The Most Important Indicator on Why a Company Succeeds

 

 

I’ve been spending a lot of time as of late trying to determine patterns within successful products that I’ve seen, and I think I’ve finally found one that summarizes each of them pretty well. It’s quite simple, but I think there’s a lot of nuance to be developed here that would set this up to be a sophisticated theory. In this blog post, I want to lay down the fundamentals on how each new successful product brings the world towards convenience.

The baseline thesis for this is actually quite an obvious statement: every successful product/invention made the world just a little bit easier. No one should make products to enforce the status quo — and especially not to make things worse — and yet, there is a difference between having things be somewhat better versus fully better. In order to truly be successful, products must develop ease of access on all fronts, i.e. they must be convenient for the users, and the producers, and anyone who would be interacting with it on a daily occasion. For example, Uber has two main consumers: the actual users/riders, and the producers/drivers. In order for Uber to have been a successful product, it had to improve convenience for the user by making the ride ordering process easy, as well as improve it for the producer by making the ability to connect to new riders easily. If you only get one part of this equation right, then there’s going to be problems later down the line; especially if someone else ends up perfecting the equation before you.

So, in order to get the tech right and nail down the convenience factor, optimally two things need to happen: the tech needs to be mature, and it needs to be handled by people inside and out. Optimally, you would want a good team to come in just right before the tech is mature enough to get the largest amount of market share, but timing this can be quite difficult. “Maturity” is also a pretty esoteric concept that would have different definitions for each type of tech, though I believe it could be simply summarized as the point where the positives deeply outweight the negatives. For example, I would say VR tech hasn’t reached the point of maturity; there’s still a lot of problems with price point, mobility, and long-term use that need to be solved in order for it to start breaking through to a larger market. Smartphones, however, would be considered a mature technology, since it has gotten to the point where you can easily say that smartphones are on almost all fronts more convenient than the flip phones and landlines of yore. This follows as to why the team behind the product is so important; they were the early adopters and would know exactly what the tech needs in order for it to be successfully maturized. Tech can only be convenient when it is mature.

I also think that developing additions to already mature tech is silly. A new camera on a phone isn’t going to get me enough of a convenience factor to justify buying it over the phone I’m already using. In order to make big leaps in profit, you have to make big leaps in innovation (and hence, big leaps in convenience), otherwise you’re essentially fighting over the scraps.

I also don’t think the profit model has to necessarily be connected to the tech. Google is a great example of this; their convenience factor is obviously Search, allowing the access to the internet to be more convenient by making its pages easy to access. But Google doesn’t make money on Search; they make money on Search Ads, which really isn’t that much bigger of a leap. Same thing can be said with Facebook; selling data doesn’t provide an insane convenience factor, but allowing for an easier way for people across the world to communicate and share with each other is.

Speaking of selling data, there’s also a lot of problems that come alongside developing towards convenience, things such as privacy and socialization. I believe that these problems will likely be solved by convenience tech down the line (for example, a maturized blockchain could be an answer to the data problem) but I also think we need to be careful not to step back and lose convenience by trying to solve these problems; the only way to get people to pay attention is by moving forward, not moving back.

 

Examples

Since I personally believe a lot of what I’m saying is pretty esoteric without concrete examples, I wanted to add an appendix to this post that goes over some of the biggest companies in the world as of now and why they would suit this hypothesis.

  • Apple: Building maturity on products to increase convenience factor is pretty much in Apple’s DNA, whether it be from PARC -> Apple II or early models of smart phones -> iPhone.
  • Soylent: Making meals more convenient. I would say Soylent is not mature yet, simply because the shakes themselves are lacking in a key concept: flavor. If I want to fully switch over to liquid meals, those liquid meals better taste good.
  • Tesla: Making electric cars more convenient than gas cars. There’s still a couple of problems I have with this however; I don’t think the team is right, and I also don’t think that the jump from gas -> electric is a major innovation in terms of cars (a major innovation in convenience would probably be closer to self-driving, which to be fair Tesla is also working on). Electric charger stations are also going to be a maturity issue.
  • Ebay: Making the C2C marketplace more convenient.
  • Amazon: Making the B2C marketplace more convenient. You could also give Amazon Marketplace credit for C2C, but I don’t think this counts; one of the major reasons AM is so big is probably more due to the size of Amazon itself.
  • Netflix: Making TV more convenient.
  • Spotify: Making music more convenient. Good to note that Apple was the previous company to make music more convenient with the invention of iTunes, but Spotify’s streaming capabilities was great enough to innovate the tech to the next level of convenience.
  • Nike: I think Nike is a bit more of a targeted case for convenience; it didn’t make everyone’s life more convenient, just that of the runner. From there, others followed. Proves that it’s still worth it to have a niche!
  • Walmart: Making grab-n-go shopping more convenient by having everything you’d want at the lowest possible price.
  • Coca-Cola: This one was a hard one for me to figure out, primarily because Coca-Cola was invented to long ago that it’s harder to tell how things were before it. However, I think Coke’s main strength was that it made beverages more convenient by adding multiple different features of beverages (caffeinated, carbonated, refreshing, tastes good) into one single product. I’m not sure if I’m entirely satisfied with that answer, however. It could’ve also simply been the carbonation factor, which would have pulled it ahead of something like tea (which has all of the other 3 traits).
  • McDonalds: Making food more convenient. Does this mean that McDonalds is in direct competition with Soylent? 🤔

