Category

General Business

Clarity

I was on a call recently where I had to ask someone 4 times to repeat what they were saying using more exact terms.  It’s a major pet peeve of mine and so prevalent I’m losing my ability to be nice about it.  Perhaps it’s a result of being a kinder, gentler society or maybe it’s just because we’ve all sat through too many PowerPoint presentations or maybe we’re all testing our political-speak skills, but whatever it is the result is the absolutely maddening trend of people not saying directly what they mean and forcing the rest of us to play 20 questions to tease it out of them. Here’s an example: Direct description:  This is a red circle “Business”…

When you know it’s not right, it isn’t

When you know it’s not right, it isn’t. A fellow board member said this to me the other day and I wrote it down as something I wanted to remind myself of every once in a while. She was referring to the human tendency to act slowly in the face of clear evidence and in particular to venture capitalists’ reluctance to be decisive. A good thought to ponder.

Quote of the day

“Successful people spend the majority of their time on major things. Unsuccessful people spend the majority of their time on minor things.” Relayed to me by my good friend Chris, who is dutifully following this advice…

Fire Fast

My last post generated a bit of harsh comment (a few on the site, but many more in private e-mail and on a few other sites that picked up the theme).  Apparently I came off as pretty insensitive (perhaps ‘jerk’ would be an appropriate description) in how I described my approach to some of the “can I get 30 minutes of your time?” meetings that I seem to have a difficult time saying no to (note to commenters: I do see value in the meetings and as a general rule spending time getting to know as many people as possible. Hey – at least I TAKE the meetings . . .). Trying to roll with that theme, I’ve been thinking…

Why are we here again?

I should probably do a better job of controlling my meeting schedule. I don’t and as a result end up with too many ‘networking’ meetings (i.e., where I’m on the receiving end of the networking). I have two observations about these interactions: 1) Left to their own devices, people tend to ramble . . . ramble . . . ramble. The conversation lacks focus, direction and purpose. Sometimes this is fun; most of the time it’s a waste of time. 2) Most people don’t seem to know what they want to get out of meetings like these. This clearly contributes to the rambling – there’s no focus because there’s no clear end point or goal. To speed things along a…

TLAs

In a recent note Bill writes: I love your blog, but if you’re going to use TLAs (three letter acronyms), you need to spell out the first reference so the uneducated (like myself) know what you’re talking about. When you write about NOLs, us neophytes from Colorado think you’re talking about spending three days alone in the wilderness. 😉 He’s right. I sometimes forget how insular venture/finance/technology can be. In one of my very first ever business experiences – a training session at Morgan Stanley – I spent an hour listening to a Morgan associate (who happened to be the assignments associate from the group I was about to start working with) talk about the “Morgan way of doing DCF…

What DON’T you do?

Companies –  and start-ups in particular – spend a lot of time working through market analyses, product positioning and the like, trying  to figure out how to tell the world what it is that they do (and differentiate that from what everyone else does). It is, of course, a very worthwhile and important effort. One thing few companies spend much time on, however, is the opposite question – what do you NOT do. Not the broad question of what you don’t do (we don’t make toasters is not very helpful), but focusing in on the gray areas between what you clearly do and clearly don’t do and deciding where you draw the line. I watch companies struggle over decisions (product extensions, sales targets,…

Feedback

There was a great article in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) that talks about the role practice plays in becoming truly great at something. They walk through research that suggest that while people clearly have some natural level of ability or affinity towards certain skills, it’s the hard work and dedication they put into the practice of their chosen art that ultimately sets them apart. There’s a feedback loop here – people tend to work harder at those things that they are good at (because they enjoy it more). There was one paragraph in particular that struck me and it relates to something that I’ve been thinking about that every…

How do you sign your e-mails?

For some reason I’ve been paying attention lately to how people sign their e-mails and thought I’d throw out a few thoughts. I’d be particularly interested to hear from people on the strangest sign-offs they’ve received. Below is a list of some of the more common sign-offs along with my take on what they really mean. Cheers! – I’m cool! Best – I don’t want to be locked into a specific sign-off – please interpret as you wish (best wishes, best regards, best cheers, etc.) All the best – When “Best” simply isn’t good enough Ciao! – I’m cool! and trying to act foreign Sincerely – I took this really great business writing class in high school Thanks – I…

Where was that you went to school?

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a complex about business schools. I never went (sorry – no “Seth J. Levine, MBA” on my business card . . . ) – probably because all of the schools I wanted to go to wouldn’t accept me for college, so I don’t see any reason to give them money for business school. Plus it was the rock and roll late 90’s and I still had dreams of getting rich in the internet bubble (which I did not, although I do continue to receive class action notices for various companies whose stock I owned at the time, much to my amusement). So with that as my clear bias, I have a pet…