All posts by reinventingnerds

Luis Socconini: Leading Efficient Teams



Joanie has a conversation with Luis Socconini, the Director of the Lean Six Sigma Institute and master blackbelt in Lean Six Sigma.  He is the author of several books on Lean practices and has run over 300 projects in Mexico, the United States, Spain, and South America.  He is an engineer by training and he has several certificates in quality and manufacturing from very prestigious institutions, like Harvard and MIT.  Luis tells us about how he learned to be a good leader anywhere and how to help teams work more efficiently.

Highlights:

Q:  Tell us your story of starting a business in Mexico and moving it to the United States?

“I’m an industrial engineer with a master’s in quality and productivity.  One of the key factors for a business to grow is to move into different countries.  I learned that since I was learning how to be a businessman.  It was in 2006 when I started my international journey.  I started my first office in South America, in Columbia.  It was an interesting and risky adventure.  It was something I really wanted to do, so I decided to take the risk.  After that, I started an office in Spain, and later in Switzerland.  It was in 2010 when I decided to expand to the United States.  One of the reasons was because some of my clients in Mexico and South America were American companies and they were asking us, ‘Why don’t you help us in the United States?  Why don’t you have an office?’  It was an idea that my clients gave me, and I decided to take the opportunity.  In 2010, as you know, it was not an easy time.  It was an economic situation where the world was the world was really difficult.  It was an interesting journey.”

Q: You moved your family here, right?  How was that?

“Yes, we moved all together.  I presented this opportunity to my wife.  At first, I had to convince her.  I thought she was going to say ‘no.’  But then she said, ‘why not?  Let’s try it.’  We decided to take one year and try it and if it didn’t work out, we would move back to Mexico.  The first year was fantastic!  We learned a lot.  It was a completely different change in the way we live, the way we interact with kids, and the way we work.”

Q: What is Lean Six Sigma?

“Lean is a philosophy, a methodology, and a set of tools created by Toyota.  Toyota created this methodology based on the learnings they had from when Japanese companies came to the United States to learn best practices so they could improve their productivity based on the U.S. productivity after the second World War, that was eight times higher.  They took all this knowledge and converted it into a system.  It was called the Toyota Production System.  On the other hand, Six Sigma was created by Motorola.  They created it as a secret project in the 80s.  At the end of the 80s they presented it as a project to succeed in quality.  They had a lot of problems with quality.  It was in 1988 when Motorola won the Quality Award given by President Ronald Reagan.  Ronald Reagan said to Bob Allen, who was the CEO, it was incredible how you improved quality.  You have to show this to the world!  And Bob Allen said okay and they called it Six Sigma.  Together, Lean and Six Sigma became the most powerful methodology to improve quality and productivity.”

“We can condense this into two words.  Lean Six Sigma is about speed and quality.  You need speed and quality for sales, marketing.  If you have a restaurant or hotel, you need speed and quality.  Even in decision making we need speed and quality.”

Q: What kinds of challenges are your clients usually facing, especially in technical organizations?

“A large number of companies are dealing with delivery time and cost, especially cost.  Individuals are also facing increasing job opportunities and increasing competition.  The typical customer we have is not delivering their products on time.  In a software company, one of the main headaches they have is they are not delivering on time; the software sometimes does not have the quality.  Anything that is related to quality and speed, that’s something where we can help.”

To hear examples of how Luis motivates technical leaders to be more efficient, how he developed himself from introvert to people-oriented, and what he’s learned is most important to managing his own team, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

Helping others is the most wonderful thing.

Better leaders are better teachers.

Once you give employees the information, tools, and trust to make decisions, things start changing.

Contact Luis Socconini:

Email: luis@socconini.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/luis-socconini-9205351a/


Bob Salomon: Learning Disabilities, Computers, and Communicating



Joanie has a conversation with Bob Salomon, president of CIO Systems.  One of the coolest things about Bob is his willingness to talk about how he’s dealt with dyslexia and ADD and how that actually motivated him to get into tech. Bob also talks about how they “make IT boring” at CIO Systems.  They do IT security and support and help employees more be more productive.  In addition, Bob talks about how to network and ways to get involved in community service.

