Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Apr 15

Your Decision Making Batting Average

I’m a big fan of moving fast. I feel very fortunate that somewhere along the way the idea of “taking risks” became one I was pretty comfortable with. While I haven’t always been right (obvioussslyyyyy), I’ve become very comfortable with what I call “my decision making batting average.” This isn’t an entirely new concept, but it is one that I have advised friends to embrace over the years and one that I believe has been a huge advantage for me as an entrepreneur.

The gist is this – you won’t always be right. But you will likely bat an average. The sooner you feel out how comfortable you are with that average, the more you trust yourself, the more honest you can be with those that work with you, and the faster you are at making decisions and providing value.

My batting average is 70%. I believe that if given ten decisions to make, I will likely lead us the right direction 7 out of 10 times. Of course this is high some days (say for example — days I am in my wheelhouse in marketing) and low others (like days that I’m out of my wheelhouse on a new product or something).

But over the years I have settled in at .70 and I dig it. I’m all cozy up in there. Getting comfortable with this has helped me so much. First and foremost I let my colleagues know. I’m up front – hey guys, I chill around .70 most of the time, so you can expect I might screw up 3 out of every 10 times. This sort of transparency builds trust. Trust that I’m not pretending to know it all. Trust that if I screw up, I’ll let you know right away and we’ll correct it. Trust in my abilities to lead us [generally] in the right direction the majority of the time.

These are good things.

Additionally, it gives me a place to jump from. You’ll be amazed at how much more you trust yourself when you spend time nailing down your decision making batting average. Some of you might be cool with .50 – you risky little cats you. These people move real fast, and are totally comfortable hitting it out of the park 1 out of every 2 times. Others might need to be closer to .90, which means you might need more information prior to a decision. It might take you longer to make a decision on something but from that you have higher confidence. The truth is there is a job and place for all of us. Continue reading →

Mar 25

A Beautiful Impact

I get asked all the time…”what drives you?” I never really know what to say. I feel like over the years a million things have driven me in startups and marketing and life. I didn’t give the question that much time. The irony of course being that I spent so many hours thinking about questions that really are so much less important. Stressing over why I said that one thing, or acted that way that one time. It all comes back to what motivates us.

The past six months I have had the honor of working with one of Seattle’s most amazing professional coaches – Stacey Sargent, CEO of Connect Growth and Development, Author of a fantastic book on how we all handle our inner critics and brilliant woman all around. The funny thing is – she’d smack me if she saw I called her a professional coach. She adheres to “”whole-person intelligence” coaching and believes it’s about helping us bring our life back into work. It’s so up my alley. I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t have work life balance. Never have. I’ve helped build 6 startups, four effectively succeeded, one failed, and one is in the middle of an exciting adventure. I’m a tech advisor, a TechStars mentor, a professor at UW. I’m launching a shopping app, I blog for Entrepreneur, MarketingLand, and here. I have been talking, learning, teaching, and doing marketing and tech for over a decade. Traveled the world teaching hundreds of thousands of marketers how to do great marketing. I’m not married, I don’t have kids. Hell I just got a betta fish, and I have to co-own it, because I have a hard time remembering to feed it. I don’t do balance. 

Or as Stacey has shown me…perhaps I do my balance. And perhaps it is perfectly in balance.

For the past five months we’ve met every other week to work through what I would call “hard stuff.” We talked through my inner critics, my mistakes, my weaknesses. We also worked through my strengths, my superpowers, and exercises that showed me just how intense those two camps fight with each other. We worked through what I love about what I do, and where I want to end up. What do I want from all of this? What makes me truly happy?

It all made for a lot of intense sessions of self-reflection, a lot of late nights of reading, and writing, and pushing myself to get at the core of it all. It might sound new-age to you, or cheesy, or even a waste of time, but I can honestly say…working with Stacey has been the best thing I’ve done for myself professionally, hell possibly even personally.

After half a year of us working together, a few huge things came out of it (and a million smaller things). Big things include;

