KEEPING IT REAL with our Summer Interns at #tech2000 and #appnetic

T2KInterns2015

I had the privilege of having lunch with our Tech 2000 and appnetic summer interns yesterday. I’m pictured above with them and one of my Partners, George Churchwell, Co-Founder and President of Tech 2000.  This crop of 7 of the best and brightest students from MIT, Georgetown, Emory, UVA, UNC, and Virginia Tech give me a high degree of confidence in the future leaders and entrepreneurs of America! They are smart, confident, talented, ambitious, and want to make an impact in the world.

We had a terrific discussion about entrepreneurship, innovation, startups, business, and management.  They are each excited about learning new skills and garnering some good business experience.  They came to the right place and we are very grateful to have them this summer (We selected these 7 out of over 150 applications; special thanks to our awesome Head of Talent, Jackie Churchwell!).

Inevitably the conversation turned to advice, on both business and life. So I divided my thoughts into 2 lists: “Winning Advice” and “What I Wish I Knew at Your Age,” the latter of which is one of my favorite slides when I speak to students at some of our local business schools.

WINNING ADVICE FOR OUR INTERNS

Integrity is #1 – this is about you and your reputation. Do the right thing and keep your promises, be honest and transparent.

Find your Passion – it’s ok if you don’t know it yet. I know 50-year olds who haven’t yet found theirs. Experiment, try new things. You will find your passion or it will come to you.

Always give 100% – work hard, be proactive, bring your “A” game, and be prepared

Learn how to sell – the most underrated yet important skill you will ever have is knowing HOW TO SELL. Understanding your customer’s motivations and buying patterns is critical to business and life.  Life is about selling and persuading, and your “customers” include friends, family, bosses, etc.

Have Fun! Life is short. If you’re not having fun, then you’re wasting your time. Move on until you find something you truly enjoy.

“WHAT I WISH I KNEW AT YOUR AGE”

Everything is hard! Everything takes longer and costs more than you expect. If you go into any endeavor knowing this fact, you will have more reasonable expectations and not get so discouraged when you have a few setbacks.

Nothing comes without Hard Work and LUCK – you need Luck, and eventually it will find you. The harder you work, the more prepared you are and the “luckier” you will get.

When building a startup, there’s no such thing as “Work/Life Balance.”  It’s “Work/Work Balance.” Once you find your passion, life and work converge and become one. I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs who have not put in huge hours and sacrifice.

Work with great partners, advisors and people. The key word here is great. Great people can achieve multiples of what mediocre people can do.

Don’t waste your time with liars, posers, and cheats. Eventually, they will bring you down. You will be known and judged by the company you keep.

Trust YOUR gut, it’s usually right. You know more about yourself than you realize.

Money is overrated and Contentment is underrated. Enough said.

Please let me know what YOU would add to these 2 lists.  Thanks for reading and subscribing!

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Magic Johnson – WINNING on the Court and in the Boardroom

Magic Johnson 1

Seeing Magic Johnson speak was one of the highlights of my week in Nashville at the SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit a few weeks ago.

He was funny, engaging, and inspiring, and also had some sound business wisdom for the crowd of 3000 or so sales and marketing executives in attendance. Everyone knows Magic Johnson as one of the all-time NBA greats, but his business resume would seem to qualify him also as one of America’s top entrepreneurs.

He’s a true Unicorn, a rare individual who has reached the pinnacle in sport as well as in business. He spoke about how he made the transition, and how he started winning in business.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which reportedly has a net worth of $700 million

Part owner of the LA Dodgers, Major League Baseball team

Former minority owner of the LA Lakers, National Basketball Association team

Owner of Magic Theaters

Partner in the $500 million Yucaipa/Magic private equity fund

First franchisee of Starbucks ever, built a chain of 125 stores in urban locations, sold the chain back to Starbucks corporate

Co-owner of the Dayton Dragons (minor league baseball) and the LA Sparks (WNBA)

Founder, Magic Johnson Foundation

MAGIC’S KEYS TO WINNING

  1. Play to win, and work with Winners
  1. Know your customer – an example he cited was his knowledge of the “Urban customer”, and how he replacing scones w sweet potato pie at Starbucks, and adding more flavored drinks to the menu in order to cater to his customers
  1. Over-deliver – “the key to business success and the key to retention”
  1. Work with great partners
  1. Sell at the right time – Johnson sold his stake in Starbucks and the L.A. Lakers NBA team as valuations started to rise.

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS AND THOUGHTS

He does an annual SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of all of his companies AND himself.

