Carrying Company Culture with Remote Work

Company culture is a top focus at New Story. As a distributed team, we’ve had to get creative with ways to enrich company culture while team members aren’t in the same office.

I’ve pulled together a list of the most effective, actionable steps we’ve taken.

  • Monday Team Call
  • Friday ‘Values Shoutouts’ Call
  • Hang-10s
  • Values channel in Slack
  • Working in Public Policy
  • More, focused Slack Channels
  • Custom reaction emoji’s
  • Slack Notifications
  • Weekly Focus Channel

Monday Team Call

A weekly, 45 minute video call via Zoom.

The entire team joins a Zoom call and gets on the same page. The agenda is always evolving to accommodate shifting needs and priorities, but alignment and excitement is the goal.getting on the same page. One department shares an update each week. Celebration moments from last week are shared. Important highlights are shared for the week ahead.

Friday ‘Values Shoutout Call’

A weekly, 30 minute call Friday afternoons.

The entire team joins on Zoom. Each person takes 20-30 seconds to publicly shoutout another team members they saw living-out a company value that week. This is an energy-fueled sendoff for the weekend and reinforces company values.

Disclaimer: If company values aren’t already defined and discussed, this will land flat. Start there.

Values Channel in Slack

A Slack channel named #values

The Values Channel is similar to Friday’s call but available throughout the week. Team members write-up brief shoutout and encouragement, framed by company values.

Important Note: Founders and leadership team member will have to lead by example to start but great once the ball is rolling. It’s worth the effort. Repeating the disclaimer here, if company values aren’t already defined and discussed, this will land flat. Start there.

Team of Founders is one of our most celebrated values.

Hang 10s

10 minute video calls throughout the week, randomly assigned.

The Hang-10 is designed to be quick, pointed interactions with team members you might not typically interact with. We keep it casual and push to limit the time to 10 minutes. This forces people to jump right into catching up and removes the social pressure of ‘how to conclude politely’.

More, Focused Channels

Slack (or whatever messaging tool your company uses) channels are cheap.

It’s helpful to push for clear, not clever names for channels. It should be obvious why that channel exists and it’s purpose protected.

Recently, we underwent an audit for a department. We standardized the name of each channel, actually wrote a description (‘purpose’), and communicated an owner for each.

‘Work in Public’ Policy

More public Slack channels.

Over the years we have pushed the team to converse in public channels, reserving DMs for personal use. This provides a contextualized track record of the conversation. It also exists in a space that’s easier to invite others into the conversation and help them catchup.

Working in Public also allows managers to oversee progress without micro-managing.

Custom Reaction Emoji’s

There are gestures and inside jokes in every culture. We create custom emojis in slack so people can use to react to posts.

For example: In the tech community, there is a popular emoji called ‘Party Parrot‘. A few team members got together and created a version of the party parrot for each tech team member. These pop up regularly.

Slack Notifications

Zapier is a great tool for connecting tools. We’ve built a lot of integrations with Slack.

Pushing company activity into Slack shows the typically unseen moment across the organization. I prefer to have separate channels (and often mute them) to not clutter common feeds, but it equates to ‘office buzz’. A digital format is healthy, especially when people are hard at work. It also invites opportunities to shoutout team members.

For example:
When the deal is marked closed/won in HubSpot, it alerts our sales channel.
When code gets merged to master, it alerts our tech team.
When a contracts get signed, it alerts our operations team.

Highlighting wins is essential for a healthy company culture. Why not simplify the prompt to celebrate.

Weekly Focus Channel

Every Monday, the team drops in their #1 focus for the week. People can react celebrate or ask questions. It’s simple and quick, but is a forcing function to be intentional, keeps others informed, and invites others to cheer you on your offer support.

Leadership Action Plan : Preparing for Tough Economic Times

Bain & Company released a great checklist for companies and executive teams to plan for weathering COVID-19. You can reference the actual article, but the format of the checklist is less than ideal. Had it not been shared directly from a trusted friend, I likely would have blown right past it.

This is not an attempt to plagiarize their ideas. Instead, I’m hoping to provide a more executable format so organizations actually benefit from the insights.

