Top 10 Lists

Top 10 List of Things to Do Now that You’ve GOT the Internship

June 20th, 2012

I had the opportunity to speak tonight sponsored by MassTLC at MassChallenge alongside Greg Gomer and Walter Somol, one of my favorite people in Boston (dude is one of the nicest, genuine people I know and I dig him) and a new person I met tonight named Caroline from Brass Monkey. We spoke about our experiences doing internships and running intern programs. One of the questions focused on the quick and dirty takeaways that you, as an intern, can start doing TOMORROW to ensure you have a really great internship experience this summer. Here they are:

1. Introduce your boss to someone he/she wants to know. Bring in a whale. A shark. A big dog. A monster. A beast. A monsterbeast. You get the idea. Ask your boss who he/she would like to meet in town. Then find a way to that person on your own. Then introduce them! This shows your boss that your care about him/her and want to make sure that THEY MEET PEOPLE THEY WANT TO MEET TOO (not just you).

2. Commit to an internship. Or commit to an job. In a "job," I work to get paid. In an "internship," I work to learn. If you're looking to learn, remind yourself that every morning. Scotch tape it to your desk if you have to: "I am here to learn." And when things feel like a job, slap yourself across the face and refocus on learning. If you have a buddy intern working with you, make a pact to slap each other when your not learning TO WAKE UP AND LEARN. Otherwise, go work a job and #GETPAIDSONNN.

3. Ask every single person in the office out to lunch, and schedule each one in your Google calendar to keep track. BUT DO NOT PAY FOR THEM. Have them pay for their own lunch. They have more money than you. Don't be picking up 30 $25 tabs. That's dumb. Go Dutch. Pay for only yourself. They can pound sand on the bill. Dutch is the new American anyway. Right?

4. While on lunches for the first time with a new person, start each lunch with this question: "Where did you grow up?" Use that as your starting point to each conversation. What comes after growing up? High school! Then what? College! Then what? Their first job? Then what? Their second job? Marriage? Babies? More jobs? Talk about these things. IN ORDER. Focus on their TRANSITION POINTS. Why did they go from one job to the next? What did they like vs. HATE!?!?! Learn about what motivates each person. Could you see yourself in their shoes?

5. Schedule "Crush Hour" each day. Pull aside your bossman/bosswoman and say: "Hey Bossman. Here's what I want to do. I want to make sure that every single day you have a full hour dedicated to me helping with scanning, copying, mailing, stamping, organizing, ordering, etc from noon to 1 PM. Every single day. We're going to call it 'Crush Hour.' SO, if you ever need any one of those things done, any and every single day of the week, I am here for you, like Kermit and Miss Piggy. You know I got your back Bossman! I GOTCHU!" Your goal here is to focus everyone's attention on giving you things that are sucky into one hour of suckiness, rather than suckiness throughout your entire day. Try it. It works.

6. Make sure everyone knows your name. Introduce yourself to every single person in the company with a handshake, a smile, and a nice "Hi. My name is X." Then send everyone an email with your cell phone number and personal email. Ensure that everyone knows you are reachable. Always. Even after hours. It will go a long way.

7. Tell the boss that next year you want to manage the intern force. Why? Because you're living it baby! Who better than to run it next year but you? This shows leadership, initiative, and that you (hint hint) want to be around next year full-time!

8. Suggest two-minute drills. You're going to have a ton of questions as an intern. Write them all down, and then focus on a specific time during the day when you have "two-minute drills." Do it at 4 PM in the afternoon. Close to the end of day. When you have plenty of questions, and when people have more free time to answer them. You'll get tons of answers, and you won't feel like your "annoying people." By the way... if you ever feel like you ARE "annoying" your boss, ditch that loser and come and work with me at my business instead. My promise is to never make you feel like that. Ever. And if I ever do, you can slap me across the face. With both hands.

