Saturday, March 17, 2018

New INC Magazine Blog Post by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman

Let's Give Bruno a Break
The performer got targeted in a social media debate about his work. The debate may be phony, or stupid, but there's a real lesson to learn about how quickly your customers can evolve.

CEO, 1871@tullman

I feel really bad for Bruno Mars because he’s stuck in the middle of one of these stupid, click-bait driven, social media debates about whether he’s grateful enough and vocal enough about the influences that “black” music has had on his own work. Apparently, no matter how much or how often you say “thank you” these days and prostrate yourself to the memories of those gone before, it’s never sufficient for the trolls and the haters. So, we’re subjected to a 140-character debate about cultural appropriation by a bunch of know-nothings and two-thumb typers who can barely spell, much less understand what they’re talking about. I’m just glad that Mick and JT have never had to go through this kind of knee-jerk noise. And Elvis would be rolling in his grave if there was room enough in the casket for him to move that bloated body around.
However, these people aren’t entirely worthless because they can always serve as a bad example - a stirring demonstration of exactly what not to do. You can learn a lot from Luddites. The important lesson for entrepreneurs is buried deep in the trivial and utterly immaterial observations of these critics. It’s about how quickly and easily concepts, ideas, language, thoughts - and especially expectations - can jump around from person to person, place to place, and industry to industry in today’s hyper-connected and high-speed digital world.
My takeaway is all about customers and competition. We see this same kind of behavior in every kind of competition. Many years ago, every high jumper laughed at a guy named Dick Fosbury and his crazy Fosbury Flop technique-; until he won gold at the 1968 Olympics with a record-setting leap. Then everyone jumped in and copied his technique.

I always say that the expectations of customers are "perpetually progressive," which simply means that they (we) can't help themselves from continually raising the bar. Which means that you've got to keep getting better and better in your business (product, service, support, speed, etc.) all the time because what was yesterday's miracle is tomorrow's "so what?" 

Like it or not, we’re all living in a “what have you done for me lately?” world. And to make things even worse, your competition never sleeps; they’re ready, willing, and able to step right up and grab any unhappy customers if you lose a step or two or start taking anything or anybody for granted. No one owns the customer today; switching costs are minimal; people’s choices are virtually unlimited; and locked-in and loyal consumers are a sure thing only as long as you keep delivering the goods.
But the new news is that the state of the competition has changed and you need to make sure that you aren’t spending too much of your time looking through the rear-view mirror or trying to measure your performance and success against the wrong bars (traditional and too low) and the wrong ball players (too few and too narrow a view).
The most important competition today for the time, attention and dollars of your customers isn’t in your own backyard. It’s not in your silo or limited to the set of standard competitors that you have always benchmarked your business against because that’s simply too low a bar and too modest a target. The competition today for the hearts and minds of your customers - listen closely - is the last great experience (sales or service) that they’ve had, whenever and wherever that took place. Whether or not it has anything directly to do with you or your business doesn’t matter. That’s simply how the consumer keeps score today.
You need a new mindset and it starts with a simple acknowledgement. In today’s one-stop world, you’re competing against the likes of Amazon even if they aren’t yet selling the same stuff or services that you are - if that’s even possible anymore given that they have virtually everything at the Everything Store. You’re competing against the most trusted brand in America and you’re competing with the ways (every way) that Amazon does business. Speed, access and convenience trump everything else. Once we experience this hyper-speed anywhere in our lives, we immediately bump up the bar, raise our expectations, and apply the same new standards to everything else in our lives. This is a case of appropriation uber alles and every one of us is guilty of it because that’s basic human nature. Who doesn’t want more and better anything and everything?

Amazon isn’t alone in setting the curve in the “right now” economy. You can get an on-demand flu shot at Walgreens in 15 minutes these days at your convenience. Why would you ever again beg some receptionist for an appointment to go see your internist in three weeks, then take 3 hours out of your day and spend several hundred bucks to accomplish essentially the same thing. And you’ll probably catch the flu before you get around to the date of your appointment anyway.

