the rules until it’s been played a few times. There are two ways to figure out the rules– a) talk to smart people who have already done what you’re trying to accomplish or b) trial and error. Either way, start playing early.

  5. If Somebody Sues You, Go Talk to Them in Person
    I spent about $35,000 unnecessarily this year by listening to my lawyer and not communicating with a former client that was bringing Virante into arbitration. If I just would have flown out there and spoken with him in person initially instead of 4 months later at the mediation hearing I likely would have saved that $35,000 and a lot of personal stress. The lawyer’s advice was correct and proper legally, but the ‘legal’ solution often costs a lot of money to get to.

  6. Build Consensus with the Core Before You Present Widely
    Build pre-emptive support and communicate your vision individually to your Executive or Director team or in small groups to get feedback and adjust before presenting to everyone. This can be a lot of work, but it’s how it is done in companies larger than 20 people.

  7. Life is Too Short to Not Be Passionate About What You Do
    Stand out, make an impact, be compassionate, and help others. Too much injustice occurs in this world to not want to make a positive change at whatever level you can. Torture, human slavery, murder, genocide, starvation. Too many people don’t have the opportunities we have, and too many people die needlessly from preventable diseases and starvation to make you not want to do the absolute best you can in your life. Have fun. Enjoy life. Help others. Reduce suffering. That is the credo.

  8. There Are Four Must-Attend Conferences for Future Leaders
    This year I sat next to John McCain and talked about soccer and energy policy as we watched the semi-final of the world cup for 15 minutes. I had a conversation with Madeleine Albright about security and aid policy in Africa. I talked about digital camera technology riding on a bus next to Steve Jurvetson on the way to Michael Eisner’s ranch. I sat next to Glenn Close, Sandra Day O’Conner and Stelois Ioannou in a roundtable discussion on climate change. How’d I get there? Five years of consistent hard work and getting invited to attend a conference called Fortune Brainstorm. By getting invited to and attending a few key conferences you can have access to pretty much anybody in the world. In my experience so far, those key conferences are Fortune Brainstorm, The World Economic Forum, TED, and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

  9. There’s A Good Deal of Corruption in the World–It Can Affect Policy–And Competition Can Reduce It
    In 1995, the telcos had the technology to launch DSL. But they held off for nearly five years. Why? Because the cable companies didn’t yet have the technology ready to launch cable modems and the telephone monopolies saw hundreds of millions of dollars of second-line dial-up revenue from their subscriber base. Instead of providing DSL to Americans and allowing economic-enhancing broadband access, they (somewhat understandably perhaps) held back the technology to make more money, in the mean time using their huge lobbying base to ensure governmental policy wasn’t enacted that would benefit all other businesses, all consumers, and the entire economy. Finally, in 1999 the the technology for cable modems became ready and marketable and amazingly, DSL launched. The lesson perhaps is that while business in general and consumers in general should have the right to lobby and influence, a single industry should never have the power to lobby at the expense of the wider good.


  10. Compounding Experience & Compounding Resources Allow For Greatness Over Time
    The big wooden flywheel from Good to Great has held true in my business experience. It takes a long time to get the flywheel moving at all. It takes a lot of really hard pushes to get it going. Each individual push doesn’t move it very much. But if you keep pushing, eventually the wheel starts moving and inertia and momentum start to take hold, causing each subsequent push of equal strength to have a greater and greater impact. In 2003, Broadwick did $12,000 in sales. In 2004, $296,000. In 2005, $1.3 million. And in 2006, $2.7 million. We worked from October 2002 until December 2003 to generate $12,000 in sales (and $20,000 in expenses!). We worked equally as hard in 2006 as we did in 2003, but instead of $12,000 we generated $2.7 million with the same effort. Intelligent consistent effort compounds as experience, knowledge, and access expands. Sometimes it is difficult to fathom how people like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan acquired their fortunes and made the impact they did in one lifetime. They started by working their butt off to make $12,000 and forty years later they were working with hundreds of millions. Same way Buffet did it, same way Gates did it. Play life like a long-term game. And always be improving.