  • I know my core values. I have six core values (on itttyyy bittty notecards) I now carry around me. I value “passion, acheivement, family, helping others, creativity and humor” more than I value most things. It steers me. It anchors me. It helps me identify when I feel off course.
  • I know where I am easily derailed. Aka, I know why I screwed up so much. Or at least I have some good theories. The first few years of my career were driven by pure ambition. I was very competitive, and not always that empathetic, and I acknowledge that now.  During that time I strengthened some muscles and not others. I now know what I need to work on and where I need to level up.  I can correct for it faster. Especially since the ambition is still so prevalent (and will always be a part of me).
  • I have words I am comfortable defining myself by. Eeekkk! Okay…here I go. I am an entrepreneur, a business woman, a storyteller, a marketer, a mentor. I am grounded, maternal, and an artist. I’m just gonna throw down on this — most woman (and some men) have a hard time screaming “I AM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL BUSINESSWOMAN…AND I AM GREAT AT WHAT I DO!” So we hide it. We blush. We deflect when someone compliments us, and rarely do we own it. I am owning these words. I am these things. I work hard for them.
  • I have a mantra. We did this great exercise where I got to invite 6 business people to dinner. Any 6 in the world. Then we talked through why them, what would I ask them, what advice would they give me. The common thread between my six people were that they: challenged the status quo, empowered other people, were building a legacy, were driven & focused, and they worked their asses off. When it came down to the collective advice they gave me, I concluded they (in my story at least) said this: “Stop worrying and JUST GO!”  … I mean for real people, why don’t we all just stop worrying and JUST FREAKING GO?!

So those are some of the takeaways that really stood out. But the biggest success after all of this was that I had finally nailed down what really motivates me. I could identify the two words that feel so “me” that I can honestly say I wake up every morning, and work late into the night with this on my mind. I take opportunities based on these words, I pass on others because of these words. These two words are me.

I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. A beautiful impact. I want to build companies and brands that want to have a beautiful impact on the world. I want to work with investors that believe in investing in a beautiful impact. I hire people that work hard and build things. I believe in the power of design, and imagery. The visual has always been key to the experiences I’ve built and sold. I love beautiful people. Like really beautiful people – inside and out. Honest, real, full of flaws, that are making a difference. “Beautiful” to me means you have the power to stop someone in their tracks with a moment so real that it encourages a deep breath, a thankful breath…for that singular experience. That experience could be between people in a community, between a consumer and a product, or a brand and a customer, or two colleagues building something together. It could be felt when you see a photo or read a story. Moments of beautiful impact are rare, but to me…it’s what this is all about.

As Stacey pointed out with every superpower comes the other side…it’s called the “light” and the “shadows.” The light of such a goal is pretty obvious. But the shadows include – lack of patience for those mailing it in, a need to move fast and go hard that can cannibalize others. It can be intimidating, my obsession for progress can come off as inauthentic (because what crazy person could care that much about a homepage layout? #raiseshand). I have a high bar for the beautiful which can cause friction with fans of MVPs, baseline experiences, and uber lean approaches. To have a beautiful impact you often have to be bold, outside the box, and you have to often follow your intuition. You have to trust the consumer, hear what they need, put them first. You have to aspire to delight them at every corner…sometimes at the detriment of short-term revenue. This is hard, and frankly…not right for every company. It’s not the goal of every team. With the light, comes the dark.

Mar 11

The Value of Stiletto Networks

I was wandering the web the other day and stumbled upon a post on Entrepreneur.com about the Rise of Stiletto Networks, and I have to admit – I was caught a bit off guard. What is this new trend regarding women in business that I have yet to hear about?

A stiletto network is loosely defined as “a group of power women that meet often and support each other” and apparently it’s like a thing. There is even a book on it {that I admittedly just ordered}.

Honest moment…something about the name rubs me the wrong way. Which is strange because I love both confident women and beautiful stilettos. Hell you all know how much I love shoes. Like a lot. But it feels like a name that goes against the nature of the cause. Like it somehow suggests you have to be wearing stilettos to be powerful, or maybe that you have to be a stereotypical type of beautiful to be powerful. Neither of which is true, obviously. Powerful, confident, world-changing women wear all sort of shoes. They come in all sorts of sizes, styles, and types.

On the flip side…a stiletto is a very powerful shoe. It’s synonymous with bold, beautiful, power. All of those words are exactly how I view the women I know that are leading the way. They are bold, beautiful, and powerful.

It’s what I aspire to be daily…bold, beautiful, and to have an impact on the brands I build, consumers I reach, and technology world in general.

I’m a fan of camraderie between women in business, especially women in tech. In fact, I’m more than a fan. I’ve spent the last few years of my career very much focused on investing in other women entrepreneurs, marketers, and technologists (this focus of mine has come with it’s own challenges, which I plan on writing about at some point). I mentor two women myself, and take any chance I can to get in front of women and remind them how exciting technology is and how perfect a place it is for their unique skills.

My mentor is a woman. My professional coach is a woman. My closest industry liasons are women. Without even knowing it I have created and joined a number of “stiletto networks.” In fact, right now I am actually, intentionally, working with a fellow fashion blogger on building one focused on fashion and tech. We just didn’t know that it was called that. So meta. I find it very interesting, that without having been exposed to the idea, or learning about it’s value, I was actually creating and participating in so many of these.