9. Be INSANELY positive. Not annoyingly positive (you know who I'm talking about). Others take notice of positive people. CEO's have to do some work that sucks. VP's have to do some work that sucks. Managers have to do some work that sucks. Associates have to do some work that sucks. And interns have to do some work that sucks. Embrace it. And NEVER EVER EVER say how much it sucks. Do you think I enjoy putting bills into Quickbooks? Private answer: "Oh helllll no." Public answer: "I love entering bills into Quickbooks. It allows me to understand what our expense structure looks like, understand our vendor relationships, and a whole bunch of other positives." Flip negatives into positives, and vocalize it. You want everyone thinking your the most positive person in the office. Not average.

10. Buy your boss a book that he/she NEEDS to read to help them. If your boss looks unhealthy and you realize it's because he/she is slammed at the office and not eating proper dinners, buy him/her a book about "How to cook dinners in under 10 minutes." If your boss is complaining about people in the office, buy him/her "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. The best interns I've ever had to this day were ones who were not afraid about offering me advice and feedback on my own life and business style. They were honest with me. They looked at me as a friend, and I looked at them back the same way. They learned how to give constructive criticism and then offer problems to solutions. Many times, I've found a book can be the perfect solution. It helps someone recognize they have a problem, and then gives them something to do about it. And to this day, thinking about it now, the interns who have risen to the challenge and have received the best projects are the ones who have been the most honest with me and offered me feedback on my own performance.

That's it! I could go on and on, but I kept this to 10. Good luck! Hit me up if you have any questions. Happy to help.


Top 10 Things D2 Mighty Ducks Taught Me About Business Culture

June 15th, 2012

Culture. It is one of the top 10 words I hear entrepreneurs, investors, businessmen/women and people in tech in general talk about with regards to success in business. As everyone knows who has started a company, ran a company, or been a part of a company before, culture really is THAT important. And the easiest way to recognize it is to step inside another company in town and see how different the people, the atmosphere, the vibe, truly is from your own. Culture is important when it comes to employee happiness, employee hiring, employee retention, messaging, selling, packaging, everything! It's important for internal and daily operations. For internal communication. Up. Down. Left. Right. It truly is that important.

There are over 100,000,000 blog posts written about culture. It's a true, made up fact. You could go and read them all to learn about it. Or, you could watch D2 The Might Ducks. And learn everything you'll ever need to know. Teams define culture. You can decorate your office a certain way and preach to the world who you think you are, but at the end of the day, team defines culture.

Gordon Bombay was able to assemble a team who literally defined a generation of kids in America for years. For any 25 year old today, if they were to look you in the eyes and say that The Mighty Ducks did not define their generation, they'd be lying to you. (Yes. The Sandlot definitely deserves mention here, too.) The movie rocked me and my friend's childhoods, in the best of ways.

Here are the lessons I've taken away from D2 The Mighty Ducks:

1. Team defines culture. You build a phenomenal team, you have the opportunity to build a phenomenal culture. At the end of the day, it is as simple as that.

2. Inspire within your team the desire to win. Hire people who literally say the words "I want to win" or "I hate losing." Find people who will do anything to beat team Iceland in the finals.

3. Set an expectation for players to step up to the plate in times of trouble. Injuries happen (Banks injures his wrist). Sometimes your strongest players cannot be with you (Portman gets rejected). A strong culture emphasizes picking up the slack.

4. Every team needs a Bash Brothers. People who vocalize their team's strengths to the world, both verbally and physically, are incredibly valuable.

5. You can learn a lot from "old people." In the same way Gordon Bombay took advice from Hans and Jan, you must encourage your teammates to find mentors and people they can learn from, be inspired by, and change with. Culture strengthens as a result of strong mentors.

