I recently read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull (President of Pixar).  The book’s tagline is to overcome the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.  Chapter by chapter, Catmull unlocks creative leadership ideas by effective (and vulnerable) story telling.  He shares his own journey in detail – through the lens of job transitions as well as different projects (like various Pixar movies).  The book reads more like a page-turning biographical novel, with the added bonus that it has golden content on leadership.  David Slocum, writer for Forbes magazine, says “it’s one of the half-dozen best books that have been written about creative business and creative leadership. Ever” (source).

One key takeaway that I had from the book was on time management.  I’m a organized+creative+visual person, so I loved this idea that was sparked by a producer on the Pixar team.  The idea was simple: popsicle sticks stuck to a wall of Velcro.  Each stick represented a person-week (which equals the amount of work one animator could accomplish in a week’s time).  The sticks, in various amounts, would get placed next to a particular project (in Pixar’s case, a character from the movie The Incredibles).  The popsicle system gave the team a visual representation of their resources.  Here’s how Catmull described it working: “A bunch of sticks would be lined up next to a particular character for easy reference.  A glance at the wall would tell you: If you use that many popsicle sticks on Elastigirl, you’ll have less time to spend on Jack-Jack.  And so on.” When a manager would approach the team and say “This needs to be done today” the team would reference the Velcro wall and explain that they would then need another “stick” or ask where they’d like to take a stick from.  Catmull called it “a great example of the positive creative impact of limits.”

pixarI was so drawn to this example of time management and resources, that I made my own popsicle stick Velcro wall (see picture).  For my own work purposes, each colored Velcro line equals a key goal in my job (e.g. project management, 1:1’s with direct reports, etc).  And the popsicle sticks equal 1 hour of work.  So by glancing at my mini-wall, I can see where my week’s resources are being placed, and if I need to adjust in any way.  An added bonus is that the color-coded key goals correspond to the different category colors represented on my Outlook calendar (yes, I’m a bit of a nerd).

What time management tools do you use?  I’ll look forward to connecting with you in the comments section.

Partner Spotlight is a weekly series introducing a company which provides unique offers for thinkspace members via our Perks and Benefits program. Every Monday, we shed light on their mission, showcase their passion for startups and small entrepreneurs, and present the value of their service.

We would love to find out whom you would like to see as a partner in our Perks and Benefits program. Please comment and let us know!


indinero

Tell me about inDinero’s an it’s mission.

Darren Carter, Senior Finance Consultant: inDinero helps entrepreneurs build bigger and better businesses. We didn’t just want to build accounting software: we wanted to completely change the way that business owners think about their operations, and taking care of all of their back-office affairs is our way of doing that.

Today, inDinero supports hundreds of businesses across the United States, and we’re on a mission to support them as they grow.

What is the value that you provide for entrepreneurs and startups that can’t be found anywhere else?

We’re the only solution that combines powerful accounting software with live support from our financial consultants. We don’t hand off a product to you, for you to figure out how to use it or hire someone to do so. Our team helps hundreds of businesses in the United States who grow and scale while still remaining lean.

What is the best part of your work as inDinero team?

Seeing our clients succeed is the most valuable and rewarding experience – helping other businesses run smoother and grow quicker is deeply embedded in our mission and core values.  The goals our clients set for themselves and their companies become our goals, and hardly anything makes us happier than seeing them move mountains and stir up the business landscape. It’s truly rewarding to be a part of that process.

3 qualities that make entrepreneurs/startups successful?
  • Work ethic. If you’re not prepared to work preposterously hard, don’t be surprised if success always seems unattainable.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to do everything yourself, even if you’re smart enough. Hire talent or outsource to services that free up your time and energy to focus on the things that you’re really, really (really) good at.
  • Learn from your (and others) failures. Every entrepreneur and startup makes mistakes. The key is being able to learn more and faster from your failures (and the failures of those around you) than anyone else.

To learn how your company can benefit from working with inDinero, or more information about the special offer for thinkspace members – contact us!

 

With Bellevue’s continuous efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs, Eastside set an optimistic scene to the annual GeekWire StartUp Day. Peter, Katie and I heard honest lessons from Seattle’s leading entrepreneurs, and we are excited to bring them back to thinkspace.

Liz Pearce: “Build a family that will sit in the cold bath water with you.”

CEO of LiquidPlanner set the tone for an aspect that was shining through every presentation of the day. It was made crystal-clear by each of the entrepreneurs on stage that day: who you hire, and how you build your team, are the most important decisions you will make. Errors in operations and strategy can be fixed; you can bootstrap and emerge from failures; and you always have 101 opportunities to turn to when your back is against the wall.

Only if you have the right team on board.

Nick Huzar, CEO and co-founder of OfferUp, explained that “the only thing you should obsess about is finding ‘Just The Right People’” and he put an emphasis on searching for “Swiss Army Knives” of skills and knowledge to infect them with your will, passion, and motivation. Even venture capitalists and angel investors confirm: “People invest in other people. It’s a bet on the team that is starting in front of you, believing in their ability to execute” says Greg Gottesman, VC and co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs. “For early stage pitches, you’re betting on the person, almost irrelevant of what they’re pitching”.