The value of these networks (call them whatever you want) are so amazing. From them we get professional guidance, personal support, connections, advice, and what I believe to be an “innate understanding” that somehow helps me silence my inner critics, and be my boldest, best self.

I feel very fortunate to have found myself surrounded by so many women I adore and admire professionally. If you are a woman in tech and you find yourself without a group like this, I encourage you to go create one. It can start with just two of you, and see where it takes you. Invite in those with other skills, and similar ambitions and before you know it…you’ll be rocking a Stiletto Network yourself.

And if you really can’t find that second person, ping me. No I mean it. We’ll figure something out. #thepoweroftwo for women in tech can be a very powerful beginning. So go get started already.

Oct 15

Know Thy Work Self

I had one of those great catch up sessions with an old boss tonight. You know the ones…where you catch up over old stories and new stories and you laugh because it all makes so much more sense now. It was great and I couldn’t be more thankful for the advice I learned both from my two years working for him but also for the candid responses to my questions tonight. My main takeaway?

Know thy work self.

We spend a lot of time on ourselves. Or we should. The truth is we spend a hell of a lot of time figuring out how we fit into everything else. We obsess over our relationships, our place in a company, our place in an industry, our role in a friendship. And maybe – just maybe – if we aren’t completely exhausted we get to the end of the day and we have a moment where we reflect on whether we are living it all the way we really want to be living it.

Call it grounded. Meditation. Self-awareness. Authenticity. Truth. Boldness. So many words all meaning the same thing — are you doing you?

Tough thing to do these days. I blame Facebook (read “blame” as “thank”) because we have never been more connected to ghosts of yesteryear, and promises of tomorrow. Every day we are faced with choices we could have made, and things we did wrong. Want to wonder what it would have been like if I chose love at age 24 over that second startup? I don’t need to wonder I have a feed full of beautiful families to remind me. Wonder if you made the wrong choice quitting that last gig?  No need to question it, just look at that old team you miss so much. It’s easy to get caught up in. I think the reality of it all is we spend a great deal of time knowing each other. A great deal of time not trusting ourselves that we actually did the right thing.

I know I do. I spend a lot of time “watching others” — man that sounded creepy.

But what about me? Know thy self. It’s a real thing. But even outside the personal reasons for focusing on you – what about work. How well do you know thy work self? Do you know what really drives you? Do you know what that ideal work situation looks like? Those ideal colleagues? That ideal office? That ideal commute? What about that company philosophy? Do you know what the mecca of companies is for you? It doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but you need to know it…to get closer to it.

I bet you spend 1/100th of your time figuring out that, compared to the time you spent on what boots you should by for this fall. Or maybe that was just me. La la la.

Tonight’s chat with an old boss (mentor, great guy, friend) reminded me how far I’ve come in knowing my true work self. I know I love solving business problems that have an impact. I know I get frustrated working for and with people that are anything but passionate and dedicated to the problem we are solving. I know I love beautiful things – websites, campaigns, content, logos, products. I like to build them and be around people that appreciate beautiful things. I want to work for a company that has a real reason for being around. I also like to try my hand at new things and “figure it out” even if that means failing 49% of the time. I like to help my colleagues find out what part of their jobs they love and help them do more of that. I like to empower them to get after bold things…sometimes at the detriment of an immediate ROI. (Yup I just said that).

That’s my work self, and it’s not at every company. Hell, it’s not at most companies. Continue reading →

Sep 11

Embrace Your 8 Mile Moment

I’m a big fan of the movie 8 Mile. For those that know me well…this may surprise you. I’m not exactly a rapper. Okay FINE, I am in no way a rapper. My friend Ruth Burr is, in fact, a rapper or at least she is when we end up at karaoke, but I digress.

I love the movie. I love Eminem in the movie, I love the struggles, and I love the story. For those of you that have seen it you might understand what I mean when I say “have your 8 Mile moment” but for those that haven’t lets run through the gist of it – a guy starts on the streets, has a horrible life, makes himself into something, is fighting to reach his dreams. He finds himself in the final “battle” (aka when two rappers…rap off) and the goal of these is to blast each other in super witty ways, with rhymes, and mortify the person so much they can’t come back with a rebuttal.

Rapping is hard, right?

Anyway, they get to the final battle (beware there is some uhmmm bad language in there). Eminem gets up there and rather than blast his competitor…he blasts himself. He calls out his own faults. He covers his own mistakes and failures. He does it so beautifully, so well orchestrated…there is nothing left for the competitor to do. It’s a “drop the mic and wait” sort of moment. I’ve watched the movie a dozen times…tearing up at that part…every time.

