The Entrepreneur Life

Category: LifeHack (Page 1 of 4)

3 Tips to Handling the Job Offer Call Well

photo: Monstera via Pexels

Companies are beginning to hire interview folks at rates approaching pre-pandemic levels. So I have ever more young people reaching out to me for advice. They are coping with a range of emotions—adrenalin from upcoming or just completed interviews, fatigue from too many interviews, depression that they may never land a job and anticipation and fear as they await a response.

Even as I learn to be a better listener, the caller usually expects me to provide them with some pointers or tips. These tips obviously vary with the individual, where they are in their I-need-a-job journey. In this post I’ll focus on a situation that I seem to encounter with greater frequency as spring approaches—that of a recruiter or hiring manager calling about their decision.

Here are three tips (and a bonus) to handling this call or meeting in a manner that at best makes you feel good or at worst avoids regret & recrimination.

#1 Be clear What is it you want—not just in terms of salary, job role/title, benefits/perks but culture, location, timings etc. Which of these are non-negotiable and when would you decline, negotiate for better or accept the offer?

#2 Be realistic The call may not be a job offer, but a request for further information or meeting. It may even be a polite decline. Even when it is an offer, it may be one of three possibilities

  • A disappointing offer in terms of the salary, job title, benefits or others terms
  • A good offer as in it meets your expectations, one that you’d say yes to
  • A great offer – it exceeds your expectations in one or more dimensions. Heck ya!

#3 Be prepared Plan for what your response would be to each of the above scenarios. Prepare a short scripts for each scenario. The intent of the scripts is NOT respond unthinkingly, but to avoid reacting by letting your emotions do the talking. Scripts could be as simple as:

[for a decline] “I’m sorry to hear that, appreciate your letting me know. “I’ve enjoyed interviewing with you and hope to stay in touch.” “Can you help me understand the rationale for your decision?” (in case they didn’t give you one) and “Do you have any feedback for what I could have done better or differently.”

[for an offer that falls short] “Thank you. I truly appreciate the offer and must be honest that I’m disappointed with the number (or terms). Can you help me understand your rationale for the money (or terms). I need to really think about it. Can I get back to you by [day]?” (usually a day or three)? [add.] Meanwhile here are some clarifying questions I have [terms & conditions, expenses, raises, travel etc.]

Even the best job offer is not a marriage proposal. Much as you want to scream Yes! on the phone, you’ll be happier if you take an hour or a day so that you don’t second guess yourself!

[for a good or even great offer] “Thank you – I’m so excited about this opportunity and appreciate your offer. Just to make sure I heard you right, here’s what I understand your offer is – [restate]; Here are some questions: When do you need an answer from me? Excited as I’m about this, I need to a day or two to: [pick 1]
• discuss this with my spouse/dad/family once I get this in writing
• sleep on it and I’m sure soon as we hang up I’ll have questions

Write back After you hang up the phone, or read their emailed offer, drop them a note, acknowledging the call or email, thanking them and re-stating whichever script you verbally delivered. This is not only good manners, but a great way to both express your interest and minimize any misunderstandings. Set expectations and always be polite. Don’t ghost them!

Happy hunting!

Co-founders: Overcoming our biases

Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

Two weeks ago, my class and I embarked on a discussion around co-founders. Do we need co-founders? If so how many? What should we look for in them? Where do we find them? Each of these can be entire blog posts. To me one of the interesting questions that came up was “How do we overcome our own biases when selecting a co-founder?” Students in two different classes posed a version of this question.

Reflecting upon the mistakes I’ve made and the ones I’ve avoided or overcome I see three key steps to minimizing biases whether in finding co-founders or other decisions we make.