Heather Redman: “We will rock over the next decade.”

GeekWire StartUp Day made it obvious that the future of Seattle’s entrepreneurs will be exciting. “I’m very ambitious about Seattle” said Heather Redman, angel investor and VP of Business Operations for Indix. “If you look around the metrics that surround Seattle, we have more engineers than anybody else. We have a huge dominance in cloud, good footprint in health tech, virtual reality, and many other areas. If you look at the 20 top most admired brands in the world, 5 of them are headquartered in Seattle. That’s a lot of entrepreneurial DNA”.

With the events and inspiration of that day still buzzing in me, I’m infected with optimism about the future of Seattle’s tech scene and filled with gratitude for being a part of the startup community. Where will you and your startup be when Seattle takes over the tech industry?

liz-pearce-geekwire-startup-day-2016For the last five months I have been struggling with my own insecurity and asking other entrepreneurs if they ever get caught up with comparing their company with their competition. Then, last Friday, I attended Geekwire Startup Day and heard Liz Pearce, CEO of Liquid Planner, talk about FOMO (the fear of missing out). “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness,” she said. “Instead, look at your business, your market, what a successful outcome looks like for your business and your investors”. While I feel like I’m alone, it turns out I’m not alone by having these kinds of thoughts.

Stop Comparing Your “Behind the Scenes” to Someone Else’s Highlight Reel

exhausted-man-300x200Everyday, the media writes up story after story about entrepreneurs who are being touted as the World’s Best Boss, Fastest Growing Company, CEO of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, the next startup unicorn, etc. Then there’s social media and Facebook which just pounds us with all the curated and carefully constructed posts of everyone’s perfect life. Our media keeps portraying all of this as success. The true reality is everyone has rough patches. You only hear about it when you’re having one of those bottom 5% types of conversations with true friends, where you are completely vulnerable, and aren’t being judged.

Run Your Own Race

I remember a few years ago I was telling a friend and business coach that there are a lot of sacrifices or things that I’m willing to delay or postpone but the one thing that I will not is being present as my young children grow up. I didn’t grow up that way. I love my parents and I recognize that they made sacrifices so that my brother, sister, and I would have a better opportunities for a better life. I’m thankful for that. Yet I also know that I don’t want my children to have the dad that didn’t show up for their music concert, soccer match, or school play. Because this is my immovable rock, doesn’t mean I’m not trying my hardest to grow and scale my company. This doesn’t mean I’m just creating a life style company either. It means that I have to figure out ways to get things done without compromising what’s most important to me.

Make the Competition Irrelevant

While going through the Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT, I recall reading this quote from the Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim: “…focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company”. I need to get back to using all my energy to create an incredible product and let others worry about the competition. The best thing to do is create goals based on outcomes you want to achieve and not based on what your competition is doing. When you are clear about what your own definition of success is, you can’t be beaten.

I would love it if you could share other things that you’ve done to help you steer away from comparing your company to the competition.

 

12417650_10153711428095795_8134718167907541815_nLast Saturday, Katie and I had a chance to participate in Melody Biringer’s co-storming session, which immediately qualified as one of the most energizing and inspiring experiences. “Co-storm” is Melody’s original initiative where you lay down your project, its roadblocks, and its mission in front of another professional – who might be completely unrelated to your field – and start from there. A great round of feedback follows, and because Melody has a great way of finding just the right people to work and connect with, you find yourself in a buzzing conversation filled with ideas, advice and strategy.

When a brainstorm is not enough…

A crowd of about sixty women from various professional backgrounds gathered in downtown Seattle, and divided into small groups guided by a mentor, they stormed their initiatives. With professions in the fields of IT, marketing, business development, and everything in between, each of us had 30 minutes to storm the struggle we needed a new perspective on. Afterwards, the group discussed it from their own point of view, trying to come to constructive solutions – or at least ask the right questions. The idea might seem simple, but the results are no less than extraordinary.

Both Katie and I focused on perspectives for thinkspace in 2016, but went in with a different project to pitch into the discussion. We had a chance to talk to brilliant mentors whose fields of expertise were very closely related to the answers we were looking for, or with experience and knowledge so distant from our problem that they offered a view from a completely different, unpredicted perspective.

Finding the answers to well-asked questions

One advice that has stuck with me since Saturday was given by Mikki Kingrey, authentic sales strategist and the owner of Real Results Mentoring, who urged me to look for answers to two questions:

Who is your niche?
Who is your anti-niche?

And that should mark the clear, sharp starting point for the strategy in marketing, sales, business development, and content creation. You can iterate and pivot afterwards to expand your chosen niche, but you want your initial message to be clear. Focusing on a wide, murky group of addressees automatically dilutes your message, content, and initiative, spreading them too thin to create visible effects.

Defining your anti-niche is just as important and impactful. A message that alienates or disturbs no one, is probably weak enough to interest no one.

