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Columbus Startup Weekend

I wasn’t cool enough to go to computer camp as a kid, but this past weekend I got pretty close to redeeming myself.

I participated in a caffeine-fueled Startup Weekend in Columbus. The basic format – about 80 random people got together at a business incubator, TechColumbus. Friday night people can go up and pitch a new business idea for 60 seconds. Everyone votes on their favorites, then the top 15 ideas are left to be made into businesses. Teams are divided up with developers, programmers, graphics experts, coders and business hustlers. Then it’s a mad dash all weekend to develop the product, create a business plan, define your market, and forecast projections in time for a presentation on Sunday night to 5 local CEOs. Some previous participants have lead to legitimate successful startups like Heroes2U and LaunchRock.

sWC 11 SWC 10 SWC 9 SWC 8 SWC 7 SWC 6 SWC 5 SWC 4 SWC 2 SWC 1

Before the pitches to the judges Sunday night, it was 48 hours of chaos for most the teams. We all had to create and ship the name, logo, website, pricing/monetization, strategy, customer feedback, and forecasting. The final results seen in the presentations were incredible. 15 separate businesses were presented to the panel and audience, some of the highlights included:

  • PocketChange – an app for giving to charities that’s a mix between Tinder and FundMe
  • No Signal – an app to send messages via phone when cell towers or internet goes down
  • skillswipe – a platform for student tutoring over lunch
  • PillTrack – software for administering prescription drug usage
  • Veterans on Watch – a social media platform for war veterans to support one another and prevent PTSD-related events or suicide
  • NomNow – food delivery app for late night and college eats
  • Well HQ – social media hub for big pharma brands to listen and engage when FDA regulations change this July
  • YoungMoney – financial literacy gamified for 6th-12th graders
  • Face Facts – an app like Shazaam to identify actors by scanning faces with your phone

By the end of the weekend, everyone involved was proud of their final product and stood the test of the judges. Some teams are moving on to actually develop their business, such as WellHQ, the winner from Startup Weekend.

Amazing event. Can’t wait to participate again and see what develops.

So You Want To Be a Power Couple?

Trying to have a successful relationship nowadays with two high achieving people is daunting. We have to do well in college. We have to get great jobs. We have to get to work early and stay late. We have to squeeze in time to stay in shape. We have friends calling to go out for drinks. We have weddings to be in. We have student loans to pay off. We have weddings to save for. We have houses to look at. We have family to spend time with. We have grad school and entrance exams and boards. And somehow we’re supposed to maintain a happy relationship with a high-achieving partner.

 jay z

Brie and I don’t argue much at all. But if we do have disagreements, it tends to involve my work. Whether I’m working too much, or my mind is elsewhere or I’m constantly checking emails.

Last fall I was headed on our company sales trip to Jamaica leaving her behind. She had to stay home for class and labs. Once again, I was headed out of town and it’d created space between us.

Bored in the airport I got ready to listen to the latest podcast from one of my favorite authors, Michael Hyatt. I’ve said before his podcasts are like the Garden State of movie soundtracks – the best ever. This particular episode could not have been more applicable or had better timing.

Michael did a piece called, “Help! I Married An entrepreneur.” He included his wife on the interview and they shared their journey through 35 years of marriage – including successful businesses, getting audited by the IRS, failed businesses, raising 5 kids, and their own struggles. The honest stories were pretty incredible and hit home for a lot of the same things I go through with Brie. You can listen to the podcast, but they summarized 5 gifts that the entrepreneur/Type A person can give, and 5 gifts that the supporting person in the relationship can give.

 

Five gifts from the supporting partner, per Michael’s wife, Gail:

1. Gift of Belief

2. Gift of Appreciation

3. Gift of Affirmation

4. Gift of Perspective

5. Gift of Commitment

5 Gifts the Entrepreneur Can Give Their Spouse, per Michael Hyatt:

1. Gift of Honor

2. Gift of Awareness

3. Gift of Inclusion

4. Gift of Commitment

5. Gift of Trust

 

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*Pretty sure they don’t mention posting cutesy shit on one another’s Facebook wall as a key to success, but maybe it just missed the top 5 list.