  • self awareness Become and stay aware of the types of biases you are prone to, so you can recognize them and account for them even if you don’t overcome them. Here’s a useful summary of 20 common cognitive biases we encounter, based on a that BusinessInsider infographic [paywall].
  • accountability partners Ensure you have good people around—coaches, mentors, team mates or partners. They can question or challenge you and point out issues – be they assumptions, biases or other gaps in your thinking. This has been the biggest help to me (thanks Bikash & Rajagopal!)
  • test & validate Despite #1 and #2, you will still make errors or have issues. These are best dealt with by explicit communication. Articulate your assumptions, and ask questions of prospective partners and yourself. Treat this as you’d any experiment—build hypothesis, test and validate.

It is best to work on self awareness and accountability partners first, so that you don’t want to waste your time or the others and needlessly burn bridges.

3 Tips That Can Make You Accomplish A Great Deal More

The family and I had to make an unplanned trip overseas due to a parent’s minor medical emergency. Shutting down our house, packing for travel and all the other many minutiae of last minute travel was stressful. So to keep our sanity, the wife and I made list of the top 1, 2 and 3 things we’d like to have accomplished during the trip. This is an exercise we’ve found helps us both stay focused and reduce the stress of dealing with change that’s inevitable from having aging parents and young adults.

Many unexpected and not-always-pleasant things happened during our trip—from one of our kids getting a nasty strain of flu to home aides quitting making parental post-operative care difficult. So our way back to the airport, as we listed all that we got accomplished and were surprised at all that we’d been able to accomplish, despite the low bar we’d set for ourselves. As we dug deeper, we realized that as always we had much to be grateful for. Some of these lessons are applicable just as much for our businesses as to our daily lives.

TL;DR

  • Goals – have few, finite and clear goals and de-prioritize all else
  • People – put people first and this will always pay off
  • Self-care – take care of yourself; short breaks go a long way

Goal clarity By keeping three things, as the primary outcomes, whenever we encountered a fork (or plain temptation) we were able to pick the right things (or say no) without dithering or guilt (both hard when family’s involved). Surprisingly, this provided us sufficient wiggle room to get other things accomplished (eight at last count on the airplane back).

People focus By keeping people as our primary focus, we not only had fulfilling and meaningful interactions but once again got more accomplished as the people we met with sought, often of their own volition, to get things off of our plate. In a few instances we were able to actively help them, but in most instances, the joy of meeting one another was both fun and de-stressing that our productivity bloomed.

Self-care While visiting India is always enormously enjoyable, between others and one’s own expectations, real-world constraints not limited to traffic, bureaucracy, and inertia can render the simplest thing challenging. And that’s when the family is not involved. So accepting that there are constraints and it is okay to retreat and seek some time for yourself to recharge is not easy. Even the occasional 10-minute power nap or 2-hour curling with your e-reader recharges and lets you come out roaring.

How Do They Do It? Secrets of Great Storytelling

Twenty-five years after publicly announcing it, at a party in Cupertino, I’ve finally begun to work on my first mystery novel. The visit to Hampi, which ironically I did many years after I had visited Pompeii, was the catalyst to set my murder mystery in early 16th century Vijayanagara. If you think making daily sales calls is hard writing every day is harder still. And I’m not even talking about writing well, just putting words on paper.

As entrepreneurs, we have to be storytellers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about making stuff up. Each day, whether we are trying to hire a new person, motivate an employee who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, persuade an investor to make a bridge investment or trying to get a customer to buy or better yet pay us an advance, we are trying to persuade others. Make no mistake, persuasion is selling. In a manner of speaking, we are all sales folks. The sooner we accept it, the sooner we can get better at it.

It’s no accident that the best sales folks are good great storytellers. Here’s the good news, like most things storytelling is a learned skill. With a little attention to how others do it and a good deal of practice, we can all get better at it. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – and there’s no reason you can’t make a resolution or start a new habit on the 1st of November. Make improving your storytelling skills a goal. Notice I say improving, for we are all natural storytellers. Any time you’ve tried to lie to your mom, or a friend or fudged the facts with your spouse (none of which you’ve ever done of course!), you were telling a story—not necessarily well. Let’s get started. One of the simplest and most fun ways to do this is to join a ToastMaster’s club near you. Your storytelling will get better (mine certainly did) but at the very least you’ll make some new friends. It never hurts to have a life (and a few friends) outside of our businesses.

