Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New INC Magazine Blog Post by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman

What Are You Really Working For?
Don't let money get in the way of family and especially of doing something that really matters.

CEO, 1871@tullman

Now that we're past the holidays and hopefully beyond all the stress and angst of the always painful year-end compensation discussions, I wanted to bring up a far more important conversation that also arises around this time of year. It's the one we have immediately prior to solemnly making those annual "work less and spend more time with the family" resolutions, with accompanying promises and commitments to our partners and our kids.
Every entrepreneur (and everyone else building a business) knows how these things go, especially today when we're all working longer and harder, spending less time with our families and loved ones, and feeling somewhat rotten and very guilty about it. The fact that there are really good reasons for the extra time away or because the jobs we're doing are important not just to ourselves but to others as well doesn't make that discussion any easier or less emotional. As I usually say: there's always more work, but you've only got one family.
In these family meetings and other conversations, we find ourselves explaining and excusing and generally trying to justify our efforts and our absences, especially to our kids. And, unfortunately, for lack of a better or more straightforward explanation, we often seize upon a particularly unfortunate turn of a phrase and a pretty lousy excuse.  We say, in so many different ways and words, that:
            I work to make money  to buy you (fill in the blank); or

            I work to make money  to provide you with (insert here); or

            I work to make money  so we can do or go (destination please).

You get it, right? Sounds familiar? Maybe it's a spouse, but most often it's our kids. And just what are we telling them?
We're telling our kids that we work for money-- that money is what matters-- and that money is to buy things, places, people, etc.  That "getting" is really the be-all and the end-all.  And that's too bad. Because it's a lame explanation, a dishonest excuse, and an awful message--probably the worst message possible. This explanation is quick and easy and we all fall into this trap from time to time. But we can do better and, frankly, we better do better because our kids are already drowning in media messages that say -- a million times a day-- that life is all about the bucks.
So, I have a modest suggestion for the next time you find yourself in this particular fix.  Let's try to change the context --change the conversation--and tell our loved ones the truth (or maybe what we hope the truth should be) whenever we're asked about why we work.  You might want to spend a little time thinking about a better answer before the fat's in the fire.
What is the truth?  What's the honest answer? Start by being honest with yourself. When you're dragging, feeling a little sorry for yourself, can't take another day of work (and it's only Wednesday), and you find yourself mumbling and grumbling to yourself that "we need the money" or "I have no choice" or "I've got bills to pay", you're just kidding yourself just like we've all been kidding our kids for years.
If you don't know why you're working and what you're working for, or you can't think of a good reason to come to work, then do yourself and everyone else a favor and find something else to do. I tell all our 1871 companies the same thing: "we act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about." If you don't love it--most of the time-- leave it.
O.K. you say, but what is the right answer when the kids ask, as you're sneaking out the door on Saturday morning to spend the day at the office: "Hey Dad, how come you never come home?"  Or maybe: "Why is work so important all the time, don't we come first?"
The truth and the best answer is that we work for two basic reasons: (A) to make ourselves proud and (B) to help other people. We don't really work for money. We work to be productive and creative. We work to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. We work because we secure real satisfaction from what we achieve with our hands, our hearts and our minds.
There's no price tag on the stuff. Money isn't even a good way to keep score. Does anyone really think that a rock star's contribution is millions of times more valuable than a teacher's?  That's just more media bullshit. We work to accomplish things that move our lives forward, that matter in meaningful ways, and that we can feel honestly and sincerely good about it.  There's no shame or false pride in that. There's nothing to be embarrassed to tell your kids about. If you love what you do, let them know and pray that someday they'll have a similar experience and privilege.
Is it foolish, or do we sound selfish, if we admit that we work because it makes us feel good and fulfilled?  I don't think so and I think it's a much more constructive, effective, and appropriate answer for everyone-- kids and grownups too. Don't tell your kids you work because you have to, or worse, that you work to buy them Christmas toys or other goodies. We work because work is important and that's what grown-ups do. Your career is something to be unashamedly proud of and to share with  kids and others. We're building things to make the world a better place.
And that's where Part B comes in.  We're not isolated islands and in this thing all by ourselves.  Everything we do or don't do impacts many others-- especially those of us who teach. So, it's just as important to understand, acknowledge and have our kids appreciate that, apart from the selfish motivation of making us feel good,  we all work as well for a greater good and to help others by making their lives better and fuller as well as our own. Hard work and commitment is how life moves forward and how the world gets better. A lot of tiny steps by millions of people, a little bit at a time, and mountains move.
And that just leaves the matter of money. What should we say about money? I hope that the message I've shared with my kids is pretty simple. Money, beyond life's necessities, is for charity and for giving back. Money is not an end in itself or a game of running up the score. Money is not a worthwhile goal because there's no finish line and there's always someone with more. At best, it's an enabling and an ennobling tool to make valuable, important, and charitable things happen.
The bottom line: work hard and be proud of the work you do; love what you do or do something else; try to make a difference in this world every day in large and small ways; and use all of your talents, energy and resources to help others to better their lives. And lastly, hug your kids much too much, far too often, and until they squeal.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

