Posts from ‘Leadership’


Groupon is the butt of a lot of jokes within the tech startup crowd, especially after their recent IPO in November. Most of these jokes are deserved — they lose tons of money each quarter, their founders have already cashed out, and the future is bleak for Groupon.

Groupon’s initial value proposition was incredibly innovative. They capitalized on one of the most foundational principles of economics: things costs less to businesses in bulk. They built a platform that empowered businesses to pass these savings onto their customers in exchange for viral and rapid marketing.

Of course, they had no business model. But who cares? Neither does Instagram. Neither did Twitter.

No one cares if you have a business model right off the bat – anyone can monetize a couple million users (or so it goes). As you grow, and continue to drive value through innovation, you find new and exciting revenue models to slowly become financially sustainable.

The potential for Groupon was massive. They gained tons of users very quickly, and they were being cloned hundreds of times every week all over the world. With a great business model, international expansion through acquisition would have been easy. The group-buying economics are location-agnostic. There was a massive upside, but it had to be capitalized on.

But here’s the kicker: they stopped.

The lack of innovation as Groupon grew was astounding. No new business model. No new value. No new marketing strategy. Just skyrocketing costs of customer acquisition and a management team who couldn’t care less.

Potential doesn’t matter if it’s never realized. One innovation is never enough. It takes continual innovation on every front to drive sustainability and growth within organizations. The best companies never settle.


Expertise is relative.

In the ultimate sense, I’m far from an ‘Apple Expert.’ There are thousands of people in the world who know more about Apple products than me. But in the relative sense (in my circle of friends) I am exactly that — an ‘Apple Expert.’

It’s nearly impossible to become an ultimate expert — to be truly one of the most knowledgeable or skilled people in the world about a given subject. It’s a great goal, but one that will take years to accomplish if you’re starting from page one. On your way to true expertise, it’s helpful to focus on becoming a relative expert in something you are passionate about.

Be the person that everyone comes to when they have a question about ______. Each time someone approaches you, you have the opportunity to influence them. They’ll share your advice, and your influence will compound.

As you become known in your spheres as a relative expert, you’ll find your knowledge and skill will continue to broaden. As a result your expertise and influence will continue to compound. And soon you may find yourself on the path to ultimate expertise — an incredible platform by which to influence others.


A few weeks ago, Jimmy Fallon interviewed the Napster-founder-turned-serial-entrepreneur Sean Parker at NExTWORK. Near the end of the interview, Sean Parker dropped this bomb: “You don’t want people thinking your product is cool, because then you’re a fad.”

I love that. Don’t waste time trying to create a product, venture, organization, event, company, or website that’s cool. Cool doesn’t last — cool is a fad.

Find a real problem in the market and solve it for the people who are suffering, even if they don’t know it. If what you create is cool, great, but don’t start there. Build a solution that’s so good, people would be dumb to go anywhere else. If you can, (and not all products can — car washes, fencers, roof builders, etc.) become an integral part of your users lives — so much so that they don’t actively decide to use your product, they just do.

You don’t consciously think about signing onto Facebook when you wake up, you just do it. You log on and connect with your friends without even really thinking about what you’re doing. You refresh your Twitter feed on your iPhone without even realizing that you’re on Twitter — you just do it. You watch an episode of Arrested Development on Netflix without really acknowledging what you’re doing or that it’s “cool” — you’re just enjoying watching a TV show.

Don’t try to become cool. Solve a problem. Ingrain your solution into your users’ lives in such an integral way that they don’t think it’s cool — it’s just part of their life.


Someone once asked Seth Godin why he doesn’t tweet. His response? “Because I couldn’t be the best at it.”

Seth Godin, one of the most-read bloggers on the web, understands that at the end of the day, nothing else matters besides the product that you deliver to your customers. If you aren’t in a position to deliver a product of the highest quality, are you willing to put your name on it?

Every person in the world has a product they are delivering, and you all have customers that you’re delivering it to. Whether you’re a professor delivering a lecture to a class of university students, or a middle-level manager in a meeting at a Fortune 500 company — you have customers; and you are delivering a product to them, whether you realize it or not.

If you’re a lawyer who hasn’t won a case in years, it doesn’t matter if you drive to the courthouse in a Bentley— you’re not a good lawyer.

If you’re a salesman who can’t get signatures on checks, it doesn’t matter if you generate more leads than anyone else in your department — you’re a sub-par salesman.