People

  • Implement the best-known guidelines available for both employees and customers; over-invest
  • Monitor global health guidelines and other companies—and continue to fine tune
  • Over-communicate with full transparency
  • Assist epidemic-limiting initiatives in any way possible

P&L (Profit and Loss)

  • Outline macro scenarios by market, translate into revenue-decline and P&L scenarios:
    • Units, revenue, costs
    • Capex (capital expenses), working capital, cash/liquidity
    • 13-week, four-quarter outlook
  • Build extreme downside scenarios; this has the potential to be a 100-year event
  • Outline major operational actions
    • Do-now hand-brake actions vs. do-later break-the-glass initiatives

Revenue

  • Take a customer-centric view; how will you build trust, loyalty and market share through and beyond this crisis?
  • Build specific revenue-mitigation actions for declines in core revenue streams
  • Pivot resources to pockets of current and future growth, online and beyond

Operations

  • Stabilize supply chains of physical goods from likely geographic and labor disruptions
    • Manufacturing, distribution, suppliers, suppliers to suppliers
  • Build contingency operational plans for all aspects of the business
    • Frontline facilities, costs, variable labor staffing
    • Cross-regional variations in utilization
    • HQ, IT

Costs

  • Spending hand brakes
    • Immediate actions (e.g., hiring freeze, opex, capex, working capital)
  • Set aggressive break-the-glass cost actions triggered by more extreme revenue scenarios
    • This is (may be) about saving the company—no ideas are too extreme
  • Medium term, outline a plan to lean out the cost structure for the future—more automated, more variable, more shock resistant

Offense

  • Define how you’ll outperform competitors and expand share through and beyond the crisis
    • M&A roadmap
    • Product/service/customer intimacy investments
  • Prepare for bounce-back and recovery
    • E.g., marketing investment, monitoring macro trends for “if, then” moves
  • Plan for and take advantage of a leapfrog change in customer behavior —especially digital

Checkout the original article: https://www.bain.com/insights/ceo-plan-for-coronavirus-actions-to-take-now/

Tools that Support a Remote Work Culture

There are hundreds of tools that make remote work more effective. In the spirit of simplicity, I’ve broken down the Top Five. While not a comprehensive list, it focuses on those resources uniquely valuable to remote workforces.

  • Company Messaging
  • Video Calls
  • Video Recording
  • Digital White-board
  • Document Management

Company Messaging : Slack

A single messaging tool reduces the time wasted hunting through email, text, and DMs. We use Slack.

Not only is Slack a great tool for internal teams, but it’s helpful for clients and outside relationships as well. It gets communication out of the email inbox and organized in appropriate channels. Their paid plan also allows for shared channels.

Rather than forwards and BCCs, public channels make it easy for team members to work in plain sight. Here is a glimpse of how our conversation style has evolved to almost completely public communication since 2016.

Notice the drop in private channels and spike in public channels.

Video Calls : Zoom

With audio only, it’s tempting to ‘multitask’ and divert focus. Video chat forces a greater level of presence and heightens human connections. We use Zoom.

With a team stationed across country and around the world, we have to use video calls instead of in-person meetings. We also use them as a mechanism to drive company culture. Each week, we have a “Team Call” on Monday and a “Values Shoutout Call” on Friday. These keep everyone on the same page and excited about the work ahead.

Each month, we also broadcast an internal State of the Union where we cover progress toward our goals, financial position as a company, and important updates.

Even when some members might be together in office, we advise everyone to signin on their own computer. This creates a significant load on our internet bandwidth, but the conversational benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Everyone is front and center.

Video Recording : Loom

One of the hardest parts of remote work is asynchronous communication. You don’t bump into others at the water cooler nor can you reach over when it looks like someone is available. Typically, this means you’re forced to write-out your thoughts and explanations.

Video recordings, of your screen or yourself, allow you to use visual aids or exhibit more emotion while sharing. So much context is lost in written format.

We are huge fans of Loom. Their product is easy to use and immensely valuable when explaining complex or nuanced concepts.

BTW. Regardless of how fast someone speaks, you can increase the speed to accommodate your listening preference.

No, this isn’t an actual video. Stop trying to click the image. 🙂

Digital White-boarding : Miro

The experience of in-person white-boarding sessions are hard to replicate. Communication, information, and ideas flow freely. I’ve experimented with many options and prefer Miro.

Miro (formerly Realtime Board) is a boundless, digital whiteboard. It has no edges and provides a collaborative workspace. Multiple people can access the same board at once and you can watch them move across the screen. It even tracks versions and revisions so you can roll back.

Concepts can be organized into ‘frames’ that are easily exported.