To make things easy for you, I’m sharing one video (below) and one article.- Get rolling.

Storytelling in a corporate setting – 11 examples

 

2 Tools That Will Improve your Effectiveness as a Marketer

Every year I try to learn something new – be it a skill, a tool or just some facts. 2018 has been a time of great learning, thanks to my daughter, I wanted to share two tools that I’ve learned about from her and since put to good use for myself and customers.

  • Canva, as my primary online visual design tool – from making Twitter or web post headers, webinar announcements to trifold brochures and even eBook cover design, this has been an amazing tool where every day I’m discovering more. Here are some examples

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Tableau as my data visualization tool has similarly been a much used for not just number crunching, but being able to create excellent visualizations as well as insights that aren’t always self-evident from staring at the data in Excel.
    Here are two examples

Visualization of Girls Toilets Availability


The kicker is, both of them are available online, easy-to-use and you can get started for free. They also have great online communities that can help you get up the learning curve fast. So give them a spin today and share your own favorite tools in the comments.

Crafting that Compelling Story – A 3-Point Cheat Sheet

Regardless of our job role, one skill every one of us needs is storytelling. The truth is we are all born with it, but let’s just say some of us are a little rougher around the edges. Having spent most of my time around tech folks, I suspect we probably beat this skill out of them which is why so many presentations we sit through or documents we read, make us at the very least drowsy — some even maybe put us in a coma. These same people, when you observe them talking to friends or colleagues can be great raconteurs. Some of this comes from just not having performance anxiety that presentations induce in all of us. So without having a few libations how do we spin a good yarn? And particularly in a business context how do ensure that we’ve provided our listeners or readers something of value – that elusive takeaway?

Here’s what I’ve learned.

A. Begin with the end in mind I’ll use the example of a seminar or webinar that you intend to host. Write down the one takeaway that your listener or audience walks away with – it could range from broad statements or highly specific

  • Entrepreneurship is hard – so you’d better be certain, what it is your passion? And why you are doing this?
  • Good leaders recognize strategy is as much about deciding what NOT to do, as it is about what it is you’ll do
  • Writing 1000 words every day is the key to finishing your book – then all you have to do is edit it
  • Measuring ROI on your GIS project can seem hard but it’s not rocket science – here’s how our customers are doing it

B. Use the power of three  While scientists and psychologists thought that the human brain can hold only 5-7 things at a time, newer research suggests that number might actually be (gasp) 4! So why risk it? I find if you break down things into three chunks, they are a lot easier to hold at least in my easily distracted mind. Now break it down into three chunks. Sticking with the entrepreneurship or leadership theme,

  • Context: Set the stage – often best set as a story – that usually illustrates or reinforces a widely held belief. How Steve Jobs had a mythical touch when building products or how Unilever or P&G were masters of strategy leading to their success; Or why government projects are always a boondoggle, like the Big Dig in Boston
  • Counterpoint – core premise: Is that really the case? Here are eight products that Steve Jobs launched with much fanfare and failed miserably at; here are the huge missteps P&G made and here’s what we’ve learned from NASA’s space mission, which has had minuscule failure rates – so here’s the takeaway – entrepreneurship is hard, there will be naysayers, you’ll fail before you succeed, so you’d better know what your passion is about, if you wanna be able to stick with it
  • Break it down: Offer an actionable set of things that they can do – how can they realize this core premise you’ve made? Maybe it’s a checklist – that helps them understand themselves better? It’s reading of case studies – of how other entrepreneurs succeeded (or better yet failed and recovered), followed by a checklist.