Highlights:

Q: Tell us your story of how having dyslexia and ADD drew you into IT work.

“It’s been a major stumbling block and also a path for me.  I grew up in the 60s and 70s.  At the time, it wasn’t quite understood.  I did terrible in school.  I was a C-D student for most of elementary and high school.  I only got into college because, at the time, it was very easy to get into state university.  All you had to do was score a certain level on the SAT.  My SAT scores were very high and, even though my grades were very low, I automatically got into State.

I went to Cal State Long Beach.  There it was the second time I’d ever had to touch a computer.  Back then, it was virtually impossible for the average person to get close to a computer.  There was an Apple II in the library, and I started programming on that.  One of my nerd friends, he was in the mathematics department, and he gave me an account on school mainframe, the PDP-11/70.

There wasn’t a good word processing program at that time.  There were text programs, but you had to keep switching between modes and there was no visible cursor.  You had to remember where you were and type commands to move forward or back to a document.  So it was very cumbersome.  I actually wrote my own word processing program with a dictionary.  That’s a major accomplishment to be able to create a dictionary when you’re dyslexic.  I was actually the first person to hand in computer-generated homework for a liberal arts class.  The teacher had to go to the academic senate to get approval to accept my homework.

They had a program for adults with learning disabilities at California State.  It was an excellent program and I was very happy to get into that.  With that support, I was able to graduate on the President’s Honor Roll.  I went from being a C student to the President’s Honor Roll.  Just by doing my work on the computer and handing it in that way made all the difference in the world.

For so long, it was impossible to communicate by writing.  I would think of words and I would think of them phonetically and there was no easy way of looking them up in a dictionary.  I would have to think of synonyms and it was very hard to edit and I would mess up the edits.  Basically, all of my life I had a very negative view of myself because everything I did was terrible.”

Bob’s story continues to be riveting.  To hear how he turned himself around, managed through his frustrations, and empowered himself to start his own company, as well as how he developed his people skills and how he delights customers, listen to the podcast.

Words of Wisdom:

It’s very common for people with ADD to run their own company.

As an IT expert, I’ve monetized my paranoia.

Computers are there to be tools and they need to be up and running.

If we do it right, nothing should happen and selling nothing is sometimes a little harder than it should be.

Shout Out:

Brian Jackson at Sandler Training for sales training.

Contact Bob Salomon:

Call: 619-293-8600

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-salomon-675872b/

Website: ciosys.com


David Oates: Managing Coronavirus and Other Crises



David Oates is a Crisis PR expert with 25 years of experience in the field. He helps organizations repair their brand’s reputation in the press and online. He can handle any Crisis PR situation and train others to do the same. As a U.S. Navy Public Affairs Officer and a corporate PR professional, he dealt with a broad range of Crisis PR issues. These include mass layoffs, large-scale accidents, product recall, inappropriate acts by executives, and more. He’s also been a key advisor for companies during the Coronavirus crisis. Do you know what to do—and what NOT to do—in these situations?  Listen to the episode.

Highlights:

Q: Tell us your story of how you’ve worked with nerds on PR crisis management and in what contexts.

“I was an officer in the Navy and, in the mid-nineties, I became a PR Officer.  Crisis was just a part of the day’s activities.  As you can imagine, in the military you’re in foreign ports of call, you’re in combat situations.  There are 24-hour very heavy industrial operations, so accidents, sailors and marines behaving badly, different hot war engagements and so on.”

“After that, I went into corporate America.  I worked largely, but not exclusively, with startups and small cap publicly traded companies.  The things that we would work on, in addition to promoting their software products, was if there were adverse news events that would occur that would get the ire of not just the press, but also of their highly trained employees that they were trying to keep.  Just as important to them were their customers and their investors.”

