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Greenlight yourself!

5 Nov

“Greenlight yourself.”

–Charlie Todd

Do you remember when in order to start a business it required massive amounts of capital and labor intensive resources? Do you recall a time when writing a novel required securing  a publisher and producing massive amounts of hardcopy books? How about the time when recording an album or creating a film required an entire studio, mixers, professional producers, etc.?

Well, if you do remember these archaic times, guess what, they’re dead.

The internet and technology has dissolved and eroded all barriers of of entry for whatever creative channel we want to pursue, allowing each of us the ability to pursue our ultimate passions and creative dreams. In essence, creativity has been fully democratized. Do you care to start a business or tech company? There are hundreds of seed accelerators thanks to Y-combinator. Want to make a movie? Get on youtube or vimeo. Care to write a book or blog? Hop on wordpress, tumblr or even CreateSpace to self-publish. Want to build a website or mobile app on the fly? Outsource to some far away place through Odesk.com. How about record a rock album? There’s an iPad app for that ūüôā (see Gorillaz new album, The Fall).¬†Or maybe you wanted to invent a new kitchen or household product? There’s a bit of Quirky in all of us.

What’s holding us back then? Go ahead, greenlight yourself!

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Health + technology

6 Sep

The future of wellness is now.

By wellness I mean, no longer are we attempting to remain disease free and to stay healthy and “fit,” with the occasional doctors visit, check up, and gym visit. Instead, ¬†we are working towards something greater by harnessing modern resources, innovation, and technology. Some might fear this fusion of technology and biology as a slippery slope, leading us down the road of becoming human cyborgs.

In my view, by better harnessing technology, we can not only prevent disease and have a better understanding of our genetics, but we also work towards reaching our own, unique Genetic Capacity, or our unique ability to become as strong and fit as we are biologically able.

Start ups are running with this concept and they have and will continue to crop up. Here are a few examples of start ups that exist to improve our quality of life and overall wellness:

  • Wristbands (and accompanying apps) to track our sleep cycles and exercise habits (see FitBit, Jawbone UP),
  • Apps to monitor our runs, swims, bikes, calories burned, mileage logged, elevation changes (Map My Fitness, RunKeeper)
  • Apps to track biomarkers as a preventive measure for disease and body composition improvement (WellnessFX)
  • Social media and apps to motivate and incentivize us to work out (GymPact, Greatist.com).

The list goes on….

The general trend towards Augmented Wellness means that we all have accessible tools in the form of technology  that allows us to continually strive towards reaching our own unique genetic capacities.

I’m excited to see just how far we can run with this as technology continues to build on itself…

Always going for glory!

Craig E. Steinfeld

@CESteinfeld

Discovering your core values

17 Oct

Apple CoreI am lucky. My father, Jay Steinfeld (@BlindsComCEO), happens to be a shrewd business man (and better father). He started a multi-million dollar company out of our garage and I saw, first-hand, Blinds.com and its categorical success as I grew up.  I have been exposed to tidbits of life and business wisdom growing up around the most inspiring entrepreneur I know, my dad.

What I have learned is the importance of having core values on both a personal and business level. This means it is vital to determine what inspires you, drives you, and motivates you to get up each morning to leave your imprint on the world. Not only should your core values be written down and communicated (to yourself and your employees), but reiterated on a daily, even hourly basis. Despite profit incentive,  one should never should one stray too far from these driving core values as they will continue to guide even when the odds are stacked against you, or in the face of great adversity.

To quote another one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Richard Branson (full article here), on the founding of Virgin over 40 years ago:

“We had accidentally stumbled on the core elements of a culture dedicated to delivering great customer service! It turned out that people who work in a friendly environment that is tolerant of mistakes, and who are empowered to make decisions about how they do their jobs, arrive at the best possible solutions for serving customers.”

These early values helped shaped the direction of one of the most diversified and successful companies the world has ever seen, and they are still ever-present in the Virgin brand today.