If you’re an editor who consistently overlooks typos and grammatical errors, it doesn’t matter if you’re editing Malcolm Gladwell’s next book — you’re a poor editor.

If you can’t deliver a quality product in a timely manner, all other circumstances surrounding your work are meaningless. It’s all too easy to rely on external factors to make up for your own lack of diligence; we’ve all done it. You may be able to slide by on other people’s laurels for a while, but eventually your customers will judge you by the quality of your work — not what people think about you, who you work for, or what you’ve done in the past.

Seth Godin is arguably the greatest communicator in the world today. Yet, he refuses to join Twitter. He’s willing to forego an entire medium of communication because he believes he won’t be able to maintain the incredibly high-standard he’s set for the way he engages with his customers.

If your name is going on it, refuse to settle for mediocrity, even if it means hours of extra work or foregoing an opportunity entirely. Be vigilant about protecting and maintaining your personal brand image. Your customers, whoever they may be, are almost always interested in quality over quantity — give them a reason to expect quality products, and deliver products that meet that expectation.

(I’d be remiss not to mention that I’ve had the privilege of  spending the last few months working at the iHub in Nairobi for Erik Hersman (Co-Founder of Ushahidi, Founder of the iHub Nairobi , TED Senior Fellow, etc.). This post was born out of many insightful conversations with him over the last few weeks.)


Photo Credit: Jim @TechFrog Alden via Flickr


Just because something happens repeatedly doesn’t make it right, healthy, or logical. It may make sense to you contextually, but take a step back. Don’t accept the unacceptable simply because you’ve habitually conditioned yourself to believe that it’s normal or permissible.

Your iTunes library does this to you all the time.

You create a killer playlist of your favorite Jay-Z and Coldplay tunes. These two artists have (almost) nothing in common. Yet, I guarantee you that if you listen to that playlist frequently, something very interesting will happen. After you hear Coldplay’s string-driven ‘Viva la Vida’ fade out and Jay-Z’s hard-hitting ‘Run This Town’ fade in enough times, you’ll begin to accept that transition as normal. In fact, you’ll begin to expect it. Even when you’re listening to a Coldplay-only playlist, you’ll start anticipating Rihanna’s “Feel it comin’ in the air…” vocal line at the beginning of ‘Run This Town’ to begin as ‘Viva la Vida’ closes.

No authority in the music industry has given you any reason to expect that transition to occur, yet you do. Every time. You’ll probably even begin to hear it in your head when it doesn’t happen. There’s no musical explanation for your expectation — you’ve simply conditioned yourself to believe that’s what should happen.

When you’re only talking about musical expectations from listening to an iTunes playlist, this fact is entirely insignificant. But when you are dealing with a boss who routinely under-utilizes your talents, an employee who is habitually late for meetings, a volunteer who consistently speaks negatively about your organization, or a friend who regularly doesn’t fulfill commitments, the consequences of your conditioned acceptance are larger than yourself.

In every one of these situations, you’re not the only one who’s suffering. Your boss is costing your organization time, money, and resources by not letting you work at your full potential. Your employee is not only disrespecting your company and team, but creating habits that will follow him in every step of his future career. You never know who your volunteer will be talking to the next time he decides to bad-mouth your organization’s latest initiative. You’re not the only person who you’re friend is letting down — he’s doing the same thing to all of his other friends too.

Refuse to settle for what you have conditioned yourself to believe is permissible. Re-evaluate your expectations — be the one who takes a stand the next time you find yourself accepting something unacceptable.


Photo Credit: neomusicstore via Flickr


1. Leadership inherently involves people. Leaders lead people. In some way, shape, or form every leader is influencing other human beings.

2. Influencing other people is a serious deal. You’re changing some aspect of who that person is. Whether it be the way they see the world, the decisions they are going to make, or the things they will decide to forego because of your influence — you are changing them. This is a big deal.

3. It only takes once. I’ve learned this one from experience. It takes months of building your reputation as a leader — as someone that people want to follow — but only one poor decision to lose your entire platform. One miscommunication, misrepresentation of the truth, or poorly worded comment and you may very well destroy everything you’ve worked to build.

4. Leadership is exponential. Whether you’re a good leader or a bad leader, your influence will be compounded. As your influence people, they will begin to influence others in similar ways. This can be your biggest asset or your worst nightmare.