New INC Magazine Blog Post by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman

New Year, Same Advice: Six Basic Things You Need to Do
Yes, it's a time that we're future-focused and optimistic. But don't lose sight of the less dreamy details.

CEO, 1871@tullman

Every January, I try to remind my team about a few basics-- half a dozen simple rules of the road that have served me well over the last 50 years. I do this not so much because they need instruction--we all definitely "know" what we're supposed to be doing. I do it because each and every one of us needs regular reminders since it's just too easy in the heat of battle and the stress of the day-to-day to forget, skip over, or just plain ignore some of the business fundamentals that will ultimately separate the winners from the also-rans. So, here's my short list.
1.         Pay Attention and Write It Down

Focused attention facilitates learning and retention. Take good, detailed notes in every meeting. The dullest pencil beats the sharpest memory. Don't sit there pretending that you can simply take it all in. You can't. There's absolutely no substitute in life for paying attention and making it a habit to capture the essential information during each meeting is the best way to keep your head in the game and your eye on the ball. If you're gonna be present, make sure that you're all there

And, as an aside, lawyers who advise you to keep only brief minutes of critical meetings are morons who are just trying to make their jobs or lives easier. The goal is always the same: try to be at least a little smarter by the end of the meeting. If you can't honestly convince yourself of that, then maybe going to the meeting was a waste of time. 

2.         Use A Calendar and Start Your Planning Yesterday

Start right now and scope out the whole year to the extent that you can and keep doing this all year long, at least monthly. There's a lot going on all the time and it's hard to keep up. If you do this right, it's a lot like having your own crystal ball. There's no magic and there's no mystery-- this is all about good preparation and research. In fact, it's like owning a slo-mo machine in our sped-up world. You get an edge on the competition because you've already been there.

This simple process enables far better planning and preparation; avoids embarrassing conflicts that might bury you; assures fewer surprises and last-minute emergencies; and makes for many less missed opportunities. Doing your homework ahead of time avoids headaches and heartaches all year long. 

And, especially for a startup, it's a great way to save time and marketing dollars. Parades are very expensive-- go find an event or someone else's parade (who's headed in the right direction for your purposes) and run right alongside of them or even race to the head of their conga line. A lot of the big guys have plenty of money to stage great parties, but they're slow as molasses. Trying to lay your own track or even trying to bust through the noise and clutter that's out there is crazy when you can just hitch a ride on someone's else railroad and ride for free on their dime. Hop on board before the other guys even know what's happening. But understand that you can't do it if you don't make it your business to know what's going on and what the world around you is doing.
3.         Do More Reading and Less Tweeting

Let your fingers do the walking, but not the talking. Give your phone and your peeps a break and shut up for a while on social. The smartest people I know read something relevant to their business every day-- as often as not (even these days) it's in print. I'm not talking about the shit on social, but real substantive material. Some of it may be internal business reporting; some of it may be competitive intelligence; some may be customer inquiries and feedback, and some may be blue-sky, but it all adds value and improves outcomes when coupled with intelligent action. You can't win a race with your mouth or your social media meanderings. 