 

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Creatives vs. Technicals: Which Should You Focus On?

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One of life’s greatest conflicts is between the arts and the sciences. The right brain and the left brain. The creatives and the technicals.

In reality, no one thinks that one of these groups is inherently useless. But what’s the right mix? Honestly, it changes depending on what sort of project you’re looking at. A SaaS company would need a larger proportion of technicals rather than creatives, where something like a film project might require more creatives than technicals, and a video game might be split roughly 50/50. I also believe that the greatest competitive advantage here are the people who are focused on training both sides of this dichotomy. If you’re well trained as both a creative and a technical, you can do wide swaths of the work yourself; this not only helps with expenses on projects but can also help in terms of career options.

Everyone is naturally aligned with one of these two. I found from a young age that the creative element aligned with me greatly, but that I had trouble fulling realizing projects due to that missing half. Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried honing my technical side by focusing more on programming and engineering projects, in hopes of equalizing both these sides. I’ve found that doing this has helped me greatly, and I’d recommend it to most other people. There’s certainly more technical guides and tutorials out there on the internet – probably because technical knowledge is less ethereal than creative knowledge – but there are still resources out there for things like art, writing, and design.

Overall, the question should not be about being a creative or a technical, but rather a creative and a technical. Some might argue that more focus is better; I’m not saying that you can’t be more focused in one area than another, but I do believe that having at least basic knowledge contained in both fields will do wonders for you long-term.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.

5 Ways to Use Automation to Vastly Increase Your Efficiency

 

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

With the ongoing growth in automation and machine learning software on the market, I feel it’s important for one to take this technology to its full potential; as others begin to incorporate these automation strategies into their workload, they will begin to outperform you in a variety of ways. Here are five examples of how you can use automation to increase your own performance.

  1. Schedule Emails using Templates

This is one of my personal favorite uses of automation, since I find that I send out a lot of emails. Often I’ll schedule about 100 emails to contacts in my data base with Hubspot using a predefined template to send out evenly across the week; this power send usually only takes about 30 minutes. I usually just set up my templates in Word and copy and paste them into Gmail; however, I do know that Hubspot has its own templates system, but I haven’t really inspected it too much. I recommend the Hubspot chrome extension, which you can get here.

  1. Automate content marketing

Most content distribution systems – Youtube, Medium, WordPress – allow you to automatically share your content to social media when it is sent. However, you can additionally set up automation paths using multiple different systems or a service such as IFTTT. For example, for the podcast, I have it shared to WordPress; this then activates WordPress’ sharing, which then sends it to Twitter. When it sends to Twitter, my IFTTT applet gets the tweet automatically retweeted by some of my other Twitter accounts. You can do a lot of different combos like this, and all of them can be very helpful. As I mentioned, I would recommend something like IFTTT for this.

  1. Schedule auto-replies

In addition to scheduling beginning emails, you can set up follow-up emails as well. These systems usually cost money, however, Gmail has added an update that — although doesn’t send follow-ups — does tell you appropriate times to follow-up yourself. If you do want an automatic scheduler, you can use Rebump.

  1. Create a sales pipeline

Getting into more complicated systems, you can combo steps 1 and 3 to create a full on sales pipeline. There are quite a few pieces of software that do both of these things, but most of these cost quite a pretty penny. Rather, I would use the software I mentioned in these two steps, along with (some) manual replying, to create an automated pipeline for dealing with large amounts of contacts.

  1. Automate months worth of content

One of my favorite pieces of automation software is Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to schedule content for your social media, allowing you to no longer worry about being consistent in optimizing your marketing; free users can schedule 30 posts at a time, so this can really help ease your workload.

 

These aren’t the only things you can do with automation, and I recommend that you go out and experiment for the many APIs and software that are out there. Things like this can highly increase the efficiency of you and your business, and give you a bleeding edge over the competition.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff going on. You can subscribe to it here.