“Those types of scenarios were such that when there were things they didn’t want to talk about, I had to get them prepared to talk about them—in such a way as to allay the concerns of employees, who were going to go literally across the street to the next job opportunity, and investors who were going to be reticent about getting the next round of funding closed or secured, while keeping the executive team intact, and certainly customers who were taking the risk to go with this new product in beta mode.”

“I was also head of marketing in-house for a software company and, about 13 years ago, I went out on my own.  It’s been a great ride!”

Q: What constitutes a Crisis PR event and who is involved, especially in technical companies?

“When folks think about PR, and certainly Crisis PR, they naturally default to the news organizations and the general public.  That’s good to focus on, but often focusing on that is at the detriment of focusing on even more important audiences—employees, customers, partners, investors, and other stakeholders.  Notice I named employees first.”

“There are two things to think about with employees.  First off, they are the ones who are dealing with the customers and stakeholders on a daily basis.  They are the front lines of you being able to articulate a value proposition and deliver on that.  If the employees are not told what’s going on, and are not addressed on their concerns, and are not able to be empowered with messaging to say to the other stakeholders, you’re done.  You won’t repair yourself.”

“I don’t care what you say to a reporter or to a news organization.  If the employees don’t buy into it and are not brought in to help you through it, the story will linger.  It will then perpetuate on the blogosphere.  Google will index it.  You’ll then see negative reviews on things like Glassdoor and other tech review sites.  Blog reviews, like Mashable and TechCrunch will pick up on that and it will be a real mess.  This is most important for tech companies.”

Listen in to hear answers to these questions too.

What kinds of challenges do technical leaders tend to have in responding to a crisis PR event?  How do handle Coronavirus Crisis PR and other similar health situations.  What should you NEVER do in a Crisis PR situation?

Words of Wisdom:

Employees are going to be the backbone of whether you make it through an adverse event.

Nowadays, everyone is a broadcaster.

When employees are ticked off, do they wait until the end of the day to post something about work?

There are two things you do in every Crisis PR situation: show empathy and action.

People respond to an event with emotions first and logic after.

You can’t ignore the people shouting at you even though you disagree with their response.

Contact David Oates:

Website: Publicrelationssecurity.com

Email: david@publicrelationssecurity.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidoates/


Eric Weiss: Building Products People Love



Joanie interviews Eric Weiss, founder of Full Cycle Product Development.  Eric has led massive development projects worth billions of dollars, including the Sony Playstation 3 and Qualcomm’s $9 Billion patent licensing machine. Eric is a product technology consultant and startup advisor and the author of Build the Right Things: How to Design and Build a Product People Will Love.

Highlights:

Q: Tell us how you got to where you are now and how you came to write your book.

“I’m an engineer by trade.  I’ve been writing code since I was very young, went to school for it, and started to work as a software developer.  But I really quickly learned that my passion was in product and leadership and startups and so I went and got my MBA.  I got certified to be a project manager and a Scrum Master and all this stuff.  I bridged the gap between the technology and engineering side of things and the product and business side of things.  I spent much of my career at very large tech companies driving very large engineering projects.”

“But then I’ve had this consulting practice on the side now, for over 10 years now, working with early stage startups and growth stage startups to validate their business model, to gain traction, to raise early capital, and then ultimately scale up and grow and get acquired.  I’ve been a CTO and completely owned the delivery model.  I discovered through experience that, while I was so focused on the efficiency of my development team, and having clean and clear Agile methodologies, nothing was less efficient than working on the wrong things.  I started really heavily leaning into product management and the user experience to make sure we were focusing on the right things.  This culminated in the book.”

Q: How do you get engineers to care about the customer experience or to see it from the customer’s perspective?  How do you understand what features your customers really need?

“Yes, engineers love technology, but more than anything, they want to have purpose.  They want to know the work they do has meaning and impact to benefit real people.  The other thing is that engineering is a really creative endeavor.  They don’t like to be told what to do.”