No calm after this storm

Without a doubt, every woman attending the co-storm had her own “ah-ha!” moment, that – if executed with the same palpable determination that was filling the air on Saturday – will be enough to push the projects we came with to their successful endings. We braved the storm, came out ahead, and will be bringing the results and conclusions to build a stronger community in 2016.

October 2015: Katie Walvatne

As CEO, I’m so happy to announce that Katie Walvatne has been promoted to General Manager.

Katie has the leadership, grit, and resilience to be successful in this role and she has done an outstanding job in many areas of the business. Specifically, Katie has been invaluable in creating partnerships, cultivating relationships, and is a natural connection creator. It’s been extremely important for me to have someone fill such a critical role that aligns with the core values of the company. We’re all excited for Katie to take on an even larger role in the company!

Katie’s new responsibilities include oversight of our Customer Experience, Community Management, Operations, and Recruiting Business Unit. I’m excited for the growth that she and her team will bring to the company and I am looking forward to supporting her in much success in the upcoming years. Please join me in congratulating Katie!

The only time you should look back is to see how far you’ve come. I’m grateful for this team and I’m looking forward to connecting the dots forward in 2016!

thinkspace 2015 by Slidely Slideshow

2016-new-yearIt’s almost the New Year, which means resolutions are just around the corner. I personally love resolutions… the challenge and goal-setting fires me up.  One year I resolved to give up sugar.  That resolution lasted two years (and I’ve since made up for the two years void of sugar).

But one huge problem with resolutions is that after the first few weeks of the new year, we rarely stick to those resolutions. Research shows that actually 8% of people keep their goals.  Not exactly inspiring odds.

But research also shows that if you have help – if you have someone who comes alongside you and encourages you with your resolution, then your chances of success increase.  This isn’t that surprising, many of us know that accountability helps to achieve goals.  But accountability with resolutions?  Some resolutions are deeply personal.  Not the kind of thing I want to blast over social media.  And especially with those kinds of resolutions – to overcome an addiction, to be a better parent, to spend more time doing “X” – we need a friend to walk alongside us.  Because we can’t do it alone.

Here’s my suggestion as 2016 closes in on us.  Instead of making a resolution for yourself, make a resolution for someone else.  Talk it over with one close friend or mentor, and see if they will partner with you in this.  You make a resolution for them, and they make one for you.  One of the things we love about the holidays is the spirit of giving – we give gifts to others and receive gifts from others.  Resolutions are usually done alone, and therefore are isolating.  But when we give resolutions to others and receive resolutions from others – they are shared.

And resolutions are more sustainable when shared.

So think of a friend/mentor – what’s your resolution for them in 2016?
That they finish that project they’ve put on the back burner?
That they finally make it to Ireland to visit their ancestors?
That they complete their first 5K race?
Whatever it is, once you’ve thought of it – go and tell them.

 

standing_ozy-2Last week, I axed a weekly meeting.
The three other people in on this weekly meeting are incredible, and I’ve learned a lot from our time together.  But, besides enjoying their conversation, there was no reason to keep on meeting.  What we had set out to achieve had been accomplished.
 
Canceling this meeting got me wondering, if I hadn’t cancelled the meeting, how long would we have still met, simply for the sake of meeting?

Meetings are effective and necessary. But not all of them.

When deciding to accept or decline a meeting – run it through this checklist first.

  1. Agenda: Does the meeting have a planned agenda? If it doesn’t, consider opting out until one is established. I’ve attended way too many agenda-less meetings that could have been accomplished in 15 minutes instead of 60. Consider responding by saying something like: “Thank you for inviting me to this meeting. I’d like to attend, but before I accept could you provide me with an agenda of what will be discussed? As a rule, I only attend meetings that have objectives for what’s to be accomplished.”
  2. Content: Are you having the meeting to make a decision? Decision-based meetings are necessary. If no decisions are being made or discussed, there’s a good chance the meeting isn’t worth your time.
  3. People: Are the right people in the room? Only the people needed to make a decision should be invited. People attending to just be in the informational loop should be dismissed. Having the right people in the room makes for quality conversation. Having too many people in the room makes for a quantity of conversation.
  4. Brainstorm: Is the meeting a brainstorming session? Creative meetings are fun, and are meant to be less-structured and more free-flowing. But beware brainstorming sessions that are completely unstructured. So, run it through #1-3 first – make sure the meeting has some objectives (agenda), ask what outcome is needed from the meeting (content), and make sure all who needs to be there is present (people).

Do you have other criteria for accepting or declining meetings? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

code-fellows-ssw-sponsor-logosCode Fellows, a Seattle Startup Week sponsor, is a code school training both mobile and web developers in industry practices, in-demand frameworks and technologies.

What makes you excited about Seattle Startup Week?

A chance to connect with all of the resources that happen over a year in one week.

What are you hoping to get out of the week of events?

Awareness of Code Fellows with a broader community of potential co-founders and future employers.

What do you love about being part of the Seattle startup culture?

It has changed a lot over the years.  It’s great that we now have an ecosystem that is helping new folks get connected with resources.

If Code Fellows was a food, what would it be and why?

Spicy Mexican.  It’s something you expect, but it has a bit of a kick to it.