Impact of personal finances on your startup

Personal finances have a major impact on a young startup

At the beginning of this month, I read another book on personal finances, and decided that same day to put some of the advice to practical use. Some of the stuff might make you laugh (using envelopes to control my expenses), but before I get into that in one of my future posts, I’d like to say how much I feel the personal finances impact your business and especially your startup!

I see personal finances as a set of habits. Do you:

– Measure something or not

– Plan something or not

– Stick to your goals and decisions or not.

Going broke, or being without money is a habitual pattern, nothing more. Unfortunately I will also have to skip the importance of habits, will power, goal setting in life and personal finances for some other time, because that’s too broad of a topic.

Maybe you know someone who is really lazy, undisciplined with more than a few bad habits (smoking, alcohol, drugs) and still very successful under some definitions. Let’s say he has a great business, a lot of money, a great wife, great body, whatever. He is winning in a certain field. Here’s the problem with that, when it’s going great, people think it’s going to be great forever. When it’s going bad, people also think it’s going to be bad forever. But that’s not how it goes. Every recession, depression and war had an end. Ever economic boom, revolutionary product had either an end, or a major slow down. A lot of people are so successful in certain fields, but so remarkably unhappy in other parts of their life they go so far that they commit suicide. Remember Curt Cobain? You don’t have to go so far, I am sure you know Robin Williams. All the money and success in the world didn’t mean anything that day when he decided to commit suicide. Then again, if you ask 99% of the people what is their biggest problem, they’ll say, money (so it’s a personal finance problem, a set of habits). Money is not the problem. I’ll say that again, money is never the problem. The problem is you. To paraphrase George Carlin: “The money is fine. The people are fu**ed …”.

Those same people spend more than they earn. I am sure you heard this in the movie Fight Club, they: “Buy stuff they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like”. So what happens when someone starts a company? Well, in the beginning it’s just them (or perhaps one or two partners), and their habits and their personal finances have a major influence! Their ability to do budget planing. Skills to do personal finances. It’s the management that decides to buy a new chair, instead of investing in the product. It’s the management decision to buy a new car, instead of investing in research. It’s the management decision to go to a conference instead of doing real lead generation.

Personal finances have a major impact on a young startup

When a startup is failing it takes some guts to admit that it’s the management problem. In startups there are so few people that you have no one to point to, then yourself. But many people don’t. They point their fingers at the market, the problem they are solving, the money they don’t have, the people that surround them and so on. It even gets worse. You don’t only “transfer” your habits to your startup, but since you are personally spending more than you are making, you have to suck out the money out of your startup! In return, that more than cripples the startup that maybe had a chance if you didn’t have to buy cigarettes, travel, party, party, party. Who’s going to pay for all that? The fledgling business!

Amazing how so many people start “changing the world” and try to solve a huge problem in the world, and they don’t even know where their personal money is going! I know, I was certainly guilty of this. Right now, I am just mad at myself for being so stupid in the past. But just a little bit, because I know that it’s not important what happened to you, it’s important what you decide! You have to make a decision that from this day you will change your habits, which will have a strong impact on your personal finances, and ultimately on your startup! Yes dear reader, I admited my mistakes, I sucked it up, and now changing my habits.

Start small, start anywhere!
Skip one coffee per day. Skip one candy bar per week. Skip one dinner in a restaurant. Skip here, and a skip there.
Make one more phone call. Do one more interview. Make one more sale. Send one more newsletter. Little bit here, and a little bit there.

Repeat each month, and add just one more. Just one.

Make it a golden rule to spend less than you earn! No matter what! If you make this your habit, so will your startup. Ultimately, that means that you and your startup are making more each month, which means that all you now need is time to pass. If there’s one thing you can be certain of, is that time will pass. Ten years from now, you will still be here. There’s a good chance that 50 years from now, you will still be here! The medical / biomedical, technological, psychological advances will surely improve people lives, and increase longevity. So start now!

Don’t be that guy or gal who has to suck the money out of startup, and because of that, pay more taxes. What happens next is that they complain about high taxes, and how the government is the problem. Taking the money out of a business in order to buy junk? Not really. Hey, if you want to buy expensive toys, you better be ready to cough up some dough. I heard the new iPhone 6+ is out, with a nice smartwatch.

Don’t fail. Don’t spend, more than you make. We need more people like you. We need people who build startups, who fight, who create instead of consume. Will you be that person?

