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Entrepreneurs’ Top 10 Mistakes from Apple’s Former Chief Evangelist

Entrepreneurs’ Top 10 Mistakes from Apple’s Former Chief Evangelist

Building a business is hard. Don’t make it harder for yourself by making these avoidable mistakes. Take it from Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s first Chief Evangelist, serial entrepreneur, and VC investor. He’s written 13 books on entrepreneurship, startups and business. Below is an extraction of his 10 tips from a talk at Silicon Valley’s Startup Grind.

1. Projecting based on the 1 percent

How hard could it be to get a little piece of the pie? Guy open by talking about the entrepreneurs who project a huge market and figure that the conservative estimate is to capture 1%. Getting that first 1%, say one million, is no small number. Do you even have traction with your product? Also, no investor wants to hear you only have ambitions for 1% of the market. If your product is worth investing in, it should take significant market share.

Use a realistic projection funnel. Based on your traction and sales, do a more realistic prediction. Do a market feasibility test before prototyping. When you prototype, continually get feedback from your target customers and grow your customer base as you are refining your product. By the time you pitch, you will have real numbers to base your calculations on.

2. Scaling too soon

After raising money, entrepreneurs often put their capital into the wrong resources; they get multiple offices and hire in anticipation of sales to come. As Guy puts it, you have people in Bangalore waiting to provide great customer service to non-existent customers. Because re-hiring later when sales catch up seems inefficient, one isn’t willing to let go of that expanded team. However, your product will never ship on time and your sales will likely never meet your projections.

Don’t hire until you’ve shipped product. Don’t hire in anticipation of growth. Also, the most stable thing to do is to grow a company based on sales revenue and pivot based on market demands. For example, the team of programmers who loved coding began by making Pandaform, but then evolved into a web and mobile development agency that builds products in-house and for clients.

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3. Partnerships…why?

If you have a strategic partnership that translates to opening your sales spreadsheet every day, keep it. Most partnerships are just a patch for a company’s shortcomings. Partnerships entail e-mails, meetings, plans and distractions from selling a product and generating real revenue.

Only sales matter. Guy summarises sales as keeping your investors happy. A startup’s ultimate survival test is to make revenue. Make revenue and you have happy investors, employees, and (a bit more) peace of mind.

4. Treating pitches as silver bullets.

Y Combinator Startup School

    A good pitch may help you win a business plan contest and give a good impression. However, a prototype with real traction is the best way to convince an investor. Guy references bootstrapping to get your startup off the ground. He urges founder to use Rackspace and Amazon Web Services for hosting and social media for free marketing.

    Prototypes are worth a thousand pitch decks. Build a basic prototype and make sales to demonstrate the product you are pitching has potential.

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    5. Slide overkill.

    Despite all the great examples of pitch decks out there, you’ll always have the entrepreneurs who can’t help thinking they’re the exception. They’ll give you 60 slides with 8 pt font. It never works.

    Go with the tried-and-true rule: 10-20-30. 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font

    How can your business model in 10 slides and 20 minutes? Think of the limitation as a challenge to crystallise your idea. If your product is unique enough, it should be easy to convey in one sentence. Also, your slides are not your notes. If pitch shows enough concrete numbers, an investor will follow-up. Check out some of the most successful startup pitch decks online.

    6. Making life serial.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if life went step by step: prototype, raise money, hire awesome people, get sales, hack hockey stick growth, then have a spectacular exit.

    Life doesn’t wait for step one to finish before starting the next. Realistically, an entrepreneur needs to be building that prototype, fundraising, recruiting top talent,making sales, and figuring out business strategy. The chicken and egg feeling will never go away. If you are growing, your next opportunity will always be that uncomfortable stretch.

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    7. Recognise that 51% is an illusion of control.

    The moment you’ve taken outside money, you’ve lost control. Walked out of your last fundraising round with 51% of company ownership? As a founder, you are accountable to all your stakeholders. Your investors may not be that involved in running your business, but they can get 100% involved in voting with their feet. You need your investors behind you, and they get behind you when they think they will get $50 per $1 that they invested in you.

    8. Using patents for protection.

    Guy puts it succinctly: patents are for your parents. You’ll make them happy, and if you’re lucky, maybe the company acquiring you in the future will like it. That’s a big maybe.

    Realistically patents do not bring you sales and if a larger company produces something similar, are you going to sue them? Are you really going to spend all your investor money on litigation? Your investors probably wouldn’t want to take on Microsoft or Apple.

    Market share is the best self-defence. Get over yourself. For every product that you come up with, someone else in the world has probably developed something similar. One of Oursky’s favourite in-house products is Filesq, which is similar to many other prototyping and wireframing tools out there. Companies like InVision got market share. We didn’t. They didn’t steal our idea; most product managers and UX professionals wanted the same thing. Life moves on.

    9. Thinking VCs add value (and trying to make friends).

    Your investors are busy people. VCs and angels alike are looking at a dozen portfolio companies and maybe even running their own business on the side. Of course, they want you to succeed and will pick up the phone to connect you to the right person, but they won’t do much more.

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    Earn attention by performing. VCs think you may be a good investment and after closing the round, they’ll hover to see how you do. Your investors are much more likely to engage if they see you’re gaining traction and growing sales. Guy suggests you expect 2-3 hours from your investor. They’re not there as a buffer for your screw-ups. Guy summed it up as a Tindr world.

    10. Hiring yourself.

    He just gets it. From the moment you sit down for coffee, you two can go on and on for hours. You both have the same vision, concerns, working style and, of course, sense of humour. He fits the company culture. He’s hired. By the time you’re on your 10th team member, you’ve got a hundred blind spots and one big HR problem.

    Fill the gaps with complementary people. Hire someone who is different from you and brings in a complementary perspective. Bringing in men, women, people of colour, people with experience, people with inexperience depending on where you are. You need a team that can make, sell, and collect your product. A systematic way to do so is to map out all the different hats you (and your early team members) are wearing. Figure out where each of you are weakest and where the company has the greatest need. Start scouting for someone to fill that gap, even before you’re ready to hire.

    You can check out Guy Kawasaki’s talks on Youtube. Let us know what your best biggest learnings were as a founder!

    Featured photo credit: Drew Bennett via flickr.com

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    Published on September 16, 2020

    12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

    12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

    Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

    Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

    Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

    Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

    Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

    Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

    1. Organization

    When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

    When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

    Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

    To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

    To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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    2. Flexibility

    You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

    Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

    For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

    To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

    To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

    3. Collaboration

    As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

    Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

    To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

    To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

    4. Poise

    Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

    When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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    What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

    To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

    To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

    5. Communication

    Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

    When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

    To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

    To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

    6. Good Computer Hygiene

    Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

    Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

    To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

    To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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    7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

    Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

    Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

    To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

    To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

    8. Respecting Feedback

    In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

    Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

    To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

    To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

    9. Project Management

    Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

    To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

    To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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    10. Staying up to Speed

    Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

    To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

    To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

    11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

    “Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

    To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

    To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

    12. Teamwork

    Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

    Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

    To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

    To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

    Final Thoughts

    Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

    More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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