Jim Harrer

STARTUPS, TURNAROUNDS, APPDEV, AGILE & LIFE...

Posts to stimulate your thought process or move you.

Morgan - A great dog's five rules to live by.

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For my friends, family, neighbors and care providers (trainers, vets, groomers, etc..) who came in contact with Morgan, my hope is you'll join me in remembering her for the great dog she was.

She was born on 12/31/2002, though our paths would not cross for another six years (1/3/2009) when I stumbled on her at the Bend, Oregon, Humane Society. I was planning on adopting a 1-year old, chocolate lab/boxer mix that day, but God had a different plan. Morgan laid curled up in the back corner of her kennel, with an expression that screamed, “I don't belong here.” Unlike the other 80+ dogs barking and jumping up on the mesh fence as people walked by, Morgan just glanced up at me and gave me one tail wag. As I read her intake form, I learned she was six years old, had never been socialized around people or animals. No formal training, in fact she didn’t know how to sit on command, or fetch, and trusted no one. The reason she was there was because her previous owner couldn't afford to care for her any longer.

Here is the very first video I captured of Morgan when we brought her home. Mike Kathriner was visiting and nailed the fact Morgan hated cameras and as you'll see in many of the photos, she often looked away.

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Put Up the Hoop Sooner - 10 lessons of parenting from one wise guy who's done the dad thing.

This was emailed to me by another dad to help us reflect on Father's day and to give some insight to younger dads.  I share many of  these 10 lessons in common and thought it was fitting to pass it on.  Thanks to Hugh O'Neill for this well written article.

...Jim


Put Up the Hoop Sooner

10 lessons of parenting from one wise guy who's done doing the dad thing
By: Hugh O'Neill

 

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5 Best Practices of a Startup Leader

I’ve been around the block a few times as a technology leader. I’ve been fortunate to start a company, bootstrap it to profitability, skipping the VC rounds, taking it public on the NASDAQ exchange and then having a successful exit – this was over a 14 year span. I learned to manage, I learned the importance of leading by example. Since then, I’ve done another startup and performed three corporate turnarounds, all feeding my intense desire to learn how to build financially sound and insanely happy and productive companies. I thought I had heard and seen it all. Boy was I wrong.

13831827 sThis past year I have been working with 10 startup companies. Some through our accelerator here in Bend, Oregon, others through a recent Startup Weekend we held in Bend and the rest through my consulting practice. Not all startups are created equal. Some start with one person, others with more. Some start with a techie developing a killer mobile application, the other a mom with an idea on how to reduce her child’s asthma attacks and that’s it.

Working with these companies I’ve had the chance to see what has worked and where they’ve stumbled. I’ve been able to start understanding the Best Practices of a Startup Leader. The first thing you should note in my title is, I chose the word “Leader” over manager or founder. I strongly believe you lead people, and you manage things. Startups are about people, not the things. The things are artifacts of the production from the team. Production drops when people fail to lead.

If you’re thinking of founding a startup, or if you’re a founder of a startup, here are some of the Best Practices I’ve observed from the founders I’ve worked with:

1. They’re passionate.

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Three lessons learned from the Facebook – Instagram $1 Billion Acquisition.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t finish a dinner with my friends without someone asking me a computer related question. Even though,  I was a software guy, I was their go-to guy all things PC. The last two years it has turned to smart phone applications.  Now that I’m involved in startups and an accelerator, the dinner chatter often turns to startups.

1-Billion-DollarsLast night, all they wanted to talk about was Facebook’s acquisition of mobile photo sharing application, Instagram for a cool $1 billion dollars.  Was Instagram, which is still pre-revenue, worth $1 billion? Yes.  A company’s worth is measured by another company’s willingness to pay.  At this moment in time, Instagram and its team of 13, are worth $1 billion dollars. That shouldn’t be the main question.

To me, the true lesson here is about the founders. I wish I could say I know them, I do not. I’ve never had the privilege to meet Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Based off what I’ve studied about their product, I can tell you that they are intensely driven by the user experience (UX). Instagram user interface is efficient and elegant.  For them, their Minimal Viable Product (MVP) had to have a WOW experience, which is why 25,000 people downloaded the application on their iPhone the very first day it was released in October 2010. Ninty days later, over 1 million people had it on their iPhone.  Today, it’s close to 30 million subscribers and with last week’s release for the Android market, that hockey stick is likely to continue.

So, what are the lessons we can learn from Instagram’s early success?

  1. instagram 1 billionUX (User Experience) matters.  The lean startup and MVP principles don’t always mean your interface can (or should) suck. Also, you have to give credit to both founders for making sure the back-office was well designed and could scale. They clearly learned from Twitter and MySpace’s early failures. In order to have an awesome UX, the total user experience needs to be awesome. The fact they were able to pull this off, with their explosive growth, is impressive indeed.
  2. Focus on what matters. Instagram is available only as a mobile application. Unlike Pinterest, you can’t view it on a website. This was another great decision because it allowed them to stay insanely focused on the user experience.  It also plays well for the type of photos they’re looking for. They want photos of people living life. Pinterest’s market is decidedly different. Just compare the photos on Instagram and Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean.
  3. Keep it lean. According to CrunchBase, Instagram funding was $57.5 million from Benchmark Capital. A total staff of 13, they kept the group agile. Most companies with $50 million in funding would immediately grow to 100 to 200 people. This is impressive to me and something we can all learn from.

So even though I don’t know the Instagram team, I want to tip my hat to them.  Anything is possible, dream big!

…Jim

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A great customer experience begins with a smile

The Power of a Smile

It was a cold, dark January morning. The clock on my truck read 5:32am as I pulled out of my garage for a business meeting over to Portland. Two tons of steel was protecting me from the outside elements, yet I shivered as the ice mist hit my windshield.

My brain needed a jolt, so I headed over to Dutch Brothers Coffee, pulled up to the window, and was greeted with a big smile - “Good morning, what can I make for you this beautiful morning?” I’m charmed by her positive, friendly outlook. The combination of the friendly service and fresh roasted coffee resulted in a great way to start my day.

Dutch Bros. CoffeeCan a smile change where you do business? As I drove to Portland I reflected on my own experiences and thought about where I spent my money.

Magazines like Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Small Business have been writing articles covering great customer service for years. I love the legendary story of the Nordstrom clerk who accepted a return of automobile tires from a customer, even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires. However, most businesses simply can’t relate to that tale, and never focus on what they can do to improve repeat business. Can it be as simple as a smile?

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© Jim Harrer

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