And keep in mind that you're not being paid to waste your time and your company's money churning for hours though irrelevant newsfeeds and random tweets. Here's a flash: if you aren't being paid to post, you're not the producer or the driver of the engagement or even in control of the show; you're the product whose eyeballs and alleged mindshare are being sold to the highest bidder-- just like the patsy in the poker game.  If you don't know who the sucker is, you're the sucker.
4.      Ask Questions Until You Understand the Answers

Someone once said: "better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt." They were dead wrong. Virtually all innovation these days comes from asking the right questions and that's absolutely an iterative process. If you're afraid to be embarrassed or to admit that you don't know it all, join the club and then get over yourself. We're all just bumbling through this stuff and no one has the secret formula or has figured everything out. As long as you've done your homework, there really aren't any dumb questions and anyone who's ever run a tech startup will tell you that: (a) the most important thing is to know all the questions rather than to have all the answers because (b) no one ever knows either all the questions or all the answers, but that shouldn't stop us from asking. And the most critical question to ask is the one that you need to ask yourself every day: How badly do I want it?

5.      Remember to Regularly Review Your Reverse Roadmap

I'm frankly depressed to see how many young entrepreneurs are basically working for next to nothing and just don't know it yet. Of course, if you don't care where you end up, then any road will take you there. But if you do, and especially if you're also looking out for the members of your team who are also working their butts off, then it makes sense to take the time to figure out where you actually stand and where you're likely to end up in terms of  dollars and cents.

I realize that it's supposed to be all about the journey and the joy of building something, but that doesn't mean you can't be a little mindful of the math that ultimately matters. This stuff isn't easy, but understanding it is essential. Take the time to get smart about it or be smart enough to ask someone who knows to give you a helping hand.
6.      Raises Aren't Revenues

Too many folks are focused today on the fundraising process rather than on building sustainable businesses. The media celebrates every new round because keeping score is easier than digging into the merits and the mechanics of the actual businesses. But, all the cash any business raises don't mean squat without satisfied customers and serious sales. Paid invoices are a much more reliable indicator of whether your business is going to work than additional investments. 

And then there's that little thing called profits, which turns out to be the most important thing of all. Spending money is easy; making money is hard. Just because you killed a cow doesn't mean you're gonna eat steak for dinner. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


WATCH THE SHOW http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2018/01/02/1871-ceo-howard-tullman-cryptocurrency-skeptic

The pace of technological change grows ever faster and leaves many people bewildered. Now it’s even changing how we view money.
In the past year, many investors have piled into cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in search of easy profits. They do so because they have faith – or at least have been told – that cryptocurrencies and the technology that underpins them will change our world.
But there are some skeptical voices out there.
One of them is serial entrepreneur Howard Tullman, CEO of the tech incubator 1871 at the Merchandise Mart.
“We are in a kind of euphoric period for a lot of people,” said Tullman. “I see it every day because I see people running around our offices here saying they are investing in these crazy cryptocurrencies. This is as bad as it was during the dot-com era when taxi drivers were telling you about the positions they were taking in stocks.”
Tullman noted in a recent blog post that he was reminded of the old adage that “the biggest mistakes in business are made during good times, not when the going gets rough.” He says that access to cheap capital has allowed “a bunch of really bad ideas and crappy businesses to get funded.” But he cautions that while investing in new ideas and businesses is to be encouraged, not every idea makes economic sense.
“We want to encourage people to create new businesses and invest in new businesses but I think we also have to understand that some amount of this activity is not sustainable economic activity,” said Tullman.
While he is skeptical of cryptocurrencies, Tullman does believe the so-called “blockchain” technology that makes them possible could be hugely influential in shaping future commerce.
“My take is that the underlying technology, the blockchain technology, could be the next major advance in technology in the world,” said Tullman.
Blockchains are essentially a digital, decentralized public ledger tracking transactions. Each time a new transaction occurs a “block” is created and these blocks are “chained” together to become chains of records.
“The attributes are it’s time-stamped, it’s transparent, decentralized, it’s durable and it’s a documentation system. That’s what it is,” said Tullman. “The function as opposed to the definition – and this is what’s so critical – is that it permits for the first time, worldwide, almost instantaneously for users to transfer unique pieces of digital property or information to others – and this is where we are all taking an enormous leap of faith – but the description at least is the transfer is safe and secure.”
Tullman joins Phil Ponce to discuss cryptocurrencies and other technology trends that could shape our world.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

New INC Magazine Blog Post by 1871 CEO Howard Tullman

The New Year's Hangover That Startups Can't Shake
For too many entrepreneurs, the end of the year becomes less a celebration of what they've accomplished and more a sad review of what they've messed up. Try this remedy to cheer up a little bit.

