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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?

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Three Reasons Why I Start My Day Early in the Morning

Here are the three reasons why I start my day early. My first reason is backed up by a ton of articles about what super successful people do.

  1. They wake up early. The coolest thing that I learned from the morning exercise routine was I had created a new equilibrium point every single day. I was no longer at the whim of a random feeling on how my day was going to be. Exercise allowed me to always be full of energy, alert, and attack the day with more clarity. If you’re an entrepreneur, I think you’re going to find that to be a better thing to do than work late at night all the time.
  2. Train at the same time as when you run your marathon. A few weeks ago I ran my first marathon and one thing I did differently was wake up early and exercise. In the past, I trained at night for my half marathons and I was always groggy when it came time to run really early in the morning for the Seattle Half Marathon and Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon. The results were obviously different when I trained in the AM for the Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon where I’ve been waking up at 5:15am every day.
  3. Two people that I greatly admire are Annie Duncan and Katie Walvatne. Both of them have amazing positive personalities, get crazy amounts of important work done, are a complete joy to be around, they have grit and resilience, and they both exercise and wake up super early. Oh and both have run marathons!

I’ve never read an article that talks about how awesome someone is for pushing the snooze button and waking up late. I’ve also never met anyone that was super successful who was always sleeping in and coming into work late. Once you’ve made the shift of waking up early, you’re going to recognize all of the positive ripple impacts it’s going to make on your life and company!

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Seattle Startup Week Schedule

[sched sidebar=”yes” url=”http://seattlestartupweek2015.sched.org/”]Seattle Startup Week Schedule[/sched]

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I Hate Process, But, Now We Are Creating a Playbook

russell-wilson-playbook

I attended an event last week where ironman Jack Daly was the speaker talking about his journey as an entrepreneur. There are two things that stuck out to me when he spoke. Firstly, if the Seahawks drafted a player and they said “that’s nice you have a playbook, but, I’m not going to follow that because I’ve got my own style” – what do you think Coach Pete Caroll would say about that? Secondly, the only thing that matters is conversion rate. Yes, you can track tons of other KPI’s but the one that matters most is conversion rate. My personal feeling is that customer satisfaction is also one other metric that defines your success as company and a company should track their NPS (Net Promoter Score).

What’s inside our playbook:

  • Core values.
  • Mission and vision.
  • How do we want people to feel?
  • Defined Roles with each person having a set of measurable KPI’s.
  • Measuring KPI’s on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis.
  • Color-coding each person’s KPI’s with the colors green, yellow, red.
  • Tying everything back to our Quarterly One Page Strategic Plan.
  • Accountability by having numbers on the wall for each person.
  • Quarterly performance reviews instead of annual performance reviews.
  • Standard operating procedures.
  • Training, practicing, and regular testing to ensure we understand what’s in the playbook.
  • Hiring people that only fit into this system.
  • Benefits that allow our team to have an unlimited vacation policy.

Who Draws Up the Plays?

This is definitely a situation where key employees get to help design what the playbook should look like for their area of expertise. I’ve always focused on leveraging the strengths of each individual person and learning what they are great at. In the book “It’s not about the coffee” by Howard Behar, Starbucks executive. He shares:

The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom. People are not “assets,” they are human beings who have the capacity to achieve results beyond what is thought possible. – Howard Behar

Leadership and employees need to both agree on the outcome, but, the process to get there should be determined by the employee. At the end of the day, it’s about ensuring the results are achieved.

Our Biggest Area of Focus

Over the last year, the thing that has been my biggest area of focus is the customer experience. It’s also been my biggest point of frustration too. I badly want to raise the bar for our customer experience but I just haven’t been able to make traction on that. Clearly, I’m missing something in my knowledge and work experience that is allowing me to break through. In the last few months, my last three hires are people with university degrees in Hospitality Management. My intention and hope is that these people will focus on raising the bar really high for customer experience. I don’t think we will be able to do this without having a playbook and the entire team is in synch and executing as a unit.

What do you think? Does your company have a playbook? What do you like about your company’s playbook? How do you track and measure KPS’s. Please share!

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thinkspace BADASS Award

badass-award-awardWho doesn’t want to be called a badass?! Batman is a badass, Elon Musk is a badass, and I think Michael Brown, CEO of Affirma and Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments are both pretty badass too. In the spirit of being a badass, we launched the thinkspace BADASS Award, an employee recognition award.

Throughout my career I’ve seen a whole bunch of different ways companies try to recognize employees and most of them have been where a manager is the one that decides who gets the award. Instead of this being a top down award, it’s an award where peers get to nominate their coworkers and say they work with someone who is pretty badass.

