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Tech startup life: team challenges, new responsibilities

Being an entrepreneur is both rewarding and difficult, with one of the primary challenges being that no one will ever have the same drive and passion for your vision as you do, with the next challenge being financing to get any startup off of the ground.



Top tribulation: commitment levels

The intention of my column is to share the inner workings of start-up life for me and my company, as well as, to share the personal trials and tribulations that come along with it. As with all things, there is success and there is failure. For me, success can create a sense of accomplishment and failure is a character builder. As we have all heard, it’s what you do with failure that can define who you are. Lets hope I dont need to build any more character.

Things have been challenging lately. This doesn’t mean bad, just challenging. One of the things that has been creating a challenge has been dealing with the issue of those who over promise and under deliver. I find this one of the most difficult things to deal with as a startup. You set expectations and when they are not met, it creates a certain level of frustration. Perhaps it’s just me and maybe my expectations are to high but they are set by what others represent in their ability to deliver. When this doesn’t happen, it can have a trickle down effect that can be very meaningful as a startup.

I mentioned in my last post the challenge of no one having quite the commitment towards your startup as you do. No one wants to work as hard as you do and frankly, outside of those who are on your team (if you have one), most people just don’t get or appreciate the focused approach and sense of dedication it takes to launch a startup company and make it successful.

Setting frustration aside, it’s getting exciting

That being said, and setting those frustrations aside, I am at the stage where things become very exciting. I am funded by a few friends and my own bank account. I am very pleased with how far we have come with our limited resources. I have managed to launch a successful beta web app and have received good feedback. We continue to develop, debug and improve on our efforts. It’s very difficult to bring out a beta app because you never feel like it’s ready. I have a new appreciation for those that have launched an application. In my case, I am the only one who is responsible for the ultimate design and functionality. All QA falls on my shoulders which makes finding unknown issues a challenge. We went live with a few bugs but there was a great sense of accomplishment when we finally got to that point.

Now, on to the next milestone. As you might expect, we need more money. This comes as no surprise as raising capital is an integral part of the process to grow a company, however, this can be another source of anxiety. I believe that I am creating a product that the market needs and wants. There are one or two other companies that are going down a similar path as mine. They have received good recognition lately, but in no way does this guarantee success for all.

When raising money there are many questions. Should I continue to bootstrap until we have revenue? Should I sell equity? Should I consider a Convertible Debt Offering? How much money will I need? How long will that last?

Adding on new responsibilities

A new level of responsibility comes with  having investors. At this stage in a startup, it is frequently said that investors may like the idea but they are really investing in you. When said like that, it adds even more pressure to deliver success. For those of you following along, I have elected a $700,000 Convertible Debt Offering as opposed to selling equity as a Series Seed round. Our memorandum has just gone out and I am on the road. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Amidst the challenges of a startup, there also comes a time when things can just fall into place. For the last year, I have been building a company and an application on the idea that I want to be a brokerage and offer agents, clients and consumers a more transparent user experience. This is very possible given the rules and regulations of the local MLSs and the NAR, but it’s a challenge to scale. Going market by market, Redfin, Sawbuck, Zip and others have demonstrated this can be done.

Enter the Spark Platform announced by FBS. It could be a game changer. This is an API solution aggregating the data and licensing of participating MLSs and is exactly what we have been architecting our brokerage solution to work with for the last year. The real estate industry has a lot of old software out there. A lot of brokerages have issues with their legacy systems that are not designed to work with modern day APIs. They may not be able to leverage the Spark Platform. On the other hand, this is exactly what I was anticipating and solves the issue of scalability for my company.

Having a startup is a challenge in just about every way you can imagine. Perhaps the most important element is the ability to manage your personal life as well. I have a wife and a daughter that mean the world to me. I suppose in a way, we have all made a commitment to my startup. It is very difficult at times when you start wondering if what you are doing is the right thing. The emotional aspect is a roller coaster ride not for the faint of heart. My family probably gets the short end of the stick at times, but they support me when I need it. What keeps me going is when I wake up, read a great blog post by an industry leading consulting firm about how a new group of applications is redefining the way agents work with their clients, know that I fit right in that space, and can’t wait to get to the office to get to work… and I love it!