“The challenge is that too many teams are structured in a way and too many leaders lead in a way that puts engineers in this mode where they’re decoupled from the purpose of their work.  They’re not given creative freedom and they almost become beaten down and they get to where they don’t care and just want to play around with the technology because it gives them some enjoyment, but they’re disconnected from the larger picture.”  To hear Eric’s solutions to this problem and to hear answers to these other questions, listen to the episode.

Other questions that Eric answers: How do you build effective Agile teams?  How do the people on the teams survive a “never-ending marathon” of Agile?  What common people issues do you see in the startups that you advise?

Get a free copy of Eric’s book here.  Watch Eric’s talk on Agile First Principles here.

Words of Wisdom:

It’s not the velocity of our Scrums, it’s that we don’t understand our customers or ourselves well enough to know what the user experience should be.

People are the most difficult part of building products.  Technology is very rarely the thing that holds us back.

CEOs are an interesting bunch and have to be dealt with delicately.

Be fearless and go out and do things.

Contact Eric Weiss:

Website: FullCycleProduct.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericmweiss/


Brian Jackson: Handling Sales



A nerd at heart, Brian Jackson is the president and owner of Sandler Training of San Diego, a sales training company.  Brian enjoys coaching customer-facing people who are engaged in selling within Software, Technology, Manufacturing, and Professional Services.  Prior to owning Sandler, Brian invested over 20 years in hospital equipment & software sales and leadership roles.  Brian gives a unique perspective to nerds and sales, having played both sides, interfaced between the two, and trained and coached salespeople of all backgrounds.  He’s also a funny guy and you’ll enjoy his insights.

Highlights:

Q: Let’s start by hearing your story.  What brought you to buying and running Sandler San Diego?

“Having a slightly lower than average IQ.”  [But, seriously!]  “I graduated college and wanted to make money and got straight into sales.  I wanted to sell products I was passionate about and I gravitated toward medical devices and, later, medical device software.  After about 20 years selling a half dozen products and managing people for the last 12 of those years, I found that my passion was not in the technology.  It was in the art of selling and coaching other people and seeing them succeed and rise in the ranks.  I really got a lot of satisfaction out of that.”

“I was a client of Sandler many years ago and always had it in the back of my mind that I might want to do that.  So, I pulled the trigger.”

Q: What is Sandler Training?

“It’s a sales methodology that’s embedded in psychology.  The main thing about Sandler that is different is that we really believe in the power of reinforcement.  You can’t change the way you think and behave by going to a 2-hour boot camp.  It takes repetition.  We use blended learning and repetition to rewire the brain.”

Q: What was your experience like working with technical people—developers, scientists—and having them interface with customers?

“The challenge with selling technology is not understanding the technology.  Salespeople are more intelligent than people give them credit for.  We can learn something if we try hard enough.  The challenge isn’t learning the technology.  The challenge is knowing when to use the knowledge appropriately.  It’s about having the discipline to not talk about the product knowledge until the right time.  In spite of the fact that you’re excited about the technology.”

“When you’re working with technical people, product specialists, these are people who know a lot about the product.  They’re given a chance to talk to the customer prospect and they feel it’s their job to come in and talk about the product information.  As a salesperson, you have to pull back the reigns and sometimes even do damage control.  It’s important to remember that your product knowledge is your leverage when you’re in a selling situation.  Once that prospect has that knowledge, that’s what they came for.  It’s not necessarily to make a decision.  It’s to gather information.  Once they have all the information, you’re dead in the water.”

To learn more about how technical people are dealing directly with customers, such as SaaS companies, and Brian’s advice to technical people who are dealing with salespeople and with customers directly, listen to the episode.  Brian also gives advice on technical leadership from his years of experience doing it.

Words of Wisdom:

There’s a reason why people are tense when they are in a buying situation.

Team selling is pretty cool.  Everyone has a different role.