CEO, 1871@tullman

The end of the year is always a tough time for entrepreneurs. You'd think that, after a few years, it's a time that even a first timer starter-upper would get used to suffering through, but that's not how things work in the business of building new businesses. Even the very best entrepreneurs are "glass half empty" folks who are always focused on what didn't get done in the last 12 months and-- even more importantly (or depressingly) -- what remains to get done on the long, winding and bumpy road ahead. The pressure never lets up; everyone eventually learns that there's no finish line.

I've said before that entrepreneurs are lousy at graceful gratitude and even worse at saying "thank you," not because we're ingrates but because we barely believe in our own successes and good fortune.  And also because we're forward-focused:  always climbing the next hill or facing the newest challenge instead of reflecting on, or celebrating, the past. (See This isn't always a bad thing and it's part of the psychology--or pathology if you prefer-- that also makes it possible for entrepreneurs to quickly get over their past hiccups and get on with their main job of making history and changing the world.

It also turns out that this seasonal entrepreneurial malaise is not a condition that anyone else can really help you get over. Friends, family, faculty and even most "mentors" aren't gonna make much of a difference. Mentors especially can be a mixed blessing. You won't actually know if a one-hit winner was smart or just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.  And it's especially hard to gain much great guidance from someone who "sold" their startup six minutes before the sheriff came to take away their keys and shut the doors. You never want to ask for directions from someone who hasn't been there and, with too many mentors, it's very hard to effectively convert their particular experience into something that means much to you. 

Whatever they bring the table, or try to, they're not living through it right now, so they really just don't understand.  All the empathy, good will and best intentions won't make up for the fact that you're the one in the soup and they're sitting on the sidelines. You learn in this business that money doesn't really care who makes it and that having a bunch of bucks says basically nothing about your brains or your business sense.

So, if there's no help elsewhere, you're pretty much stuck with looking inward. That's not the worst thing in the world because at least when you're alone you're with someone you love. I think about this a lot when New Year's Eve rolls around and I'm making a command appearance at any place that I'd rather not be, which is basically every place you can imagine. Yes, I know that it sounds like an inverse testimonial ad for Visa. And, if this admission cuts down on my future NYE invites, it's a price I guess I'll just have to happily pay. 

Okay. You're stuck with talking to yourself and what can you say to help get over the year end blues and back to business? I wrote a pretty good piece on this a while ago that's worth revisiting and, in case you're too lazy to link back, the three main suggestions are: (1) Get Past the Past as Soon as Possible; (2) Call on Your Customers While You Still Can; and (3) When You're Thinking About Quitting, Remember Why You Started.

But it was the last few lines in the post that were the most important to me - then and now:
            "...there's nothing in the world that a true entrepreneur would rather be doing than exactly what you're doing every day. Working on a dream, and doing it with a group of people who are as excited and enthusiastic about what they're doing as you are is the greatest privilege anyone can have. And it's you that's making it possible...."

 Being a leader is lonely work - always has been. You've taken on an enormous responsibility to yourself and your family, to your investors and your employees, to your customers and clients. They all look to you and depend on you, day-in and day-out, to make their lives different and better in important ways.

This is a journey that you take all by yourself, even as you find yourself constantly surrounded by others. You may go fastest by yourself, but you go furthest with a strong and dedicated team beside you.

And ultimately you will find that, even when and if your faith in yourself falters from time to time, what really matters and gets you through is the faith, the confidence, and the trust that you place in others that makes all the difference. You aren't a real leader until others believe that you are putting them first and serving a purpose greater than yourselves.   
Great leaders don't create followers, they create new and better leaders. Make that your most pressing project for the New Year.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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