My core values:

  • Striving for constant improvement
  • Continuing to evolve and innovate
  • Commitment to living a healthy lifestyle
  • Desire to take risk and explore
  • Keeping an open mind in all facets of life
My values are dynamic, meaning they will undoubtedly change over time, but the real point here is:
Having core values to guide your own personal mission or business are tantamount to reaching success, however you define it.
What are YOUR core values?
Always going for glory!

Entrepreneurs push beyond the limits of mere mortals

24 May

Sir Richard Branson has announced that he will be swimming across the Irish Sea in order to fund cancer research. This from a man who runs a multi-billion dollar, multi-national company -Virgin. Branson has crossed oceans in hot air balloons, sail boats, and whatever other craft you could dream up. ¬†He’s building a private space program called Virgin Galactic ¬†and plans to go to the depths of the ocean in a specially designed submarine via¬†Virgin Oceanic.

Mere mortals might ask: How does this Branson guy run a multibillion dollar empire, jet from private isles across the world, break world speed and aviation records, and have time to develop new projects simultaneously?

Another question is simply why?

It’s simple:

  • Drive
  • Desire to push the limits of humanity
  • Zero fear of failure
I believe these attributes are qualities that are the driving force behind all successful entrepreneurs and organizations. ¬†Most people are content with the status quo and as a result, never truly reach for their own version of the stars (in Branson’s case, both literally and figuratively). On the other hand entrepreneurs not only reach for the stars, but they ask themselves: What’s beyond these stars and how the heck are we going to get there?
I’ll leave you with a quote from Sir Richard himself from his book, Business Stripped Bare:
“Enterpreneurship is business‚Äôs beating heart. Entrepeurneurship isn‚Äôt about capital; it‚Äôs about ideas.”
Take an idea. Run with it. Rinse. Repeat
Always going for glory,

Sales: The lifeblood of business

18 May

When I used to to think of sales, I could not help but recall the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, in particular the openining scene in which Alec Baldwin delivers his famous “coffee is for closers!” spiel . Who amongst us has not had that awful experience with the used car salesman-type, pushing his product or service down our throats? It can leave a bad taste in your mouth about sales, and rightfully so.

And who could forget the famous ABC’s from Glengarry Glen Ross?:

  • Always
  • Be
  • Closing
But is sales as simple as a numbers game, in which 300 cold calls might yield a handful of leads, leading to a handful of prospects, which might generate, maybe, a few sales? Not according to Mike Peloquin.
I had the privilege of hearing a talk by sales expert, Mike Peloquin, who has grown 6 start ups from nothing, to millions in revenue.  He had a very interesting perspective on the sales process which he unabashedly views as a brutal, cutthroat process that requires a highly competitive team.  That being said, Peloquin believes that you can create real, tangible sales and revenue through a systematic, detailed process, and his record speaks for itself as head of sales of numerous companies.
Some key points that are applicable to all sales approaches, businesses, and products:
  • You do not conduct business with companies, but rather with human beings,¬†making key leads at organizations essential to the sales process (Point: Find people, not companies to conduct business with and focus on nurturing relationships with them)
  • Sales is not the process of throwing paint at the wall and seeing what sticks, but instead, a systematic process that requires careful managing of contacts (through CRM systems), follow-up, and a well-disciplined team
  • People are NOT customers, until they pay you (it’s critical to distinguish between leads, prospects, and actual sales)
  • Leads are critical to sales and they should be managed, massaged, and organized by a dedicated sales team (Peloquin even believes that sales teams should be incentivized by the leads they generate, not just sales)
Sales is cutthroat as a profession and most people might not have the stomach for it.  It can be gut-wrenching and difficult to break through and crush it as a salesman. As an entrepreneur, I know I have emotional attachment to my products and therefore can have a difficult time handling the rejection.
That being said, with the right team, process, and approach to sales it’s not always about the ABCs, but instead focusing on people, not companies, through a systematic process, to generate sales and revenue as an organization.¬†
Always going for glory,

The concept begins to take shape

15 Mar

And so it begins...

