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Grit and Resilience: Do You Have What it Takes?

grit-resilience-400-katie-walvatne-granite-mountainMy whole life, I’ve recognized that I’m not the smartest person in the room. There are always people that are smarter than me. I’ve had to work twice as hard as the other person in order to get the same results. When I was really young, I watched how a tennis player, Michael Chang, show tremendous grit and battled back through one of the most grueling matches against the number one player in the world. From that moment, my mind was made up that no matter what the challenge, I would find a way to out last it and if I’m going down, I’m going down swinging.

“Grit is passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals.” – Angela Duckworth

Between 2008 and 2011, I survived one of the most difficult and stressful times of my life. With a young family of three toddlers I put everything on the line. All-in, as defined by all my personal financial resources, all my emotional energy, heart and soul, everything at risk to start up my company and survive a startup company in a recession. On top of all that, I had a period of 770 consecutive days where the bank called my loan and asked me to repay a million dollars. For me, that’s not something I can find in between the sofa cushions. It was through massive struggle that I was able to solve that issue and actually not go bankrupt.

“Big smarts with medium grit tend to loose out to medium smarts with big grit.” – Martin Tobias

After surviving that, I knew that I wanted to increase my margins. Margin is the space between your load and your limits. I wanted to push the edge out further. I don’t want to ever feel like I’m about to fall off the edge. One thing I did to reduce my stress was start running, I ran a couple half marathons which helped me train to manage my stress and keep me from physically tipping over.

Push the Edge Further Out

Life hits hard. In a period of one year, three people I knew between the ages of 25 and 40 passed away from cancer. Life can hit you so hard and it will keep you down if you let it. I vividly remember the feeling as I walked step-by-step with Shonda, a friend and employee, as she battled through nine months of fighting cancer. After a few months of reflecting, I decided to run a marathon, which would help me push the edge out further so that I might have a fighting chance to get through what random things life throws my direction. I believe that most things in life you can figure out if you have enough time. Staying upright on your feet is part of the battle and that’s done by being physically strong so that your mind can figure out how to break through!

Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. – Merriam-Webster

Maybe I’ve seen too many Rocky Balboa movies and the picture of resilience is when Ivan Drago says to Rocky “I must break you” and they go on to exchange body blow after body blow. Resilience seems to be confused with grit, that the longer you can out last someone the more resilient you are. It’s like you have to be able to pick yourself off the turf for one more play. What if that’s not what resilience is at all?

The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. – Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan

Upon reading the article “Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure”. I found a few quotes in there that talked about:

“If you spend too much time in the performance zone, you need more time in the recovery zone.”

“That if you want to build resilience, you start by strategically stopping. Give yourself the resources to be tough by creating internal and external recovery periods.”

When early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I read entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t. So that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. Parts of this are very true for me and other parts I’m still figuring out! I’m also still looking at the word resilience and trying to see how much of that I have.

If you’re looking for answers to know whether or not you have Grit and Resilience, register for our event at Seattle Startup Week. Space is limited as we deep dive into this topic:

Grit and Resilience: Do you have what it takes?
Date: November 17 @ 1PM
Location: Google Seattle

Before you attend the event you can also take Martin Tobias’ Grit Test to see where you land on the Grit Scale.

Speakers:
Martin Tobias, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor, Founder, MGT Investments
Anne-Marie Faiola, Founder and CEO, Bramble Berry
Matt Williams, CEO of Pro.com
Peter Chee, Founder and CEO, thinkspace

Other sources:
If you’re looking for some good talks on Grit, watch Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk. Angela also did a talk at Google called “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” which I found to be even better as it relates tech companies and the startup mindset.

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The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship: What No One Is Talking About

dark-side-entrepreneurship-posterThere are a lot of positives of being an entrepreneur, but, we’re going to get raw and talk about the dark side of entrepreneurship.

Over the last couple years there’s been more transparency on the topic of what the “Darkness of Entrepreneurship” really is. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz.com, describes what it can really look like in a epic blog post that he wrote: “A Long, Ugly Year of Depression That’s Finally Fading”.

As an entrepreneur you will face a lot of painful things like fear of missing payroll, not spending time with people you care about as you work 80 hours a week, the highs and lows within the same work day that make you look bi-polar, the stress eating or bad eating habits, and struggle raising money from investors. During Seattle Startup Week our event on The Dark Side starts here and goes beyond that.