Good people, by and large, are being promoted into a management role and they’re expected to know how to do it.

It’s not uncommon for people going through a promotion to have other things going on in their lives too.

Emotional Intelligence should be taught in college.

Contact Brian Jackson:

Cell phone: 619-368-6215

Linkedin:  @SandlerTraining

Website:  www.salesrevenue.sandler.com

Facebook:  @SandlerSanDiego

Twitter:  @Sales_Coach_SD


Sanjiv Prabhakaran: Culture, Contribution, and Leadership



Sanjiv Prabhakaran is a senior executive and entrepreneur with over 30 years of software development management and technical architecture experience in mobile and web applications for a wide variety of applications and industries.  In early 2002, he founded Bytes, Inc. to provide low cost and rapid software outsourcing and project management services. Sanjiv talks about so many things in this episode, ranging from transitioning from coder to leader, leading cross-cultural teams, managing internal politics, and making a difference in the world.  You won’t want to miss this episode.

Highlights:

Q: What do you do as CEO of Bytes and how did you get there?

“I wear multiple hats, but my primary role is developing the business.  I spent a lot of my time in the Bay Area before 2000.  I worked at 3-4 companies.  I wrote code and climbed up the ladder and managed small teams developing systems for clients.  It was fun in those days.”

“There came a time when I was looking to go further and be independent.  In 2000, I found a nice opportunity here in San Diego and that’s how we came down.  This was as a VP of Engineering and R&D for a small software company dealing with real estate.  That’s how I happened to lead a team of 20-30 engineers to make cool stuff.”

Q: What was the transition like from being a coder to managing teams?

“That was fun!  As a coder you’re working with a team, listening to your bosses, and obviously providing input based on your experience.  You always had a fixed goal and knew what you were trying to accomplish.  But when you’re getting into more responsible roles, the thing that you run across is team culture.  How do you integrate—especially when you have teams from different regions and different countries—and have a cohesive culture at the end?  I had teams from the US and India and there were cultural differences…  Understanding the cultural differences takes time.”

“It was a fun experience.  It helped me grow into a role where I started realizing how to be patient with people, how to understand differences in how people communicate, and how to to build a team spirit.”  To hear how Sanjiv manages cultural differences between the US and India, handles internal politics among leaders, builds trust in the leadership team, and leads his teams to improve efficiency for their customers, listen to the episode.

Q: I see that you help physically challenged individuals with job opportunities within Bytes and other companies.  How do you do that?

“Yes, this was an interesting project that started few years ago. A family friend in India mentioned this young 20-year old kid that had an unfortunate train accident and hit his head and became a quadriplegic with no movement below his neck. He was bed-ridden but full of joy and motivation to live a full life! He found a way to use his voice as a powerful tool to command his computer into doing all kinds of tasks. He was able to use his voice to control the files and keyboard so he could type out documents and do various web development tasks on the computer. He had a couple clients in the UK and USA for whom he did basic tasks of updating web pages and creating shopping cart sites on eBay, etc.”

“I then visited him on one of my India trips and was able to see how he manipulated the computer via his voice. It was just mind-boggling to see how his injuries had no impact on his mind and heart. So, I hired him to do some of my web and Excel tasks. He later created a tutoring class in his home to help young kids that wanted to learn about computers and web programming.”

To hear other ways Sanjiv contributes to society and to get ideas of how you can contribute, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

Sometimes a nod is a shake and a shake is a nod.

I had to learn patience to lead a team.

Having trust between team members is crucial.

The earlier you do something about a bad fit the better.

Volunteer work is about bringing your skills to help the organization grow and spread the word.

Each person has to find the synergy between a philanthropy organization and their goals and passion.