Magic’s All Time starting 5 lineup – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan and himself.

His number one, top rival on the court: Larry Bird

Mentors – Magic has a network of 20+ CEOs who mentor him. He built this network after retirement from basketball by obtaining a list of the Lakers’ VIP season ticket holders and cold calling them one by one.

His biggest failure – Magic 32 sporting goods stores, which failed after only one year.

Magic, on the handful of traits which makes him a success in business (he said he brought these skills he learned as an athlete to his business ventures) – desire to WIN, perfectionism, preparation, focus, discipline, professionalism, and his ability to motivate his team and those around him to reach their full potential.

I’ve never met Magic Johnson, nor have I seen him speak at this length, but here are my main impressions of him, garnered from his 50 minute talk:

Burning desire to WIN. He hates to lose – “underperforming is not winning the Championship

Supremely confident – he KNOWS he’s going to win

His “game plan” is simple. He sticks to the basics (customer focus, over-delivering, good teams, good partners, etc.)

Coachable (he spoke extensively about soliciting and absorbing good advice from his network of 20 CEO “coaches”)

Magic Johnson 2

It was quite inspiring and refreshing to hear from an entertaining, motivational speaker who backs up his thoughts with relevant stories and sound business advice. Always a fan of him as a basketball player, I am now a fan of Magic Johnson as an entrepreneur.

“The Power of Entrepreneurship” at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business

One of my greatest sources of joy is being able to get into the classroom and interact with groups of smart, ambitious, idealistic people.  I love the energy, the passion and creativity that awesome academic institutions like Georgetown foster among their students.

I was invited by my good friend, Professor Jeff Reid, head of Georgetown University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative at the McDonough School of Business to speak to his MBA class today about the “Power of Entrepreneurship.”  Jeff is a national leader and pioneer in Entrepreneurship education, having built one of the world’s top entrepreneurship centers at UNC; and now he’s building an amazing entrepreneurship program at Georgetown.

Jeff (@hoyapreneur) tweeted “Identify a real painful problem and solve itpic.twitter.com/W9iUVk8t when I talked about how and why I started Unitel/CyberRep.  (Short version: My co-founders and I worked in sales and we HATED making cold calls.  We figured that if we found making cold calls very PAINFUL, then many others would too, so why not start up a business that specialized in making cold calls? That’s what we did!)

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Georgetown U presentation Sept. 26, 2012
The class consisted of about 40 MBA students, about 2/3 of whom intend to start their own business either now or in the future.  I only got through about 20% of my originally planned remarks because of the questions and great dialog that ensued.  We covered a lot of ground including making a go/no go decision on starting a company, sacrifice and hard work, life balance, challenges of growth, dealing with employees who can’t keep up, getting inspiration to start a business, doing business in Brazil…and China, etc.
I am fortunate to speak at MBA and undergrad classes at Georgetown and Maryland relatively often.  Just last week, I spoke in Professor Will Finnerty’s class on Entrepreneurship, one of the highest rated and highest demand classes at the McDonough School.  Will teaches as much about life as he does about business, with a focus, passion, and attention to detail which I have rarely seen in a classroom.
Always, I end my talks in the classroom with a slide entitled “Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.”  Here are the bullet points:
Integrity
Do it now
Great people
Focus (on your customer)
Be flexible
Build a culture early
Be persistent
Overcapitalize
Have FUN!
More details on these bullet points can be found in two of my prior Blog posts:  Winning Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs Part1 and Part 2.

Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum, March 7, Tysons Corner, VA

LORE SYSTEMS is pleased to host one of the most exciting angel and entrepreneurship networking forums in the DC Region on March 7, 2011 at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner, VA.

Please come out!  Here’s the Eventbrite link:  http://connectpreneur1.eventbrite.com

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum is a 1/2 day “NETWORKING MASHUP” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

Come see what happens when you put a group of “A List” business leaders and entrepreneurs in one room for a few hours!

This UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, due to the high quality of our attendees and participants, as well as our programming and unprecedented networking.