There is a power in being vulnerable. We forget it sometimes. Opening up about where you came from, what you failed at, your weaknesses not only robs your competition of ammunition (which can be very powerful, particularly in big brand building) but it’s also a kickoff to a 1-to-1 moment between you and someone else. Being vulnerable breeds authenticity. Authenticity breeds trust. Trust is at the heart of everything.

Whether you are a company or a person, you should have your 8 Mile moment. If you are a company you should stop ignoring where your product falls short and get in a room, face it, and learn how to spin it. Not “spin in” like as in “fake, manipulative, marketing.” Spin it like as in “honest, transparent, campaign marketing.” How can you share where you are falling short and ask your customers for feedback and help to improve? If you messed up your communications as a company and offended someone – don’t do press and say you’re sorry – build a campaign that makes a promise to do better. Opening up about being human is just that — being human. The last time I checked, every consumer in the world was human. So there is that. And it is powerful.

If you are a founder, or entrepreneur there is a good chance you appreciate – hustling. You are doing it. You are getting it done. You are also likely faking 50% of what you “know.” I get the fake it until you make it mentality. I’ve done it in the past. I’ve also traded it in for this 8 Mile moment philosophy. I’d rather be open about where I fall short, staff in people to support me, ask for help when needed, and double down on what I know. I find my startups have moved faster for it. Continue reading →

Jul 29

We All Skipped Steps, No Really We Have

Today was a good day. I mentored at the NWEN here in town (which is an amazing program we should all support if we can), I pushed through quite a few to-dos, I remembered to actually eat dinner (yay!) and perhaps my favorite thing today — I kicked off my executive coaching again.

Now I’ve done executive coaching in the past in a number of forms – calls, coffees, weekend retreats, etc. Not much stuck to be honest. It’s a hard thing to get right. You have to find the right person, you have to be in a place where you can really absorb it, you need time to invest in it…you need to not be jaded about personal growth.

I don’t say that last one lightly. There are times I’ve been jaded about personal growth. Jaded because I’m not sure “investing in myself is even working” or jaded because “I can barely keep up with my daily responsibilities to others” and so on and so forth.

Executive coaching only works if you can enter an hour long session with an open and clear mind and be [gulp] vulnerable.

Lucky enough for me I found an amazing coach here in Seattle – Stacey Sargent from Connect G & D. I’ve known Stacey for years through organizational trainings she has done, empowerment seminars she led, and more. I’ve sipped cocktails with her, and coffee (many times). She is a gem of a woman, and also the executive coach that finally pointed out to me…in the most perfect way…I need some freaking help.

That’s always fun to hear. But I do. We all do. I would ramble on about all these big goals I have, and all the challenges that are freaking me out, and I’d talk about these amazing people that inspire me, and so on and so forth. Stacey would always bring it back to – but what do I want? How am I going to get there? What tools do I have to overcome the inevitable obstacles.

Big stuff for sure.

So anyway, she’s great, we kicked off our official training again today and I am stoked. I’m hoping to blog after every session about at least one or two lines that came up. The ones that stopped me in my tracks. The ones I wrote done and underlined…okay maybe a few times.

So today’s standout: we’ve all skipped steps. 

Some context: Imposter syndrome is a real thing – for men and women (maybe more prominently in women, but let’s not make this blog post a gender discussion). Particularly in startups we spend a lot of our time kicking ourselves for what we haven’t done. I have never coded a wordpress blog – there I said it – I have only hired people and paid people to. I’ve never taken a design class. I’ve only hired in, worked alongside, absorbed theory and managed great designers.

We get pissed that we haven’t done X and Y, and we start to think – shit I wish I hadn’t skipped that step. But you know what?

Continue reading →

Jul 02

Sometimes You Have to Ask Twice…or Six Times

I’m three weeks into the new gig as CMO, and whoa…what a whirlwind it’s been. There’s a lot to learn when you start a new job. Admittedly, I underestimated how much there is to absorb and process. A new product. A new industry. A new team. A new set of processes. A new philosophy. So freaking much. While it’s been fun to completely envelop myself in newness, one thing has stood out as harder than the rest…

Asking for help. Yup. I said it. I have had to ask a lot of questions. And perhaps even more annoying to me…I’ve had to ask the same question twice, or three times…fine maybe even six (some of this is really hard!).

I like asking questions. Or I thought I did. I’m realizing I like to ask questions in tandem with people. I like asking questions for exploration sake. Like, “what are our options for the new homepage story” and then we banter. You first. Then me. Then you. Then me. It’s my favorite thing. That dance of creativity.