Document Management : Notion

Finding and organizing documents is hard. We used Google Docs for years, but the limited organization structure began to break down. There were too many pages and links without an inherent design system. Notion changed that for us.

The best example of this is the New Story Company Handbook. The primary page is a collection of links, but they can be grouped and organized clearly. There is also a global sidebar (not pictured) that roles up favorited pages, shared pages, and items of company-level importance.

Conclusion

Regardless of the exact tools, these elements are key to remote work. As the team and tools have become more standardized, the benefits have only grown.

Feel free to reach out if you’d like to know more.

Growth Camp : A Week Long Internal Sales Bootcamp

For months, the team at New Story has been interviewing potential sales professionals. The roles were live 2-3x longer than other positions and we had a fraction of the applicants. Finding qualified sales professionals and fundraisers is hard. We sought advice from dozens of friends and mentors and received similar feedback.

It was discouraging and prompted a moment of pause.

Rather than proceeding forward with a few top candidates, we opted to run a week long bootcamp with our existing team. (The brainchild of Sarah Lee, New Story’s Chief Growth Officer) We devised a curriculum, brought in speakers, enlisted coaches from the community, and pushed the team to think differently about their roles.

For context, we generate money for three things at New Story:

  • Builders. A small group of donors who fund our operating expenses and research/development efforts. There are 3 team members focused on identifying and supporting Builders.
  • Architects. A committed group of families and businesses that fund our home construction programs. There are 3 team members focused on increasing our network of Architects.
  • Felix. Our software product, build to help governments and aid organizations increase their impact through realtime data and reporting. There are 2 people, myself included, focused on selling this product.

In total, that’s 8 team members focused on three distinct offerings. Building homes is a costly intervention. Ending homelessness it’s freaking expensive. While the complexity is unavoidable, it’s even more of a reason to get aligned.

While I intend to publish our reflections and agenda for the week, here are some key learnings.

Do better math

If you’re going to hit your goals, you need to start with 3-4x the number of qualified prospects as you expect sales. The numbers should improve over time but starting with less than 3-4x qualified prospects is asking for disappointment.

It’s about listening, not talking. Roughly 80% of time spent should be listening and 20% talking. How do you expect to help someone when you don’t know their interests, concerns, or expectations.

Start with Service

If you are going to do sales well, it must be a service. Service involves adding value as part of the sales process. Sales is more complex than ever. Effective selling must put the buyer first and the process itself must provide value.

It’s about serving the person you’re in the room with.

Set yourself apart

It’s important to differentiate yourself from the typical professional, especially in sales. Fortunately, there are a few simple habits that stand out.

  • Followthrough. Do what you say, always.
  • On time. Not only is being late disrespectful, it eliminates the opportunity for small talk, which is how rapport is built.
  • No phones. It’s impossible to be fully present when one/both parties have their phones in eye-sight. You can’t control the other person but you can control the signals you are sending.
  • Proactive delight. Look for ways to add unexpected moments of enjoyment throughout the process. It could be a grant gesture or a subtle nudge.

Sharpen you tools

We walked the team through an exercise: Kill, keep, combine. Kill the duplicates or what’s not being used. Keep what’s working. Combine things with similar functions.

We listed all the tools used by each team members throughout the prospecting and sales process. Within minutes we were able to cut the list in half and level up the teams understanding of what we use and why. Here are a few tools from our refined list:

  • Google Suite. Mail, calendar, slides, and documents.
  • Hubspot. Recording contacts and tracking sales pipeline.
  • Sales Navigator (Linkedin). Prospecting and research.
  • Loom. Filming video followups and checkins with prospects.
  • Grammarly. Improving grammar and eliminating typos.

Standardize your language

There is a lot of language in sales. We spent the first session covering sales jargon and terminology and it was clearly time well spent. Throughout the week, team members began using words differently and correcting their speech when using a term incorrectly. Here are a few sales terms we discussed:

  • Contact
  • Pipeline
  • Deal
  • Prospect
  • Lead
  • Lead Qualification
  • Closed/Won
  • Closed/Lost
  • Churn
  • Total Contract Value (TCV)
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

This was just the beginning. Stay tuned for our agenda and reflections from the week.

Expectations about Introductions

There are few things I value more than well placed introductions among friends and community members. For years, I’ve run a business were referrals were our lifeblood, so the importance stands out. Intros expand our networks and foster unique moments of serendipity.

Despite their value, I want to make sure to honor the time of those I connect. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that I have or could make an intro that includes you.