This is a basic sketch of the concept and invention that has been convalescing in my mind now for months. ¬†I have been hard at work fleshing out the minutiae and tailoring the product to the correct target market. ¬†All of my heart and soul are in this project and I have enlisted the help of both an MIT engineer and engineering firm in Austin to help make this dream a reality. ¬†I believe that ideas + products are merely the culmination of concepts that people absorb around them. ¬†At the recent trade show the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA, I had a minor epiphany: there’s no better time then the present to pursue a concept that I consider to be groundbreaking. ¬†I met a plethora of entrepreneurers who fought tooth and nail to get their product to market at all costs. ¬†For some that meant 5 years of unprofitability, while for others, it meant keeping a day job and working 18 hour days until the product was fully realized.

In the prophetic words of Ayn Rand:

“The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed. Every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid – but they won.”


Always going for glory! HE @CESTeinfeld


RISE Austin: Inspirational lessons on entrepreneurship

10 Mar

This week, RISE (Relationship and Information Series for Entrepreneurs) is taking place across Austin, TX as we speak.   Austin is a refuge, sanctuary, and hub of entrepreneurs and we strive whole-heartedly to keep Austin as weird as possible.  Meaning, Austinites love to support small and local businesses.  I managed to meet some start-up entrepreneurs, many of whom started their companies right out of college and are now securing upwards of a million dollars in funding (i.e SpareFoot.com, JobSpice,com)

I feel honored and privileged to learn from the past experiences of entrepreneurial and start-up experts. ¬†The importance of learning from other’s successes and failures is tantamount for the success of the entrepreneur. Fortunately, RISE is streaming the videos on their web page for many of the seminars you and I were unable to attend.

Some of these lessons I learned are worth sharing to the community of entrepreneurs out there:

On branding (Dr. Neil Burns):

  • Brands=Experience!
  • Brands: more enduring than patents, viral, and measurable
  • Brands have and maintain a following
  • Branding IS a business strategy
  • Brands must be personally relevant

On seed generation/incubation of start-ups (Serial entrepreneur Joshua Baer of Capital Factory):

  • Start ups must have an excellent team in place (ideally 2-3 people)
  • Tech expertise is essential for a company in tech
  • Have a strong mentoring team in place of people with past experiences (they could end up being angel investors)
  • Keep in touch with the mentors you develop relationships with
  • Understand your market better than your competitors!
  • Be confident about your idea but be open to others opinions because after-all, you have things to learn!
  • Be capital efficient and stay as lean as possible while not sacrificing product quality and integrity

On exploring market potential/market research (Dr. Rob Adams):

  • “Success is achieved through a series of fast failures.” (Emphasis on fast. ¬†If the idea isn’t taking shape, be willing to ditch it immediately for a better one)
  • 20% of start-ups succeed. So be willing to start at least 5 companies for the best chance of success
  • In product development, start with at least 100 exploratory calls to figure out what your target market wants. ¬†Then design the product based on the needs of 20-30% because you simply cannot afford to please everyone (approx. 2 months)
  • Conduct interviews, conduct surveys, and compile lists of potential clients. ¬†Ask them specific questions, figure out what they want, and design the product to meet their needs
  • Get your product to market ASAP! Correct the problems later (aka Microsoft products, first gen iPod etc.)
  • American buyers are forgiving to entrepreneurs and almost always will give a second chance if the first model requires improvements
  • Sales and marketing budget MUST¬†EQUAL budget for product development (at minimum)

Anyone have any lessons worth sharing from RISE or otherwise on start-ups and entrepreneurship? Thoughts on the above advice? Please do share!

Quote for thought: “We’d pay a lot if someone would just build…” If you can answer this question and you may be able to leave your job and create a winning business ūüôā

Always going for glory!

C.E. Steinfeld

(Healthbent Entrepreneur)

@CESeinfeld