The bottom line: if you treat your customers as if it’s business as usual, they won’t be back or be your customers much longer. So, my advice is to “Be like Bruno” (with apologies to Michael Jordan). Change up your game constantly, get out of your comfort zone, look beyond your own four walls and your own marketplace, see who’s hit it out of the park (last week or last century), rip them off politely, and then do it better than they ever did.
Good artists copy; great artists steal.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

1871 Welcomes Angie Bastian from BOOMCHICKAPOP

1871 and Advanced Resources Host Blockchain Panel

1871 Welcomes Mayor Emanuel for Chicago Stories Live Podcast with 1871 CEO Howard Tullman

March 18, 2018

Mayor’s Press Office

Mayor Emanuel Interviews 1871 CEO Howard Tullman Live on Chicago Stories Podcast

For the first live episode on Chicago Stories, Mayor Emanuel sat down with 1871 CEO Howard Tullman this week at Chicago’s leading tech innovation space to look back at Howard’s career of reinvention, 1871’s world leading expansion, and how Chicago became the global tech hub it is today.

Founded in 2012, 1871 takes its name not just from the Great Chicago Fire, but from what happened next — the period of intense innovation that combined engineers, architects, and investors to build the new city we know today.

It’s that spirit of innovation that led 1871 to be ranked the first in the world in the 2018 UBI Global List of Top University-Affiliated Businesses Incubators.

Howard’s own Chicago story began as a student Northwestern University, but his story as a Chicago tech leader began — of all things — as a trial lawyer and criminal defense attorney. He specialized in Federal litigation, and was even admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. But after a decade in the field, he focus was turning to technology.

“In the course of those 10 years the computer really came into existence as a business tool,” Howard said, “and at the end of the 10 years it was more interesting to me to manage the information using the computers that it was to continue to be a trial lawyer.”

So in 1980 Howard retired from his law career and reinvented himself as a innovator and entrepreneur by starting the first of a series of database and information-based computer businesses.

Since that time he’s seen Chicago transform itself as a hub of tech entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly over the last four years he’s led 1871.

Be sure to check out the full live podcast episode to hear Mayor Emanuel and Howard talk about the difference between learning from failure and learning from life, what makes Chicago’s tech community so unique, the importance of giving back, and the latest updates on Chicago’s Hyperloop and quest to land Amazon’s HQ2.

Listen and subscribe to Chicago Stories podcast on Apple PodcastsSoundcloud and Spotify.


“When we started, the core underlying idea was mobile was going to change the world. Today, everything is digital, every business is tech-enabled, so what’s the next set of hurdles? It could be and we’re building in blockchain, we’re building in augmented reality, we’re building in machine learning, we’re building in the Internet of Things downstairs on the fifth floor.”

“You take the good lessons and the bad lessons and you apply them.”

“Sticking to it beyond a certain point is not really the smartest thing or the best thing to do.”

“Everybody is not going to be successful at everything they do. The biggest thing is to decide if you’re digging a hole is when to stop digging and when to do something else.”

“You’re not going to move the needle in a city by building start-ups. You’re going to use and move the needle when those start-ups’ technology and disruptive innovations are adopted by large corporations, and that really is where the impact occurs.”

“Entrepreneurs do not look backwards. We call this ‘in-game amnesia.’ If you’re focused on what happened in the past, the shot you missed, or an opportunity that you missed, you’re not paying attention to going ahead, and so my focus has always been what’s next.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New INC. Magazine Blog Post by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman

Looking for Board Members? Forget Credentials--It's What They Can Bring to the Table That Counts
Young companies get too caught up in trying to lure high-profile types to their boardrooms. But you don't need hood ornaments; you need time, expertise and an ability to help you drive the company forward.