The following outlines my expectations:

BCC Me Please

I don’t need to be dialed in for the entire conversation. Adding me as a BCC on the first reply gives me confidence that the intro was received and my handoff is complete.

This snippet is common among many of my friends and appreciated on many levels:
“Thanks Morgan, moving you to BCC to spare your inbox.”

Followup and Followthrough

If you meet with someone, followup. If you commit to something, follow through with what you said. Followups aren’t a requirement, but it’s a sign of respect and just good business.

Followthrough is a nonnegotiable.

If I intro you to someone who turns out to be flaky (doesn’t do what they say), please let me know. This feedback is helpful as I advocate for others in the future.

Stop me

I love connecting dots among the vibrant network of people I’d had the pleasure of meeting over the years. As someone who welcomes introductions, I realize opinions vary. Others might want to be consulted first.

Please, don’t hesitate to communicate your expectations with me about introductions. ‘Stop it’ is reasonable and within your right. ‘Ask me first’ is another reasonable request.

If I don’t know, I can’t improve. I hate the idea that I might be jeopardizing relationships or wasting people’s time. Please let me know.

Conclusion

I hope this is helpful. Together, we can make the ecosystem more powerful and collaborative. It begins with human connection.

PS. If you’re looking for a great book on the topic, I recommend The Rainforest by Victor Hwang.

12 Questions Team Members Ask Themselves

Team members are consistently asking themselves a few, simple questions about their work. They may verbalize them, but other times it’s an unspoken script in their head.

I recently came across a helpful list (from ‘Predictable Revenue’ by Aaron Ross). These resonate with feedback I’ve heard from team members and problems we seen flare up.

  • Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  • Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  • In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for the work?
  • Does my supervisor or somebody at work seem to care about me as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  • At work, do you my opinions seem to count?
  • Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
  • Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
  • Do I have a best friend at work?
  • In the last 6 months, have I talked to someone about my progress?
  • At work and I had opportunities to learn and grow?

As we work to build healthy teams, it’s worth answering these questions on behalf of others. How would your team members answer?

If we don’t provide clarity, we might be disappointed with their answers and their actions that follow.

Improving the Inbox

Managing the Email Inbox is like training a lion. There are clearly people who have mastered it, but even they are never more than 1 misstep away from getting their arm bitten off.

When email feels under control, no one is more than a long weekend or extended vacation away from complete chaos.

Here are some of my habits to improve the email inbox:

  • Add an FYI to the email signature. It describes how I handle email and why. Here is an example from my New Story signature:

    email signature
  • Filter purchase receipts and cal invites to separate folders. This removes 100+ emails from view per week. They’re out of site, but still in arms reach.
  • Funnel all email accounts into a single source. I use Polymail for this. A single source for emails allows them to be batched and executed once or twice each day.
  • Set followup reminders. Followup reminders put emails back in your inbox if I don’t hear back from the recipient. This requires some tool, but it improves followthrough. This immediately frees up mental bandwidth.
  • Create templates for meeting rejections, intros, and coffee requests. Here is an example of my ‘meeting rejection’ template:

    email rejection template
  • Disable push notifications and alerts. This works for all apps but is especially valuable for email. Those notifications are designed to get your attention. Disabling them puts interactions on your terms.
  • After holidays or vacation, grab the sender of all unsolicited emails and add them to a new “skip inbox filter to spam” filter. Many retailers and businesses ignore ‘unsubscribes’, so this locks the door.

What else? I’m always looking to tame the lion and experiment with new techniques to keep the inbox under control.

2019 Reading List (70 Books)

Training for an ultramarathon, I’ve had almost 200 extra hours to listen on audible in 2019. The time increase led to nearly doubled the size of my 2018 Reading List.

This year, I made a deliberate attempt to focus on diversity and inclusion. Growing up with tremendous privilege soaked deep into my lived experience. These wins, compounded by a culture plagued by institutional racism, have produced blindspots that will not go away on their own. As white male business owner, I’m a member of an exclusive class. It’s useless to apologize for my advantages, but I can leverage what I have to improve the lives of others. If we have any hope of a better world, it must start from within.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – MLK

I also experimented with more fiction. It didn’t have as profound of an impact as the learnings around diversity, but it was worth doing.

WARNING: I had a lot of ground to cover. Proofreading is typically 50% of my time when writing, which proved too much effort in this case. Excuse my typos and grab some ideas for your 2020 list.


Top Reads

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts
By Annie Duke

Concrete, all-or-nothing thinking limits our ability to think critically and solve problems. Annie, the author, provides a mental model to improve discussions and decision making.

Disconnecting outcomes and decisions seems essential for any business leader. We make bad decisions and have good outcomes. Conversely, we make good decisions and bad outcomes still occur. Analyzing decisions and outcomes separately has proved essential to my growth in 2019.

Her acknowledgement of ‘luck’ in the equation of success is always worth remembering, especially that it skews negative.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
By Ben Horowitz

This book has shaped so much of my understanding of leadership and being a CEO.

  • The unique struggle of the Founder-CEO
  • The frequency and power of WFIO (we’re fucked, it’s over) moments
  • Wartime vs Peacetime CEOs
  • You must choose the best, among all bad options.
  • Nothing prepares you for being a CEO, except being a CEO.
  • “All the easy problems are taken”
  • Mark Craney

The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy
By Scott E. Page

I loved the objective assessment of how valuable diversity is in a team or business setting. I have tremendous love and respect for those speaking from a human perspective, but The Diversity Bonus makes a compelling case for diversity that even the most ruthless business leader can’t ignore.

Pursing diversity is the right thing, but undeniably connecting it to the health, growth, and profit of a business is needed for those in the greatest positions of power to buy in.

The Ride of a Timeline: Lessons Learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
By Robert Iger

Wow. Few companies survive for 100 years. Even fewer can say their most recent decade was their most profound. Disney has thrived under the leadership of Bob Iger and I was inspiring to hear his story of persistence.

I would not be surprised if history remembers him was one of the most strategic business minds of all time.

Diversity

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
By Carol Anderson

The historical accounts of systemic racism outlined in this book are brutal. It forced me to confront my version of history and examine how I made it so long understanding to little. There were days I didn’t want to engage the book, simply due to the guilt, shame, and discontent it provoked. Through White Rage, I summarized my greatest source of privilege: when racism makes me uncomfortable, I can stop it by putting down a book.

Months later, I still struggle through tears to summarize my evolution throughout this book.

White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
By Robin DiAngelo, Michael Eric Dyson – foreword

An excellent introduction for white people to engage the topic of diversity/inclusion, why it matters, and the vocabulary supporting the topic.

Good and Mad: How Women’s Anger Is Reshaping America
By Rebecca Traister

Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
By Emily Chang

I live my life at the intersection of Business and Technology, convinced there is no greater opportunity at this intersect than that of diversity/inclusion. Brotopia does a great job of making this clear and approachable without pulling any punches.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
By Austin Channing Brown

So You Want to Talk About Race
By Ijeoma Oluo

I took away so much new vocabulary that helped me unpack the nuance around discrimination, racism, and inclusion.

Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs
By Nathalie Molina Niño, Sara Grace

Honestly, much of the insights translate well to any entrepreneur but love the focus and intentionality with which the author engages women. Most men won’t read this, no their own detriment.

Memoirs

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
By David Goggins

One word: hunger. If David’s story doesn’t leave you longing to push yourself to greater heights, nothing will. It’s an inspirational story of a man who stops at nothing to get what we wants.

I’m actively training for an ultra marathon, largely due to David’s mindset of discovering your own limits.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
By Trevor Noah

This was my initial encounter with a firsthand experience of someone growing up in South Africa during apartheid. The author’s story highlights the depravity of humanity, but also speaks to our resilience.

His attitude and humor through it exemplifies the beauty within us all.

Educated: A Memoir
By Tara Westover

It’s worth a moment of pause to acknowledge the profound impact mental illness can have on a family. At moments, the story boarder on unbelievable. The author survived tremendous trauma, defied incredible odds, and emerged with a vulnerability that boggles the mind.

It’s a wild ride. A reminder to us all the importance of advocating for children and the value of education, especially in low income areas.

Catch Me If You Can
By Frank W. Abagnale, Stan Redding

Frank Abagnale has intrigued me since childhood. He serves as a shining example of the power of confidence, adaptability, and focus.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance

I’m still working to unpack the nuances of the Hillbilly Elegy. It touches on education, diversity, adverse childhood experiences, and much more.

For decades, the people of rural Appalachia has been the topic of many jokes but I failed to recognize the larger social impact. Since whites are the prevailing culture, it’s easy to discount the issues confronting the under-education and low socioeconomic troubles of Appalachia.