The dark side is what’s on the other side of when your trajectory is going great, you’re hitting your revenue goals, and your company is being recognized as one of PSBJ’s Fastest Growing Companies for a couple years in a row as the company is growing at 90% year over year. But as you try to execute and fail to continue the growth you feel like you’re making bad decision after bad decision. You lose key employees and you question your ability to lead. Your key investor, points a finger at you and says to you, you made all these hiring decisions. You have no choice but to own it. It hits you that you’re no longer enjoying any of the work that you used to enjoy. You ask yourself questions like did I just make one of the biggest mistakes of my life and spend years investing all financial and emotional resources into something that is failing? These are the things that cause you to lose sleep, gives you shortness of breath, as you cry yourself to sleep. Maybe some of you know what I’m talking about?

This event is going to talk about some of these challenges and some of the things that entrepreneurs have done to cope, survive, and find clarity in these kinds of times.

Register here: The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship: What No One is Talking About.
Date: November 16 at 12PM

Speakers:
Martin Tobias, Founder and Investor, MGT Investments
Jesse Proudman, Distinguished Engineer and CTO, IBM Blue Box
Jen Mueller, Founder, Talk Sporty to Me / Seahawks Reporter
Michelle Hollomon, Coach and Counselor, MA, LMHC, CPC

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The Intersection of Sports and Startups: Seattle Startup Week

Talk Sporty to MeSeattle Startup Week kicks off November 14th with an event focused on “The Intersection of Sports and Startups“. We have Jen Mueller, founder of Talk Sporty to Me and Seahawks Sideline Reporter moderating the event. Jen is also the author of the book “Talk Sporty to Me: Thinking Outside The Box Scores”. Here’s a little bit about the book:

Any book that starts with a paragraph about the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl against Denver is going to be a great book! The parts that I liked most about this book were quotes from various people in Seattle like Coach Pete Carroll and his philosophy to “Always compete”. I also really enjoyed the conversation that Jen had with John Nordstrom when he talked about three things 1) “Everyone is included” 2) “No one wants to take credit for any of the success” 3) “Pete (Carroll) understands the importance of the last three feet”. The last three feet, refers to the distance between you and the customer. In my mind it also refers to the last yard in a startup where you need to make sure the customer experience is great or it could also be the final yard that propels you forward in your startup.

Sports is a great way to get a conversation going and build rapport with people. This book is useful for anyone starting out in the business world or branching out into a new industry that wants to understand how sports can be one of the ways to create a connection with someone.

Space is limited at the Seattle Startup Week event, please be sure to register for “The Intersection of Sports and Startups“.

Moderator:
Jen Mueller, Founder of Talk Sporty to Me and Sideline Reporter for the Seahawks

Speaker Panel:
Chuck Frizelle, CEO of Coros
Jesse Smith, Manager of Analytics for the Seattle Mariners
Josh Decker, CEO of Tagboard
Steve Schwartz, Founder of ProInfluence

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If you could work from anywhere, where would you go?

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If you could work from anywhere, where would you go?

Stay at home? Go outside? Coworking? Work and travel? Coffee shop or restaurant? The library? 

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Whether you decide to stay at home in your pjs or get outside for a meeting, it can definitely be nice to get out of the office to get some work done. Last week, Peter and I spent the afternoon at 5 Stones Coffee Co and got more done on our project in three hours than we did the entire week before! It can be really hard to focus with the many interruptions that happen throughout the day: phone calls, emails, kids and other things that just come up. Sometimes, all it takes is a new location and a fresh perspective to crush your goal!

Kate_mythinkspaceAs a team, we’ve been taking a few hours each week to work from somewhere new and see how it affects our productivity and happiness at work. Follow us on instagram for more great photos @thinkspace.seattle and share your own! #mythinkspace

IMG_1335I know, I sure am! With this 88 degree weather, it is impossible for me to stay inside so I am extra thankful that I got to spend yesterday afternoon out at the park. You may be wondering, “how do you get work done in the park?” Luckily, I had plenty of work that could be done offline, but I was also able to set up my phone as a hotspot and be totally connected to email and my colleagues. Different jobs, will of course, have different limitations but try going somewhere new. I think the results will surprise you.  Now, we want to know where you get your best work done;

where is your “think space”?