Here’s how it works

We use a Google Docs Survey and it looks just like this:badass-nomination-form

Each month we will award someone on the team with the thinkspace BADASS Award. We’re looking to recognize a person who exhibits our core values. Vote for anyone but yourself. Vote for as many people and as many times as you would like. This is completely anonymous.

Please write a sentence or two about something they did that was exceptional, above and beyond, and aligns with our core values.

We will announce the winner of the thinkspace BADASS at the team meeting each month. We will read the nominations at the team meeting and award the person with the “chunk of metal” and $100. The “chunk of metal” is a passed along from one person to the next.

Our Core Values

GOAL CRUSHING ATTITUDE: We have the courage to start and resilience to finish. We push ourselves to the edge so that we know where the edge is. This is the heart of having an entrepreneurial spirit.

APPETITE FOR LEARNING: We are intellectually curious. We love to ask “why”. We love reading and pushing our knowledge to new depths. We believe that it is through learning that we are able to innovate. We reject the status quo.

GRATITUDE: We are thankful for the small things. We will over-deliver when we can. We are helpful and give back to our amazing community in any way we can. We choose to reach others over our own comfort.

BADASS Winners

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April 2015: Katie Walvatne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 2015: Monica Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2015: Kate Bailes

June 2015: Kate Bailes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2015: Patty Koenigs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2015: Grace Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2015: Alexandria Ghosn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2015: Katie Walvatne

October 2015: Katie Walvatne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2015: Laura Parkinson

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“What’s a coworking?”: Thoughts from a panelist at StepNW’s Spotlight on Startups for the Eastside

chantel-bailey-stepnw-thinkspace“…Is this thing on?”

At StepNW’s event in Bellevue on Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel in the company of fellow coworking representatives from Orange Studios, extraSlice, and Impact Hub. Picture a room full of entrepreneurs, executives looking to find their perfect startup match, community representatives, creatives, and resident experts on Seattle’s startup culture. The space was loud, the mics were soft, and the handshakes were good and firm. The venue was buzzing with disorganized, high energy, caffeinated humans…much like a startup!

“Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?”

One question posed to the panel challenged the value of being plugged into coworking space. Specifically:

“Why should an entrepreneur consider coworking space?”

To answer this question, I referred back to a study executed by the Kauffman Foundation that quantified the two most important resources entrepreneurs need to be successful. This study showed that the most impactful catalysts to success in a startup can be boiled down to building relationships with other entrepreneurs, and building relationships with support organizations, such as Angel investors, mentors, and service providers. Opportunity for building these connections naturally multiplies by physically plugging into a coworking community. Moreover, by being involved in a coworking space, there is an instant connection to people (like me!) whose mission is directly dictated by these two key needs. In building the fabric of support around entrepreneurs, I seek to connect people with the resources that will help them to solve their biggest pain points.

“Where does it hurt?”

The previous topic begs the question:

“What are the biggest pain points of an entrepreneur?”

Dan Kihanya from Impact Hub says that the three most common concerns he sees are difficulties finding talent, connections, and funding. With coworking spaces popping up all over the Seattle area, I expect to see these anxieties alleviated.

In response to the first pain point: Hiring talent. Who wants to be stuck with a social loafing coworker who has a bad habit of stealing your yogurt out of the fridge? Not I! That’s why companies like thinkspace offer recruiting services—to weed out the yogurt-eating, money-embezzling, resume-exaggerating applicants and provide companies with the (actual) top talent Seattle has to offer.

Moving on to pain point number two: Connections. There are only so many times you can view someone’s LinkedIn profile before things get awkward. This is why thinkspace, Impact Hub, and Orange Studios are all involved in organizing networking events that provide ample opportunities to meet other entrepreneurs face-to-face and make meaningful connections with experts in a variety of fields.

As for pain point number 3: Funding. As much as money trouble is a fun party topic, it isn’t always as easy to solve this problem as game of tic-tac-toe against your six-year-old nephew. History has shown that participation in coworking space leads to an increased probability of meeting co-founders, angel investors, and partner companies. This translates to: Cha-CHING!*

“I’m only here for the food…”

As our panel came to a close, the locals appeared restless… and hungry! Reminding me that in the world of entrepreneurs, there’s no time to buy groceries. Offering opportunities to be social, studious, and inquisitive, StepNW did the community a great service by providing education and networking opportunities to the greater Eastside community. Cheers to another night of connections, ravaged buffet tables, and illegible nametags!

*Cha-CHING: Increased opportunity for growth and revenue