Belatedly Bringing In The New Year

It’s the end of January and you’ve already gotten used to writing “2016” by now. But it’s not to late to bring you the first NOLA Biz Dev post of the year and hopefully help you get your mind right as you start to write your story for 2016. Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what happened over the last year…
 
Looking back at 2015
 
Many of the you on this email made some news in 2015:
– Jared Loftus and MasteryPrep raised a $3.6M round of funding
– Dinner Lab raised some money too.
– Jason Nicosia and Brian Oberkirch joined Gerard Ramos at Revelry, who has started to venture into homegrown products
– Sean Carrigan and the MobileQubes team closed a well-deserved round of $1M
– Federated Sample rebranded as Lucid and is growing hand-over-fist
There’s lots more to add here, but that’s just a taste of what’s happened. On a personal note, 2015 was one of the best years of my life. I got engaged – the video went viral – and I got married. Over the course of the year we grew zlien from 15 employees to more than 40 employees. I expanded my sales team from 3 reps to 6 reps. We closed a bunch of customers, we raised some money, and we are heading into 2016 with our ears pinned back.
 
I also started this series of emails back in July with an empty promise of frequent editions, and sadly I could only pull my shit together to get two out the door and into your inbox from July 2015 until now. But 2016 is a new year, and now I am committing to sending an email like this out at least once a month, and I am relying on you all to keep me honest. With that said…
 
A note on personal responsibility
 
I want to share an article with all of you that has had an impact on me over the last few years. I read it a few times each year before the new year to keep myself grounded and to remember what the hell I am doing here: 6 Hard Truths That Will Make You a Better Person (Full Disclosure: It’s a Cracked Article, but the content is good)
 
Admittedly, the article is a bit juvenile and it’s intended audience is those who recently graduated from college or who are in between jobs, but the message is a good one nonetheless. It’s a relatively long article, so take a minute and read through, I promise you will get something out of it. 
 
The message is simple: The world is full of people who need things, and your job is to do things and make things that people need. So be the type of person who gets hired, be the type of partner who wins the deal, make the type of product that gets bought, create the type of company that gets funded, or build the type of culture that attracts the best talent.
 
Whatever the situation, we have control over our own outcomes to a certain extent. It’s too easy and to comfortable to be lazy, so challenge yourself to get better. Learn a new skill, be more interesting, just do more and do it frequently.
 
The article may or may not be relevant to you right now, but I would bet that at some point in the last year, 5 years, 10 years you needed someone to kick you in the pants like this article kicked me in the pants. It’s humbling to think that just 4 years ago I was between Giftmeo and zlien, and I was riding a pedi-cab in the French Quarter to pay the bills. I’m not ashamed, it’s all part of the journey. But I came across this article in December of 2012 and it helped frame my mind for the next chapter in my life. I hope that it will help you like it helped me, or that you will share it with someone who needs a shove in a different direction.
 
On “Leveling Up”
 
On a more professional note, this article from VC Mark Suster on Leveling Up after raising funds has been particularly helpful for me as I think about how zlien needs to change as an organization. Since I started in January of 2013, we have grown from 5 employees to more than 40 employees (and counting) and the organization is starting to form a culture and life of its own.
 
The sooner we realized that the company needs to “stand on legs” – advice from Patrick Comer – the sooner we began to realize the organic benefits of the  departments and organizational structure of the company. If your company is having trouble communicating across departments, or if you are finding that a “flat” structure is making things more challenging for you, consider re-thinking your org structure. And if you decide to make changes, it will be uncomfortable briefly, but you will be happier you did. 
 
We don’t sell saddles here
 
The last link I’d like to (re)share with you all is a Medium post from Stuart Butterfield of Slack: We don’t sell saddles here
 
Quick note: if you aren’t yet using Slack for your company, you need to seriously consider adopting the platform. Slack has become our most valuable employee at zlien, an indispensable part of everyday life for every employee in the company in both the New Orleans and Cairo offices. I could not recommend it any more strongly, and no I do not get paid by Slack for saying that.
 
Butterfield’s article is a manifesto of sorts that briefly reviews the history of Slack and outlines the vision for the company, including the product the culture and everything in between. It’s particularly relevant for those of you who are pushing new or disruptive products into the market. It’s a helpful reminder that changing peoples’ minds about technology is extremely difficult, and to do it the right way, you have to sell the vision. You don’t sell saddles, you sell “horseback riding”.
 
Butterfield’s post is a must-read for any entrepreneur who is looking justify her manic dedication and excitement about her product or service. When you read it, try to think about what your company’s equivalent is to “horseback riding”.
 
One More Link
 
This one is full of insights and advice from a myriad of smart minds: The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2015
 
What I need help with
 
Talent – We are hiring here at zlien, with open positions in sales (entry-level or experienced) and account management (some experience preferred). We are also looking for an executive-level marketer who knows the internet well (VP of Marketing). If you know anyone who would fit any of these roles who is in the New Orleans area or who is interested in relocating to the New Orleans Area, please send them my way. I’d love to meet them.
 
Sales Coaching  I’m looking to provide some sales support for my team in the way of sales coaching. A way to refine sales tactics and to strengthen our abilities to close. For too long we have relied on the raw skills of each new sales hire to bring them to quota, but as we grow I am looking to fortify the raw skills with some traditional (or potentially non-traditional) coaching.

I am not as concerned about the medium (in-person, webinars, etc.) as I am about the content. If any of you have had experience with a sales coach or curriculum in the past that you would recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

 
One last thing:
 
Collision Conference is coming up in April. This is one of the biggest tech conferences of the year and it will be right in our own backyard. Our dear friend Chris Schultz is co-hosting and it’s going to be an epic week. If you haven’t made plans to get involved, start making plans right now. You are not going to want to miss this.