The Rise of the Personal Brand

 

 

 

The internet revolution has caused a wide range of massive changes throughout the different industries of the world. From music and movie streaming to e-commerce and grocery delivery, the world is vastly different than it was even a few years before. For this post, I’m primarily interested in one specific section of the industries the internet has changed; the job industry.

People used to work at one company, get promoted a few times, and then retire. Switching companies mid-career, especially to different industries, usually spelled certain doom; provided you could even get the job, you were working at a much lower position for much lower pay. However, things nowadays aren’t quite as simple.

Sure, lateral career switching still is a tricky balancing act. But in a world where companies are focusing more on raw skills than experience, things are a bit different. Numerous success stories have come out of people pulling from a job, learning an entirely new skill set, and getting another high paying job in a separate industry in less than a year or two. Much of this, internet-wise, can be attributed to the rise of educational resource access and easier access to job postings. However, I think that there’s something much bigger at work here too. I think this is a sign of the rise of the personal brand.

One of the biggest advancements have been with social media; I’m not just talking Facebook and Twitter here, I’m talking Youtube, Linkedin, and Medium as well. These last three specifically allow you to post expert-level content about the fields your interested in and share it with a wider world. This, in turn, gives you the ability to have a following; people who are interested specifically in the same sort of topics you post about. Now, call me crazy, but I believe in the future that this following is going to be vital; I believe that those who have the highest quality content with the highest amount of followers will begin to become the most attractive potential recruits to companies.

Let me unpack this a bit. I’ll start off by saying that it’s very likely that the people who are at the absolute top will find some way to become self-employed and not need to take on a job at a company; fair enough. But if I have around ten thousand subscribers on my channel where I make various coding projects and tutorials, I’m going to look better as a software engineer candidate. Why is this? Well, for starters, the way I work and the skill I have is already right there in front of you; there’s no need to go through the work of a formal interview because you can just see the quality of my code in the videos I produce. Secondly, my amount of subscribers – though it may seem modest – shows two things; not only do I have enough of a unique slant for ten thousand people to be interested in following me, but it also shows that I grinded hard enough to get to ten thousand people in the first place. This shows dedication and determination as well; skills that are essential in any career.

In fact, let’s go down a partial list of the most sought out job skills and see what form of media they would coincide to. Written communication? Blog posts. Verbal communication? Youtube videos. Organization? All of the above. Teamwork skills? Podcasts and collaborations. Punctuality? Livestreams. Creativity? All of the above. Emotional Intelligence? Q and A sessions.

Before the internet, all I had was a piece of paper and a thirty-minute conversation to determine whether I was going to hire you. Now, I have a whole wealth of content that you’ve made that can work for (or, to be fair, against) you. And, if you have no content, it makes things a lot harder on me, and so I might not look into your direction as much. So, what are you waiting for?

 

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Analysis of “Hustler Culture”

 

 

It’s true; the key to success is, for the most part, hard work. But there’s a difference between working hard and doing hard work. Just because you devote a lot of time to something doesn’t inherently mean that you’re going to perform well in that category. And yet, it seems that a lot of what the modern “hustle culture” values are long hours and back-breaking work above all.

If you’ve followed any startup community for long enough you’ve definitely come across the hustlers; individuals who are convinced that caffeinated 100-hour work weeks, constant social media blitzes, and product rushing are the keys to success in the modern business world. And while I can see that their heart comes from the right place and that this somewhat holds to be true, what we end up getting is a bunch of people walking around who are much more obnoxious than they are motivational. This is primarily because many of these so-called hustlers go around spewing the virtues of hustling while not really understanding anything that they’re saying.

This, I believe, comes from the commodification of “the hustle” based on individuals such as Gary Vaynerchuk and company. Now, I don’t actually have anything against GaryVee, and I do understand the motivational importance of his videos, but when describing the same five “hustling principles” over and over again without elaborating too much, I believe it can easily confuse people who only take those principles at their surface level without actually looking at all into “Hey, do I really need to spend 100 hours a week working on this project?” or “Hey, is answering five Quora posts a day really helping my business?”.

The problem with this I believe comes from a more intrinsic issue with people themselves. It is easier for people to just have an answer given to them rather than for them to have to say “Well, it’s more complicated than that”. People thrive on simplicity, and so if you tell them “just work a really long and stressful amount of time and you’ll reach your goals”, they’ll believe it regardless of how dumb it sounds. Now, is this innately the “hustler”’s fault? I don’t think so. But something all founders should keep in mind is that there’s no shortcut to success.