Thoughts On Business

Running a business is the most exhilarating and challenging experience of my life, rivaled only by my tours overseas. What I've learned in a very short time is that very few people actually know what they are doing, while most of us are just trying to figure it out. Here I hope to share my own insights and opinions, in the hopes that my experiences can be of some value.

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5 Practical Tips to Building and Running a Business

Regardless of industry, there is always a constant in that every day you’ll be presented with new challenges when running a business. I believe that these challenges introduce insecurities in our personas in which we often fear that our lack of knowledge in a subject makes us exceptionally vulnerable to failure.

To account for this we look at others experiences and try to find similarities in their stories and experiences. What I come to realize though that no one really knows what they’re doing, we’re all just trying to figure it out. What sets people apart however are their experiences and insights, and more importantly their ability execute.

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Knowing and Doing

Lately I have been having different conversations with people in which I talk to the idea  of Knowing and Doing and how they are not mutually exclusive to one another. I think a perfect example that best illustrates what I mean can be found at conferences.

I believe there is an important distinction to be made. It comes in understanding that the idea of knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to apply that same knowledge.

Knowing How is Different than Doing

We have all sat in, or watched a presentation, in which we listen to the speaker and think to ourselves, “Man, they have their stuff together!” or we hear them speaking at a get together, and think, “Holy smokes, they are on it!” This is in fact attributed to knowledge, and often comes down to charisma and a well crafted delivery. A skill-set in it of itself, there is no denying that fact.

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The Beauty in Being Naive

I think there is an elegance to being removed from opinion or bias. Too often we tend to shake our heads at the other and think, They just don’t know…

This clouds our way of thinking, and in some instances blocks our ability to think beyond our norms. I ask myself every day, with every decision, what is driving this decision? Is is it previous experience? Is it my curiosity of the outcome? Is it my own stubbornness to be right or wrong? Yes, you can be stubborn in wanting to be wrong.

What exactly does it mean to be Naive?

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WordCamp Minneapolis 2015: Building and Running a Global Workforce

Recently I spoke at WordCamp Minneapolis 2015 on Building and Running a Global Workforce: The People Aspect of a Remote Company. While I usually speak about security, in this talk I share the challenges of a remote work force and speak about people issues, culture, growth challenges, scaling, and everything in between.

In June of 2014, I stepped into the role of CEO of Sucuri. In the presentation, I also share some of the lessons we have learned at Sucuri throughout the past five years of doing business at a global scale.

Check out the video of my presentation:

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Lessons Learned From The Cab Industry

When was the last time you were in a cab? How awesome of an experience was it when you did? Was it memorable?

I’ve spent the past two weeks on the road, splitting my time between Las Vegas, San Francisco and Minneapolis. I found myself spending a lot of time getting from point A to point B and often using a cab, for a variety of reasons.

In Las Vegas, they are the only option; granted there are car services providers at the various hotels. In San Francisco they are just outside the hotel door and give the impression of convenience; at least getting around town. Same applies in Minneapolis.

It’s really no wonder that services like Uber have been so disruptive to the industry.

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The Power Of Two in Business

I sometimes sit and wonder how things ever got started. I wonder if it’s something that could be reproduced, or if it was just a luck of the draw.

What I do realize however is that alone I don’t believe much could have been accomplished. In the beginning there were three of us at our company, today there are two. Alone however, would have likely been disastrous for any of us.

Even in the beginning, before my involvement. There was a dynamic between the pair. One was highly technical, the other was also technical but highly artistic. It worked at the time, it was what was needed to move in a direction (right or wrong is indifferent).

With time, things have changed, yet again we find ourselves with one pair. One is still highly technical, the other somewhat technical but more business focused. Again though, it works. It balances the scales and provides good momentum forward.

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It’s Ok Not To Know

I can’t remember when it became necessary to know it all. Can you? Somewhere in our psyche though, as we’ve evolved we have found this need to have an answer to everything question. If we don’t have the answer, we somehow feel weak or incapable, and worst yet feel that others will look down on us. Why is this?

This might not be you, it might not be me, or it might not be someone you know, but it’s the reality for many.