Follow these 5 steps to connect with any keynote speaker superstar

Goran Duskic with Werner Vogels CTO of Amazon

Let’s say you are eyeballing a particular high-profile executive. Whatever you would like him to invest in your startup, become your client, business partner or if you just want to work for him. Point of the matter is, you are probably nowhere near him, and you don’t have any mutual acquaintances that can provide a quality introduction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Richard Branson, Tony Robbins or Guy Kawasaki. At one point that person will be a speaker at a conference, and there’s your chance to start a snowball effect on him. He won’t even know what hit him, and I’ll introduce those simple steps to you.

Step 1. Q&A time

Goran Duskic from WhoAPI and Matt Mullenweg from WordPressFind a conference where the high-profile executive will speak. Preferably there’s a free entrance, or you can get in as press, or if you know one of the organizers. Just be creative. I remember how once I got a free pass to a conference where I met the founder of WordPress! Anyway, prepare a question you will ask that individual during the Q&A part. You can do that before the conference, but then you have to find out what the person will speak about (the title of his presentation). Contact the organizers if you have to. Otherwise, prepare 3 questions based on the history of this individual or just listen carefully during the keynote, and prepare 3 questions. They don’t have to be great, or provocative, but I am also not saying that you ask the guy “How he is doing”. Number one thing to do is to ask the question. So, go to that conference, raise your arm during the Q&A part, introduce yourself and ask your question. If you have to stand up right away as soon as the organizer or the speaker asks if there are any questions do that! This is your only chance, and if you fail here, it gets harder later. While the speaker is replying to your question, take notes or record the speaker’s response.

Asking a question so publicly is also a great trick in beating the fear of public speaking, something I wrote about in one of the earlier posts – “3 Easy Tricks how to Beat Fear of Public Speaking“. It’s also great that your peers see you talk with such a high-profile individual publicly. It definitely helps your personal brand, your self-esteem, and it might even help with the opposite sex. One thing is for sure, during that brief moment of asking the question, you will stand out from the crowd, and that’s what it’s all about. If you have to, read the question of the paper (to ignore the crowd). Whatever you do, have in mind that even if you fail miserably the first 3 times, I am almost 100% sure, that your next 100 attempts will be great. What I am saying is, don’t worry about your first failed attempts, think about the next 100 that will be great. Exchanging 3 lousy “borrowing the spotlights” as I call them, for 100 good ones, is a good bargain, and I would take it if I were you.

Step 2. Photoshoot

After you ask the question and that entire part is over, locate the individual and follow up on his answer or your question. When you are talking with this high-profile individual, politely ask if someone may take a photo of you two for your blog post. Naturally, the superstars have no objection to that, and they are used to it. It’s a nice compliment for them, and a great tool for you. In the end of your brief conversation (less than 5 minutes), excuse yourself, and thank the superstar for their valuable time. Before you leave ask if you might get their business card so that you may further follow up on the topic you were just talking about. While you are saying that, offer your business card also. It’s important that you start leaving first because then you have the upper hand, and have the other side wanting to hear more. Even if it’s Mark Cuban on the other side. “The sale” will happen later.
If the other person says they don’t have any business cards, ask for an email or a phone number or anything really. If they don’t give you anything (which will happen only if you totally messed up the first step, and the first part of the second step) you will have two options:

1. Completely cross off this superstar in your plans (not exactly what I would recommend)

2. Try finding the address or contact info that has access to his secretary. Use Google, Whois, forums and ask your connections who has the most connections (they will probably know someone that can help you out)

Step 3. Interact on social media

Assuming you managed to get their business card, let’s proceed with step three. When you are back at the office the next day, add that individual on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Whatever feels appropriate. If you have to unfollow / follow on Twitter, do it. If it’s a Facebook page, you don’t have to like it, because it doesn’t really matter, unless you know for sure that he is updating it himself. Then it’s a good idea to interact on that page. The point is that the other side needs to interact with you, or at least see that you are trying to interact with them, so a friend request on Facebook and/or LinkedIn connection is best because of personal interaction.

Step 4. Blog + share

About a week or 2 weeks after step three, write a blog post about that entire experience (going to a conference, asking the question, photo with the keynote speaker). Share this blog post on social media and tag that individual. You can also share the post on websites like Hacker News, Digg, Reddit, Stumble upon so that you get more hits.

Step 5. Interview

Contact the individual (using the details on the business card) even a phone call if you have to, and share the fact you blogged about the topic you talked about that day. Ask the individual if he might be interested in doing a short interview about a particular topic close to him. Have the questions ready just in case the person accept to do the interview right away. By now this high-profile superstar will have remembered your name, and it’s a good foundation to start a sales process or whatever it is you feel would be best suited.

