Category Archives: Culture

Nir Eyal talks about his latest book, ‘Hooked: How to build habit-forming products

Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal

By Dennis Clemente

How do you like some structured thinking to go with your startup brainstorming?

The New York tech meetups happening in the city every night are wholly unstructured. It’s just a channel for startups to quickly demo their product and, even in some cases, get feedback from startups, right on the spot. Some presentations may do better in the on-the-fly, off-the-cuff talks, but there’s always no guarantee. What’s guaranteed is how you get the chance to watch a startup founder talk about a work in progress.

Last November 4, structure came to the Alley NYC Meetup when Nir Eyal launched his book there that day called “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.” Eyal certainly gets my nod for being one of the most lucid presenters in the NY tech meetups this year and it’s perhaps on account of how he has formulated a clear basic framework on the subject for a couple of years now, which was evident in his presentation.

It also helps that he has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. His writing on technology, psychology and business appears in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today. Nir blogs at NirAndFar.com.

The book is a must-read if you are designing a new startup or leading a product development team, as it talks about behavioral uses of technology, apps and social media while also leaving room for us to tackle the hard ethical questions on forming habits. His basic framework is as follows:
1. Trigger
2. Action
3. Variable reward
4. Investment

Triggers: (Internal and External).
Do you know your user or customer’s internal trigger? Find out your user’s itch. People always look for associations, solutions and patterns. It cues the user for the next action, telling what the user what to do next. Look for associations. Ask yourself, when you are bored, what do you do? You go to YouTube? Do you know your trigger? Do they fear missing out on something?

Action.
It is the simplest behavior in anticipation of a reward. Once you have them using your app, what can they do to get a reward of some sort? He cited Facebook’s “Like.” That is a powerful reward that makes people keep coming back to the social network.

Variable reward.
This is social validation among friends or personal gratification. For example, there are 5,000 questions answered daily on Stackoverflow, which indicate how people like to share their knowledge without asking for anything in return, contented as they are that it makes them feel good helping people. People also like feeling a sense of self-achievement or mastery, consistency and control.

Investment.
Users invest for future benefits. Investments store value, improving the product with value. Unlike a chair which depreciates in value, your startup should appreciate in value. The more followers you have for example, the better your value.

Also check out his blog, nirandfar.com

‘Think jobs, pains and gains, not build, measure and learn’–Osterwalder

osterwalder

By Dennis Clenente

In the startup world, who doesn’t know Alex Osterwalder, the lead author of the global best-seller, Business Model Generation, the handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers? Osterwalder invented the “Business Model Canvas,” the strategic management tool for designing, testing, building and managing business models.

Last October 22, Startup Grind in New York City hosted a brief live Skype interview with Osterwalder from Switzerland and his co-author Yves Pigneur about their latest book, Value Proposition Design. Host Bob Dorf, co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual, gave a short introduction of Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas before introducing him and Pigneur, saying how it was initially developed for big companies but was discovered and used more by startups through the years.

Taking a cue from that, Osterwalder, speaking from Switzerland, began his talk talking about how the once-mighthy Kodak fell by the wayside. “It failed to create a value proposition for the digital camera.” Now even big companies use the canvas.

In the new book, Osterwalder expands on his canvas concept to include Value Proposition Design (VPD), a guide for creating products and services that customers want

Determining customer needs certainly takes precedence here. For him, it’s about relentlessly taking a customer perspective, listening to customers than selling to them.

It’s not surprising to hear this from him, since he has utmost respect for Steve Blank’s work on customer development. For him, building first is a waste when the way to go about conjuring up your idea is to think about what he calls “jobs, pains and gains,” NOT build, measure and learn.”

“There’s a danger with build measure and learn. You do this you start in the worst possible way to test your ideas,” he said.

To avoid this, he suggests using the Value Map to determine the jobs, pains and gains. They come in a square and circle.

So we have come from the rectangle in the Business Model Canvas to the square (value proposition) and circle (customer development). In this manner, he says in the book, you (see and) achieve fit when your value map meets your customer profile.

“(But) you will want to test the circle first before the square,” he advised.

There is more to explore in this colorful book, including how it states these statements plainly yet clearly, “The Business Model Canvas helps you create value for your business. The Value Proposition Canvas helps you create value for your customer.”

Osterwalder says he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with the book. VPD goes “hand in hand with the Business Model Canvas.”

The important thing is to turn your ideas into value proposition prototypes with the many available practical tools offered in the book.

Why add more tools?

Who wouldn’t believe Osterwalder when he says, “I believe (why) a surgeon (needs) many tools than just a Swiss knife.” No pun intended even if he’s Swiss.

Still, wondering if the new book is for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Are you overwhelmed by the task of true creation?
Frustrated by unproductive meetings and misaligned teams?
Involved in bold shiny projects that blew up?
Disappointed by the failure of a good idea?

If so, Osterwalder believes Value Proposition Design will help you in the following ways:

Understand the patterns of value creation
Leverage the experience and skills of your team
Avoid wasting time with ideas that don’t work
Design, test, and deliver what customers want

How not to overdo on your site or app’s features

cohn-agile-lean

By Dennis Clemente

If studies indicate 50 percent of a product’s features go unused, how do you make sure you don’t overdo it? The answer is quite obvious: You need user testing. What’s less obvious is how you go about this process.

At the Kaplan Center last September 22, The Agile/Lean Practitioners group brought back Danielle Tomson of the Occum Group and Steven Cohn of Validately to discuss various ways of gaining user insights from the prototyping stage.

Tomson said there are three types of user tests: desirability, usability and feasibility.

In terms of desirability, she said it’s important to interview, observe, survey and A/B test. When interviewing, ask for open question, making sure to dig deep.

“Instead of telling the user what specially needs to be done, give them a task,” she said. “Ask the user what he expects to happen. What’s in it for them?”

Breaking it down, asks the what, when and how questions. Does the user want to use it? Would they use it? How would they use it? When is it essential in the early phase and in creating new features on old products? How is the minimum viable service (.i.e. test the service before the product, figure out the interviews, surveys, paper prototyping)

Quantity is not always quality when it comes to number of users. Tomson adheres to Jacob Nielsen’s five-user test method: test more users if they are in a highly different group (egg. 5 students and 5 teachers). Read more here http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/

As for usability, ask what does the product fulfill in the user’s needs? Why and why not? Do the features or UI/UX enable them to do so? Does the product do what you intended? Figure out how what tools to track behavior.

As for the feasibility part, ask how this feature can achieve business goals?

Constantly validate, but Tomson says it’s also important to keep two things in mind: the goal and hypothesis. “A goal is something you hope to achieve—what do you want the behavior to be? A hypothesis is something you think will happen—what do you believe the behavior will be?”

Cohn talked next about his startup Validately and how it is supposed to recruit users, create tests and get rapid feedback for different types of prototypes. Demonstrating Validately’s functions, he shows how it can show both low fidelity and high fidelity, including support for Axure and Balsamiq. With Axure, he said you can just add in the URLs and test the prototype on Validately. For safety, he said you can create a non-guessable URL to send to just a few people.

Overall, the validation site should be able to gauge desirability, measure usability, test the look and feel and make custom tests.

Cohn’s key takeways about user testing involved the following:
• Test what people do in their native environment
• Filter qualitative feedback based on actions
• Test on customer segments
• Be open to data

When outsourcing work, demand to see ‘visible work’

What is the secret to getting things done?

“The essence of doing anything is making progress. You need visible work,” said Amol Sarva who suggested a radical, no-nonsense approach to outsourcing work. The co-founder of Virgin Mobile USA and Peek is developing a new cognitive enhancement technology called Halo Neuro and an application for better discussions called Knotable.

Sarva suggests testing developers with a specific five-hour assignment and making sure they deliver. For him, it could be as simple as creating a log-in page and if he can deliver in time, then you’ve got yourself a developer.
He is not too concerned if you have unplanned work, indicating how your work will keep changing or iterating anyway. Your customer development here could be even more expensive than offshore work.

“(Your) target markets’ time is more expensive than developers’ time,” he said.

The important thing is to have one task done before you give your developer another assignment. He admits to going through so many developers at Elance, his preferred platform for locating developers.
Sarva also recommends the following tools and resources when dealing with developers: Github, the Meteor framework, because it also provides a hosting environment for you to see work and TestFlight, so you can test live.

Looking for developers in New York is definitely not easy, not when every developer wants his or her own startup. So if you’re outsourcing, Sarva reminded us to “hire and fire fast and deploy in a live environment.”
Sarva doesn’t advice outsourcing work to designers. “They are prima donnas compared to engineers.” He spoke at a Startup Boost event last September 10. (DC)

Designing your web or app? Axure can make you a prototyping badass

Danielle Tomson
Danielle Tomson

Click here to view the presentation
Badass prototyping

By Dennis Clemente

Last August 12, about 80 people showed up at Kaplan center to “Learn (how) to Prototype Like a Badass” with the host group, the Agile/Lean Practitioners visibly surprised by the audience’s strong interest and engagement in the demonstration presented by Occum’s Danielle Tomson.

The audience warmed up to Tomson’s presentation style right at bat. She gave an equal dose of expertise and humor (“no slow claps please,” “there’s always a troll”) on a tool not many people use but which is considered the best out there—Axure.

The slow adoption of Axure in the U.S. may account for the fact that other tools are more affordable (it’s too expensive, with the pro version over $589) while the rest of the world may have “copies” to use freely, if you catch my drift. This is just to stress how the tool always intimidates with its price, more than its effective use.

The huge turnout shows the strong interest for it but it’s also surprising how many UX designers in the States don’t know how to use it, even if Axure has been around for more than a decade. It is actually everything that a UI/UX designer can dream of in prototyping a website or app without front-end coding.

But old habits die hard. Some designers use Adobe Creative Suites or even more basic ones like Balsamiq. Among graphic designers transitioning to UX, Omnigraffle seems to be the most popular choice as well, as one designer claimed that it almost mimics Adobe Illustrator which she has used for many years.

Axure does better. It mimics a finished site or app without a single line of code, saving developers from the constant changes a project undergoes. On the other hand, there are developers who prefer to code right away.

They plunge right into coding because they work on their startups and think they have a clear vision of what they want, while designers who work with companies would need Axure to give them more leeway to pivot when a company’s far more complex business needs require it. The coding happens once clarity is achieved.

Still startups would do well to recognize how it’s important to learn lean principles and agile development philosophies beyond its business model. Honing a vision, giving it life with a prototype, and validating it with users first are just as important.

In her presentation, the audience followed Tomson in prototyping a travel booking platform in minutes. She also showed some prototyping tips and tricks and how to test Axure prototype on customers using Validately or share within a network using Axure Share. The audience was receptive to the idea of a possible follow-up meetup.

Tomson, a Yale grad with an international development background, is a product partner at Occum which, in turn, has Avon, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG and the United Nations Foundation for its clients, among others. She echoes the company’s belief that a great idea starts from a real, clearly articulated problem.

As for the title of her presentation, “Learn (how) to Prototype like a Badass.” It’s really more about how the best prototyping tool, Axure, can make you a badass. Like this blogger thinks he’s on his way to becoming one, too—if not yet.

What female founders should aspire to

orrickpicBy Dennis Clemente

Tech meetups in the city have always attracted men, but law firm Orrick clearly knows how to attract women to their own meetups. For the second time last July 15, Orrick only featured all-women founders and speakers in a talk titled “Life of a Founder” with an equal proportion of men and women in the room.

Host Joy Marcus of Bloglovin opened the night’s talk about what female startup founders should aspire to:
• Be tech smart but not necessarily technical
• Be analytical; understand the data
• Be business smart
• Be super-competitive (“great companies are not built on a 9 to 5” schedule)
• Be user smart
• Be a firehouse of new ideas, being careful not to be derivative
• Be curious, thorough and a risk-taker
• Most of all, be communicative

It’s a long list for sure, but Marcus said being a founder is hard. “You make tough decisions every single day, including firing your friends.”

It’s therefore important to foster a great culture to attract the best people.

Managing people well is vital. “Having one day off at least makes everyone so much better,” one said in response to how boundaries have been broken and how communication extends outside of the working hours in the startup world.

Another said she has a gratitude session every day. “We celebrate daily wins. It doesn’t have to big things but small things as well.”
And when it comes to dealing with VCs, you have to m
ake the board work for you and you’ve got to do your work in return. “You benefit from VCs beyond money, but you also have to believe in yourself.”

When it seems hard to convince a VC, “don’t think no is always a no. But know this: “If they don’t respond to your email, they are not interested in your company.”

The speakers were Sarika Doshi, co-founder, Rank & Style; Amanda Hesser, co-Founder & CEO, Food52; Kate Kendall, co-founder & CEO, CloudPeeps; Kathy Leake, co-Founder & CEO, LocalResponse; and Elissa Shevinsky, co-Founder & CEO, Glimpse. The other panelists were Elodie Dupuy, senior associate, Insight Venture Partners; Keegan Forte, general manager, Bowery Capital and Kegan Schouwenburg, co-Founder & CEO, SOLS. Kelly Hoey, chief marketing officer of Cuurio, moderated.

Orrick is global law firm with a particular focus on serving companies in the technology, energy and financial sectors.

The future of UI design is in the cards

By Dennis Clemente

The future of UI design is in the cards

That’s the prognostication of lively and dynamic speaker Christopher Tse who is inviting people to stage a counterculture revolution in UI design. “Rather than Silicon Valley (leading it), let it be New York this time,” he implored his audience at the NYC UX Acrobatics meetup at Amplify in DUMBO, Brooklyn last July 8.

Titled “Patterns of Card User Interface Design,” Tse’s talk started with an overview first of how designers have tapped card-based UI to present units of content responsively across a wide range of mobile devices and screen sizes. “We see this with Twitter cards, Google Now cards, Passbook passes, Pinterest tiles, Facebook Paper.”

When done right, Tse said a card can look like a responsive web content, work like a focused mobile app, and feel like a saved file that you can share and reuse.

Card UI design

“As these “cards” become more interactive, they go from being just concentrated bits of content and turn into mini-apps that can be embedded, capture and manipulate data, or even process transactions,” he said.

“If you look more deeply into the current state of card-based UI, you can see that cards are growing out of just concentrated bits of content and are turning into mini-apps that can be embedded, capture data, and drive actions,” he added.

Thinking about how playing cards carry information in digestible form should give you the idea. To put playing cards in place, you need a container. In Card UI design, a container can be a narrative, to help tell a story, a conversation or workflow, or a discovery channel the way Facebook and Pinterest rounds us up.

What needs exploring is the architecture beneath the cards. “This is to see whether cards built on the foundation of HTM5, CSS3, and modern Javascript, can re-inject the ethos of the Open Web back into mobile development and turn back the tide against proprietary platform lock-ins and app silos,” Tse said.

How is Tse planning his counterculture revolution n UI design?
Recent announcements from Google around the unification of their UIs using Material Design and from Apple about notifications widgets in iOS 8 show that that the big players are also firmly behind this new UI trend.

Saikiran Yerram, a veteran software developer/designer, showed a prototype of a card-based playlist app, created using Google’s Material Design guidelines, bringing multiple web-based educational tools into one unified learning experience.

Perhaps the best way to promote Card UI design is to find people who work in government, policy-makers or those in non-profit organizations, according to Tse who is clearly on a mission to democratize his ideas. Addressing the audience, Tse said, “Let me know if you know anyone.”

All-women tech panel talk about customer acquisition and building successful corporate culture

Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building
Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building

By Dennis Clemente

At the Orrick Total Access meetup last April 30, Joy Marcus, CEO of Bloglovin & venture partner at Gotham Ventures, looked at the panel in admiration. Seeing all were women tech founders, she looked at them proudly before turning to the audience and acknowledging each one of them. She said she relishes the day when she doesn’t need to say the guest list consists of an all-women panel, just a panel.

At the Orrick law offices at the CBS Building that night were women. For the customer acquisition talk, the panelists were Tanya Menendez, co-founder, Maker’s Row; Carly Strife, co-Founder, BarkBox; Kathleen Utecht, angel investor & venture partner; and Danielle Weinblatt, co-founder & CEO, Take the Interview.

For the corporate culture talk after, panelists were Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels, moderated Mona Bijoor, founder & CEO, of Joor; Kellee Khalil, founder & CEO of Lover.ly; Elissa Shevinsky, co-Founder & CEO, Glimpse Labs of Nina Sodhi, Founder & CEO of Nackina.

In the first talk, Menendez said understanding users is very important. “Do user interviews. Find out if users are obsessed with it (your product), then create products designed for them, making sure you have the right people onboard to tell your story that resonates with the audience, your community and among journalists.”

The other women agreed, but Weinblatt put it in her own way, saying she makes customers “adore us.” How? “Never underestimate the power of ‘polite persistence.’ Not everyone closes doors on your face. Do it over and over again.”

As an investor, Utecht’s comment was right up her alley, “The best way to acquire customers is (by getting into) partnerships.”

Strife, on the other hand, said word of mouth comprises 50 percent of her site’s monthly acquisition with referral as her “most successful channel.” “We pay them real money.”

In terms of measuring success with analytics, the women agreed that SEO, SEM and content creation are crucial, as well as A/B testing everything. Menendez said she should have focused on SEO from Day 1.

The next talk moderated by Angela Lee was tricky, as it tackled something not easy to quantify or measure: culture.

The panel suggested watching out for the following:
1. Ask yourself if you are experiencing something toxic and political?
2. Are you excited to come to work?
3. Are you excited about the product?
4. When something bad happens, who saves the day?
5. Can you bro it out with the guys?
6. Are people buying into the pain points you’re addressing?
7. Do you share the values of the staff and startup?

The panel also shared their hiring choices with Lee the moderator kicking it off. “I don’t do interviews. I ask people to do projects.”

Shevinsky said she finds people overlooked by the industry whereas Khalil said she prefers to test her hires with a 90-day contract.

But how do you become a successful startup? “It’s all about consistency. It’s a marathon,” Bijoor said.

NY Tech takes a Breather, ShortCut, Stream Web and Fake Girlfriend with Zach Morris

NY Tech meetup audience
NY Tech meetup audience

By Dennis Clemente

If you want to find out about tech startups and be entertained at the same time, there’s nothing like the NY Tech Meetup. The nine to 10 presentations–with hacks-of-the-month specials to boot–are still too many to cover in a span of two hours, but the hosts can be forgiven because they keep things light and playful.

The breezy, relaxed atmosphere can be contagious. Presenters feel at ease onstage, even when the internet connection–not a problem before but has been for the past two meetups—can be scattershot.

It has unruffled some presenters, but Paul Canetti, as one of the presenters last April 1, kept his cool, adlibbing and poking harmless fun on the internet. It helped that his new venture, Stream Web, a smartphone browser for iPhones, was the night’s easy favorite.

Stream Web is a browser specifically made for smartphones. It gets how people use their iPhones, with the search function located at the bottom, instead of the middle of the phone. This makes it convenient for one-hand iPhone users. Yes, Stream Web is only on iOS, for now.

The audience was thrilled to hear from nine startups.

Ny Tech meetup presenters and Adhere Tech's patented bottle
Ny Tech meetup presenters and Adhere Tech’s patented bottle

20140401_211457

Breather offers private rental spaces in New York and Montreal. A question pointed to a malicious reaction, because who knows what you and someone else can do there in a few hours?! Of course, if you have a dormant real estate space, here’s an opportunity to rent out your space.

Adhere Tech was serious in its presentation, as it asked how many times have you forgotten medication you’re supposed to take at the precise time you have to take it? AdhereTech’s patented smart pill bottles can do this now.

How about turning a term of endearment into a crowdsourced knowledge base? Honey.is appeared to have created a more personal Yammer, as it captures and shares conversations and tools you use everyday –text, links, videos, and files of all types but with closing deals, not just social interaction, in mind. Let’s see how that goes for them.

Shufflrr is another app that’s trying to disrupt Powerpoint. It calls itself business social in the sense that you can easily broadcast presentations using social tools.

Everyone already felt so appreciative of the new technologies they were hearing and seeing onstage, but Shortcut, a presenter at AOL just a few months ago, would excite the audience even more. Here’s a question. What if you could control all things happening in your home by voice automation?

That’s Shortcut. You left your lights on, you talk to your phone to turn it off. It’s impressive how it works to make most of your household appliances and electronics stuff at home almost magically turn on with a voice command. However, it’s not alone in this idea; this may become just a race to whoever hits critical mass first.

The last presenter of the night, Kandu, is a tool that lets kids make games and apps without knowing how to or need for code. It’s an “entertainment” tool if you compare it to Scratch. Will it encourage more kids to go to the next level? Learning how to code, that is.

The other presenters included Skillcrush, a place for learning programming languages and WeWork, which announced new co-working spaces for entrepreneurs in New York.

To break the monotony of startup presentations, the NY Tech Meetup has Hacks of the Month. Ricky Robinett’s Fake Girlfriend and Emergency Zach Morris hacks got the crowd laughing. With Fake Girlfriend, he said, you can create a Fake Girlfriend number and equally fake name and then choose to get a pre-recorded call or text message from your virtual girlfriend. For his second hack, he showed how to get your Zach Morris fix. You call 718-395-5255 to hear the voice of the Saved by the Bell star. A voice in the crowd, certainly someone who didn’t grow up in the 80s, asked who?!

This blogger looks forward to the day when NY Tech Meetup gives fewer presentations with more time allotted for startups to talk about their business in more detail, especially how an idea was born, how a product was conceived, how an app was created and how a team was formed. Writers would also be able give these startups fair media coverage–and give Robinett time to explain who Zach Morris is.

Establishing and preserving your startup culture

Jonathan Ages
Jonathan Ages

By Dennis Clemente

Your startup culture is crucial to your startups’ long-term success. But how do you make company culture your own and how do you preserve it as you grow?

Last October 9, Michael Balzigos, psychology professor at Columbia University and Global Head of Product Development at McKinsey & Co., led the conversation into the topic with one startup founder and two organizational leaders at Alley NYC giving both an unstructured and structured view of company culture.

Jonathan Ages is the CEO of Blood, Sweat & Cheers, which provides free daily email for active men and women striving to be fit. The startup reportedly has about 100,000 daily email newsletter subscriptions and boasts 2013 Webby Awards for running ad campaigns on Crunch, Red Bull and Mike’s Hard.

The two other guests were Brett Morgan, director of business change and transformation for Wyndham Hotel Group and Iva Karolina Raisinger, organization leadership consultant at IBM

Raisinger thinks efficiency becomes a question if there are no written rules. For her, the importance of company culture resides in “the persona of the corporation as enacted by its employees and leaders.”

Ages agreed, “(Company culture) is the glue and fuel of the startup. It’s about working toward the same goal and having fun while doing it.”

How do you inculcate culture in your company?

Ages has an interesting structure in place in his company. “Tuesdays, I do walk-in talks. I walk around with them. Make sure they are valued. Thursdays, we have think and drinks. It’s an opportunity for us to share what you’ve been doing. We even talk about dating, as long as it doesn’t devolve into small talk but leads to a brainstorm. Fridays, we work from home with as little interaction as possible.”

Morgan said you must start it right—have a mission; be consistent; get employees involved and learn adaptability. “In two years, you’ll be in a better place.”

As for keeping customers, Morgan believes in keeping it simple like Johnny the Bagger, the story he likes talking about. “Johnny offered a Thought of the Day to the customers who liked it and always chose the counter he manned as a result. You can change culture, whether it’s engineered or organic.”

For Raisinger, it’s far more complex. “You cannot change culture through training,” suggesting a need to go deeper into the core. “Be honest. I am not even using the word authenticity, just honesty.”

Morgan interjected, “What will not work is ramming culture on people’s throats. Nobody will listen to you. You need to start small.”

But how do they handle people resistant to change. Coming from the publishing industry he left behind, Ages said the higher-ups remain there (in the company), because they are masters at keeping things unchanged.”

“They want the gates closed, because cultural shifts are challenging for them,” he added which compelled Bazigos to say, “The road to the future is a guarded by a thousand guardians of the past.”

What do they think of the most divisive of all–open office? Is it good or bad?

In most of his studies, Balzigos has noticed how employees hate open space. As a solution, he has also observed how some companies pump up the ambient noise or white noise in their offices.

Ages said one time he moved developers to a quiet area where they could not hear marketers making phone calls, they became more productive, but they lost connection with other people, unfortunately.

If it’s any consolation, Balzigos thinks of it this way: “If you’re in finance, you have more in common with someone in the same section or position in another company.”

Ages creates some space between colleagues from the neck part up and by suggesting having headphones on to allow them to work without distraction, from people or his environment.

Morgan tells how our environment can influence the company’s culture, but he calls for striking a balance when it matters. “Be careful that culture does not get in the way of your goal.”

Balzigos pointed out the leader’s imprint in the culture of an organization is key, but he also cautioned about how some founders struggle letting go of some responsibilities and losing sight of the goal. “Answer this question, are you ‘entrepreneuring’ or managing. It’s important to figure out how to trust your team.”

Ages said he is able to trust his team because hires smart people and allows them to do their thing. “I do the recruitment and then try to get out of the way unless some troubleshooting is needed.”

Selecting and keeping the right people is vital, and Morgan bases his decision on their knowledge, skills, ability and adaptability to culture.

For Ages, “it’s important that you allow them to audition and give a real-world opportunity to do their role.”

To keep and get them excited, Balzigos said, “Sell them greed. Show them ROI, the company’s projected growth in a few years.”