 

In all seriousness, the lessons from the podcast came at a time when I was struggling with balancing work and a happy relationship. Their interview provided a lot of hope and perspective at the time, as well as guidance for the future. Invest 30 minutes and give it a listen – it’s well worth it.

 

 

To all the power couples in training – how do you maintain balance? What’s your advice to other young professionals new in a relationship or marriage? Comment or share below!

Failure to Blog

I’m big on goals. I’m big on big goals. I’m big on big goals staring you in the face. And by the end of February we are all either on our way to big goals for 2014, or going back to the drawing board.

 

Below is a screen shot of my cell phone. Big goals staring me in the face all day, every day. I’ve hit most of them but failed on completing two blog posts. You’re reading the one and only for this month. I thought about it, and thought about it, and told myself I would do it, and told myself I would do it when I felt inspired. It never happened. Sound familiar…?

Phone

Why did I fail so far? Plain and simple. It wasn’t on my calendar. I did the first step right of setting a measurable and time sensitive goal, but I failed where most of us do by not intentionally budgeting time on my calendar to write.

 

An author I follow says ‘if you want to know someone’s priorities, all you have to look at is their calendar and their checkbook.’ It doesn’t matter if you say your priority is family, health, friends, etc. If your calendar and bank account show the Bachelor, more work and happy hours….the truth is deafening.

 

Personally, I may be off to a great start this year in different areas of my life. But as February becomes March, I’m reminded of this simple rule – your goals and plans don’t matter unless they’re grounded in your schedule and your checkbook.

 

empty calendar

Does your calendar intentionally match your desired priorities? Or the work required to hit your goals? Comment below or share how you stay focused. 

Making the Kool-Aid

Three years ago I was sitting at the kitchen counter in Denver with my dad after accepting a job to ship off to Columbus, Ohio. I was to become the sales guinea pig for some obscure start up. “Well I guess you’ll go from drinking the Kool-Aid at Southwestern to being the guy in charge of making the Kool-Aid. Pretty cool.”

Truer words about my job description have never been spoken. For the company to scale and products sell, I would have to contribute to and define the sales culture, aka craft the recipe of the Kool-Aid.

 oh yeah

Fast forward three years and that Kool-Aid recipe has helped our company rack up a few major awards – Inc500 winner for fastest growing companies in America,  #1 fastest growing company in Central Ohio, Best Places to work in 2013. In 2014 we’ll have over 100 sales reps in major markets as we continue to grow in size and overall production for a homegrown business-to-business salesforce.

 

A well running sales organization is a thing of beauty when it’s rolling. So how do you create a culture of winning? Adventure and purpose? Opportunity and freedom? Contribution and creativity?

I’ve broken down the recipce to six key ingredients:

Use more ‘carrots’ than ‘sticks’

  • As much as managers want to use quotas, minimums and repercussions – most salespeople are more motivated by awards, money, and incentives.

Lead from the front

  • No one in leadership is a hired gun who’s never done the job themselves. We’ve been promoted because we’ve excelled and continue to lead from the front line, not managing from afar.

Check egos at the door

  • We’ve hired former top producers that have excelled. And others flopped. But we’re always very clear that respect and promotions are earned by what you do here, not your previous job.

Let the scoreboard rule

  • We broadcast everyone’s performance and rankings to recognize top producers and make sure you can’t hide from accountability.

Recruit based on character

  • Current reps are always the biggest recruiting factor and will either attract or repel candidates. Plus integrity and leadership will appeal to those burned out on corporate culture.

 

Focus on habits and activity, not results

  • Habits and activity always win out over time. They’re controllable and duplicable; final production is not.