Contact Sanjiv Prabhakaran:

Website: Bytesinc.com

Email: sanjiv@bytesinc.com

Phone: 888-988-bytes

Direct: 619-933-3366


Sean Ferrel: Growing a People-Oriented Company



Sean Ferrel founded Managed Solution in 2002.  They provide consultative IT services for small-to-medium and enterprise clients. Sean tells his story of literally growing the company from his living room to a flourishing downtown San Diego enterprise. Hint: it starts with, “I was going to be a lawyer…” Within 3 years, the company was recognized as one of San Diego’s 40 fastest growing companies, awarded one of the 40 companies with owners under 40 years old and recognized as the 27th fastest growing IT company in Southern California. His secret sauce? Keeping it people first.

Highlights:

Q: How did you come to found Managed Solution?

“When I got out of school, I realized what I loved was people.  If I applied my people skills, I could take into any business, but what did I do in college?  I really got into the tech thing.  Tech was really interesting at that time, around 2002, and I started Managed Solution.  To be honest, I hadn’t done anything else.  We started with the idea of let’s find great people.  I was looking for three things: (1) soft skills, (2) accountability, and (3) technical skills.  And we started hiring.  I printed business cards in my dorm room.  I hired my best friends, who lived on my couch, and family members.  Then we realized we had to get serious.”

Q: How did you decide you needed to get the people skills in early on as a priority?

“I’ve always believed if you do the right thing in life, the money will come.  That means acting with integrity, being accountable, and teamwork.  Whether it’s in sales or in engineering, we want everyone to find themselves accountable to customers.”

“We follow the concept of RACI—responsible, accountable, contributor, integrator.  It’s a term we use in business to say, who’s accountable for this customer we’re dealing with?  Or who’s a contributor for a project for this customer?  You find the person who is responsible for the customer receives the credit and that makes them happier.  That’s what gets them driven to do better in our business.”

Q: How do you find people who have these skills?

“The first thing we do is look internally.  We look at recruiting like sales.  We need to attract good people.  Most of our people come from recommendations from people we know.”

Q: What do you do to train people?

“There’s a lot of burnout for engineers, if you’re doing the same thing for a long time.  We give them a lot of opportunities to train, to earn different certs and vary what they do.”

Listen to the episode to learn more about what Sean does to develop his people and himself to be and even stronger leader.

Words of Wisdom:

“Our success is driven by our people.”

“In so many ways, running a business is like running a family.  You have to nurture, grow, and enable people to do great things.”

“Employees get better on the tech stuff because they feel empowered.”

“When people feel you’re going to take care of them when in need, that’s the best gift ever and that’s what creates culture.”

Contact Sean Ferrel:

Company website: managedsolution.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-ferrel-6427a45/

Or stop by anytime!


Will Marshall: Improving Your Relationship with Your Lawyer



Will Marshall is a co-founder and partner of UBM Law Group. He drafts and negotiates commercial contracts, especially SaaS and traditional software licensing agreements and takes care of all sorts of legal things that come up for businesses.  He is also especially knowledgeable in issues that come up with small businesses and startups.  If you are avoiding talking to your lawyer, have ever had a bad experience with a lawyer, or are curious about the issues that can come up when technical people deal with lawyers, listen to the episode.  Will gives tips for technical people on how to communicate with lawyers and save money by doing so.

Highlights:

Q: Tell us your story of how you came to work with tech companies.

“I had an unusual career where I started as a General Counsel of a company—so I did the whole startup thing—and then I went into private practice, for about the last 10 years or so.  Usually, it’s the reverse.  That’s important because I learned to be a lawyer in a business context with limited resources.  Even though my company was a technology-based manufacturer, not a tech company, I seemed to gravitate toward tech companies when I started my practice, doing software as a service and software licensing and that sort of thing.  I can’t say why that went that way.  Maybe I just liked that type of work or maybe I did a good job of it.  I’m not sure.”

Q: Why do technical people interact with lawyers?

