Over-Rehearsing Your Pitch

 

 

Picture

I, for one, am happy the holidays are over.  Not that I didn’t enjoy myself.  I took the week off, spent time catching up with my family, read a ton of books, saw some movies, slept more than five hours a night, and decompressed.  I even stayed up-to-date on e-mail without stressing out.

But, I was pretty much played out when it came to holiday music.   We had a holiday-music concert at the Hard Rock Cafe in mid-December.  We do this about once a quarter – it’s a good morale boost, it brings people together and, OK, we love to jam.  We have a room in the Compuware building garage (appropriate) where we can practice before/after-hours and it’s a lot of fun.   One problem with this concert was that we built a set-list of over 60 songs, which became tedious and boring, especially since we all already knew the songs.  However, we practiced diligently and had great dress-rehearsals, which should have been my clue that we’d struggle during performance.  The performance went off great, but it just wasn’t as fun as the preparations, which means : I OVER-REHEARSED.


Picture

The problem with over-rehearsing a performance, whether it’s playing the piano or pitching your ideas, is that you lose the spontaneity that comes with risk-taking, improvising and riffing on a theme.  If you know your stuff and have practiced diligently, you want to let loose during your pitch so that your value, knowledge and enthusiasm comes through.

Every picture that someone took of our performances, I look like I’m ten-years-old practicing, my concentration was that intense.  I played well; didn’t make any mistakes; but I really didn’t have as much fun as I should have, and that was my own fault.  I was so worked up into ‘getting it right’ that I didn’t communicate the joy that was to be part of the experience.  Mea-culpa.  I redeemed myself in a church-concert where I totally let loose and took risks, ‘pitching’ with abandon, although it was probably because I didn’t take the time to rehearse.  I know better, because I play every week in a situation where I practice a new song ONCE with my vocalist, and then we perform.


Picture

“Two Pair of Spandex Pants” on the “Twelve Heavy-Metal Days of Christmas”
Lesson-learned for presentations, especially when you’re ‘pitching’ to me?  Know your stuff, but don’t over-prepare your presentation, except when it comes to the financial numbers!

P-Cz

For more pictures:
http://dml.smugmug.com/Events/CPWR-Carol-oake/27080734_LRzh4z#!i=2272174013&k=LP79Gpt

Programmers & Salesfolks

 

Picture
“I believe in Programmers and Salesfolks”.

This started for me back in 1981, when I began working as a consultant for 3PM, a SaaS technology company near Detroit.  3PM became known for their hosted pharmacy solutions and I was part of a team that broadened their portfolio to build a stand-alone Pharmacy system (back then everyone wanted to get away from SaaS!), Medical Billing System, Laboratory Management System and Durable Medical Management System.   When 3PM was acquired by McKesson in 1983, I acquired these three properties and started SoftCare, Inc.

So much for history, but it was during these early days of the products that I established strong relationships with the Sales Team who went out selling our products and services.  It was a time before Agile development and Lean Startup processes, but this is how we operated.  Every day, the lead SalesRep, Ted, would come in and tell me about his challenges in closing deals, especially “if we only had this feature”, or “we’ll close the deal if we make a technical commitment”.  At the time, it was very frustrating because to make changes to the software took a lot of work, coding, testing and deploying.  But we were trying to ‘cross the chasm’ and we had to make a lot of concessions to make customers happy.  So, we were very hard and established extreme discipline to our development methods to be as nimble as possible while maintaining quality.

It worked.  These products were innovative, solved problems and had value for our customers.  I won’t go into the whole story here, but the best lesson I learned is that good salesreps, who listen to their prospects and customers, provide a wealth of information.  And by GOOD, I mean salesreps who actually close deals.  They were the ones I listened to, and to this day, I’m most happy when joined at the hip with a great salesperson.