 

 

Our sales culture is by no means perfect. But it has lead to great results and continues to attract top producers from other companies and become a major asset within our industry.

 

 

 

Like Kool-Aid? Have you been part of a sour sales culture, or one with a delicious recipe? Share the post or comment below: 

2013 Year In Review

What would a blog be without a ‘year in review’ post? Or an ’11-reasons-why-2013-was-awesome-and 11.5 reasons-why-2014-should-be-too’ post? Well check it, I’m doing a hybrid of both.

In all seriousness, a big part of why I launched this blog is the fact I’m a big believer in intentionality. We must work, plan and evaluate in all areas of our lives. We can’t let life happen to us; we must happen to life. Otherwise we’ll all end up fat, unemployed and in our parents’ basement down by the river. Intentionality.

Down by the river

One tool I use for taking a look at all aspects – not just money or career – is the Life Wheel tool:

 Life Wheel

I’m a big believer in balance and think it’s tough to compartmentalize or be great in one area while neglecting others. Ignore one part long enough and it’ll feel like your life wheel has a flat tire.

So. Some of my personal highlights and scores from 2013:

  • Health 7.0 I managed to maintain decent shape and consistent workouts. Somewhere in between ‘college skinny’ and ‘middle aged dad fat.’ Perhaps something like CrossFit or a half marathon in the fall to squash complacency. IF I get on Instagram in 2014, I’ll be sure to provide daily updates of my #shirtless #self in the mirror….
  • Wealth 8.5 – I managed to give myself a solid raise, saved a decent amount, maxed out 401k and Roth IRA, didn’t take on any debt, stayed fairly true to my monthly budgets.
  • Family & Friends 6.5 – I tried to keep in touch with long distance friends. Somehow Charlotte, NY, Atlanta, Lexington, Denver and Florida stole all my friends from Columbus within 12 months. Literally every close friend moved. Enjoyed quality time with the rents and grandma, but need some face time with my brother this year.
  • Hobbies & Fun 7.0 – Love to travel and took a pretty amazing trip to Europe. Not as many concerts last year. Launched a blog, finally!
  • Relationships 8.5 – Invested in the relationship with the GF and we’re doing great as we approach two years together in 2014.
  • Career/Job 9.0 – I stepped into a leadership promotion, grew our organization, invested in professional development. We won some big awards as a company. I need to help more people hit their goals in 2014 and become more effective in my leadership. AND, launched my own business!
  • Personal Space 6.0 – Did some decent self reflection and personal growth that helped in the relationship arena. This needs to continue to sharpen if I’m to be effective in leadership and having the courage to run my own business.
  • Contribution/Spirituality 4.0 – I feel like I contribute to people’s lives at work and with friends, but this is definitely the weak link in 2013. This year I’ve joined some volunteer organizations with groups like Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Need to get better at this one.

I’m excited for what the future holds next year. And I know I need to continue to get better about being intentional and managing my time to keep improving in all these areas. I also have plans for the blog here – more in depth posts, outside interviews, and regular updates about the side project I’ve launched.

 

 

 

What are your thoughts on 2013 or what you plan to do in 2014? What areas of your Life Wheel could use the most improvement? Share or comment below. Cheers!

Control the Controllables

I’m not on Pinterest. Yet. But I wonder if they have a board to inspire us when ‘it all hits the fan.’

Fan Cartoon

A few Sundays ago I was flying for work from Columbus to LA. I had a team dinner planned and was ready to make the most out of the last trip out west for 2013. Instead, I got stuck in Chicago for 7 hours. I landed at what my body thought was 3:30am, 12:30am at LAX. Four hours later, my alarm went off for an east coast conference call. I grabbed my phone to turn off the alarm and saw 21 emails – one of which was a huge sale falling through and a great team member putting in his resignation. Happy Monday!

