Run Your Company From The Heart

11 Comments

I recently had a business-life changing experience. Our company, digital-telepathy, was once a full-service interactive agency for Web 2.0 companies. We provided business strategy, design, development and marketing services for web apps. We were pulling in about $300,000 a project. However, I started to notice that our team (including me) was constantly stressed and lacked the energy required to enjoy our projects and deliver innovative concepts. My outlook has always been that everyone should have the ability to enjoy every second of their life, regardless of work or play. I could tell we were failing at our own game.

Out of the blue, our biggest client fired us and then hired all of our developers. Panic time, right? Nope.

(Well, there was a little panic.)

But, after a tumultuous 24 hours and key conversations with my advisers, I was able to look inward towards the source of the breakdown and searched for an opportunity for learning and growth. When breakdowns occur, you have to stop and observe to the reality of the situation. Things happen for a reason – even in business. It’s crucial that you are able to embrace the changes that are presented to you. I knew that I had a strong leadership team that could turn a profit selling Chicklets. So instead of hiring new engineers for a rinse and repeat cycle, we rallied together and built a 30 day plan to redefine our company and make the revisions necessary to become a world changing organization.

We reviewed all of our services and decided to eliminate those which we were not “world class” at fulfilling and enhance those which we effortlessly excelled at. We dropped back-end development, marketing execution and other services that could be classified as commodities in a flat business world, even though these services accounted for 90% of our revenue. We realized that we had to be willing to give up that which made us comfortable in order to grow into an industry leading business. We identified that our core competencies were online business and marketing strategy as well as user experience design. These services are difficult to commoditize and, therefore, are also much-needed in an industry lacking solid revenue models and future scalability.

We discovered that delivering business strategy and better user experience(s) were our strong points, and also hard-to-find skills in our industry. We took on a new goal: to build a product that enabled entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into realities. We turned our services inside-out and started with the timeline and cost to define a consistent project scope. This enabled us to create a 90 day process that designed custom web applications and delivered our clients’ ideas to market quickly, without sacrificing the authenticity of the project. We now partner with the best development and marketing firms in the nation. In our new iteration, digital-telepathy operates less like a straight consultancy, and more like an executive producer for startups. This is how our new service, “Biz in a Box” was born.

We cranked out a new website, announced our business model to a few press contacts and made TechCrunch shortly thereafter. Thirty days after our breakdown we went from a disturbingly quiet office to a bustling hub of energy and innovation. We can barely keep up with our project requests–we gained nearly 100 new prospects–and have the luxury of choosing those we take on.

Here is the main lesson I learned from my experience:

Ignore how you “think” you should run your business. Start running it the way you “know” in your heart you can run it. Success will follow.

Running a business should be fun, and it can be, if we believe in what we do – and do what we believe in. Too many people are acting on opportunities for the for the sake of the opportunity. I would challenge you to act from the heart, and make your own opportunities.

‘Act from the Heart‘ in 4 easy steps:

  1. Make sure you believe in what you are doing; that it is more than just ‘an opportunity.’
  2. Recognize when you hit The Dip and don’t be afraid to quit things you do not excel at.
  3. Embrace your breakdowns. The reality of the situation is your only true source of knowledge and growth.
  4. Have faith in your employees and “team-source” solutions together. Your employees want to be involved in the process and will in turn feel empowered.

Chuck Longanecker is founder of the Web2.0 consulting firm, digital-telepathy, based in San Diego, Calif. Chuck will write again on Found|READ about his experiences with startup life, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can read more about digital-telepathy on the company blog.

11 Comments

Chuck

I question the relevance of this comment on a post about an honest perspective of how to run a company by your heart. I’m not going to even bother addressing your accusations of fraud or scamming as you have no grounds. Nevertheless, I feel it is important to respond to your comment for the benefit of the readers of this Found|Read.

Based on your unfounded claims and accusations on a completely neutral subject matter as well as your anonymous status, it seems as if you have a personal issue with either myself or my company. I would encourage you to contact me directly to get the facts straight and then talk about my organization or myself however you see fit.

Below is a repost of a comment I made directly on your blog:


First, I would like to say that I am always open to discussing the business philosophy and services of digital-telepathy. In addition, if you question the authenticity of my sentiments in the below comment then you can call me at 619.255.8628 to discuss. Here’s a bit of background of what happened and what’s new in the last 90 days.

After we lost our engineers, I looked within dt and realized that we have an incredibly supportive and badass crew to build startups. We’re an even mix of designers, strategists, UI developers and marketers with multiple years of experience building businesses from scratch. We took 3 weeks and redefined our organization from the ground up. We wanted to stop being an agency that provided services and avoid the typical issues that come up in client/vendor relationships. We stopped working with clients that did not support this vision and started to rebuild. We honed our efforts on the aspects of business that we did best – web/business strategy and user-experience. We built 2 products out of these services, one to introduce an entrepreneur’s idea to market (Biz in a Box) and one to help startups grow into more mature businesses (Cultivate Engine). We partnered with Rails shops and priced the the products based on the effort and time it takes to develop and design the first stage of an application without cutting corners. The products were developed with the philosophy that a great idea for a web app/business can be developed in it’s simplest form (alpha/private beta) in 3 months. The app should be offered to those people that will benefit from it and their feedback should be used to mature the business, feature set, brand…etc. It’s simple really – we dig working with startups and have the combined experience and proficiencies to enable their ideas.

This story always precedes our discussion of services. We want people to understand what we have been through and why we do what we do. We don’t actually perform typical “sales” of our services. We meet with interested startups and entrepreneurs, explain our process and introduce them to our staff. We left them decide if it is the right fit. In fact, we turn a lot of prospects down regardless of their budget if we feel the concept lacks direction or potential. Our reputation in the industry is far more valuable than our revenue. We never claim to be the special sauce behind a startup or a turnkey solution for success. We exist to enable the entrepreneur to accomplish their startup’s goals as well as provide additional strategy and a structured process to get to market.

The revenue generated at dt is used for our overhead and is then reinvested in our own projects. We use our Biz in a Box process and partners to build out our concepts. We have a lot of skin in the startup game which allows us to relate directly to the pains and pleasure of our clients and colleagues. Our first app is championsound.com and was built in about 60 days.

Here’s an update from the last 90 days that should give further insight to what we are up to:

* We’ve recently optimized the 90 Day Web App process and were able to lower the cost to $100k.
* We’ve opened up our office to Coworking (http://www.dtelepathy.com/co-working)
* We are heading up an effort to bring together the startups in San Diego: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7529917723
* The TechCrunch article definitely gave us a lot of exposure and many prospects, yet it did not yield one client.
* We are on our 8th Biz in Box currently.

Most of our projects have been the 45 day plan where we perform all the web strategy and user experience. Because of this, many of the sites are not live to the public yet. We’ve found a nice niche helping out teams that have already started the development by fine tuning their strategy, enhancing their feature set and tying the UI to the backend. At this point, the only people that would truly be able to quantify our effectiveness would be our clients.

As for the profitability of the projects from the last 3 months – if we could find a way to restructure our organization, fill our pipeline with clients, pump out apps and have them be profitable – all in 90 days – I’d already be retired and writing this from a beach with a pina colada in hand :)

BE AWARE OF FRAUD AND SCAMS USED BY DIGITAL TELEPATHY TO TAKE YOUR MONEY

BE AWARE OF FRAUD AND SCAMS USED BY DIGITAL TELEPATHY TO TAKE YOUR MONEY:

Web 2.0 “Biz in a Box” Service Revisited

“The answer was obvious to me: Digital Telepathy was basically exploiting wannabe entrepreneurs, even if this wasn’t the company’s intention. Instead of making realistic promises (i.e. “we’ll help you build your web application”), they made promises that I still believe are essentially impossible to keep (i.e. “we’ll deliver a fully-functional business with a solid strategy and business model in 90 days”).

Because Web 2.0 is increasingly filled with bullshit and Digital Telepathy’s claims weren’t a whole lot more foul-smelling than all the bullshit lining the streets of Sand Hill Road, I forgot about it.”

http://www.drama20show.com/2008/02/22/web-20-biz-in-a-box-service-revisited/

MORE:

LAWSUIT: Green Mountain Energy Company v. Digital-Telepathy, Inc. et al

http://dockets.justia.com/docket/court-txwdce/case_no-1:2007cv00252/case_id-231601/

“Biz In A Box” Service Another Sign that Web 2.0 is Running Long in the Tooth

“There are always opportunists who look to exploit atmospheres of euphoria for their own personal gain and Web 2.0 has created a significant amount of euphoria. But the most telling sign that the Web 2.0 euphoria is likely peaking (besides the seven signs revealed in Bible 2.0) is that such a blatant attempt at exploiting the euphoria received a positive plug on one of the most prominent Web 2.0 blogs.”

http://www.drama20show.com/2007/11/13/biz-in-a-box-service-another-sign-that-web-20-is-running-long-in-the-tooth/

Web 2.0 Biz In A Box. Seriously.

“Here’s the deal. You pay these douchebags anywhere between $15,000 and $250,000, and they will take your idea through all of the important Web 2.0 steps. In order, they are:

* Coming up with an idea for a product that has existed for the past 15 years.
* Writing it with a shitty MySQL backend. (Includes time spent not understanding the differences between MyISAM and InnoDB.)
* Pitching it to Mike Arrington.
* Defending it in the comment threads on Uncov.”

http://www.uncov.com/2007/11/12/web-2-0-biz-in-a-box-seriously

Digital Telepathy: Business In A Box

“How can a company offer a turn-key business-in-a-box service without regard for the specifics? By taking a common denominator approach, and not paying a lot of attention to the client’s need for differentiation, I bet.

This reminds me of the era in the last bubble when everyone’s logo looked the same, with an electron swooshing around the name of the company.”

“I wonder if Digital Telepathy used their own 15 day process to come up with this business model?”

http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2007/11/digital-telepat.html

America Escobar

Vey enlightening article! You go Chuck! Definitely Concord…..! believing in what we do is the main ingredient 4 success!!! Do what you love and the money will follow!!! Looking at challenges as an opportunity to grow!! That “tumultous” time was an exam on your inner faith!

Your ideas highlight your tenacity and your future continue sucess!!! loved the article,
and Yap, Our Heart it’s always talking to us!!! we just need to quiet our mind and listen!
Well written my friend! FIVE Starts from me!! and a Big Hug :)
America Escobar

Cory Clubb

Great posting Chuck!
Quite the in-depth article on business, but let’s forget about business or companies for second. This process, “Act From the Heart”, can be applied in our lives with abounding success. After rereading it a second time I found the technique could be easily as useful to triumph in life as well as in our careers. I encourage you to expand on this idea, whether applying it to life or business, to reach out to those who could use a new turn around. I am looking forward to reading more innovated process that you have learned through your experience.

-Cory Clubb

Pete Roehrig

I have the advantage of knowing Chuck and his father. The strong entrepreneurial will he possesses is obvious and reinforces my personal knowledge of him as a young man. I agree, fun and business should go together. Faced with a situation that for many would have been terminal for his business, he chose to discard the “victim” routine and bitterness that so often accompanies such a reality. It is difficult to critically assess your own entrepreneurial creation and let go of major elements of a plan that have delivered success to your business to date. It is refreshing to see a strong and fresh business solution come from this type of market and introspective analysis. A good example and process every business should employ. Congrats on executing the business diagnostics many will never have the will or courage to perform. Pete

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