How we Rebranded our Company in 3 Months

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rebranded psd

This post was written by Benjamin Brandall and originally appeared on the Process Street blog and is the story of how Cameron and I rebranded our startup Process Street.

In the lifecycle of every startup, there comes a tipping point.

For companies focused on aesthetics and creating something beautiful, there’s a time where the founders need to shift towards their product — look inward and think deeply about the problems it solves, who’s it for and how to refine user experience.

For product-focused startups like Process Street, a necessary early shift is towards design.

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Meeting Strangers: How to Prepare for an Effective Cold Meeting

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Meeting Strangers

Ever been nervous meeting a stranger? Nerve no more!

Impressing a stranger on first encounter can literally change your life. Interviews are a good example. Others include sales pitches, freelance consultations, partnerships, supplier agreements and even dates.

They’re a necessity in life. So why not get good?

Here are some tips to get you started.

Research:

If you know who you’re meeting, take 10-20 min to Google, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter them. Ideally you’re looking for information related to the topic of your meeting. But you’re also looking for personal information such as achievements and common interests.

Look for media interviews & charity support. Do you both rock climb?  Have they recently been promoted? Have they achieved one of your goals?

Also do company searches on the web, Google News, Twitter and in your CRM if you have one.

Agenda

To Agenda or not to agenda?

An agenda is contextual. You wouldn’t do it in an interview, but you’ll never have a consultant from McKinsey or KPMG book a meeting without sending you one. My general method is for every meeting ask these questions:

  • If I set an agenda, what would be in it?
  • Will I remember to do all of the above without writing it down?
  • Will it benefit my prospect if I send them a copy? – If it will, send one. Consider adding a photo so they know who you are.

Basically the agenda should add value to your stranger. Usually, more complex meetings have agendas. This gives your stranger time to prepare.

On Arrival

Once you arrive at the meeting location – 10 minutes early – wait around the corner for 5 min then head to reception or the cafe to be seated. Arriving more than 5 minutes early can look disrespectful as opposed to eager.

But most importantly DON’T BE LATE! If you think there is a 50%+ chance you’ll be late by even a few minutes, call and notify someone. It looks way better to call and say you may be 5 min late, and arrive on time, then if you arrive 5 min late without calling.

The Lobby

After reception calls my stranger, I will stay standing until they arrive. Warning – if you take this road, be prepared for some long stands. But I feel it looks better than kicking your feet up on lobby couches.

Sweaty palms? I hold my folder with my left hand and keep my right hand in my pocket –dodges the slimy handshake. Remember eye contact and a smile on greeting. Stand tall, chest out, firm handshake.

If you’re in a busy lobby and you don’t know your strangers face, finding them can be awkward at times. Try and make the first approach, (it may take you a couple of times to get it right). Your stranger will be thankful for the awkwardness removal. Look for people looking for people.

Exchange some short pleasantries then ask where they would like to go (unless there is already a plan).

The walk

During the walk from the point of meeting to room or cafe, aim to walk side by side, and ask a few standard open ended questions like:

“Thanks for taking the time to see me. How has your day been?”

Don’t worry what they say – you’re just trying to keep them engaged until you arrive at the sitting location.

Try to find an anecdote (maybe something that happened on the way in or earlier that day) or common topic (the offices, building, location, current event or last resort – the weather) to keep them chatting until the sitting location.

Just try and avoid a long walk of silence.

Also, avoid discussing any important topics during the walk, interruptions are common and will kill your flow.

Personal Note: I like to treat all my strangers like a first date. I open doors, hold elevators and offer them the first seat. Don’t take this to the extreme but if the opportunity is there, unleash the chivalry (that goes for you too ladies!). This shows you’re attentive and will put in the extra effort if they partner with you.

Sitting Down

Once you arrive at the meeting table, wait for the person you’re meeting to sit down first (unless they offer you a seat – then just take it). If you’re already in a cafe waiting for them, stand and shake their hand when they arrive. Again, watch the sweaty palms, smile, eye contact etc. I usually like to sit at a 90 degree angle avoiding the formal face to face arrangement. This is not always possible but it makes it easier to look over documents together or to describe while writing on paper or using your laptop.

Once seated, give a business card to each person so they know who you are, how to spell your name (useful if you have a weird name like mine) and how to contact you after.

Then you’re off.

Do you do things differently?

How to Integrate @Intercom Support Messages with Close.io #CRM

close and intercom sync

I have been wanting to sync my support system Intercom with the CRM we use at Process StreetClose.io (which I have written about before).

The reason for this is when we are looking at a customer in the CRM we want to be able to see not only the sales emails but all the support conversations they were having too.

This can be done quite easily with other Help Desk Tools or via the API but I wanted to build something quickly that didn’t require developer time.

I first setup a Zap using Intercom’s “New Message” Zap that triggered an email to my inbox which then Synced using Close’s 2 way email sync, which worked fine but only worked for the first message that was sent, it didn’t track the whole conversation which can last for days and contain lots of valuable information for sales. This basically meant sales still had to open both Intercom and Close.io to get a full picture of the customer.