Delayed

What a way to start the week. Sometimes motivational quotes and coffee only go so far. So what do you do when it all hits the fan? The only thing you can do: Control the controllables. Could I control the weather in Chicago? Nope. At this point, could I control losing a team member? That ship had sailed. Could I control how tired my body was staring down an 18 hour day? Not at all.

In the moment before I started my week in LA, I could focus on all the crap and how far the fan had flung it. Or I could remind myself of a lesson I had learned at 19 with Southwestern, and focus on controlling the things I actually had control over – my attitude, the hours I worked and my efforts. “Control the controllables, Patty” I mumbled to myself as I stumbled through getting ready.

We all have humbling days (or months) where everything goes wrong. Upset clients, bombed exams, car issues, bad hair days, etc. Unless you’re Ron Burgundy – he probably has other issues, but bad hair days isn’t one of them.

Sphere 2

When it all seems to be going south, instead of focusing on everything negative outside your power, choose to focus on the controllables. Most times it’s simply your attitude, your hours and your effort. And it typically turns things around faster than they fell apart.

 

 

 

Thoughts? What do you do when everything goes wrong at work or at home? Please share or comment below. And tune in next time when I discuss making Kool-Aid.

Started my own business!

openforbiz

I’ve officially started my own business! I have been in entrepreneurial roles before and ran sales organizations where I was responsible for the bottom line, but this is the first time my name is next to the ‘owner’ line.

Over the years I have had the itch to do my own thing but never pulled the trigger. Previously it didn’t feel quite right or look like the best opportunity. This past summer a series of events lead me to finally put a stake in the ground.

My day job is a great gig and this is a business I can ramp up on the side. It will also give me a good chance to really test my abilities to see if I have the chops to run a successful business or fall victim to the E-Myth – the fact that most small business owners truly aren’t entrepreneurs.

At this point, I can’t reveal much besides saying it’s a consumer products business. As patents are finalized and things develop, I plan to share the journey here on my blog. The company ties directly to one of my biggest passions; I also started based on business philosophies I’ve previously blogged about.

The LLC has officially been incorporated. A trademark has been granted. The logo is finished.

I’m excited to see what the future holds with possibilities of a Kickstarter campaign, client feedback and plenty more business and life lessons to blog about here.

I appreciate your readership and help along the way.

 

 

Best,

Patrick

 

 

Puke Up!

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ I haven’t heard a truer one liner about business. But before a corporate culture can outlast strategy, that culture must be great. And one of the biggest culture killers is people who puke down or across.

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Puke

Verb. (pewkeh) 1.To puke is the act of venting or bitching to fellow team members about difficult situations, personal struggles, or overall frustrations.

2.To cross the line of rapport and catching up by spewing negativity chunks all over a coworker or peer.

3. A cycle of complaining and reciprocation within the same level of an organization that proves toxic to positive work culture.

Puking will inevitably happen – people need to vent, gripe and grind an axe. The key is getting your team to puke UP. Puking up in an organization is healthy, whereas puking across or down is nothing short of toxic. We’ve all been there with the team member where you ask something small such as, ‘How did your meeting go?’ or ‘How’d you do last month?’ Said team member immediately goes on a 10 minute rant explaining every possible thing that went wrong, how much it sucked and the fact they’re ready to quit. By the end of it, you need a break to just wash off some of the negativity. OR, you end up reciprocating with your own puke session – misery always loves company.

The problem with going across or down in an organization, is that those people receiving the negativity don’t deserve to have your problems dumped on them, nor are they equipped to help you deal with them. A great example is a group of rookie sales reps who went through the same training class. Naturally they have rapport and are excited to share experiences. But if one deals with a difficult client situation then goes puking to their peer, that person really doesn’t know how to handle the situation and it likely plants a seed where that person fears the situation or has a negative outlook on a certain part of the job. If that same rookie instead goes to a leader to puke, they’ll get the same benefit of venting and likely receive quality coaching to actually handle the situation effectively. AND, their training class buddy isn’t sucked into a cultural black hole.