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is an exclusive “mashup” of 170+ of the DC Region’s top entrepreneurs, business leaders, CXOs, angels and VCs.
Most of the attendees are “INVITATION ONLY,” and we are limiting service provider participation in order to maximize the experience for our Attendees and Sponsors.
Program Highlights:
  • “Hypergrowth – Zero to $500 million in 8 years” discussion
  • “Entrepreneurs with a Higher Purpose” panel
  • 8 Emerging companies seeking funding will briefly tell their stories
  • “Disruption, Disintermediation, and Destruction” luncheon discussion
  • Networking sessions before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, Northern Virginia’s premier private business club.  A plated brealkfast and plated lunch are included.
AGENDA7:00–8:00 am – ARRIVAL / BREAKFAST / NETWORKING

8:00 – 8:05 am – WELCOME

8:05 – 8:45 am –  “HYPERGROWTH – ZERO TO $500 MILLION IN 8 YEARS!” – a conversation with Tony Jimenez, Founder and CEO of MicroTech
8:45 – 9:30 am  –  “ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITH A HIGHER PURPOSE”
Jim Cheng, Secretary of Commerce, Commonwealth of VA; Founder and CEO, Computer Hi-Tech Mgt, “Entrepreneur Turned Public Servant”
Dr. John Holaday, CEO, QRx Pharma, an ex-Army officer, Professor, and serial entrepreneur who has founded and taken 3 companies public, “Entrepreneur Seeking a Cure for Cancer”
Seth Goldman, Founder and TeaEO, Honest Tea, beverage industry innovator, “Entrepreneur  leading the Green Movement”
9:30 – 9:45 am – NETWORKING BREAK
9:45 – 11:30 am – COMPANY PRESENTATIONS
Fresh Tax
Pixspan
11:30 – 11:45 am – NETWORKING BREAK
11:45 – 1:15 pm – LUNCHEON DISCUSSION – “DISRUPTION, DISINTERMEDIATION, AND DESTRUCTION”
Duke Chung, Founder of Parature, CRM industry pioneer
Mark Walsh, Founder and CEO, GeniusRocket;  Chairman, DIngman Center for Entrepreneurship;  Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Union College;  Founder and CEO, VerticalNet
John Backus, Managing Partner of New Atlantic Ventures, Founder of Draper Atlantic Venture Fund, former CEO, InteliData
1:15 pm – MORE NETWORKING AND DEALMAKING
CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
Over 110 Entrepreneurs and CXOs, plus another 40+ angels and VCs including Core Capital, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, CIT, Capital Source, NEA, Maryland Venture Fund, MAVA, MTECH Ventures, Maryland DBED, Ruxton Ventures, Opus8, VentureCross Partners, McLean Capital, National Capital, Starise Ventures, Dingman Center Angels, Blu Venture Partners, Blue Heron, Washingon DC Archangels, Fortify.vc, Endeavor DC, Private Capital Network, APPTEL, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, SunWalker Group, Skada Capital, Keiretsu Forum, CADRE.
EVENT SPONSORS:  


Tien Wong’s 2012 Predictions as Published in WashingtonExec

Happy New Year!  I’d like to say a special Thank You to JD Kathuria and my friends at WashingtonExec for publishing my look into the crystal ball for 2012.  Here is the Post:

Tien Wong, Chairman and CEO of Opus8

2012 is here, and with it comes big changes for the Federal IT industry.  WashingtonExec gave local executives the opportunity to share their thoughts on where they see the government contracting industry headed.

Tien Wong, Chairman and CEO of Lore Systems and Opus8, gave WashingtonExec six factors that he believes will affect the 2012 Washington, D.C. entrepreneur and government contracting communities.

1.  IT SPENDING and THE ECONOMY – IT spending will increase both in commercial and government sectors, particularly in infrastructure, cloud, and mobility.  We have seen an uptick in business at Lore in the last quarter particularly from our commercial clients.  In conversations with many clients, I believe that overall confidence in the economy is improving a lot!

2.  PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – Obama will be re-elected.  If the economy is improving, that favors Obama.

3.  STARTUPS – Startups in the DC region will continue to blossom.  The ecosystem is as active and sanguine as it has been in the past 10 years.  You are seeing groups like Startup America, Startup Maryland, Startup VirginiaFounderCorps, and established and new incubators take a keen interest in our region.  Angels are investing, and groups like Virginia’s CIT and Maryland’s DBED will be investing new allocations of seed money.

4.  CLOUD COMPUTING – Cloud adoption in the federal government will accelerate both internally via virtual private clouds, and via commercial providers with new FedRAMP guidelines and the award of commercial Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) contracts (GSA’s IaaS and the Army’s APC2, for example).  The economic and performance benefits are far too great for cloud not to be aggressively adopted well into the future.

5.  DATACENTER CONSOLIDATION – Regarding the federal government’s datacenter consolidation efforts, the government will successfully close many datacenters.  However, I doubt they will hit their goals in 2012  because many individual application owners and datacenter operators are not as cooperative in providing information and complying.  Further, there’s a cost to consolidating and there are limited funds to achieve this, so you’ll likely see a lot of funding come out of O&M budgets.