Ask yourself these three questions:

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Personal Insecurities

This past weekend I spent some time with my friend, Chris Lema. He’s a fascinating man with great insights in a number of areas; the one we stumbled on this Saturday was people and leadership.

Over the past few months, as I continue to evolve into my role, I continuously question my philosophies. It’s a process of self-improvement that I find very helpful. In the discussion we stumbled into different personalities, characteristics traits that we, I, find fascinating. Of the various options, one resonated with me — Personal Insecurities.

I, like many, struggle with insecurities. The difference though is probably in how I handle / manage them. A number of trends and thoughts became apparent as we discussed it, and it was enough that I felt it’d be worth sharing.

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Lady Luck

I often hear this phrase, It’s better to be lucky than good! and I’ve always found it a bit of an odd statement.

Do I believe in lucky? Perhaps.

I think that luck exists in a lot of forms. The guy that’s never played 21, yet blows everyone away on the first hand. The person that walks into the local 7-eleven and buys the winning ticket to state jackpot. I think there are many events like this that could be easily attributed to Lady Luck and all her glory.

When it comes to business though, I prefer to think of it more as, It’s better to be good enough to create your own luck.

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A Culture of Yes

I have a friend, Chris Lema who loves to write about how much he says no, so much so that he has an entire tag dedicated to it. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Your ability to decipher the noise from the rest, is a bit of an art, and saying yes to the wrong thing could take you down a rabbit hole that will never let you see the light of day. I’ve seen a number of companies fail to this, always chasing the golden nugget.

It is however, a bit misleading to you as an entrepreneur, more importantly as a manager and leader (there is a difference).

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Culture: The Journey

For the better part of the past 7 months, my business partner, Daniel, and I have been infatuated with our culture. All aspects of it, what it really means, what it means to us, and more importantly, how is it defined.

I think the basis of the question has really been, who and what are we about?

I think we have always known, but we never really took the time to sit back and really capture it in a way that made sense to us, and even our own team.

Interestingly enough, what we’ve come to realize is that your culture is not really something you define, it’s something you are. I know, that’s deep!

Recognizing Your Culture

I think it was at our Quarter 3 board meeting in 2014 that we really started to capture, appreciate and recognize the culture that we had set in our business. Mind you, our business first opened it’s doors January 2010.

Like most first-time entrepreneurs though, our thoughts were nowhere around the idea of a culture as much as it was, figuring out if we really had a business.

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Fitting the Mold

As humans I think we like to over-complicate things by putting things in boxes that we can come to terms with. Boxes that we can appreciate or that might make sense. I fear that this type of thinking truly inhibits us from being transformative in the way we think and behave.

We not only define and create these boxes, these molds, we also strive to be in them.

You Don’t Fit the Mold

In a recent conversation, this statement was recently directed at me and I found it weighing on my mind. It was specific to being the CEO to the awesome company, Sucuri.

What exactly did they mean?

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Chip on Your Shoulder

One of my few advisors recently told me, “Tony, you guys function as if you have a Chip on your Shoulder.”

I couldn’t quite figure out if this was good or bad, it almost felt as if it was a gentle way of telling us something negative. Either way, it’s weighed on me for several weeks, kept nagging at me, just couldn’t shake it.

Then yesterday I saw this Tweet from Kevin Hart, because I always go to Twitter when I’m stuck on an issue:

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Sony: Disrupting the Movie Going Experience

I’ve been watching the Sony Hack with a lot of interest, for a variety of reasons. Mostly because of my interest in the security and enterprises environments.

Yesterday however, we all witnessed perhaps one of the biggest disruptions to an industry that has gone largely undisrupted for many years.

The Interview Released Online

For the first time, I think, we saw the release of a new movie release, by a prominent movie producer – Sony – take their work and forgo the release in traditional movie theaters, instead opting for an online release. In my eyes, this has the potential to be the most accidental disruptive action to what I consider to be an old past-time for many people.

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Why You Fail

You don’t fail because you don’t have enough friends. You don’t fail because your idea isn’t unique. You don’t fail for lack of ideas. You don’t fail because of funding issues. You don’t fail because you were too early or too late to market.