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In order to get buy in and stop people from puking down or across – leaders have to explain the importance for team culture, have open lines of communication and stop puking early. If an organization has habits of puking across or down, it will become a cancer and a culture killer. But if people embrace puking up, they will be better teammates, receive proper support and contribute to a great culture. So, if you must puke……make sure to always puke up!

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Thoughts? Have you been part of a toxic culture where puking persisted? Or what are some other simple rules of thumb for creating a great team atmosphere? 

The Big Move

Not a week goes by since moving to Columbus that  someone doesn’t ask what brought me to Ohio. I can see this mental map in their mind:

Denver 3

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me ‘why the hell would you move from Denver to Columbus?!’ I would cash in those dollars for Euros and move to France:

Kid in a candy store eating Nutella crepes in Paris.

Kid in a candy store eating Nutella crepes in Paris.

But the short answer is that I moved for a job that started here:

The actual desk and office I shared in Mount Vernon, OH. Fancy!

The actual desk and office I shared in Mount Vernon, OH. Fancy!

 

And had the opportunity to maybe, possibly, some day turn into this:

Building, grass 2    Inc 500          Best work

Well this past month it looks like the move was a good choice and we’re well on our way – in September we found out we were named to the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies in America and we moved into a massive Google-like 90,000 square foot campus.

I left the beauty and comfort of Denver for the unknown of Columbus because I was offered the opportunity to help build a great company. Our founder said something like, ‘come help us build this thing in Ohio and if you want to move back after a year or two you can.’ Since that time, I’ve been fortunate to be part of an incredible ride from basement startup to national brand (also turns out Columbus is pretty awesome). Our team members are incredible and I know we make a big difference for our small business clients. As I mentioned in an earlier post: Meaning scales, people don’t. That growth wouldn’t be possible without great purpose and vision big enough to rally people to move half way across the country. Cheers to milestones and what the future may hold!

Thumbs

 

Thoughts? Have you moved for a job? And how much weight does career or work carry related to where you want to live? Feel free to comment, disagree, ask questions, or get your #hashtag on.

 

What am I worth?

I’m worth $200. According to US Airways, at least. In asking, ‘What am I worth?’ this blog post isn’t a rhetorical question about income or status, but a case study on the value of a customer. The life time value of a customer can be a golden nugget of information as a business – representing the total revenue dollars that one person will spend with a company in their lifetime. To Chipotle, Starbucks and Apple – I’m sure that I’m worth more than I’d care to admit. Two or three $8 burritos per month times 12 months times +30 years…you get the picture.

But I recently had a disastrous moment of truth with US Airways where they could keep me or lose me forever, and it seems they decided I’m worth $200. Forever and always. This sum of money was a slap in the face after the series of events that unfolded this past June.

I mentioned in earlier posts I went to Europe this summer with my girlfriend, Brie. It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime – two weeks to explore Rome, Cinque Terre, Nice, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. It was her first time to Europe and probably our last chance for many years to be able to take off 14 days to travel. I saved and budgeted for 6 months, and we talked about our excursions almost daily between my work and her studies. June 14th finally came and we were scheduled to fly from Columbus to Charlotte then over to Rome.

We spent the layover in Charlotte saying bye to friends and looking at our itinerary. Then after a long 6 months we finally heard our last boarding group called to leave for Rome. The gate agent took Brie’s boarding pass, looked at her passport and said, ‘Well have a happy birthday in Europe!’ I was next and handed over the same documents. A few long seconds went by before she stopped me and said, ‘this passport might not work.’ Cue the shock and anxiety. ‘I think you’ll be fine in Italy but not in Germany,’ she said. ‘Ok…? I’m not going to Germany but what’s wrong?’ ‘Well your passport has wear and tear and I’m afraid they might send you back.’ The unsure agent handed it to another employee, who gave it one confused look. He picked up a phone, rang once, no answer, and declared, ‘We can’t let you on the flight.’ I tried not to panic and ease the situation but they were decided in their unsure decision about my passport I’d used numerous times. ‘If we let you go and Italian immigration sends you back, we get fined $10,000. You’ll have to try to go to a passport agency to get a same day passport. Good luck.’