6.  SMALL BUSINESS – Because of drastically reduced budgets, the government will rely on small business and entrepreneurs for creative ideas to cut costs, drive productivity, and improve performance. The DoD customer has been very open to the commercial best practices Lore is bringing to the table re: datacenter consolidation and application migration.  In addition, small business is more nimble and unencumbered by the fixed costs of the “Bigs,” so we can offer creative pricing structures, and ways for the government to buy from us.  We will see more firm fixed price offers, and shared-risk pricing, which inevitably will save the taxpayers money.

Please let me know what you think about these predictions. Thanks for reading, and please subscribe to my Blog!  All the best for an awesome 2012!

Featured image courtesy of Mike Licht, notionscapital.com, licensed via creative commons.

If You Could Give Your Kids ONLY 3 Pieces of Advice…


IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR KIDS ONLY 3 PIECES OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

This question was posed as an “Icebreaker” to our Forum meeting a few weeks ago.

Think about it.  Of all the DOZENS of great ideas you’d like to give your children, what would be the TOP THREE?

Here are mine:

1.  THINK for yourself – To live a fulfilling life, you have to think independently.  This is how you can create a world of limitless possibility.  Question everything!  It’s OK to listen to “conventional wisdom” and advice that people give you, but YOU have to ultimately form your own opinions.  This is what the best LEADERS do, whether they are leading a company, a family, or their own lives.

2.  Always maintain your INTEGRITY – In the end, you have only 2 things:  your memories and your name.  And your name and reputation live on.  By keeping your promises and doing the RIGHT THING, you will sleep soundly at night and have peace of mind.

3.  Find your PASSION and give 100% – Life is very short.  You don’t have much time, so make the most of it by doing what you LOVE and giving your ALL.  It’s not easy to find your passion. Maybe the search will be painful and long, but you will find it at some point.  And the feeling of satisfaction knowing you have given 100% brings tremendous contentment.

My Forum Brothers all had awesome Advice as well:

Find Yourself.  Be True to Yourself.

GIve and Get Love.

Be Present – Take in the Moment.

Work Hard

Enjoy Life

Be Respectful

Listen Carefully to Advice Along the Way

Modulate Your Emotional Highs and Lows

Embrace Difficulties and Hardship – They are a Catalyst for Growth

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Find a Life Partner Who Shares Your Values and Life Experience

In Your Profession: Be Good at It, Enjoy It, and Make Sure It Pays Well

What Top 3 pieces of advice would YOU give to YOUR kids?

Thanks for reading, and please subscribe!

Featured image courtesy of aldrin_muya licensed via creative commons.

Yanik Silver’s 34 WINNING Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs

My friend Yanik Silver is a successful, young, internet marketing expert.  A self-made millionaire by the age of 30, Yanik exudes creativity, energy, and passion.  He’s a veritable idea factory, and I am impressed by his knowledge and wisdom at such a relatively young age.  His Twitter handle is @yaniksilver and his main Blog site is InternetLifestyle.com.

Yanik has, through reflection and analysis of his business experience and interactions with dozens of the world’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders, developed what he calls his “34 Rules “  They can also be found on one of his Blogs:  maverickbusinessinsider.com.

So here are YANIK SILVER’S 34 RULES FOR MAVERICK ENTREPRENEURS  (I added some commentary of my own in BOLD text below.)