Integrating All Intercom Support Tickets with Close

Step 1: Create a Webhook Zap in Zapier and get Custom Webhook URL

Create a new Zap in Zapier and add the Webhook integration, click next until you see the custom URL

intercom and close integration

Step 2: Create a Webhook in Intercom

Go to Settings -> Integrations and click “Add Webhook Integration”

create intercom webhook

Here are the topics I am passing in the Webhook:

New Message from a User
Reply from a User
Reply from a Teammate
Note added to Conversation
Conversation assigned to Teammate
User Unsubscribed From Email
User tagged
User untagged
New events

Step 3: Configure rest of Zap in Zapier

Here is a screenshot of my Zap click for full image.

intercom and close sync zap

Here is the text export (I assume you need to swap out my ID numbers):

Subject:

Body:

And that’s it! This was just my first attempt, it will probably get cleaned up a little but at least the core data is being passed. If you have any tweaks’ I’d love to hear them.

Start-up idea: Marketplace for mechanics to help buyers purchase used cars

car question

I am thinking about a marketplace that would help buyers who know nothing about cars evaluate if a second hand car is a good buy or not.

You could create a profile and post the 3-4 cars you are considering.

Post details of their make, model, price and pictures or a video of the car and the engine.

You could then post a bounty for a mechanic to help you out, with a reward of say $50 (or whatever you choose).

Then similar to 99 designs, mechanics from all around the world could submit their reviews and advice on the cars.

Giving you questions to ask, feedback on your pictures and prices, links to other cars or whatever you may need to help you make a decision.

At the end of the process, you reward the most helpful mechanic the $50 prize.

I imagine this would be a great way for mechanics from all around the world to earn some extra cash and an easy way for buyers to protect themselves from getting ripped off on a shitty car that could potentially cost them thousands.

If you know of anything like this or are interested in building it let me know in the comments 🙂

Check out my real startup here.

You can see a few of my other startup ideas here, here and here, learn about why my first startup failed here.

The Checklist Manifesto Summary

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Checklist Manifesto Summary Header

Checklists are for everyone

What do Johns Hopkins surgeons, anonymous big-time investors and World War II pilots have in common? This isn’t the set up for a terrible joke but a demonstration of how widespread an often-overlooked tool is – they all use checklists to avoid disaster.

For surgeons, disaster is a lethal infection caused by straying from proper precaution. For pilots, it’s crashing a plane that was deemed far too complicated to fly – the Boeing B-17. For investors, checklists avoid what is sometimes known as ‘cocaine brain’; the drive to make snap decisions on high-risk investments that often result in huge losses.

For more information on a similar process, see Warren Buffet’s Investment Checklist. It details the steps taken by the man known as the world’s greatest investor prior to parting with massive sums of money.

The Checklist Manifesto, written by writer/surgeon Atul Gawande, is proof that checklists really work (whether anyone wants to admit that or not). Check out the the Checklist Manifesto Review I wrote for more details.

In his words, if another solution that could be even a fraction as effective would be a new drug or piece of technology it would be backed by billions of dollars, sponsored by the state and be the only thing the worldwide medical journals talk about. A case he cites is the development of robots to perform tricky laparoscopic surgery. It was widely backed and implemented in many hospitals around the US to the great excitement of the medical community.

Positive results? Next to none.

Robotic Surgery

Checklists, however, are deceptively simple. The Checklist Manifesto is the tale of how Gawande took an idea first popularized by pilots into the operating theater and then out into the hospitals of the world, with the help of the World Health Organization. Not only does the book document his own research, but implementations of similar strategies, from hugely complex construction projects to Walmart’s innovative yet highly organized approach when dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

Providing a solution to human error

One of the main problems with checklists is that some feel they are above them, unable to make silly mistakes in routine procedures and not subject to human error. Gawande references a 1970s essay by Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre that boils down all situations to find the only two reasons for human dilemma:

“The first is ignorance – we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude – because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly. This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.”

In practical terms, ignorance can be corrected by answering the question “what do I do?” and ineptitude with “how do I do it?”. Checklists can solve both of these issues. They are great teaching tools that can be used to convey information simply, such as our Podcast Publishing Checklist, as well as highly practical, no-frills documents such as the B-17 checklist, one of the most famous of all time.

B17 Pilot's Checklist

An example that’s likely more useful to our world comes from one of the stand-out passages in the book where Gawande meets with three high-powered directors who meet to make venture capital investments in companies that have a slim chance to make a huge breakthrough. Since these investments are usually nothing short of gambling against terrible odds, this exclusive group of investors  implement one very simple tool – a checklist.

For them, this checklist is worth millions. That’s how much it has probably saved them by helping to avoid bad investments. This quote explains how Mohnish Pabrai, managing partner in Pabrai Investment Funds in Irvine, California, has taken the idea from medicine and aviation to use checklists in his work.