Customer Service

To make a long story short, we were denied boarding on a Friday evening in Charlotte. I spent the next four hours on the phone with airlines, passport agencies, a useless insurance company, and my gracious travel agent. We ended up having to fly to Buffalo, New York for a 10am meeting on Monday because there was no other availability in DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta or Charlotte. If all the stars aligned, and the passport agency didn’t think my passport was damaged as well – we would have to get the passport quickly, get to the airport for a 3:30 flight and catch a short layover in Philadelphia to finally get to Rome.

The salt in the wound really came when I finally got to the window at the passport agency in Buffalo and the lady said surprisingly, ‘I can’t believe they didn’t take this passport?!’ Great. So an employee with a hunch made a quick decision to try save her employer from a fine and the US government agency is telling me they made a mistake?! Now I have to spend thousands of dollars, rearrange a shortened trip and go through a huge mess as their beloved ‘customer.’

And the entire time every single US Airways representative could care less. I’m confident that Miley Cirus cares more about her brand and customers than US Airways. From the original gate agent to the service desk in Charlotte to the reservations hotline to the service desk in Buffalo to the service desk in Philadelphia. Every single person threw their hands up and said, ‘Sorry, not my job. Nothing I can do.’

0 0-1*The ‘wear and tear’ of my former passport.

 

Four days and $2500 later, we finally boarded another flight from Philadelphia to Rome. We chopped cities and ditched plans but had a great time despite the airline.

When we arrived home and I felt like seeking a resolution with the airline, I found out you cannot call customer service. You email a black hole, and they might have a human write an email back or possibly call you. 13 emails, 4 phone calls and too much time spent explaining my situation – someone finally said, ‘It looks like we overreacted and we will review your case for compensation.’

I have proof that a government agency deemed my passport acceptable. I also have proof of $2500 in expenses in order to stay in Charlotte, fly to Buffalo, hotel and meals in both cities, expedited passport fees, and cancelled reservation fees in Europe. Not to mention the original cost of tickets for a trip that was nearly ruined.

So when the US Airways customer service employee told me they reviewed my case and had decided to award compensation, I waited anxiously to hear the final verdict. ‘Mr. Dichter we’ve decided to award you a $200 voucher for the inconvenience.’ I laughed and said, ‘$200?! That is nothing more than a slap in the face. Our trip was nearly ruined, our tickets originally cost thousands, I spent $2500 to get a new passport, and you admitted that you made a mistake. I fly for business 8 times per year and I’m sure my girlfriend and I will travel numerous times for the rest of lives and I guarantee you that we will never fly US Airways again if you can’t take care of a customer you admittedly wronged’ ‘$200 is all we can do and you can’t take your case any further.’

A business mentor told me that a company can create a customer for life in the way they handle an upset client; an author I follow often says that customers vote with their dollars. Needless to say US Airways lost a lifetime customer forever who will take his dollars and vote elsewhere (I’ve flown four times just in the three months since the event and avoided supporting the company).

Even in pleading for some type of reasonable compensation I did my best to explain my life time value to US Airways – the fact I fly at least every 6 weeks, I’m part of an Inc 500 company that books hundreds of tickets per year and the fact my girlfriend and I will travel for the rest of our lives. Surely an admitted mistake to salvage a client is worth more than $200. Perhaps I’m not good at math, or don’t understand airline customer service or maybe I’m not worth much in my lifetime to US Airways.

 

 

Thoughts? Have you had an airline or other company make up for admitted mistakes and win you over as a customer for life? What is the lifetime value of an ideal client in your business? Tune in next week when I discuss the Big Move.