6. Everyone is a founder. From the original crew of Charlie Conway, Fulton, Goldberg, Averman, Jesse Hallllll (kid was a playa), Guy Germaine, Connie, and Karp. To the newbies... Louis Mendoza from Miami: the speed skater who couldn't stop on skates. Julie the Cat Gaffney from Bangor, Maine: the goalie with cat like reflexes. Dwayne Robinson from Austin: the puck handler who was all smiles. Ken Wu: the figure skater. Classy. Stylish.  Portland: the enforcer and second half to the Bash Brothers. Everyone is a founder of the vision of the company. Gordon Bombay emphasized this upon the merger of both teams, old and new. Everyone mattered. Everyone had their own role. But they were all equal in ownership of the vision. I've always looked at every single one of our employees at my company as founders. I don't care if you were there in the beginning or hired yesterday.

7. Secret weapons to your team exist outside of the office. Finding your Russ Tyler and knucklepuck happens outside your four walls. Go back to your routes when you need it most. Street hockey is the mother of all ice.

8. #WorkEthic.

9. Gloves. Stick. Shirt. Even your quietest team members have a voice. Teach them to fight for themselves and for the team. You're only as strong as your weakest player.

10. Ducks fly together.

These are my lessons learned. I'm sure I have another two dozen I could add to the list, but these were the big ones that came to mind. Team defines culture. But look only to those around you to determine what your culture is and has the potential to be.

Here's a question to ask yourself the next time you sit down and think about culture: WWGBD? What Would Gordon Bombay Do? The man was a master. A pure genius. I mean... think about it.

And in case you want to know where all of the D2 actors are now... I found this post online and you should check it out.


Top 10 Questions To Ask People in Interviews

May 6th, 2012

I'm really happy to see a number of young men and women who I have been working with over the past two years since moving to Boston starting their companies, making money, and growing their teams. It's really, really cool to see young people discover their first couple of AH-HAH moments, catapulting them into making their hobbies legit businesses. I love it. And with graduation right around the corner for many of them, they have begun focusing their attention on taking their products and building teams around them. Many of them have been asking: "What questions should I be asking people in interviews?"

Great question. And to answer that, I have put together a combination of questions that I like to ask, and questions that I think are really interesting that I picked up from a recent recruiting event put on by Scott Savitz and a number of other entrepreneurs in town. Just remember that of all serious things within a company: managing your board, building your user base, closing deals, etc, there is one that trumps all, and that is BUILDING YOUR TEAM. Interviewing is one of the first steps in the process, and it will end up affecting your life and everyone else's lives in the company more than anything else.

So, let's rifle through them with a twelve gauged shot gun, shall we? Right!

  1. Tell me about you, from as early as you'd like to go. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? (Simply to learn about the person, make them feel comfortable, and make you feel comfortable.)

  2. Why did you apply for this job? (This is really telling with regards to motivation and why the person is on your doorstep. Where they pushed to you? Or drawn to you like a magnet?)

  3. Why this company? (Ask this. I've found most people don't. I think it's important to see if the person buys into your vision here. Can they even relate the purpose of the company back to you?)

  4. What do you like about work? (Do they like the people they work with most? Do they like the actual work? Do they like the competitiveness? Do they like things structured? Loose? What else can you learn?)

  5. What do you like to do for fun? (Simply to learn about the person.)

  6. How did you do in high school? (I've never asked this, but I was recommended to try it because it might show me how people view their prior selves.)

  7. Tell me about something you are proud of. (My favorite question to ask people.)

  8. Do you like to win? (Very telling from someone's response how competitive they are.)

  9. Do you like to hit deadlines? (See how quickly they respond with the word "yes." Find out why they like hitting deadlines. Is it because you want them to, or because they do?)

  10. What is your current compensation and what are you expecting? (The easiest way to find out if you are going to be able to afford someone is to ask.)

Beyond these questions, I've learned it is always best to try to focus on competency based interview questions (also called situational or behavioral interviewing). These are questions like: "Tell me about a time when X happened and tell me about how you handled it." Instead of reinventing the wheel and listing out 20 behavioral questions you could pick from, my recommendation is to google behavioral interview and check out questions. One simple rule I always have though: never ask someone an interview question that you're not prepared to answer yourself. Good luck!


