Why Trust Matters

Why Trust Matters

Image credit: http://brokenrearviewmirror.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/glass-10179216.jpg
Image credit: http://brokenrearviewmirror.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/glass-10179216.jpg

Trust is foundational to every human interaction.

So why is it, that a great many leaders don’t understand the importance of building and keeping trust?

A few years back, I was working with a team on a new software release, involving a web backend component, a new database schema, and set of new native mobile applications across multiple platforms. It was a highly visible release, and the heat was definitely on to deliver on time.

The boss unexpectedly moved the release date up a couple of weeks. Naturally, this threw everything into turmoil, and near panic. But, to the team’s credit, they dug in and did their level best to meet this new – and unwelcome – deadline.

One of my team members was getting married the day after release date – so needless to say, stress levels were high, above and beyond the need to deliver.

Release day came.

The boss came in, announced that the deadline was artificial, and that it had moved it up a couple of weeks because “he knew developers, and developers always say it will take longer than it really does.”

It wrecked the morale of team. And they never believed a word the boss – or I – ever said again.

Maintaining trust is more than just “doing what you say you’re going to be doing” or “keeping your word.” It is also about valuing the person on the other end of the relationship, and showing that we value them, through our actions.

And once lost, trust can never truly be regained. It’s a one shot deal.

The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert

The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert


I really shouldn’t call Arkansas an entrepreneurial desert – though it did get you to read this.

Arkansas is, after all, the home of Walmart, arguably the world’s most successful family business in the history of mankind. And, it is home to 18 publicly traded companies, in a state with only two million souls.

Arkansas is also a state with a long and storied entrepreneurial history, that seems to have forgotten what it is that entrepreneurs actually need to succeed. Namely: what do neophyte entrepreneurs actually need to know in order to run a going concern?

What we do have is a burgeoning and growing ecosystem, giving a great deal of lip service to supporting entrepreneurs: new technology centers, innovation hubs, and startup funds are announced weekly. For every new startup pitch competition created, a dozen other pitch competitions already exist. Enough, already.

We have created a wobbly ecosystem designed to launch a thousand Powerpoint decks, and game gone-in-sixty-second contests for bragging rights and cash; a startup food chain, with lots of empty calories, but with little to no nutritional value.

And as a result – we are failing to launch healthy and sustainable new companies.

How do we fix this?

Well, we don’t need another startup fund. And we sure as hell don’t need another pitch competition.

We need businesses, and business people, who know how to keep enterprises between the ditches, making profits, paying salaries, giving back to their communities, and ultimately, fulfilling dreams.

People willing to sweat, and teach, the details of what businesses actually do.

Details like: Should my business be a C Corporation, an S Corporation, or an LLC? Should I incorporate as a native corporation, or as a foreign corporation? Should I operate on an accrual basis, or a cash basis? Will we be subject to state sales taxes? Are we charging (at all / enough) for our services in order to cover our run rate? What are the statutory reporting requirements for my type of business?

Details as seemingly obvious as: How do I close a sale?

These details aren’t simply questions to be answered after you “growth hack” an audience, or announce your break-out app at South By. They are foundational issues vital to the success of any – and everyBusiness with a capital B. The Arkansas Venture Center does a great job of dealing with such issues, through their Pre-Flight course, and through their network of mentors and business advisors.

If you find yourself in a “startup” group, and you’re the only one in the group who has ever created a business charter or filed a 941 form, congratulations – you’re the de facto subject matter expert.

And it’s well past time that those of us who have this knowledge continue to allow the narrative of the emerging Arkansas startup ecosystem to be controlled by entities interested solely in selling shovels to the miners, rather than teaching the basics of actually digging for gold.

There are solid business mentors around. And, there are plenty of people – accountants, lawyers, educators, and, dare I say it, “lifestyle” business owners – that actually know how to take in more money than you spend.

Seek them out. Use them. Invite them into the startup conversation.

For, if you want to successfully cross the entrepreneurial desert, you’ll need guides who have been there before, crossed it, and lived to tell the tale.


Being Entrepreneurial in A Non-Entrepreneurial Environment

First, you gotta meet people where they are.

Burning the Ships

Burning the Ships

Cortez, during the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, was said to have burned his ships, so that there was no returning to the Old World – and ensured that his men were 100% invested in the success of their endeavor.

Daily, we read about the latest out-of-this-world valuation on some startup, from someone who isn’t a programmer, or has no formal business training, or has only a partial working brain in their head. Rarely do you hear of the level of commitment that those people have invested in to obtain their “overnight” successes.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t about going to cool parties, or hanging out to make a connection that will make or break you, or getting that killer round of Series A funding.

It’s about creating value where none existed before – and giving 100% of yourself toward reaching that goal.

When I started my company in 1996, my wife and I both quit our “day jobs” in the same week. I triple-booked business to ramp up. And worked my ass off 6 or 7 days a week until the checks started coming in. It wasn’t glamorous – but it was sustainable, and most importantly, profitable.

I wouldn’t have had the level of commitment to my enterprise if I hadn’t metaphorically “burned my ships” (i.e., quit my fallback, my day job).

If you think you’re ready to strike out and create the next Facebook, the next Instagram, the next Twitter, you have to be ready to scuttle the ties that are keeping you close the the shore, and head into the jungle.

Cause that’s where the gold is. Not on the beach.

Morning Chuckle Over Sarah Lacy’s Latest BusinessWeek “Piece”

Morning Chuckle Over Sarah Lacy’s Latest BusinessWeek “Piece”

I LOVE IT when an employee of a news organization or the press lectures Entrepreneurs on the need to get “business savvy.”

How savvy does one need one need to be to cash an employers’ paycheck, Sarah (did I say that out loud)?

Granted, too many Entrepreneurs equate “funded” with “profitable” – but someone who can’t even do THEIR job competently, working for a big employer paying their way to conferences week in and week out has ZERO cred with me in discussing how web idealists need to get “serious” about business.

“He jests at scars that never felt a wound” – Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet