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A question I’ve never been asked

Dear Reader,

I spent around 4 hours with Dave Delaney yesterday. Specifically from somewhere south of Chattanooga to somewhere past Lake City, FL. Dave is the host of JumpStart Foundry Podcast and since I had a very long drive, I listened to a lot of the back catalog. Dave has interviewed everyone from Marcus Whitney to Seth Godin, and everyone in between.

A couple of seasons ago, Dave’s format included ending the show with the question “What 3 tips do you have for new entrepreneurs.” Somewhere around the 6th or 7th episode of hearing guests answer this question, I began formulating my own answer; I’m telling you, it was a LONG trip. :)

Now, I’ve never been a guest on JumpStart Foundry Podcast, which is fine, I don’t have that much to say to entrepreneurs anyhow. That having been said, I do see more and more developers getting bit by the entrepreneurial bug. So I decided to share my 3 tips for entrepreneurs, even thought it’s a question I’ve never been asked.

1: Thanks for asking, yes, your idea is shit.
Ideas area dime a dozen; good ideas are a dollar a dozen. Your idea may be good, it may be bad but it’s just a idea. Take for example the iPhone. Apple didn’t invent the idea of the smart phone. When they had the idea to create a new phone, they weren’t breaking new ground. It was their execution of the idea that changed everything.

Don’t get so hung up on your idea that you lose track of what’s important, the execution.

2: Friends and family suck as an idea filter
Stop asking your friends and family if you’ve got a winner of an idea. Half of them don’t understand you, what you do, or your idea and will tell you it’s an awesome idea just to feel like they are supporting you. The other half are jealous and don’t want you to succeed because if you do, they look bad because they won’t try. So they beat you don’t and tell you all the reasons your idea won’t work. Ignore both groups!

Find you a group of peers who will give you the truth. I am lucky enough to have friends like Luke Stokes, Keith Casey, and Jacques Woodcock who I trust to give me an honest assessment of an idea. Yes, they are all my friends but I know from experience that they want me to succeed. They help me assess an idea, but more importantly, they help me plan my execution. They rarely just say “Good idea” or “Bad idea”; they recognize the importance of point #1.

3: Failure is ok, but no reason to celebrate
Of late the entrepreneurial cast has adopted the motto, “Fail Fast”. They have adopted it so thoroughly that it is almost a moment of celebration when a startup fails; this is bullshit. Yes, failures happen. Adam Savage has a great talk about failure. A failure is however, still a failure. Don’t hold your head up high, you failed! More important than celebrating failure is learning from failure. I’ve had my share of failures. I don’t linger on them, I certainly don’t celebrate them, I learn from them and I try not to make the same mistake executing my next idea.

There you have it; my advice to developer entrepreneurs. What’s yours?

Until next time,
I <3 |<
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My thoughts on CoderFaire Nashville ’12

Dear Reader,

CoderFaire NashvilleThis past weekend (August 25-26, 2102) my self, the Lovely and Talented Kathy, and my friend Jacques Woodcock, hosted a two day “developer centric” event in Nashville called CoderFaire Nashville ’12. CoderFaire Nashville ’12 stands out among all of the projects I’ve put together in one important way. This was the first time I put together a team to build the project instead of doing it myself. I learned a lot putting on CoderFaire Nashville ’12 but this is the one most important lesson I took away.

You can’t do it alone, you have to have friends

I’ve been doing little ventures for a long time. None of my ventures went very far though. They were always “side hustles”. It has taken me until this point in my life to realize I can’t grow an idea as big as I want to on my own, I have to have help. CoderFaire Nashville ’12 was the first time I actively sought out a team to help. So, in the order of appearance, here are the friends of mine that worked tirelessly, supported the me, and took my little idea and grew into something that was successful beyond my wildest dreams.

  • Kathy EvansEICC
    The Lovely and Talented KathyEven those of you who know me don’t realize what a pain in the ass I really am. Some of you have an idea but it’s only a small glimpse of the reality. Sometimes it seems like I have a new idea for a business every weekend. My darling wife Kathy is really the only person on Earth who has had to suffer through all of them. She helps me see my ideas in the harsh light of reality. That isn’t to say that she dismisses them all – or even any of them. She helps me talk them through and sort the wheat from the chaff.

    As the first person I told about CoderFaire Nashville ’12, she is the first person who could have shot it down. Instead, she recognized the passion I had for the idea – and for helping developers – and encouraged me to pursue it.

  • Scott GordonVaco
    Scott Gordon at the Vaco Chill LoungeThe second person I told about CoderFaire Nashville was Scott Gordon. If you are in the Nashville tech scene, you know Scott. If not, he stands with only one other recruiter that I will talk to on a regular basis. Scott, more than any other recruiter I know, understands how to talk to a developer without insulting them.

    I knew I needed some seed money to get CoderFaire Nashville ’12 off the ground. I also knew that if I didn’t think this through, CoderFaire Nashville could become a feeding frenzy for local recruiters, nobody wanted that. Vaco, through Scott Gordon, caught the vision of what could be at a local coffee shop one morning. I didn’t even make it through my entire presentation before he said “We’re in, how much do you need?”. Now I am not a good salesperson and Scott is not an easy man to convince to part with money. Thankfully though, Scott saw the possibilites early on. Because fo their vision, we made Vaco the only recruiting company at CoderFaire Nashville ’12. Thanks to Scott – and of course my friend Alex Nadell – developers were treated with respect by the recruiters, and not as marks, targets, or just chum in the water.

  • Keith CaseyTwilio
    Keith CaseyThe third person I shared the idea of CoderFaire Nashville ’12 with was my good friend and business partner Keith Casey. Keith is a Developer Evangelist for Twilio. That’s not entirely true. Keith Casey is the P.T. Barnum of Developer Evangelists.

    Where most companies, setup a booth at a conference and hope people drop by; Keith sets up a playground for developers and only sells when people pause playing long enough to ask “So, what does twilio do?” At a recent conference we both attended, I hear another vendor tell him “The only traffic we’ve gotten today are the ones we’ve picked off the edge of your crowd.” Keith is just all kinds of awesome.

    Keith has run, and attended hacking events all over the US. He knows what developers like and because he’s a good friend, Keith will tell me if an idea sucks. I already knew that Vaco was in and they were going to sponsor the lounge area. I already knew that I wasn’t going to allow marketing booths, I wanted something useful for developers, I wanted the Lab. What I wanted from Keith was ideas on how to make this useful to companies like Twilio. Companies that sponsor events like this. Companies like Twilio don’t lay out money because they like events, they do it because they know that at certain types of events, they can get the attention of developers. I wanted CoderFaire Nashville ’12 to be the kind of event that these companies wanted to be a part of. Keith listend, and then added the one ingredient that we didn’t have, the Hack Day.

    Honestly, I thought if any part of the event was going to fail, it was going to be the Hack Day; wow was I wrong!

  • Jacques Woodcock – Kite Web Consulting
    Jacques WoodcockFinally, I knew what I wanted to build, I knew I had enough many to get started and if I had to, enough room on my credit card to handle the rest. I also knew I needed a partner. I needed someone who could fill in where I lack. It had to be someone wih a strong enough ego to go up against mine and someone who I could work with. At BarCamp Nashville ’11, I had the privilege of working with Jacques Woodcock. (He is actually the reason I even got involved in BNC11) I saw Jacques work the sponsors of BCN11 like a master craftsman. He knew who to talk to, what to say, and how to get to a yes. Honestly, the man is a magician. I knew from the beginning that I wanted Jacques as my partner on CoderFaire Nashville ’12, but I wasn’t sure I was salesman enough to pitch it to him.

    Thankfully, in addition to being a wizard at showing sponsors the value of being involved in events, Jacques is a visionary. Like Kathy and I, Jacques saw what CoderFaire Nashville ’12 could be. He agreed to come on board as a partner. He did so much more than I asked him to do. Jacques went above and beyond to make sure that CoderFaire Nashville ’12 was a great time for the attendees and the sponsors.

    Jacques, thank you so much for taking my little idea and making it something I could never have dreamed of. You are a friend, and I am in your debt.

There are a lot more people that worked hard to make CoderFaire Nashville ’12 what it was. I fear that if I start naming people I will leave someone important out. I do want to say thank you though.

Thank you to everyone who volunteered your time – great or small – to make CoderFaire Nashville ’12 happen.

Thank you to each and every one of our sponsors, I singled two of them out in this post but honestly, every one of you is special and helped make this event awesome.

Thank you to the speakers who took the time to craft the sessions. I’ve put on a lot of events in my career but I’ve never been so proud of a schedule as I was of the CoderFaire Nashville ’12 schedule.

Thank you to the attendees. That you for showing up, thank you for listening to the speakers, thank you for engaging with our sponsors. Thank you for being the secret ingredient that made CoderFaire Nashville ’12 one of the best conferences I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending in any capacity.

Thank you to my friends. I say with all sincerity and humility, I couldn’t have done this without you.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
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Box Lunch Training – It’s time to get my butt in gear

Dear Reader,

For four years now I’ve had a dream. I’ve wanted to build a training program especially designed for teams. I call this program “Box Lunch Training”. However, this dream has languished. I’ve talked about it, I’ve gotten excited about it, but in the end, I’ve always been too scared of failure to actually

Briefly, the idea

If you have ever managed a team, you have probably instituted a similar program. The idea is simple, everyone gets together for lunch one day and the team eats while one person presents on a topic they are passionate about. After the presentation, the team sits together and discusses what they learned and how they can use it.

The problem I always had with these programs is finding the time to create the content. Either I had to do it, I had to assign it to someone, or I had to ask for volunteers. No matter what I tried, we always got too busy and it fell by the wayside. That is the problem I hope to solve with BLT.

So why am I posting this?

I’m writing this because it’s time I get off my ample backside and get this thing going. In the coming weeks and months you will see me post ads for BLT. I am going to work my mailing lists, my twitter accounts and every other way I have to get the message out about BLT. Partly because I want this project to succeed but mostly because I want teams to succeed and I think BLT gives any development team an advantage.

I am writing this for two reasons.

First, to warn you. I appreciate all my readers, followers, friends, and anyone who connects with me on-line or in person. That having been said, this project is a passion of mine and I love talking about my passions. So if you don’t want to hear about this, un-follow, un-friend and disconnect now.

Second, I’m writing to ask for your help. Keep BLT in the back of your mind. If you don’t hear me talking about it, ping me and ask how it is going. If I stop talking about BLT it’s because I get frozen in place with the fear of failure; help me out of that state. Push me, prod me, poke me, whatever and get me going again. I love helping people and I love building teams. BLT is the culmination of those loves.

I’m excited.

I’m ready.

I’m scared to death.

Until next time,
Je t’aime ma chère Kathy
=C=

Take 3

Dear Reader,

tl;dr

Thee points I took from the blog post “Everything I need to know about startups, I learned from a crime boss

I learned to read at an early age – correction, I learned to love to read at an early age – thanks to my mom. The problem is that I read so much, I usually don’t pay close attention to it. This is great for fiction but not so great for business books and blog posts. So I am making an effort to read thing more deliberately. One of the ways I do that is to take notes as I read.. I’ve got 9 pages of notes in my notebook on Marketing White Belt: Basics For the Digital Marketer, which was the first book I read after deciding to do this.

I read way too many blogs to pull out my battered notebook every time, so I’ve decided to start blogging when I find an article that is interesting and give you three things I took away from it. (Future articles won’t have a pointless preamble)

Article:”Everything I need to know about startups, I learned from a crime boss

  1. I need to be more vocal.
    In the section “Closed mouths don’t get fed” the author makes an excellent point. I tend to take a “Field of Dreams” approach to marketing my own ideas like “Avoiding a Goat Rodeo” and Day Camp 4 Developers”. I’m going to find ways to be more vocal about it, ask for the sale while not being too annoying.
  2. I am going to cut out projects that have been going on for more than a year and don’t show signs of either turning a profit.
    I have 1 project I do just for fun no matter if it makes a profit or not. Everything else has to be examined under the microscope of profitability. I’m not becoming a crass money-whore, it’s more a matter of time allocation. There are things I do for fun and things I do for money. If an activity doesn’t fit in one of those buckets, it probably needs to go.
  3. I think too small.
    As much as I love DC4D (and it’s not one of the projects I’m reevaluating) I want to build something that impacts developers lives the way TED Talks impact entrepreneurs…and others. DC4D was started because I love helping developers. I’ve got to get it to the point where it helps more developers. I am not content in helping small numbers of developers, I want to help them all. My next steps with DC4D – and with other projects I am considering – will need to be big.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Who do you look to?

Dear Reader,

When you get stuck, who do you look to? I’m not asking in the spiritual or existential sense, I mean, in real life, when you hit a problem, do you have someone you can ask?

A lot of you who read this are developers – mostly PHP developers. When you hit a wall programmatically, do you have a person you know you can turn to and ask for help? Or even just ask an opinion? If not, that should be a priority for you.

One of the great things about the PHP community is that the members are so giving. I have been a member of several communities revolving around programming languages and have to say that the PHP is by far the most open and giving. It is one of the great assets of the language.

In the past year, I started getting more connected to my local tech and social media community here in Nashville. I am nowhere near being a Social Media expert so I am always looking to add people to my list of people I can look to for help. Lucky for me in Nashville we have a lot of really smart marketing people who are willing to share what they know.

Harvey MacKay summed it up nicely in the title of one of his books, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need“. Start getting to know people now, even if you don’t have questions.

Until next time,
I <3 =C=