You know what I [apparently] don’t like? Asking for help, and then asking for it again. It disarms me. I hate interrupting someone else’s flow for my own reasons. I hate not being able to wrap my head around something when a smart person explains it well. But you know what I realized in the last few weeks? 

That’s so ass backwards.

Asking someone smarter than you to explain something (once, or twice, or in 100 bullets if need be…which I have in fact done this past week) is exactly what we should be doing, particularly in startup land – where time, and momentum are critical. Me slowing down to “go to the Googles” (as we have all done a thousand times) is detrimental for a number of reasons. One big one being — context in startup learning is everything. I think we like to generalize the path to success at a startup, and I think its dangerous. Continue reading →

Jun 18

In a Startup Messaging Spiral? Return to Your Values

I’ve spent the last week in meetings. The good kind of meetings. The “coffee fueled, big brained, lots of ideas, and so many questions” type of meetings. I’ve been running through a SWOT analysis, marketing positioning exercise and whole product analysis with my new team and its reminded me of something really important  - your values are more than just a cultural compass. They are more than the code on your wall, or the acronym you send around to new hires — your values are at the heart of your message, your product, and your promise. 

The values your team exudes are the exact words that you should want to share with the world. They should be laced in your headers, your bylines, and your positioning pyramid. I think too often startups think of their “values” as internal beacons, and then they go spend months trying to come up with a “sellable” story. Yuck. Not only is that poor marketing, thats just a waste of time.

Wondering how you should sell your product? Look around at your teams and ask them what they love about your product. Why do they work there? What are they willing to stand behind…no matter how f*cked up it is at times. I guarantee their answers are the ones that should fall in your “stength” column, they are your UVPs, and all that other marketing jazz.

Who you are and what you offer should not be fabricated. It shouldn’t be composed by marketing gurus, and pulled together like some mad scientist experiment. It shouldn’t be “just outside of reach,” or “sort-of-kind-of” the truth.

You are your values. Return to them and there is your messaging. That’s what you lead with. Continue reading →

Apr 24

Do You Believe in Professional Development? I Have a Favor to Ask

Hey friends! I am helping a friend out with some market validation. Can I grab two minutes of your day?

My friend Kate Matsudaira is working away on her new startup popforms (you can signup to be notified when it launches!) and she is looking for some information into how you all develop yourselves professionally. She has a quick survey for you to take that seriously is only 6 questions long around how you spend money on your development, what you use to track goals, etc.

This space is near and dear to my heart, so I am really excited about what she is working on. I’d love for you to take it and share with your networks so we can try and collect as much information for her as we can. Out of all of this should come a pretty cool product we might all want to use down the road. So thanks so much for your help!

 

Apr 16

Dreams Don’t Reach Themselves People: Here I Go

It’s been a crazy few months for me.

The big things: I’ve been heads down prepping for a launch I’ve been working on for a year, I have put in my month notice at SEOmoz, I’m a few weeks out from launching my ISITaYES shopping app, I’ve been working away on my advisory board responsibilities for Attendly, I’ve had a close friend tell me she is moving to another state, I’ve been speaking at conferences, teaching at startup incubators in town, and my boyfriend has been down in the Valley for weeks on end investing in his startup’s crazy awesome trajectory of growth.

And you know what? I am on fire. In the best possible way.

I kept saying for weeks I was so tired, and I honestly wasn’t sleeping that well, but then I just had a few very clear moments. I’m not that tired. I have an energy that I haven’t felt in a while. I am having big ideas, dancing my dance, and grooving the creative wave late into the night. It’s pretty freaking fantastic actually. I’ve had the most amazing moments. The sort of moments that are rare. The big moments. The life-changing ones.

It was a few of these moments that led me to put in my notice at one of the top startups in Seattle. SEOmoz has been an amazing adventure for me. I’m sure Ill write more on this later, but I simply could not have been luckier to have met with Rand back in Capitol Hill 3 years ago and convince him over cupcakes to take a chance on me.

I’m proud of the impact I’ve had on the SEOmoz team, culture, and community. I only hope they all know how much I have learned from them, and how honored I am to have been a part of that ride. But tis the time…new adventure time.

What new adventure? I’m not 100% sure yet to be honest. I have some great opportunities to work with brilliant people, and I’m still considering others. I am going to take the next few weeks to really ponder what I want from it all. It will likely be an early stage to mid-stage venture with passionate people doing something I can really get behind…much like SEOmoz was for me a few years ago.

I can’t help it. I love to build companies. I love to build brands. And I love to build communities. Continue reading →