Personally, I love traveling, so any time I get the opportunity to work on the go, I take it! Check out #mythinkspace favorite from last year here and share your own!

Xx Allie

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Success Unshared Is Failure

Iconic Conference 2016“Success unshared is failure” was one of the ending statements given by Robert Herjavec,  CEO of the Herjavec Group and an investor on Shark Tank, as the Iconic Conference was coming to a close yesterday. After a day filled with raw and genuine lessons given by some of the most remarkable entrepreneurs, I couldn’t stop thinking that it might as well have been the leading thought of the event.

Bring Your Vision To Work Day

Nonetheless, Iconic Conference’s catchphrase “innovate, inspire, ignite” was setting the tone just as well. As was promised in the opening remarks, all of us are ready to go back to work tomorrow morning and deliver the newly-found value (or attempt to, at the very least. As Kevin O’Leary said today, “What matters most is the skill to execute. There’s nothing worse than vision all day long.”) Regardless of the stage that your company might be at, or whether you are a founder or an employee – even regardless of the industry you’re in – your perspective was bound to change within the eight “iconic” hours.

What did I found out? Now, for me, this part is always tricky. I can go around and try to find the quotes that I think would be the most interesting to me if I was a leader of a company. I don’t. I’m not a founder, a C-level executive, I do not manage people.

Robert Herjavec: “You’re never prepared enough for a role that has a chance of greatness.”

Katie and Kamila at Iconic

But I do run a business. Even as an employee, I do run the business. I take a part of the company into my hands and become responsible for its sustainability at worst; growth, development, and innovation at best. At Iconic, I had a chance to take away lessons on leadership from some of the greatest minds in entrepreneurship. I found a two-fold value: for one, I scribbled down thoughts and advice that I can implement personally in my work and my approach to it. Two: I had an opportunity to look at entrepreneurship through the eyes of founders and CEOs. It might be surprising to those who have always “founded” or “executed”, but experiencing an inspiration to set the shoes of an employee aside for a moment, and look at the business through the eyes of a leader, sheds a new light at your own role in the life of the company. It’s an understatement to say that the promise of “innovate, inspire, ignite” was delivered at Iconic. But as Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of IndieGoGo said today, “Innovation is not the point. It’s the mean, not the goal. Ignite, inspire, innovate are only tools.” – now where you take them, and how you use them, is on you.

If you had a chance to attend, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the experience. Bonus question: what’s your opinion on the value of opening the doors of “C-level insights” to your employees?

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thinkspace Offers First Coworking Helipad Service Between Seattle and Redmond

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thinkspace Redmond Rooftop Helipad

We are excited to announce that we have a helipad at both of our Seattle and Redmond coworking locations! We recognize that commuting between Seattle and Redmond has been a challenge ever since the toll was put in place between Seattle and the Eastside. Depending on the time of day it can take an hour or more commuting on the 520 Bridge. With this new service, the approximate 15 mile commute can be reduced to approximately eight minutes. We wanted to be able to provide our thinkspace members with a service that allows entrepreneurs to focus on growing their startups instead of spending time stuck in traffic as they go from investor meetings with Madrona Venture Group, Voyager Capital, or Maveron.

After nearly seven and half years of running thinkspace, I have been asking entrepreneurs what is the most challenging thing about running a startup? The answer that I typically get is 1) funding and finding access to capital. 2) is hiring talent and finding a cofounder. We feel that with this service, startup founders will be able to invite VC’s to meetings and possible candidates that are looking to leave their jobs at Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft to join their startups. Attracting talent to join a startup is an incredible challenge. With a service like this, startups can now compete with the big tech companies in the Seattle area.

With recent announcements of Uber partnering with Blade to be able to helicopter rides to Coachella, we have been actively working on our own partnerships to extend the service to the Seattle area. We estimate that the service will cost approximately $62.50 one way or $125 round trip. Similar to how a vanpool works, discounts will be available for groups of four people. As Benjamin Franklin would say, “time is money”, this service definitely puts a premium on time. Please contact us if you’re interested in find out more about how to book this service.