This can work, whether the topic’s losing weight, giving a speech, or how to measure the return-on-investment on a project.

C. Challenge your audience This is what we marketers term the Call to action!  This could be as simple as inviting questions that allows them to challenge your assertions or having them take the first step (“What will you do differently tomorrow morning, because of what you learned here”) The key here is that this doesn’t remain your story but one that compels them to action – ideally an action that benefits them. Of course, if it benefits you whether purely psychically (I did some good!) or professionally (lands you a consulting gig or job) that’s icing on the cake. As my father tried to teach me, “Give first before you ask.”

Here’s a great presentation on how one technical guy (Claudio Perrone aka AgileSensei) went from being just a dude to a compelling storyteller to even cynical technical folks).

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Yet Another Tip To Make Decisions Faster

In an earlier post, I’d shared the insight that separating WHAT it is you want to do (your decision) from WHEN you’d implement it can make the entire decision-making process easier. The human mind, certainly mine, fickle as it is, finds numerous ways to avoid making decisions. Take the case of wanting to quit your job, which seems a perennial favorite with young aspiring entrepreneurs.

WHAT: I’d like to quit my job – I’m sick and tired of it and want to do a startup.

BUT, how will I let my family/wife/significant other, know? The thought of having to convince stakeholders, especially if they are family – who we fear will not be receptive or supportive – puts the kibosh on even making the decision.

So step back and recognize the WHAT of a decision is the most important – and neither the WHEN will I implement the decision nor HOW will I implement the decision should come into play, while trying to make a decision. Of course, they are relevant such as

WHAT: I want to fire that guy who’s being a jerk to everyone else

HOW: Talk to him, if necessary with HR present. Ask him questions on how he perceives his own behavior. Provide him feedback on what you’ve observed. Put him on a 90-day improvement plan.

WHEN: By June 30th of this year

As you can see the HOW may require a fair amount of work – may involve others and will definitely influence the WHEN. None of this should put off making your decision – WHAT it is you want to do.

 

Decisions – A Secret to Make Them Easier

“Do you think I should just quit?”

This is a question that comes up with surprising frequency. It’s not just prospective entrepreneurs who ask such questions.

“Should I fire him?” is another one I get asked frequently. This is often with a high-performing but a hard-to-get-along employee.

As leaders, managers, and individuals we are constantly having to make decisions. Decisions, that all too often don’t seem easy to make. They may have too high a cost – one that makes it daunting, even if it’s a simple Yes or No decision. Some would argue there are no simple decisions, especially when it comes to matters of people or organizations. And when a decision is hard to make, we invariably postpone it.

Rarely does such procrastination make things easier.

One simple secret to make such decision-making easier, is to separate the what from the when.

Most people, conflate what they intend to do (“the decision”) with when they will implement the decision.   In other words, if you decide to quit your job, when do you have to give notice? The thought of giving notice, is itself daunting and keeps you from making a decision about your job. The moment you recognize that these are two distinct things – “Should you quit?” and “When should you quit?” – you will find it easier to make the decision about your job.  This works from the simplest “Do we go on a vacation?” to “Do we fire this customer.”

Try it today and let me know how it works for you.

4 Steps to Better Care of Your Entrepreneurial Heart

Heart

Photo frankvanroon

The Ohio State University sends out a daily news update to its students and faculty. For Valentine’s day, one of the articles they shared in the daily mail was on how to take better care of your heart – or as they put it “4 simple steps to a healthy heart

 It struck me how appropriate this advice – useful for any person, is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs – who all too often – skip meals, and even if they don’t skip meals end up snacking unhealthily, run around in a high state of stress and all too often are desk-bound and sedentary. If that’s you (it certainly was me), that’s not a really good way to take care of your heart and health.
The four simple ways to take better care of your heart they recommend are:

eating healthy in my case this began by becoming conscious of what it is I put in my mouth – my meetings seemed to be accompanied with drinking endless cups of tea or coffee (with large doses of sugar in them) and snacking on cookies (or biscuits). Simply replacing such snacking with a water or green tea made a huge difference. I’ve written elsewhere how eating healthy also helped me drop 15 kgs (33 lbs) elsewhere.