So there you go, a proven recipe that will get you under the skin of any high-profile rock star. The key is not to give up until you have your dream investor, partner, client, boss. Choose wisely because if it’s not worth fighting for, you will give up before you even start.

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3 Easy Tricks how to Beat Fear of Public Speaking

Goran giving a lecture at Founders Institute

Fear of public speaking… I think you don’t really know what it is, until you have face it. When I first stood in front of a room of 15 people I trembled. But now I can confidently say, that I am OK with speaking in front of 50-100 people. Over that I still get some adrenaline, but I think that’s normal and that it will never go away.

August 2011

I applied at HackFWD in Berlin so that I could pitch WhoAPI. We met David Bizer in Zagreb during the Startup Srijeda couple of weeks earlier, and he told us that it might be a good idea to apply. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! All I knew was that we had a chance of getting an investment, and that was all that mattered to me at that point. Then one day, I got an email from Mikko Järvenpää, and my heart started pounding!

Dear Goran,

Congratulations! Having reviewed a large number of applications, we would really like to see you pitch your idea to HackFwd and an audience of tech experts, VCs and press in our Build event in Berlin on Saturday 17.9.

So basically I had to 2 weeks to prepare. What is a pitch? How do I summarize our company in 5 minutes? Or later even in 3 minutes? Most of all, how do I beat the fear of public speaking, and not FREAK OUT when I stand in front of 100 people?!

Goran giving a lecture at Founders Institute

Lets go back to today, after going through a lot of public speaking in three years, I am here to give you these 3 easy tricks that helped me beat fear of public speaking.

1. “Borrow the spotlight”.
At the end of almost every lecture or presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions from the audience. Besides trying to learn something from the speaker, you have the opportunity to “borrow the spotlight”. It’s like grabbing the MIC from Eminem for a minute, so that you could feel the audience.

– Don’t ask really short or really long questions,
– Don’t make it a monolog/statement
– When you are doing this for the first time look straight at the speaker it will help you. Next time, try to look around the audience to “feel” the eyes staring at you, so that you can prove to yourself you will survive this experience
– Extra points for sitting in the first row, and then turn so that you can see the entire audience and the speaker
– Enjoy the adrenaline rush, and relief after you successfully delivered the question, be proud of yourself

According to most studies people’s number one fear is public speaking.

Bonus coming out of “borrowing the spotlight” is that after the talk you can approach the speaker and further expand on the question you asked him. Even if that is Richard Branson or Guy Kawasaki, this approach will work. Even if you want to take pictures with that person, exchange business cards, whatever… And all those are valuable tools in networking with powerful individuals that are not easy to get acquainted with.

2. Practice. There is nothing that can replace practice, and there is nothing that works better than practice! So look for any possibility of public speaking! Even if it has to be a lame place like birthday parties, picnics, sporting events, whatever. Hopefully you will have at least one acquaintance with some experience with this, and he can help you setup a small event where you can speak for 15-60 minutes. Like with everything else it’s better that you start small and short, and then work your way up.

Steve Jobs makes a presentation look effortless, but that polish comes after hours and hours of grueling practice.

I know it’s not much of an advice – “practice”, but it is comforting that you will get better after a while. The fear won’t be the same after you do it 10 times, like when you did it the first time. Also, once you speak in front of 300 people, speaking in front of 50 is a piece of cake. Not to mention pitching in a room in front of 2-3 executives or VC’s.

3. Look forward to something after your speaking. When I first started pitching and lecturing, I forgot about everything else! This made me file like LIFE itself after the pitch doesn’t exist. It’s this pitch, and it’s right now, and nothing else matters. Wrong! When you are first starting out, it’s correct that you should definitely go extra mile to prepare yourself. You simply can’t be overprepared for your first three public speaking experiences.

If you are in a state of absolute certainty, you will deliver a great pitch.

But on that day set yourself up for a nice surprise after you speak. For example, promise yourself that you will have pizza, or a cake, or something else that you usually enjoy indulging in. It has to be something you will really look forward to! Don’t eat chocolate the entire day before, and then “lie to yourself” how exciting it will be to have chocolate again today after you pitch… It really has to be so powerful, different and it has to break your pattern so that it can compete at least in some way to your public speaking. Looking forward to something nice, puts you in a positive and playful state.

I hope this tricks help you as much as they helped me in becoming a great public speaker.

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