  11. Networking Isn’t About Handing Out Business Cards
    In every personal development conference you go to you hear that networking is key to business success. And that is in fact true. But most teachers leave out the most important rule of networking. It’s not about shaking hands, having a little small talk, and swapping business cards. It’s about building real, trusting, mutually giving relationships with quality people.

  12. The World Has a Lot of Problems, But They Are Fixable
    One of the reasons I want to be a U.S. Senator one day is to be able to influence foreign policy, especially the policy that deals with how our country interacts with other countries from an economic and environmental standpoint. This year, I’ve been made so consciously aware of the extreme inequities in the world today. 49,000 people die per day from preventable disease and starvation, 2.7 billion people live on under $2 per day, most people don’t have the opportunity to be creative through entrepreneurship due to class-divisions and bureaucratic restriction, the developed nations produce an uneccessarily large amount of greenhouse gas causing agricultural famine in non-developed nations, billions of dollars go to farm subsidies in the U.S. and E.U. creating silos upon silos of wasted grain while millions die of starvation due to lack of access to markets in developing nations, tens of thousands of humans remain in sexual or work slavery. I have been deeply affected by these issues in 2006 and hope to be able to dedicate much of my life the best way I know how doing my best to improve these situations on a global scale through politics, business, and social entrepreneurship.
  13. Community Matters
    And yet, for every thought I have about Malawi, Benin, or Burundi, I think about North Carolina. For every issue in Malawi, Benin, and Burundi, I can see a parallel issue (though at a different scale) here in North Carolina. A lack of equality of opportunity in Malawi can be paralleled to a lack of educational equity here at home. Most North Carolinians know that our K-12 educational quality has not been on par with that of other States’ in the past, especially east of I-95. I applaud Governor Easley’s efforts to improve the situation as well as the measurement and tracking work the North Carolina Progress Board is doing and am hopeful for continued improvement. I was thrilled to meet with members from the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship in November and to become a donor to the Council for Entrepreneurial Development this year and am hopeful to be able to work within the communities of North Carolina for decades to come. The Lesson: While you should always educate yourself about the world, what happens in it, and how you can make a global difference, you can most often make the largest difference right at home–and there are always plenty of issues (read: opportunities to improve) right here in our own community.

The 20 Most Important Business Lessons I Learned in 2005

January 1, 2006

Print This Article

Near the end of each year, I always create a Year Review document in which I list memories from the year, new people I’ve met, the progress I’ve made on my goals, business results, and the most important business lessons I’ve learned. Per my 2005 Year Review, here are the twenty most important business lessons I learned in 2005.

