“AND” not “BUT.” How one simple word can change conversations for the better

April 15th, 2012

Warning: This tip is a game changer. It is something you can actively do to change your life for the better starting today. And it involves the way you talk (and listen) to other people. Well I'lllllll beeeee...

Try this: Erase the word "BUT" from your vocabulary and replace it with "AND."

Here's why. The word "BUT" does a really unbelievable job of NEGATING statements. If your goal is to win someone towards your way of thinking, or to have a conversation that keeps the other person open (and not closed off or guarded), you need to replace your "BUTS" with "ANDS."

Here are some examples to articulate:

1. "Rachel. I think your idea is great, BUT I think we should spend some more time on this product launch."

Deciphered: Your idea actually kind of sucks, Rachel.

2. "Billy. You are doing an awesome job, BUT I think you need to focus on hitting your deadlines."

Deciphered: Billy. You're actually not doing an awesome job. You need to start taking deadlines seriously. And if you cant get your shit together, I'm going to be pissed. DAMNIT BILLY! DAMNITTTTT.

In these two cases, the BUT negates the first statement.

Now try this. Instead of using the word BUT, try the word AND.

1. "Rachel. I think your idea is great, AND I think we should spend some more time on the product launch."

Deciphered: Rachel, your idea is great. And we should spend some more time on the product launch because it's also really important.

2. "Billy, I agree you are doing an awesome job, AND I think he needs to focus on hitting his deadlines."

Deciphered: Billy. You are doing an awesome job. And if you could spend some more time focusing on timing and details, you'll hit your deadlines, and this will make me really happy.

The next time you have a team meeting and other people are talking to one another, remember this lesson. And listen for the word "BUT." It is often used. And when you hear it, pay attention to the way the person who is listening to the conversation responds. It is highly likely that they are put on the defensive. It is highly likely that they are more combative. It is highly likely that they become more guarded. The word "BUT" does not include. It negates. And it affects conversations in a significant way.

AND, not BUT. Try it.


Take Your Phone Off The Table

March 9th, 2012

Do you keep your cell phone on the table at a business meeting or do you keep your cell phone on the table over lunch?

Here's a tip: Take it off the table and put it in your pocket.

You look like a fool and you're signaling to me that you value your cell phone more than me.

And while that may very well be true (damn that sounds really pathetic), it's one of the easiest ways to piss someone off who you're about to have a conversation with.

After asking 30 people over the past two days to list out their pet peves, this is one that 15 of the 30 vocalized.

Ya. Ya. We live in a digital age. I get it. Having your cell phone on in case of emergencies is important. You're mother may have a heart attack. You're girlfriend may die in a freak automobile accident. You're brother's head may fall off walking down the street. I get it. Throw that cell phone on vibrate and stick it in your pocket. And if Mom is calling you at 2 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, pick up, because she probably either just got impaled with a sharp object or she needs help finding out how to "get that Google website thing back as her homepage." I get it.

Just take your cell phone off the damn table. Put it in your pocket. Focus your attention on who you're speaking to. And LISTEN to the other person. You may just find that what you can learn from a living breathing human being in real time is more valuable than the data you can pick up in real time news feeds.

Or maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Either way. Take your phone off the table.


Domino’s Online Ordering is the Beez Kneez

March 6th, 2012

Today, I ordered Dominos pizza through their online ordering system for the umpteenth time, and while I still have no clue on earth why I keep eating dominos (it's clearly a sub par pizza in the world of pizzas, even after their complete rehaul of their previous completely, undeniably horribly shitty pizza) what I know is their online ordering tool rocks. IT JUST WORKS.

It works. It works. It works. It's simple. It's easy. It shows me how many pepperonis I'm going to be getting on my pizza. It shows me what my food will look like. It allows me to add and delete shit easily. AND IT IS FAST AS HELL. Great speed. Nice usability. Simple. Crisp.

Good work dominos. Your new pizza is significantly better than your last version. It still isn't the BEST. I'm still going to eat it. But you know what?!? Your online ordering rocks. And I'm going to keep ordering and coming back for more.

If that isn't the American dream right there, then I don't know what is.

See what I did there? Mmm. Clever.


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.


Tiny Tim, Crutches, and What Healthcare I Should Provide to My Startup Employees

February 28th, 2012

Earlier this week I talked about what payroll system I like using at my startup (it is the same payroll system I will continue to use until the product blows up, ADP blows up, or I blow up in a freak accident and die tragically). Well today we're here to talk HEALTH CARE boyzzzzzz and girlzzzzz. WOOO WOOOOOO! That's right. It's time to talk Health insurance for startups. Right here. Right now.

Alright gangsters. Here's the deal. Let's set the stage again. You had your idea. Worddd. You tested your Problem-Solution fit. Worddd. You tested your Product-Market fit. Worddd. You're cranking away with customers / users, whatevs. And you're making monies honies. You built up a team with your co-founders. You're around eight employees. Something like that. And you're blowing your shit up through sales, because you're a #boss. Your employees are now in their mid 20's. They've been working for a year alongside you. Fully faithful, loyal gangsters. Working hard. And Tiny Tim, your hardest working employee, who walks with a gimp but who is the fucking man comes up to you and says: "Ryan. My crutch broke last week for the sixth time. I'm struggling man. My legs are busted to shit. Do you think we could get healthcare now?"

AND YOU SAY: "Tiny Tim. Quit your bitching."

Just kidding. You say... "Ya man. Let's do it."



Now what?

Great question. Here's what I recommend.

First off. Work with a group like Telamon Insurance. I've been working with them for two+ years at CampusLIVE and I wouldn't know what I'd do without them. They go out and get quotes (aka... how much all this shit is gonna cost) from all of the healthcare providers in town (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim, Fallon, etc) and give you all of the competitive rates together. You then pick a plan (either they have the best rate or the best health plan for your team) and Telamon then helps take care of setting up all of your employees on the health plan. They show you how to fill out the health care enrollment forms (which allow you to sign individual employees up to the company plan). They give everyone in the company information on what is and what is not covered. They go over what "deductibles" and "copays" are so that everyone knows the deal (I'm sure you've heard these terms growing up from your mom when you were at the doctor's office). And they are there to answer all questions you have about what the hellllll to do. Plus, they also handle all COBRA and HIPPA related things. When you work with a group like Telamon, you get to hand off a lot of the annoying paperwork to someone else while you focus on growing your business. You get someone to ask 1,000,000 questions to when they come up. I'm lucky to have them by my side. And it just makes clear sense as a business decision.

By the way, what health care plan do we have at CampusLIVE? We have Blue Cross Blue Shield. Medical and dental. It's very typical for the company to cover 80% of the plan, while the employee covers 20%. Average health care cost is on average $500 per month per employee. Of that $500 per month, about $450 of it is medical and $50 is dental. You do the math.  It's clearly cheap as shit to provide dental to your employees. And for a bunch of young people who maybe don't brush twice per day every day of their lives (just sayin), it's not the worst idea in the world and is certainly an added perk.

If you have any more questions on health plans, specifically regarding the setting up of one, all of the paperwork, etc... hit me up and let me know. Happy to help answer your ????s.