Lesson to startups?  First, Hire the best salespeople you can find and establish relationships with people who know how to sell.  It’s the difference between having a great product and an innovative product.  Innovation is market-driven from customer feedback.  And your salesfolks are the front-line individuals hearing from your customers.  Second, look at your competition.  So many companies have bloated themselves with staff who have nothing to do with product development or sales.  It’s these old business-models that you can kill.  Stay lean, mean and connected!  Third, remember your Lean-Startup disciplines – always be ready to pivot!

Great programmers + great salespeople = success.
P-Cz

Managing the 2013 Startup Pipeline

 

Picture

OK, it’s not a pipeline, it’s a funnel.  I don’t know where we get these silly metaphors anyway; they fulfill a mental visual, but never tell the whole story.

It’s now a new year and time for me to look for new investment opportunities.  But first, I need to finalize my model, to save time and increase my probabilities for success.

Last year, I proved that investments with a technology focus are much more predictable than current investment models, but I need to formalize the process, mostly to save time and wasted energy.

Back to the pipeline.  It’s not where I want it to be; I need a strong backlog of prospects with great ideas, motivation and technology.  Last year was a good year with a lot of interest, but not enough backing technologies and internal talent is scarce, and booked.  So, my first priority on my backlog is NOT great ideas, but great talent and technology!

If you want my attention, pitch yourself first and the problem you’re solving second. I am VERY interested in ANALYTICS, so if your solving a difficult problem that utilize a lot of data, I’m interested.  Contact me at Compuware Ventures.

Let’s get 2013 rolling!
P-Cz

7DD top A

 

Picture

What does the new year mean to you?

I usually never make resolutions, but last year I made a commitment to improve my health through nutrition and fitness and, I’m happy to say, I met that goal.  I vastly improved my health, reduced my waistline by 9-inches and lost >30lbs, all without dieting or spending any money (except for the new clothes that I needed).

So, there!

My Top 10 goals for this year

  1. Spiritual: dive deeper into my core beliefs, find new ones
  2. Family: yes
  3. Health: continue nutrition and take fitness to the next level with crossfit-boxing
  4. Professional: build strong relationships
  5. Personal: become a better pianist and try to regain my voice
  6. Technical: build something that solves a really hard problem
  7. Brainpower: Focus, remove distractions (see #9)
  8. Finance: simplify
  9. Politics: null
  10. Expression: more thought experiments, more songwriting

Did I miss anything?  Oh yes, HAVE FUN!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!
P-Cz

The Most Famous Lean Startup – EVER!

 

Picture

Detroit; We got our Ford, Dodge, Durant and Chrysler.  We got our Strohs, Illitch, Karmanos & Gilbert.  We got a whole slew of up-and-comers, most all had modest upbringing and rose to success through vision, risk, and hard work.  True entrepreneurs.
However, my favorite Detroiter-turned-entrepreneur of all time is the one-and-only Berry Gordy.

I am fortunate to have grown up in Detroit listening to Motown music.  I am even more fortunate to sit on the Board of Trustees for the Motown Museum and experience first-hand the history of this American icon.    I am most fortunate to experience in person the culmination of a fifty-year mutual-respect relationship between Motown and The Beatles.  I am also blessed to be able to play these great songs myself for my personal enjoyment and fun.

There are many books and articles written about Berry Gordy and Motown which you yourself can read, so let me get to my point.

Berry Gordy was an entrepreneur extraordinaire who knew the rules of the game before they were even written:

  • He understood his target audience – Everyone.  That was risky, especially when the market was becoming fragmented.
  • He mastered the compelling reason to buy, which was songs with a first-person perspective.
  • He completely understood whole product – songwriters, the ‘sound’, quality-control, talent, the ‘look’, etc…
  • He negotiated like crazy with his partners and allies, including Brian Epstein, who negotiated great royalties for the Beatles but in the end was a winning collaboration for Motown.
  • His distribution model was expansive, he knew how to make hits and get vinyl to the masses.
  • Competition?  If he couldn’t beat them, he hired them!
  • He knew that his talent had to be positioned to present themselves in a classy, professional manner.
  • He priced his product to sell and was an extremely shrewd salesman.
  • Next Target?  Do you know how many labels he started so that he could have multiples of hit records?  Check it out!