  1. It’s got to be a BIG idea that you, your team and your customers can “get” in seconds.  Agree 100% that THINKING BIG is one of the most important things you can do in business.  See my Blog Post on “5 KEY LEARNINGS.”
  2. Strive to create 10x — 100x in value for any price you charge. Your rewards are always proportionate to the value you provide.
  3. You must charge a premium price so you have a large margin to provide an extraordinary value & experience.  This is right out of the Steve Jobs Playbook!
  4. Provide a ‘Reason Why’ customers should do business with you and pay you a premium.
  5. Get paid before you deliver your product or service. And when possible figure out how to create recurring revenue from transactions.  Collecting cash early allows you to finance your business, and ecurring revenue creates maximum shareholder value.
  6. You get to make the rules for your business. Don’t let industry norms dictate how you’ll work or who you’ll work with.  Another Steve Jobsism.
  7. Create your business around your life instead of settling for your life around your business.
  8. Consistently and constantly force yourself to focus on the ‘critically few’ proactive activities that produce exponential results. Don’t get caught up in minutia & bullshit.  Focus!
  9. Seek to minimize start-up risk but have maximum upside potential.
  10. Get your idea out there as fast as possible even if it’s not quite ready by setting must-hit deadlines. Let the market tell you if you have a winner or not. If not — move on and fail forward fast! If it’s got potential — then you can make it better.  The one great characteristic of internet-based businesses is that the feedback loop is shortened and rapid iteration can be done to perfect the model.
  11. Find partners and team members who are strong where you are weak and appreciate being paid on results.
  12. Your reputation always counts. Honor your obligations and agreements.  There’s nothing more important than INTEGRITY.
  13. Never, ever get paid based on hours worked.
  14. Leverage your marketing activities exponentially by using direct response methods and testing.
  15. Measure and track your marketing so you know what’s working and what’s not.
  16. Bootstrap. Having too much capital leads to incredible waste and doing things using conventional means.  I love this concept.  Bootstrapping builds a culture of resourceful and a “lean and mean” operating philosophy.
  17. Your partners and employees actions are their true core — not what they tell you.
  18. Keep asking the right questions to come up with innovative solutions. “How?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “Who Else?” & “Why?” open up possibilities.
  19. You’ll never have a perfect business and you’ll never be totally “done”. Deal with it.  Warren Buffett has said that it’s not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.  See my related Blog Post on Buffett.
  20. Focus most of your time on your core strengths and less time working in areas you suck at.
  21. Make it easier for customers to buy by taking away the risk of the transaction by guaranteeing what you do in a meaningful way.  If you are supremely confident in your product or service, you should have no problem guaranteeing it, and every customer loves a guarantee.
  22. Always have something else to sell (via upsell, cross-sell, follow-up offer, etc) whenever a transaction takes place. The hottest buyer in the world is one who just gave you money.
  23. Always go back to your existing customers with exceptional offers and reasons they should give you more money. It’s 5x less expensive to sell to happy customers than go find new ones.
  24. However the flip side is – fire your most annoying customers. They’ll be replaced with the right ones.  I have done this and it has worked miracles in getting my Team focused on the higher-value customers.  Figure out how to “score” or rank your customers and rationalize the lowest value ones.  You can then apply the scoring system to new business opportunities you evaluate, so that you accept the customers you want.
  25. The marketplace and competitors are always trying to beat you down to a commodity. Don’t let that happen.  I agree that getting into a commodity position is a losing proposition because someone will ALWAYS be lower in price.
  26. Develop and build your business’s personality that stands out. People want to buy from people.
  27. Create your own category so you can be first in the consumer’s mind.
  28. Go the opposite direction competitors are headed — you’ll stand out.  It’s amazing how so many of successful business leaders and investors are CONTRAIAN in their thinking.
  29. Mastermind and collaborate with other smart entrepreneurs if they have futures that are even bigger than their present.  You can’t win by yourself.  You need peers, advisors, mentors, and others who can help you.  Create a group, join a YPO or EO Forum, or a Vistage Group.  I am in a YPO Forum and the learnings and experience have been priceless.
  30. Celebrate your victories. It’s too easy to simply move on to your next goal without acknowledging and appreciating the ‘win’.  This is a good one.  Oftentimes, you see Founders relentlessly clamoring for “more, more, more!” without stopping to celebrate success.  This is super important for morale.
  31. Make your business AND doing business with you FUN!
  32. Do the unexpected before and after anything goes wrong so customers are compelled to ‘share your story’.
  33. Get a life! Business and making money are important but your life is the sum total of your experiences. Go out and create experiences & adventures so you can come back renewed and inspired for your next big thing.  Life is very short, so enjoy your moments at every opportunity.
  34. Give back! Commit to taking a % of your company’s sales and make a difference. If this becomes a habit like brushing your teeth pretty soon the big checks with lots of zeros won’t be scary to write. If you think you can’t donate a percentage of your sales simply raise your price.  The more you give, the more things come back to you. Giving is great for the community, for your company, and your teammates.  
This is a big list and, for me, I like #1, #6, and #8.  I believe in “Thinking Big.”  You’re going to be thinking anyway, so why not Think Big?  As for #6,  your business will definitely differentiate better if you follow your voice and make your own rules, as opposed to following someone else.  The great companies create their own products and solutions.  They set the trends.  Finally, I can’t say enough about FOCUS (#8), because that’s one of the TOP 5 necessities for success.  I blogged about this in my very first Blog Post, SUCCESS FORMULA.
Which one of these 34 RULES do you like best or find most relevant to your business?  
Please Comment below and Subscribe to my Blog.  Thanks!       
Featured image courtesy of Ralph Zuranski, licensed via creative commons.