“Sometimes it’s them coming to me and sometimes it’s me coming to them.  It can be pure technical matters, like negotiating an agreement for technical services.  It could be dealing with employee issues.  It could be dealing with raising money and startup-type issues.  It could be implementing policy issues, compliance.  There’s a whole slew of things where I might be interfacing with technical people.  Sometimes the technical person is the founder so they have a broad view of all the legal issues and sometimes they’re a junior technical person where we’re hammering out a lot of really technical issues and granular issues.”

Q: What hesitations and concerns do technical people have with lawyers?

“First of all, there’s the cost.  The costs when you’re working on an hourly basis can run up, particularly if you don’t know how to manage your lawyer and use them efficiently.  That’s really about building trust.  I cut my teeth as a co-founder, paying outside lawyers and seeing their invoices and knowing what aggravated me about them.  So, a key part of my customer relationships is building the trust that I’m as worried about spending their dollars almost as much as they are.  For example, I’m not going to suggest that they burn up all the profit on the deal having me make the perfect contract if it wipes out the profitability of the deal.”

“The other concerns are that law can be very confusing and not jive with common sense and, when lawyers aren’t doing their job right, they can be the sales prevention unit or the Doctor No.  When you’re talking to startups, for example, they have their foot on the gas and anything that stops them is terrible.”

Q: How do you help technical people understand the legalese?

“That’s more of a contract drafting scenario.  Legalese can be archaisms, like whereas, witnesseth, and that stuff.  Those things just need to go away.  If your lawyer is saying witnesseth in your contract, you need a new lawyer.  The other part of it is not as obvious.  Contract language needs to be precise, to a level of precision that is not common, certainly not like when we talk to one another.”

To hear more about navigating legalese, managing your lawyer to be efficient, and how to communicate effectively with them, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“When we talk, we say things that are 10 ways ambiguous.  In a contract, we don’t have the luxury of doing that.”

“Employment law: it’s not a risk until it blows up in your face.”

“Technical people don’t like to be told how to do things without an appreciation of the complexities; lawyers don’t either.”

“Be careful when you grind your contractor or your attorney on fees because you might become the disfavored project.”

Contact Will Marshall:

Email: wmarshall@ubmlaw.com

Website: ubmlaw.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/will-marshall-9979242a/


Burt De Mill: When Technical People Do Business



Burt De Mill is the President of BDM Consulting, a San Diego based consulting firm that works with small and medium sized companies who are in the biotechnology tools and clinical diagnostics spaces.  Burt helps companies define their products and markets, conduct new market research, and launch products.  Burt talks about the challenges scientists encounter when they interface with the business world.

Highlights:

Q: Burt, you are a scientist by training.  How did you move into business?

“I wanted to be a doctor.  I was the kid who wanted the chemistry set and microscope for Christmas.  I was a chemistry and biology major at the University of Maryland.  Then I applied to medical school and didn’t get in.”

“While I kept trying, I worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital doing cancer research.  I was working with a very prestigious physician, Dr. Philip Burke, who said to me after I gave a presentation, ‘Burt, good job, but I noticed you had more fun doing the presentation than doing the work.’  I realized that I do like talking about the work.  I was also taking business classes there for free while I worked.  I felt that business was like a duck swimming on the lake to me.  It was simple.  It was easy.  That’s kind of how I ended up the failed scientist turned into a business guy.”

“I made that split over 25 years ago and never looked back.  I still do have a soft spot for the science, but I like it in a business context.”

Q: As the Sr. Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Genoptix Medical Labs back in 2005, how did you scale revenues from $4M to $184M in 5 years?

“It was kind of like running a marathon with your hair on fire, but it was kind of fun!  It was fun because we were building something.  There were some key points.  One was timing.  That’s something you can’t plan for, but it’s important for a business.  Is it the right business concept at the right time?  Is society ready for it?  Are customers ready for it?  A lot of good businesses are the benefactor of that.”

“There were three key things that we did.  We knew who our customers were and who they were not.  That is incredibly important for a startup….  We surrounded ourselves with a fabulous team…  The last one is we measured things.  This is really important when you scale…”  To hear the details, listen to the episode.