He was also a genius at running a “Lean Startup“.

  • He ran iterative sprints for the development of his agile product.
  • He constantly built MVP‘s to preview songs under production.
  • He hosted, literally, demo days which presented product to his staff for review.
  • He ran customer validation processes with his target audiences.  He gave customers what they wanted.
  • He begged to get funding and made sure that his investors, which also happened to be his family, governed their investment and got the proper return.
  • He surrounded himself not only with music talent, but also business talent, no matter what color or gender.
  • He hit the road to sell, sell, sell!
  • He pivoted.  This is where I don’t always agree with his vision.  By leaving Detroit for California, he may have enabled new relationships and opportunities, but he left ‘the sound’ behind, and it never was the same again.  Financially it may have made sense, but a lot of people, me included, were disappointed.

Want to know more?  Come visit the Motown Museum and discover for yourself!


Picture

Other Motown Resources:

Hopefully, I can tell more of the story someday at Detroit’s Lean Startup Circle! http://www.meetup.com/Detroit-Lean-Startup-Circle/


Picture

And for some real fun, check out this Twitter-Map!! : http://www.mibazaar.com/motown.html

P-Cz

Top-10 Things I’m Thinking About When ‘Catching’ Your Startup Pitch

Picture

When I was a kid in little-league baseball, I played the position of catcher.  I loved being a catcher because it kept me in the action of the game.  I knew that the catcher was a very powerful position and important because I was not only evaluating the competition, but also the performance of the pitcher.  My job was to evaluate, mentor, collaborate and consult.  Don’t believe in the power of the catcher?  Just watch the movie Bull Durham!

OK. We’re today’s ‘battery’ and you’re about to throw your first pitch. I hope you find me attentive, focused and friendly.  But there are things about your strategy that you should remember  when you give your pitch because they’re the  things running through my mind as you talk.

Here we go:

  1. Target Customer – Who is the person who is going to pay you money for your solution?  Many people only have a vague concept of who is going to write a check, pull out their credit card, or use their Paypal account to send you money.  You better not balk on this!
  2. Compelling Reason to Buy – Are you solving a problem or providing obvious value to your customers?  No curve balls here, I want 100mph fastballs!
  3. Whole Product – Is there a complete whole-product?  Have you considered EVERYTHING there is to build, sell, market and deliver your product?  Many people do not realize all the moving-parts necessary to have a successful product. There is more to your product than balls & strikes.
  4. Partner Strategy – The key to success in business is relationships.  Do you have the relationships in place, or even the skill to make those relationships happen?  Business, like baseball, is a team sport!
  5. Distribution – How are you going to sell your product?  Online? Direct-sales? Franchise? Service?  Distribution decisions are critical to understand.  Don’t telegraph that pitch, control every aspect of your game.
  6. Pricing – The hardest decisions you are going to make, based on everything else in this list.  Is your price too high for the marketplace or too low to express value?  What are your profits needs and the return required to your investors?  A good ERA is nothing if you don’t win.
  7. Competition – A surprising number of times I have done a simple internet search which exposed competitors that weren’t even known to exist.  How embarrassing!  You better know every single one of your customers and understand them thoroughly.  No intentional walks, please!
  8. Positioning – What is your ‘elevator pitch’?  Is it succinct, clear and easy to grasp?  If not, your solution may be too complex or just not solving the right problem.   Sometimes you just got to be aggressive and throw a little ‘chin music’ to get their attention!
  9. What’s Next? – How will you grow?  What other adjacent markets are there available for you to exploit with your product?  Have you thought about your ‘exit-strategy’?  It is hard to focus only on the current batter, but make sure that you have enough energy for the entire game!
  10. Performance – Will your product perform?  Is it scalable?  Will YOU perform?  Are YOU scalable?  How about your partners?  Are they reliable and will work as hard as you will?  Business is a team-sport and you need to be fit to succeed.  Compuware is THE PERFORMANCE COMPANY and application, machine and human performance is always top-of-mind.  And winning!!!