As the leader of NuHabitat LLC, Jeff brings a unique qualification to the table with 10 years experience of buying and selling homes as a high-end luxury homebuilder while working with clients, agents and brokerages. Motivated by a unique set of circumstances, his goal is to provide a more efficient and economical approach to prospective home buyers and sellers in the modern day world of residential real estate.

Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.



startup optimize to key metric

In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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Business Entrepreneur

Startups love pondering inclusion, yet half have no women in leadership

(STARTUPS) Tech startups are a huge part of discussing diversity and inclusion, but something as simple as hiring women in management somehow remains elusive.



women in leadership lean out

According to the Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report, over half of startups have no women on their leadership team. None.

As hard as this fact is to believe, it is also hardly breaking news. Organizations who have surveyed startups and technology companies for the past several years have seen that long-standing trends that disadvantage women and other genders in the tech space are still at play.

Like many other gendered debates about the treatment of women and other minority workers, this problem is seemingly a Catch 22 or a chicken and egg situation. Critics will continue to argue that the reason ladies aren’t in leadership roles is because they don’t have innate leadership qualities or that once their non-male employees have proven themselves, then they will start getting the resources and promotions that they say that they desire.

Like many other myths about women in the workforce, these beliefs only serve to reinforce the status quo by transferring the responsibility for these frustrating conditions onto the marginalized party.

These beliefs are busted not only because they’re tired gender clichés, but because we have hard data that proves the financial and cultural benefit in long-term effects of women leadership in tech.

However, for all the discussion of diversity initiatives, the likelihood of traditional funding going to women-led startups is still small.

For now, startups with women in leadership roles were more likely to get their funding from investing teams that were also led by females. Wouldn’t it be great if other investors began to not only understand that in 2019 it’s imperative that a company’s leadership reflect the diversity of the employees that comprise it? That workers will be more motivated, feel more understood, and have greater buy-in when they identify with their management?

Empowering women is how more get involved in tech. Diversity of leadership helps organizations thrive. And if something as simple as binary gender diversity is such a tremendous challenge, all other diversity issues are still (unfortunately) a large mountain to climb.

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Business Entrepreneur

C. J. Walker: America’s first self-made millionaire was a black orphan

(ENTREPRENEUR) When you think of our nation’s first self-made millionaire, C. J. Walker is probably not the picture that may come to mind, but this generous genius made it to the top, breaking every glass ceiling possible.



These days, it seems like Oprah gets all the bragging rights. I don’t think it’s quite fair that some car-gifting mogul gets to bask in the glory of a path that was paved a century ago. **No offense, O Great Winfrey. You’re cool, too. Please don’t take my Altima back.**

It’s time to pay our respects to the first female self-made millionaire in America. My friends, I’d like to introduce you to your new idol, Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C. J. Walker.

This gal had just about every card in the deck working against her. Both of her parents and all of her siblings before her were born into slavery. Her mother died when she was five, and her father passed the following year. Orphaned, she lived with her older sister until she married at age 14.

As if that wasn’t enough, a mere two years after her first child was born, Sarah’s husband died. I mean, she just couldn’t catch a break. Unfortunate event after unfortunate event. She then moved to St. Louis to live with her brothers, working as a washer woman for a mere dollar a day. Classic rags-to-riches stuff.

Her brothers worked at a local barber shop, and she wound up learning a thing or two about hair care while sharing a home with them. This planted the seed that would lead to her working with Annie Turnbo Malone, selling African American hair care products. As she learned more about hair, she must have realized she had a knack for it, because she decided to roll up her sleeves and put some indie elbow grease in.

After moving to Denver to work on her own products, she married Charles Walker, who provided the advertising know-how that would help her venture succeed. She adopted the name C. J. Walker and began traveling and training women in the fields of beauty and sales.

Eleven years later, in 1917, she called her first convention of so-called “beauty culturists” in Philadelphia. Here, she rewarded her top agents as well as those who were the most philanthropic towards local charities.

What I love about C. J. is that as her business grew, so did her awareness of the social climate around her. She never forgot where she came from, never hesitated to give back, and never gave up. She lectured on topics such as women’s independence, helping educate other black women in the ways of business.

Upon her death, it was determined that she was the wealthiest African-American woman in the country. In true C. J. style, she left two-thirds of her future profits to charity.

If I ever get mega-famous, I’m doing it the C. J. Walker way: Keep a level head, educate and help others, and put your community first.

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