Startup Lessons Learned from Boston Native Fashion Designer Joseph Abboud

March 2nd, 2012

Joseph Abboud is a famous fashion designer. He has led a very impressive life. He grew up in working-class Lebanese family in Boston. He graduated from UMass Boston in 1972, then studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. He first started working in the fashion industry as a 16-year-old working part-time at Louis Boston and was later hired by the man, the myth, the legend Ralph Lauren himself in 1981, eventually becoming associate director of menswear design. He launched his own label in 1986 and remained very close friends with Ralph Lauren. Many famous people rock his line including Tom Brokaw, Bill O'Reilly, good ol' Nomar Garciaparra and a bunch of other famous people. You may see him the next time you watch a Red Sox game on television because his seats are constantly in line of the cam. This week he gave a talk to over a 100 people at the UMass Club in Boston as part of Glenn Mangurian's "Someone to Be Proud Of" series, which I love and attend regularly.

I'm about to give you some of my favorite "quick and dirty" takeaways I walked away from... from the mouth of Joseph Abboud (you can buy his suits at Lord & Taylor):

1. "Your clothes should never wear you. You should wear your clothes." - Joseph Abboud, in speaking about what types of suits men should wear.

My translation: It's all about confidence baby. And wearing a suit that fits. Sizing is important. Everything else (vents vs. no vents, 3 button vs. 2 button, pleated pants vs. no pleats) doesn't matter. Things go into style and out of style. And by the time things are out of style, they are back in style again. Wear your clothes. Don't let them wear you. Don't get lost in your style brotha. Make it your own.

2. "You can only build a brand by being BETTER than your competition." - Joseph Abboud, in speaking about the difficulties and successes he's had bringing a new fashion line to market.

My translation: Investing in "the brand" means being relentlessly focused on what falls within the confines of the brand, and what falls outside of it. Building the brand is about being meniacle about how everything you do fits within your brand. Joseph said that one thing Ralph Lauren has always known about  And it also means assessing the competition to see where you fit within the market in your specific niche. If I want to build a car company that focuses on "safety," I better be ready to be BETTER than Volvo. Not on the same level. But BETTER. Significantly better. Same goes for building tech companies as it does for car companies or fashion lines when it comes to the emphasis of building your brand.

3. "I'm really proud of my work." - Joseph Abboud, in speaking about what he is most proud of.

My translation: If you can't look yourself in the mirror and be proud of your work, then you know exactly what that means... it's either time to find something new to do with your life, or it's time to buy a new mirror. But something tells me only one of those will work.

4. "As a great dad." - Joseph Abboud, in speaking about how he wants to be remembered.

My translation: All of this growing companies and building products and hiring teams and selling deals and acquiring users stuff will someday be put into perspective when I have kids.

5. "The reason I have to leave is YOU (Ralph Lauren)" - Joseph Abboud, in speaking about why he had to leave Ralph Lauren's mentorship to start his own fashion line. "If I could achieve 1 / 1,000,000 of what you have accomplished, I would be a happy man. It's because of you that I have to leave now.  There comes a time in life when you have to test yourself to see what you're made of. And that time is now. I have to see what I can do. I have to see what Joseph Abboud can do. And I thank you forever for showing me what I know I have to do."

That, my friends, deserves no translation at all. Joseph Abboud went on to create his own fashion line and outfit some of the most famous people in news, sports, music, and television.

Thanks for reading.


Top 10 Tips to Getting Hired At A Startup

February 16th, 2012

I was asked today to put together the top ten list I put together for getting hired at a startup into one blog post. So here it is.

Here are the Top 10 Tips to Getting Hired At a Startup:

  1. Stand in the Rain

  2. The Importance of Warm Showers

  3. Get to 98%

  4. Wear Dress Clothes

  5. On "People Persons"

  6. Make Them Like You

  7. Carry a Bag, Notebook, and Pen

  8. Ask Who You'll Be Interviewing With

  9. Ask ?'s

  10. Slap Interviewers in the Face With Follow Up