being active I’ve begun using a simple 15-45 minute (Pomodoro) timer on my laptop and mobile phone so that I don’t spend 3 or 4 hours sitting on a chair. Additionally, I try to put in between 2-4 miles of walking a day – usually sneaking away at lunch time. Try holding at least some of your 2-person meetings as a walking meeting, in a nearby park – you get some exercise and mind find your meetings go way better.

managing stress many of us when younger were like “What me stress?”  But whether we feel stressed or not, the every day pulls and pressures of our jobs and lives do cause us stress. Conscious deep breathing, when you take that 5-minute break, walking around, mindfulness exercises or good old exercise are all good ways to manage stress. Of course, one key indicator for me personally is when my snacking desire increases, it’s usually a good indicator of being stressed.

avoiding tobacco here’s the good news – eating well, exercising and managing stress are all good ways to overcome habits, that you’d like to lose. Not having been a smoker, I’m hardly an expert in this area. But do what you can to avoid tobacco or seek help to quit smoking.

You can read the original article here.

3 Reasons Why Rejection Can Be Good For You

In 1988 just as I was about to finish up my Ph.D. and finally graduate, a good friend Murali arranged for me to interview with his group at Intel. My father, who was visiting, insisted on driving down with me to Santa Clara, as he was bored out of his mind hanging around my apartment. I dropped my dad at the Marriott, I think, around the corner and went on to my interview with Intel.

It did not go well.

I recall Murali’s boss asking me about how a PN junction works and being greatly offended mostly because I flubbed the answer. I don’t recall how the rest of the meeting went, safe to say not too well. In an ego-protecting move, my brain seems to have blanked it out completely. Needless to say, I never heard back from them.

It stops you from being complacent I realized that I’d just not prepared for my interview. I’m not sure what I’d thought – that I was a Berkeley grad or that I could answer anything on the fly. The interview that day made me face, how clueless and complacent I was.

It makes you better prepared It was not easy to admit to myself, the assumptions I’d made had made me complacent in the first place. Challenging the assumptions was a start but not sufficient. I realized being better prepared was the answer. Of course it took me more than one screw up, to learn this lesson and even today I find I could always be better prepared.

It leaves you open for better opportunities Little did I realize that flubbing the Intel interview was not a bad thing, for that’s how I ended up at National Semiconductor. Intel’s enormous success stemmed from their relentless and singular focus on what needed to be accomplished – this translated to new graduates often having to work on a reasonably narrow scope of things, for a good deal of time. That is not a bad thing! In fact, it’s a good thing to focus and go deep but just wasn’t my thing. Guess my inability to do one thing at a time is not a recent phenomenon.

At National, they just threw you at a problem, often a big one, and let you go at it – not pretty or efficient, but enormously educational. And if you were interested in something and prepared to put in the hours they were happy to hand it to you. Of course, this may explain their meanderings and lack of profitability the first five years I was there, but talk about learning on the job. Over the last 20 years, many of my successes and particularly my problem-solving expertise was built in those early years at National. They also spent a great deal on educating me on things that I felt then, as unrelated to my job role. This is something that I’m immensely grateful for, particularly to my managers and colleagues who guided me with great patience and fortitude.

Of course, if I’d paid attention in school and actually learned how a darn P-N junction worked, I might have learned just as much or even more at Intel, but I suspect given my own personality I wouldn’t have. So despite the disappointment, I felt that day driving back – with my father trying to assure me that he was sure I’d done well in the interview – it all turned out well.

And I’ve learned since then rejection need not be bad always.

As I’ve heard my wife say often to our daughters, when one door closes, God opens another. This has been my experience and I’m grateful for it.

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