So, good luck and let’s get started!
P-Cz

Startups and Beer

Picture

    It seems that if you’re from Detroit, everyone expects you to write about cars, comparing your topic to the history of the automobile industry.

Looking at the number of auto startups that existed in Detroit a hundred years ago, it’s easy to see similarities to today’s startups.   The auto industry is a good example of what happens where there’s a lot of competition, consolidation, and near-extinction.  Been there, done that.

So, let’s talk about beer, instead!  Few people know that Detroit was a beer mecca before Milwaukee took the crown. It seemed like all that was needed was desire, a recipe and a little marketing savvy.  My personal experience was limited to my cousin Walter who worked at the Stroh’s Brewery in downtown Detroit.  He told stories of  being allowed to drink beer while on the job!

This sparked my interest to read a great book (see picture) about the history of Detroit breweries.  As I read this book, I kept thinking about similarities to software startups.

Folks who started beer companies loved to drink beer, enjoyed experimenting with their own recipes, and wanted others to share in their passion.  Why else would anyone start a beer company in Detroit when there were already dozens of companies already competing?

Let’s explore:

  • First, as a startup, they had to understand their customer.  Beer was very much in-demand after Prohibition, so there was a large market.  Many startups  targeted specific preferences such as lager, ale, hefeweizen, stouts, porters, schwarzbiers, grains; there was a beer for every taste!    When it comes to technology startups, do you know exactly who is going to download and use your app?  Have you focused on your target customer?  Will they come back for more?
  • Secondly, what would compel someone to buy a new brand of beer over another, already established, brand.  The trick was sometimes a bit of street marketing, literally driving around providing samples.   Similarly, you need to differentiate your value by providing a model that will make it easy for prospective customers to evaluate and use  your product.  Compelling design, ‘freemium’ licensing model, super-fast performance.  Get them in cheap and sell up!
  • Next, the product itself and everything that goes into it.  Quality ingredients, bottling, marketing, sales; there’s a lot to consider going from one to ninety-nine bottles of beer! (I had to say that).
  • Employees – Brewers, like programmers, were in high demand and owners went to great lengths to steal a master brewer from a competitor.  They also tried to lock them up with equity and loyalty tactics.  Take good care of your key employees!
  • Partners & Allies – Ingredient providers, bottle-makers, designers, taverns, they (and you) have to be good at relationships and negotiations.
  • Distribution – Well, at least you don’t need a horse-and-carriage to deliver your app to your customers.
  • Pricing – Sounds easy, right?  By the barrel?  The keg?  The pint?  Pricing is the toughest decision you’ll make.
  • Next Target – This is always interesting.  Non-alcoholic beer, soda-pop, even ice-cream has been adjacencies that beer companies have explored.  Be ready to move in any direction, but every time you do, you have to re-evaluate every part of your strategy, especially competition.

So, there you have it, whether it’s software or beer, business challenges are similar for any startup.  Unless, of course, you are going to write a ‘beer-goggles’ app.  Ummm, I have to defer comment, but feel free to look it up for yourself!

Cheers!

P-Cz


Picture

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

Picture

It’s Thanksgiving time in the United States and, while reflecting on what I should be thankful for, it occurred to me that a corporation is much like a family.  It’s very obvious in the picture who the chairman is, the CEO is obviously to his right. If you look closely you can also spot the CFO, COO, Chief Counsel, Chief Administrative Officer, CTO, VPs of Product Development & Strategy…. but where’s the CIO????  Shouldn’t the CIO have a seat at the ‘big corporate table’?