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GeekWire StartUp Day: “Entrepreneurship is where passion and creativity meet science and value”

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?

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

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.

 

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There are some things you can only learn in a storm

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.

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Every Question to Ask Before You Roll Out an Unlimited Vacation Policy

I’ve been thinking about implementing this policy for three months. I’ve interviewed dozens of CEO’s who have implemented an Unlimited Vacation Policy to discuss how different companies handle different situations. Next week at the Beyond the Beer Pong and Foosball Tables event, I’ll be discussing the process that I went through to  come up with answers to every Unlimited Vacation Policy question that we could think of. Register for this event at Westland Distillery on October 28!

Why Implement an Unlimited Vacation Policy?

My company is not a tech startup, but because we support hundreds of startups and are entrenched in the startup ecosystem, I gravitate towards and embrace the workplace culture that is on the bleeding edge. I also want to attract employees who thrive in the startup ecosystem and feel like this is one of those things that separate the best from the rest. I also feel that PTO is punitive and traditional vacation and sick leave is even worse. Having an Unlimited Vacation Policy shows your employees that you trust them and allows employees to recharge when they need to. This leaves employees feeling empowered, respected and motivated.

Build With the Long View in Mind

I’m also a firm believer of building the company with the long view in mind. There are no shortcuts when you’re building something that is sustainable. Life is full of changes at each stage of life. When you’re single, there are things that you just want to be able to do and there are fewer commitments holding you back. Once you have children, the world completely becomes different. Suddenly your time off is spent at your kid’s Halloween party, attending parent teacher conferences, staying home with them when they’re sick, or figuring out how to handle summer vacation when they are bouncing back and forth between summer camps. That leaves a person with essentially no time off for actually recovering from working hard and crushing their goals. There are also unforeseen issues that come up in life, ones that no one ever plans for, and I want employees to feel supported in those situations and throughout the various stages of life.

Questions and Roll Play

Here is a list of questions that I came up with. As a team, we spent a few hours (spread out over a week) to discuss and role play the questions.

  • How do you ensure that people don’t take too much time off?
  • How do you ensure that people don’t take too little time off?
  • How do you ensure that people do not become resentful of others who take too much time off?
  • What do you do if your incentives don’t support your goals?
  • How do you ensure that people do not feel guilty about taking time off?
  • What’s a healthy amount of time off to take per year?
  • How much lead time do you have to give in order for vacation to be approved?
  • Should unlimited vacation be tracked?
  • Most unlimited vacation plans have some sort of manager approval step. What systems are in place to ensure there is an equal approval process for each manager to ensure that there is not inequality among teams?
  • If sales people reach their goals they can take off as much time as they like. What about for jobs that are more operationally focused?
  • If you need an extra day to recover from your vacation buffer that it. Nothing sucks more than people that call in sick because they are wiped out, hung over or didn’t rest enough when they took their vacation. Be back in the office when you say you’re going to.
  • Is it okay to just call in sick when you just don’t feel like working?
  • If it just happens to be a sunny day, should you just call in and say, “I’m not coming in”?
  • What if an employee needs to take time off because of something related to FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)? How does that work with a unlimited vacation policy?
  • How does maternity or paternity leave work with an unlimited vacation policy?
  • Can you take time off if you’re behind on your projects or they are not complete?
  • Do employees feel like they are working all the time even when they are on vacation?
  • Is there a cap on the number of weeks a person can take off at one time? Two weeks? What if someone has something that they would like to take off which is longer?
  • How do you treat existing accrued leave while transition from PTO to unlimited vacation? Payout at termination?
  • How do you ensure that you have a vacation schedule that is fair to all and effective for the business?
  • How can you have an unlimited vacation policy for hourly employees?
  • How do managers arrange with their teams to take time off?
  • The hiring process needs to weed out people that don’t align with our core values and how we operate with a unlimited vacation policy.
  • Is the client or customer suffering?
  • What if I want to take time off but my manager doesn’t approve?

Unstructured or Guidelines?

At the end of our discussion, it was clear that expectations are set and guidelines are in place. This helps people understand what is considered to be acceptable, aligns with our core values, and allows employees to show they really care about their coworkers and the company.

What other questions would you ask if you were implementing an unlimited vacation policy?