Q: As a leader, how does it feel it to not be the one doing it all but getting others in to do it?

“In the consulting business I’m in now, I work with some incredibly smart people—PhDs, MDs.  The talent is enormous in what I call their vertical.  They know that enzyme or they know that diagnostic test like the back of their hand.  But it’s very hard to be an expert in all areas.  One of the things I’d advise founders not to do is to get caught up in what I call ‘founder’s syndrome.’  Founder’s syndrome is: it’s my baby, I’m going to hang on to it all the way through, and I’m afraid to let anybody touch it because it’s my child.  Most of the time, it does not go to a good place.”

To hear what Burt recommends to prevent founder’s syndrome and what other leadership challenges he sees when he consults to small businesses, listen to the episode.  Burt has some great advice for technical leaders.

Words of Wisdom:

“Failure’s not a bad thing.  Sometimes you learn a lot about yourself.”

“You can’t be good at everything, so you have to rely on your team.”

“If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.”

“Scientists also have to sell to bankers and lawyers and business people.”

Shout Out:

To the Rady School of Management at UCSD for helping science majors get exposure to business at the undergraduate level.

Contact Burt De Mill for a free one-hour consultation:

Email: burt@bdmconsulting.org

Phone: 760-707-9519 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific time.


Adam Cuppy: Building Confidence in your Soft Skills



Adam Cuppy is the Chief Operating Officer at Zeal, a web and mobile apps development company.  He is also an actor.  He helps Zeal focus on how process drives success.  He says he has “no idea” of what he does.  Already, you can tell this is an entertaining episode.  Really what he focuses on is business development, evangelism, speaking nationally and internationally on confidence and process-driven team development and how to apply the soft side of life into the highly technical side of life.

Highlights:

Q: As an actor, what draws you to high tech?

“I went to college for acting and worked for a large regional theater company in a small town in Oregon, called the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  While I was there, I learned a lot about general human psychology.  As an actor, your job is about simulating and replicating the responses and reactions that a fictitious human being would have in a given situation.  You learn a lot about the human physicality and the general patterns they follow in life.  I was really fascinated and loved it a lot.’

“However, the profession of acting is a really tough one, to say the least.  A more senior actor told me that every three months he didn’t know what would be next.  That wasn’t for me.  While I was totally into the art form, the profession was not for me.”

“I went from psychology to psychology–acting to marketing.  I took what I learned as an actor to understand what and how someone might interpret what they saw in an ad or something.  Being in marketing, you’re dealing with computer systems and minimal applications development.  That took me down the path of websites and web apps, and here we are.”

Q: How do you make connections with nerds?

“Sometimes making connections comes down to very simple things, like identifying as quickly as you can what do you share, what do you know?  Sometimes there’s some basic stuff.  It might even be cliché, like family.  We all have parents!  Most often, you have siblings.

Building rapport quickly might be as simple as not introducing yourself as, ‘Hi, my name is Adam and I have a brother,’ but something simple like finding a unique story that you can tell consistently that is not overwhelming, is quick to get to, and might be a good conversation starter.”

Q: What is your method to help technical people develop confidence in their soft skills?

“It’s called Mechanical Confidence.  We take for granted that, if you’re an actor, you rehearse.  The standard time is 4-6 weeks of rehearsal.  The only reason you do that is to embed the movement and text into your body so that it’s automatic on opening night.”

“Every actor, musician, and technical person will have a process that creates this confidence in their body.  Having gone on stage so many times, it’s become automatic for me.  It’s a very logical, mechanical, procedural thing.  It’s not a feeling.”

To hear Adam’s process, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“To keep your audience engaged, find something small and physical to make the audience do.”

“Habits are incredibly powerful.”

“Talk to your dog (or cat or rubber duck).”

“Don’t presume chaos will get you there.”

Contact Adam Cuppy:

Twitter: @AdamCuppy

Email: Adam@codingzeal.com