“Pabrai made a list of mistakes he’d seen—ones [Warren] Buffett and other investors had made as well as his own. It soon contained dozens of different mistakes, he said. Then, to help him guard against them, he devised a matching list of checks—about seventy in all.

One, for example, came from a Berkshire Hathaway mistake he’d studied involving the company’s purchase in early 2000 of Cort Furniture, a Virginia-based rental furniture business. Over the previous ten years, Cort’s business and profits had climbed impressively. Charles Munger, Buffett’s longtime investment partner, believed Cort was riding a fundamental shift in the American economy.

The business environment had become more and more volatile and companies therefore needed to grow and shrink more rapidly than ever before. As a result, they were increasingly apt to lease office space rather than buy it—and, Munger noticed, to lease the furniture, too. Cort was in a perfect position to benefit.

Everything else about the company was measuring up—it had solid financials, great management, and so on. So Munger bought. But buying was an error. He had missed the fact that the three previous years of earnings had been driven entirely by the dot-com boom of the late nineties. Cort was leasing furniture to hundreds of start-up companies that suddenly stopped paying their bills and evaporated when the boom collapsed.”

Are checklists for egomaniacs?

This cautionary tale shows what happens when a formal procedure isn’t in place when it really should be. The fact that the human brain is not so great can be proven by the amount of productivity tools, to-do lists, products like this, this and – when was the last time you forgot your baby in the car? – this.

These are tools for the simplest things! Brain surgery, alongside rocket science, has the anecdotal title as being among the most complex and difficult tasks in the history of the world.

What makes people think they don’t need tools for remembering the proper procedure? The thing is, people in these professions likely have genius-level IQs. This can result in what is known as intellectual arrogance, the features of which are:

  • They have a “my way or the highway” attitude since only their views are supposedly the right way to think.
  • They regard themselves as experts in a particular field or subject.
  • They refuse to see the big picture or another viewpoint, especially of those they consider “ignorant”.
  • They like explaining, theorizing and dictating; basically they like hearing the sound of their own voice.
  • Their mood can become very nasty if their ideas and views are contradicted.
  • They regard any question as an insult or a doubt on their intelligence.
  • They are not above creating proof and arguments to defend their theories vehemently.
  • They are very confident in their own knowledge and do not want to learn anything new.
  • Sometimes they can come across as very wannabe and attention-seeking.
  • They can get very smug and snobby, especially if they are actually right about something.
  • They pretend to be very broad-minded but actually are very narrow-minded as they feel they know everything and in the right way.

(Source)

Friedrich Nietzsche

A man who fits the above description nicely.

 

Does this sound like the sort of person who would be open to the idea of being told what to do by a checklist?

That was the main problem Gawande ran into with the first large-scale implementation of checklists into hospitals worldwide. He notes how that the egotistical nature of surgeons plus the fact that checklists had to be read out by a subordinate created a large amount of friction among colleagues. He intended the checklists to promote teamwork in the same way we created our app to promote and streamline collaboration.

One of the first stages of the process was a friendly introduction to help everyone get on and work as efficiently as possible, knowing each others names and duties; you’d be surprised at the amount of surgeries performed by teams who have never met prior to the operation and leave the theater none the wiser as to each other’s names or positions. It was basically through the process of long trials and repeated exposure that Gawande managed to create success for his checklists.

After a while, people started to see results that were undeniable – checklists worked!

“More than 250 staff members—surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and others—filled out an anonymous survey after three months of using the checklist. In the beginning, most had been skeptical. But by the end, 80 percent reported that the checklist was easy to use, did not take a long time to complete, and had improved the safety of care. And 78 percent actually observed the checklist to have prevented an error in the operating room. Nonetheless, some skepticism persisted.

After all, 20 percent did not find it easy to use, thought it took too long, and felt it had not improved the safety of care.Then we asked the staff one more question. “If you were having an operation,” we asked, “would you want the checklist to be used?”A full 93 percent said yes.”

The Checklist ‘Eureka!’ Moment

The penultimate chapter of the book ends on a powerful note, summing up the unlikely turn of events that led to widespread checklist usage in the aviation industry. Nothing sums up the point of the book more effectively:

“We are all plagued by failures—by missed subtleties, overlooked knowledge, and outright errors. For the most part, we have imagined that little can be done beyond working harder and harder to catch the problems and clean up after them. We are not in the habit of thinking the way the army pilots did as they looked upon their shiny new Model 299 bomber—a machine so complex no one was sure human beings could fly it.

They too could have decided just to “try harder” or to dismiss a crash as the failings of a “weak” pilot. Instead they chose to accept their fallibilities. They recognized the simplicity and power of using a checklist.”

If you enjoyed reading the Checklist Manifesto, take a look at our checklist software built on the book’s great ideas. If you haven’t read it yet, you can buy the book on Amazon here. If you have, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your opinion!