You fail because you can’t execute. You fail because you can’t focus. You fail because you fail to embrace the grind.

Learn To Execute

When I sit back and study those that I aspire to be like, there is always one undeniable fact that makes them successful – their ability to execute. There ability to see something from beginning to end. The understanding that whether you are a team of 1, 50, or 5,000 this one simple concept will set you apart from the rest.

There is, however, a difference between blind execution and meaningful execution.

Too often though the more common execution type employed however I see blind execution, work to do work. To those external it appears as if something awesome is happening, yet to those close it’s clear that nothing is really being done.

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Mean People Fail: Do they Really?

This past weekend I was reading Paul Graham most recent article, Mean People Fail. If you don’t know who Paul Graham is, and you’re in the tech startup world, do some homework.

He’s one of the most influential minds in the space today, followed by every would-be and successful entrepreneur in the world. I can’t think of a single person in the space that I have engaged with, from CEO’s to investors, that have not heard of or don’t read his articles.

This notoriety actually makes his most recent article all that more interesting to me.

It’s About Perspective

I think perspective is determined by the side of the coin on which you sit. For instance, I read his article and I thought, “Who would knowingly be mean to Paul G.?”

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Make a Decision

Running a business you will be faced with more decisions than you count or track, what will set you apart is your ability to make a decision.

Indecisiveness is the one trait you cannot afford when tasked to be a good leader.

The risk of indecision is preferable to the terror of indecision.

Mainmonides

To date, I have made more bad decisions than I care to admit, but have yet to come to a point where indecisiveness paralyzed me. I may get weighed by my own analysis or thought process, but I attribute that mostly to the process of trying to make the best decision possible. Note that I don’t emphasize on making a good decision.

In hindsight everything will always be clear, a success will be attributed to a good decision and a failure will be attributed to a bad one. The reality is though, that a success might be reached via a bad decision as much as a failure can be attributed to a good decision. Such is the conundrum we must bare with every decision we make.

What I am coming to terms with is that there really is no good or bad decision when you’re in the process of making it, just what is and isn’t and what will and won’t happen.

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10 Deadly Sales Mistakes Startups Make

I spent this past week in San Francisco, attending events, meeting and collaborating with interesting people. To say I’m mentally tired would be an understatement.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend an event called Sales Hacker Conference. I honestly had no idea what to expect. What I did know was that I knew very little of this weird, and what I left with after the event was that I knew even less than I thought. That unfortunately becomes harder for a number of reasons as your company continues to grow, and at some point you start to yearn for a more sustainable, repeatable, approach. Hence attending this event.

I was pleasantly surprised with the content and caliber of information being shared. Who knows, maybe it was my lack of knowledge on the subject that made it so interesting.

Whatever the case, I was especially keen on one talk by Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski.

The 7 Sins Sales Groups Make

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SaaS Pricing and WordPress Businesses

I’m truly fascinated by the WordPress business ecosystem.

I’m frankly not sure why; when I look at it, it feels so young and at times exhausting, and yet so fascinating at the same time. I always want to fast forward 10 years, just so that I can look back and admire what it becomes and the trials and tribulations it went through. In my eyes the ecosystem is truly still in its infancy, and there is something beautiful as you watch it mature.

Yesterday I read an interesting article by the the SideKick team, titled Pricing Update: Feedback and Lessons. SideKick is a platform that allows you to create an interactive walkthrough for any website, plugin, theme or web-based platform. In reality, it’s a really cool feature set. I remember when it first came out, and I believe it was initially designed to target WordPress. They received advise from a number of folks and it looks as if they’ve morphed their model to be platform agnostic, I commend them greatly on this move.

I can’t stress the importance of being platform agnostic, it’s easy to be drawn the market share of 23% and growing, but never put your eggs in one basket. 

By the way, looks like they’ll officially be launching November 14th or so, keep an eye out so you can try it.

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A Day with the Woo: WooConf 2014

To think I was not going to attend the event.

It was already later in the year, November, and besides, as my beloved friend Chris Lema pointed out, I had been rejected to speak.

I didn’t even get my name in the hello.

My WooCon Speaker Rejection Email
My WooCon Speaker Rejection Email

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