  1. Listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It’s usually alerting you to something that might come back to bite you if you don’t listen to it.
  2. Don’t let non-communication lead to the de-generation of a relationship.
  3. Full-on bias toward action is great. But only when you have little to lose. Once you have something to lose, you must balance having a bias toward action with analysis, due diligence, and care.
  4. Don’t avoid doing things just because they are hard or may cause conflict.
  5. Consistently look for bottlenecks and inefficiencies in communication flows and organizational behavior.
  6. Integrity is what matters at the end of the day. There will always eventually be an audit or a lawsuit that has to look into what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. So make sure at all times your actions are above board and in good faith.
  7. The business world can be harsh and often times there is someone in your life that you trust that you should not who will eventually try to screw you over.
  8. As CEO, if there is a layer of management between you and the person you need to speak to, speak to that person’s manager first to make sure it is okay to speak with him or her or just relay the message through that person’s manager.
  9. As CEO, try to avoid assigning work to people you do not directly manage to avoid priority conflicts. Rather, in all cases except emergencies give the task to that person’s manager to assign.
  10. Recognition and praise can be just as big of motivating factors for employees as salary and bonuses.
  11. Finding the right people when you need them is a significant challenge and can take longer than you would think.
  12. Always communicate openly, fully, and quickly with your customers during any negative events.
  13. Quality assurance is a critical part of the software development process. Don’t release a new version of your product until it has been thoroughly tested by both an in-house QA team and a subset of your customer base. Bugs that make it into a released version are much more costly both in lost sales and loss of brand goodwill than spending the money needed to fix them up front.
  14. Raising funding for a company usually will take longer than you expect.
  15. Make the call. It’s often better to call than email if you’re trying to get a project done quickly.
  16. It is better to prepare for the worst when things are going well rather than when they’re not.
  17. Sometimes you just have to let go. Get the right people, train them, and then trust them.
  18. Just because you have a detailed plan in your head doesn’t mean other members of your team know it. If you don’t consistently communicate your vision and plans, people may think you don’t have vision and have failed to plan.
  19. Be very nice to merchant account processing limit review officers and give them the information they need to review your limit well before you hit it.
  20. Building a business is truly like trying to push a big horizontal wooden wheel. It takes hundreds of small pushes to get it moving, and hundreds more to get it going quickly, but once you get it going quickly inertia starts to take over and your continued efforts have a greater and greater effect.

The 20 Most Important Business Lessons I Learned in 2005

December 17, 2005

Near the end of each year, I always create a “Year Review” document in which I list memories from the year, new people I’ve met, the progress I’ve made on my goals, business results, and the most important business lessons I’ve learned. Per my 2005 Year Review, here are the twenty most important business lessons I learned in 2005.

1. Listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It’s usually alerting you to something that might come back to bite you if you don’t listen to it.

2. Don’t let non-communication lead to the de-generation of a relationship.

3. Full-on bias toward action is great. But only when you have little to lose. Once you have something to lose, you must balance having a bias toward action with analysis, due diligence, and care.

4. Don’t avoid doing things just because they are hard or may cause conflict.

5. Consistently look for bottlenecks and inefficiencies in communication flows and organizational behavior.

6. Integrity is what matters at the end of the day. There will always eventually be an audit or a lawsuit that has to look into what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. So make sure at all times your actions are above board and in good faith.

7. The business world can be harsh and often times there is someone in your life that you trust that you should not who will eventually try to screw you over.

8. As CEO, if there is a layer of management between you and the person you need to speak to, speak to that person’s manager first to make sure it is okay to speak with him or her or just relay the message through that person’s manager.

9. As CEO, try to avoid assigning work to people you do not directly manage to avoid priority conflicts. Rather, in all cases except emergencies give the task to that person’s manager to assign.

10. Recognition and praise can be just as big of motivating factors for employees as salary and bonuses.

11. Finding the right people when you need them is a significant challenge and can take longer than you would think.

12. Always communicate openly, fully, and quickly with your customers during any negative events.

13. Quality assurance is a critical part of the software development process. Don’t release a new version of your product until it has been thoroughly tested by both an in-house QA team and a subset of your customer base. Bugs that make it into a released version are much more costly both in lost sales and loss of brand goodwill than spending the money needed to fix them up front.

14. Raising funding for a company usually will take longer than you expect.

15. Make the call. It’s often better to call than email if you’re trying to get a project done quickly.

16. It is better to prepare for the worst when things are going well rather than when they’re not.

17. Sometimes you just have to let go. Get the right people, train them, and then trust them.

18. Just because you have a detailed plan in your head doesn’t mean other members of your team know it. If you don’t consistently communicate your vision and plans, people may think you don’t have vision and have failed to plan.

19. Be very nice to merchant account processing limit review officers and give them the information they need to review your limit well before you hit it.

20. Building a business is truly like trying to push a big horizontal wooden wheel. It takes hundreds of small pushes to get it moving, and hundreds more to get it going quickly, but once you get it going quickly inertia starts to take over and your continued efforts have a greater and greater effect.

« Previous Page