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue
By Ryan Holiday

So many discussions have been prompted because of the topics covered in this book. The strategic thinking of Peter Thiel. The dedication of Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea). The shit-storm that is media business. The writing expertise of Ryan Holiday. Such an incredible intersection.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
By Christopher McDougall

Fiction

Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition
By Orson Scott Card

Wow. What an escape?! A great union of military strategy and story telling.

Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline

Ready Player One seems to fit in the same category of Guardians of the Galaxy and Stranger Things. A unique story combined with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

The Hobbit
By JRR Tolkien

Fiction by Brad Thor

I first discovered Brad Thor on the James Altucher Podcast. I found Brad’s transition into writing fascinating. He abandoned his corporate job on the prompting from his wife. From the first year, he has written a book a year for 20+ years.

I found the thoughtful nature of how he describes his writing fascinating. Short chapters. High impact language. No fluff or excess. I read the first book and completed the series within 3 months.

I’m not breaking down each one. While each is filled with unique stories and plot points, it’s the overall consistency and commitment of the author I still find most compelling.

The Lions of Lucerne
By Brad Thor

Path of the Assassin
By Brad Thor

State of the Union
By Brad Thor

Blowback
By Brad Thor

Takedown
By Brad Thor

The First Commandment
By Brad Thor

The Last Patriot
By Brad Thor

The Apostle
By Brad Thor

Foreign Influence
By Brad Thor

The Athena Project
By Brad Thor

Full Black
By Brad Thor

Black List
By Brad Thor

Free Fall
By Brad Thor

Hidden Order
By Brad Thor

Act of War
By Brad Thor

Code of Conduct
By Brad Thor

The Athens Solution
By Brad Thor

Foreign Agent
By Brad Thor

Use of Force
By Brad Thor

Spymaster
By Brad Thor

Backlash
By Brad Thor

Mental Health / Inner Peace

Loserthink: How Untrained Brains are Running America
By Scott Adam

Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models
By Gabriel Weinberg, Lauren McCann

Stillness is the Key
By Ryan Holiday

The stoic themes in the author’s books keep me coming back.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
By Bob Goff

Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World
By Andy Stanley

It’s puzzling how we complicate things and then become frustrated when people are not interested. I love how the author breaks down the message of Jesus and reminds readers to embrace the spirit of love that’s lived out in the pages of the Bible.

Also, it many of the teachings fly in the face of what pastors often teach. I love it, though can’t ignore the significant career risk Andy endured to bring this message to so many who needed to hear it.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
By John Mark Comer, John Ortberg – foreword

Is it bad I listened to this at 2x speed? 🙂
In short, it’s a great reminder to explore where we find our peace and fulfillment. If we’re counting on achievement and success to make us happy, we’ll be disappointed over time.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business
By Gino Wickman, Mark C. Winters

A great compliment to Traction, the EOS self implementation guide. If you’re looking for tools to level up your business, it’s worth a read after you finish Traction.

The Infinite Game
By Simon Sinek

This indexes heavily on a topic I love contemplating: Long-term, strategic thinking. He unpacks the dichotomy of living in a society that focuses on finite-thinking amidst and infinite game.

The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million
By Mark Roberge

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture
By Ben Horowitz

The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth
By James Allen, Chris Zook

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
By Al Ries, Laura Ries

Practical concepts that could improve most brands.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
By Atul Gawande

As knowledge workers, the complexity of our work has exceeded our mental capacity. Emphasizing the value and pursuit of checklists is sure to improve any business.

Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great
By Joshua Medcalf

Put in the work! A practical story about the value of showing up and nailing the fundamentals. Think: Wax on. Wax off.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
By Daniel Coyle

The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth
By David C. Baker

This book provided the push I needed at Polar Notion to double down on our expertise, rather than pushing harder on merely delivering good work.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
By Eric Ries

A must read for every startup founder or individual whose job requires them to bring ideas to life.

American Entrepreneur: How 400 Years of Risk-Takers, Innovators, and Business Visionaries Built the U.S.A.
By Willie Robertson, William Doyle

Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy
By George Gilder

A war is waging. As privacy and data security continue to take center-stage, we must confront giants like Facebook and Google, whose business model rests on the sale of their vast data.

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations out of Poverty
By Clayton M. Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, Karen Dillon

Clayton Christensen explores the difference between Efficiency Innovations and Market-creating Innovations. As the world changes, Market-creating innovations play the primary role in lifting people out of poverty.