Budding builders of businesses and big-city mayors often seem to have the same problem when it comes to putting together boards, whether they're boards of directors, advisors, or industry experts. They tend to go for the gold and the glitz and they end up getting too little time, no real help, and nothing else of any actual value in the bargain. They consistently emphasize and over index on people's titles and credentials and forget that-; unless you're only concerned with window dressing and PR-;the object of the board-building exercise is to get some regular help, a sympathetic ear or two, and some people on your team who've been there before, who will tell you the truth when necessary, and who share your vision for the business. Having a couple of board members who have your back is the best feeling in the whole world and makes for a much better business as well. 

Being an effective board member is a serious job, not a sinecure, and selecting the right people for these roles is just as important as any other hire you might make. You don't want planners and report writers; you don't need performers and pontificators; you want doers who can help drive results. I realize that some of these guys can end up coming with the deal, being a necessary part or necessary evil as the case may be in securing your funding or for other historic reasons. The trick is to make the smartest possible choices in those cases where you actually do have a choice.
Don't confuse someone's credentials with the kind of proper concerns and concrete commitments that it takes to do this very critical job correctly. Some people collect board seats like they were baseball cards or souvenir buttons. Stay away from these professional self-promoters because, in the end, it's always about them and not worth your time or wasting a seat that could go to someone with something real to contribute instead of some blowhard looking to bulk up his or her resume. We see the same kinds of issues with some of the unsuccessful mentors at 1871. You just need to invest the time to do this crucial job right.

There's no single or simple way to get the process going, but as you begin to evaluate the various candidates-; some you'll seek out and some will appear or be suggested and introduced by people you trust-; there are six basic questions/concerns that you should be addressing in your evaluation. There may be others and special circumstances may dictate additions, but the ones that I have found always to be relevant are the following:
(1)     Do they have the time to do the job and will they make the time?  Some of the busiest people you know still make the best board members because it's a matter of their commitment, not their calendar.
(2)     Are they willing to show up and not just phone it in figuratively and literally? It's very easy to lose the energy and momentum at a board session when half the group isn't paying attention. If they can't really be there, in the moment, they shouldn't be there at all. Posture is actually pretty important and you want the folks leaning in and engaged, not sitting back, looking at their phones, and contemplating their cuticles.
(3)     Are they able to do the work-; board materials reviews, meeting preparation and participation, job candidate interviews, your spur-of-the-moment conference calls, etc.?   Entrepreneurs aren't patient people and spending a day a month or a quarter in a board meeting is almost always a painful process, but it's made unbearable if the board members don't take the time (and give management the courtesy) of doing their homework and coming to the meeting prepared. We're all busy people, but the real value of bringing the board together is the interactivity and the exchanges between smart and successful outsiders with important perspectives that might not be represented within the business. The worst board meetings are repetitive dog-and-pony shows by management where the biggest challenge isn't a corporate conundrum, it's trying to stay awake.
(4)     Are they engaged and passionate about your business? It's just as bad to be a sycophant as it is to be a sarcastic know-it-all. It's important for board members to tell it like it is and to tell the harsh truth to the CEO and others when necessary, but it's even more important that they come from the right place-; a sincere and heartfelt desire to see the business succeed for the right reasons. These aren't smooth or easy journeys, but a little heart and a lot of good faith makes the medicine go down more easily.
(5)     Are they good and additive collaborators-team players?  A good board leaves its own desires and its selfish concerns at the door and works together to reach the best decisions for the company rather than pushing or promoting choices that serve other outside interests-; including, sometimes, a board member's own investment objectives. 
(6)     Do they have a relevant something?  It might be:
                        (a)   Skill;
                        (b)   Knowledge;
                        (c)   Experience;
                        (d)   Network/Connections; or
                        (e)   Money
The bottom line is the same rule as in football. You don't want the 11 best people you can theoretically get. You want the best 11 people who can come together to help you build a better business, through thick and thin, and with only that desire, that agenda, and that goal in mind.

1871 CEO Howard Tullman Speaks on Tech Trends at Discover Annual Meeting

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