Oh no…

Sitting at the ‘kids table’, with the VP of Marketing who obvious blames YOU for her problems (they’re always very angry) and the VP of HR, who just wants everyone to get along.

So, I guess I’m supposed to write something pithy and thought-provoking but, all I can say is, if you’re not at the big-table either you’re not providing value or you’re not being recognized for the value you provide.

OK, pass the pumpkin pie!

P-Cz


Picture

Ten reasons why a mobile-startup is like a garage-band

Not THE Garage Band by Apple but all the garage-bands I played in the 70′s.  

During my ‘missing years’ I played in a lot of rock-bands.  We all talked about what life would be like when we ‘made it’, meaning signing a BIG record contract.   If you measure success by how many friends I had, I did pretty good.  If you measure success by how much money I made, well…

Pretty much the same goes today for technical start-ups, minus the fame.  A lot of people LOVE to be in a start-up, and many even think that getting VC-money means that they ‘made it’.  Well, the roles may have changed, but it’s the same-old, same-old.  Let me try to explain:

  1. The Lead Guitarist – Self-trained and plays by ear.  This is your designer, the person who thinks they’re the rock-star and doesn’t need anyone else.  Are they in for a surprise!
  2. The Drummer – This is your cloud architect.  Brilliant technologist, plays all the riffs but can’t keep a steady beat!  More interested in practicing his thirteen-minute drum solo.  Drum solo?  This isn’t 1972, dude!
  3. The Rhythm Guitarist – Trained by listening to Allman Brothers.  Great backend systems programmer who knows how to create a fast-performing server/database implementation.  Solid, but not very creative.
  4. The Keyboardist – ‘Classically-trained’, solid performing programmer who tries to hold everything together.  Gets distracted easily but can be counted on to deliver.
  5. The Lead Singer – He/She is your marketing person.  Overly optimistic with a big ego, but is willing to push everyone else to success.  Or else!
  6. The Brass Section – No one knows what they do or how they do it, but they’re fun to have around and they’re awesome at delivering key integration services.
  7. The Bass-Player – How do you get a bass-player off your porch?  Pay him for the pizza!  ’nuff said.  Every start-up has a bass-player!
  8. The Manager – This is your angel-investor person who tells you that you’re going to be rich, you just need to work harder.  If that’s the case, why is he driving the BMW and you the VW?
  9. The Recording Technician – QA and Operations.  They hate you!  But they’re necessary to make sure that your performance is superb.
  10. The Songs – ahhh, finally, these are the Apps!  They are the inspiration, the result of every muse you have ever mused.  No matter how many people, no matter how much the stress, the apps are what you strive for.  These creations will make you happy, no matter how much off the top the app-stores take from you.   Because whether you’re writing songs or apps, the app-stores always takes their share.  Sigh.

Enough silliness.  Whether you’re in a rock-band or a technology start-up, it all comes down to RELATIONSHIPS.  You better understand how it is to lead a team of developers or musicians, because they’re all really the same.

When we at C-PoWeR evaluate start-up companies, those relationships are at the top of our priority list to evaluate.  Because there are very few solo-singer-songwriters out there.  And if there are, they don’t need VC help.

… and my joke about bass-players?   Here’s one more:

A rock-band is playing a concert.  As they’re playing the lead singer is thinking “Wow, I’m a rock-star, all the girls out there want to be with me, I’m going to meet a beautiful girl and get married”.  The lead-guitarist is thinking “This is the greatest thing in the world!  I’m going to buy my parents a big house to thank them for their support”.  The drummer is thinking “Fantastic, I’m going to use my fame to promote peace around the world”.  The keyboard-player is thinking “I can’t wait to use my celebrity to write my own musical that everyone will sing for years to come”.  The bass-playing is thinking “one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four”…

Rock on!

Filed Under: Tech Talk Tagged With: 
About Paul Czarnik
Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.