5. It’s always happening. You’re always leading and you’re always being led. Whether you want to admit it or not, there’s someone that you look up to, admire, or respect who is somehow influencing who you are. Conversely, you are that person to someone else.

Lead and be led well.

Photo Credit N-ino via Flickr


“Bootstrapping.” If you know any entrepreneurs, you probably hear this word often. Bootstrapping is all about succeeding in what you’re doing with nothing more than your own resources and talents. It’s how most entrepreneurs define what they’re doing and how they’re functioning as a company — usually out of necessity — before they receive significant external investment. Bootstrapping (sometimes) works for startup companies. It never works for leadership development.

You can’t bootstrap leadership. In other words, there’s no such thing as a self-made leader. People who do dynamic, world-changing things always have a story to tell of someone investing in them, inspiring them, or setting an example for them before they became the person they are today.

I’ve spent alot of time thinking about what made the people I admire who they are. A common trait that I have found is that they aligned themselves with someone very early on in their lives who was doing something big. They found someone who was changing the world in some way, no matter how small or large, and they got involved with what that person was doing. For some of them, this led to a future partnership or company, and every one of them learned valuable lessons from the experience. It almost always took them going out of their way to seek out this person to work for, with, or around and (most importantly) learn from — it doesn’t usually happen the other way around.

More often than not, this person they sought out turns out to be a pivotal part of their future success story. I’ve heard multiple stories from people who point to one conversation they had with someone who they admired that literally changed the course of their lives and inspired them to do what they’re doing today. Get yourself into a place where those kind of conversations can happen. If you can find someone who is doing something big and somehow get involved in or around what they’re doing, good things will happen. At the very least, you’ll come away with valuable lessons that you would never have learned otherwise, and you very well may find yourself with opportunities you would have never dreamed of. If you can put yourself in a position to learn from and be involved with someone of this calibre — someone whose footsteps you wouldn’t mind following in one day — you’ll see huge dividends in the future.

You’d be surprised at what people are willing to do for you if you just ask. Successful people want to pass on their knowledge and experience to others — especially people they see as next-generation leaders. Find someone who is doing something big and see if there’s a possibility to be involved in what they’re doing. Better yet, prove to them that you are the person they should spend their time and energy investing in. You may not be able to prove that to them right away, but the first step is getting in the door and getting involved in what they are doing.

They can’t pay you for your time? Do it anyways. They live in another country? Buy your plane ticket. It’ll force you out of your comfort zone? Enjoy it.

Do whatever it takes to make it happen — take a few risks. Actually, take alot of risks. You never know what opportunities could lie ahead of you if you aren’t willing to ask.


Photo Credit: Leonard John Matthews via Flickr


Rather than write some grand ‘What is ReCorporate All About’ post to kick this thing off, I’m just going to jump right in. If you’re interested, you’ll find out what it’s all about soon enough.

I’m working in Nairobi, Kenya right now. Often, I’ll ride my bicycle around town rather than taking a car. Traffic is notoriously bad in Nairobi, so the bike is actually faster (generally).

To complicate matters, the roads here are quite bad — riddled with pot-holes, rocks, and cracks. After riding on them for a few weeks, you quickly learn to be selective about the riding path that you choose. Obviously, the end goal is a smooth ride — to choose the path with the fewest bumps.

When I first started riding in Nairobi, I’d decide which path to take based on what I saw in the next few feet ahead of my front tire. This works great if your goal is to find short spurts of smooth riding, but often a few feet of smooth road will lead you across another 25 feet of incredibly bumpy road.

Experience teaches you that you’ll enjoy a much smoother ride if you focus not on the terrain 2 or 3 feet in front of you, but on what you see 10 or 20 feet in front of you. Sometimes you’ll find yourself making the conscious decision to ride through a few feet of rough patches in order to reach a significant amount of smoother terrain. It’s all about forward-thinking and being concerned with long-term success rather than short-term gain.

Everyday we are all faced with decisions like mine on the bike. Whether it’s a strategic business decision, a restructuring decision within your organization, or simply deciding  how to use your time today — alot of decisions can be viewed through this lens. We all want to be comfortable and happy in the short term, but enjoying comfort and happiness in the long-term will far surpass the satisfaction you gain in the short-term.

It’s easy to choose to stare at what you see a few feet in front of you in hopes of some short-term reward. It’s a whole lot harder to further your gaze and focus on long-term, meaningful rewards. This is where the lasting, dynamic, world-changing successes lie for the few that do.