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future
By Steve Case

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
By Yuval Noah Harari

The New One Minute Manager
By Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson

Simple, practical disciplines to guide direct-reports without micromanaging.

The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win
By Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Leadership means embracing constant tensions. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. The author outlines the most common tensions to manage.

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
By L. David Marquet

In short: Rather than expecting team members to ask permission, empower them express their intent based on their judgment and assessment of the situation.

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love
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Subscribed
By Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert

Great nuggets about Software as a Service and a business build on recurring.

Personal Finance

I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-Week Program That Works (Second Edition)
By Ramit Sethi

I’m 70% confident Ramit ghost wrote Unbreakable by Tony Robbins. Almost identical in areas. Great minds think alike a guess.
So many practical insights and actionable steps. Having experience with the author, I could have done without the large percentage of the book that was spent building credibility among the audience, but was appreciative of how well things were broken down.

Meeting Location Preferences

In planning to off board key tasks to an executive assistant, I pushed myself to articulate my preferences. Along with calendar preferences, these are my meeting location preferences around Atlanta.

Factors I consider when settling on an ideal meeting location:

  • Timing. The venue should fit the duration of the meeting. For example, coffee shops are great for 30 minute meetings. Restaurants are better for longer meetings. In both instances, the staff and environment is accustomed to cadence and there is rarely a conflict of ‘overstaying your welcome’.
  • Accessibility. It needs to be easy to get in and out of the building, while also giving me access to a variety of driving directions. For example, I prefer not to take meets in Buckhead but if need to, Atlanta Tech Village is right off 400. There is also a parking deck with two entrances and I can choose to cut through to the northwest side of the city.
  • Local. Given the choice, I default to supporting local businesses. Running a brick and mortar location is tough, a feat I don’t envy, especially for small businesses. If I’m meeting someone, in many cases they’ve never been to a spot on my list. They’ll likely appreciate the accessibility but the local business has now also been exposed to a new customer. Making a deliberate effort compounds over time.
  • Amenities. A good meeting space in the city should have wifi, public restrooms, accessible electrical outlets, minimal glare for windows, and enough seating that ‘hanging around’ doesn’t detract from future customers.
  • Volume. It should be easy to have a conversation and hear each other talk. In spaces that are too open or that fail to account for acoustics, it can be challenging to have a conversation.

The following are a list of coffee shops and restaurants I prefer when visiting certain areas of town.

Favorite coffee shops for meetings

Buckhead: Atlanta Tech Village.

Midtown: East Pole Coffee

Westside: Octane (Revelator) Westside or Mashburn Coffee Shop

East Side: Brother Moto or Revelator East Side

Smyrna: Rev Coffee

Near 85/285: Chocolaté Coffee

Favorite lunch spots for meetings:

Buckhead: Bell Street Burritos

Midtown: Ponce City Market

West Midtown: Pijui Belly

East Side: Krog Street

Calendar Preferences

The process of preparing for a virtual assistant has been almost as helpful as onboarding the actual person. I spent time documenting personal preferences around scheduling and calendar events.

  • combine car rides with phone calls
  • each day should has at least one 2 hour block to get work done. It should be represented on the calendar
  • group meetings based on geography. For example, if I’m on the east side of the city ideally other east-side meetings occur on that day, and around that time
  • group meetings based on time. For example, 3 consecutive 30 minute meetings are better than 3 meetings with 15/30 minute gap between
  • prioritize sales meetings. Example, a 30 minute coffee with a sales prospect should take priority over a meeting from a cold, inbound request
  • provide a heads up for geographic anomalies. For example, if I need to be in Johns Creek at 9am (which is rare) drawing my attention a day in advance would be great.
  • send custom ‘meeting reminder’ 12-24 hours in advance, with confirmation, agenda, and any relevant details
  • if meetings are bookended, ‘meeting reminder’ should include subtle mention of time constraint. For example, “Hey Craig, are we still on for tomorrow 11am at Octane on the East Side? I have a hard stop at 12:15 but looking forward to catching up.”
  • ensure meeting agenda, even if just 2-3 bullet points. If I requested the meeting, task me. If they requested meeting (other than sales prospect), ask them for it. For example, “Hey Craig, I’m looking forward to our time together tomorrow. Do you mind providing a little more context about the meeting? What does success look like for our time together?”
  • Friday afternoons should be around the Polar Notion office, ideally no meetings.