StartUp Tip #110: Take accountability


Sometimes you are the problem.

And you blame everyone else except yourself.

Take accountability for your actions.

You can take all the credit in the world for the things you do right, as long as you also take responsibility for the things you do wrong.

It must be a balanced equation. You don’t get it one way and not the other.

You get to take credit, when you also take accountability.




StartUp Tip #109: Quality time in, better quality out.


When you invest your time in, the quality tends to increase.

If you are intent on building a quality business, you have to invest time, lots of time in building it.

Often I hear people say “don’t work hard, work smart.” as if both are mutually exclusive.

I believe that those who work hard and smart at the same time, will beat those who work smart only. 

But more than time, put in quality time doing the right things, consistently over time.

More quality time in, better quality out.

More quality time studying, more chances of passing

More quality time in a relationship, more chances of lasting

More quality time in your startup, more chances of its sustainability.

If you’re going to invest a valuable asset [like time], go ahead and make it productive.

Use a postit or two, or some index cards or a highlighter.

Not to write down stuff so you can forget it later, but to create marching orders.

It is simple, if three weeks go by and you have not taken action on what you have written down, you wasted your time.

Don’t look for shortcuts, instead take the long road, do the ground hard work and you will get there.

StartUp Tip #108: Trust vs. transparency


In the information age, where data and information is readily available in large quantities, trust becomes more critical.

Fake news are increasingly becoming more common.

Twitter accounts by robots is increasingly becoming more common.

Fake social media accounts is becoming common.

Scams have become more common.

Meeting people online portraying to be something that they are not is becoming more common.

When building a startup, customers want to know if you are authentic, not fake.

Establishing trust with customers is going to be the new currency.

Rebuilding trust after it has been torn is really quiet difficult, because our expectations were shown to be false.

Real trust [even in our modern culture] does not always come from divulging or being more transparent, but it comes from the actions that people take before our eyes.

Just like the saying goes “don’t strive to look rich, work to be rich,” the same can be said of trust and transparency:

Don’t strive to look trustworthy and transparent, be trustworthy and transparent.

Real trust comes from people who show up before they have to, who help us when they think no one is watching.

We trust people on the hints they give us in their vocal tones, in the stands they take on irrelevant points of views and yes, on what others think.

Mostly, people like us trust people like us.

You don’t necessarily need to be transparent, but be trusted you need to act trustworthy.

StartUp #107: Keeping a low profile


Sometimes entrepreneurs prefer keeping a low-profile so that they can focus on what’s important.

The idea is not be distracted by the media, and the public.

The other idea is not to give away your secret away to the public.

In a world of public relations, social media, and other media publications, keeping a low profile is the antithesis.

Keep a cool head, maintain a low profile but aim to do something big.

Keeping your private life private is a way to help you focus on what is important, your business.


StartUp Tip #106: Be last to speak


Asked one day how did you learn to be a great leader, Former President Nelson Mandela, responded that, he would go to tribal meetings with his father, who was a tribal leader as well and he observed two things at those meetings:

  1. They will always sit in a circle; and
  2. His father was always the last to speak.

Before he became president during the negotiations of the new dispensation, He would gather his comrades, usually more than 10, into the kitchen and they would gather around the kitchen table on their feet.

He would throw an issue on the table, often a sensitive and difficult issue and he would ask his comrades to go around the table sharing their views.

In all these meetings he would be the last to speak.

By the time it is his turn, he would have prepared his response to those he held a different view and he knew how to counter them or offer alternative views.

Often we are told that we need to learn to listen. I think you need to learn to be the last to speak.

The skill to hold your opinions to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things:

  1. It gives everybody the feeling that they are listened to, to feel that they have contributed;
  2. You get the benefit of hearing what everybody else has to think before you render your opinion;

The skill is to keep your opinion to yourself.

If you agree with someone don’t nod yes. If you disagree with someone, don’t nod no.

Simply listen and take it all in.

The only thing you are allowed to do is ask questions, so that you can understand what they mean and why they have the opinion they have.

The idea is to understand from where they are speaking, why they have the opinions they have, not just what they are saying.

And in the end, you will get your turn.

Practice being the last to speak.


StartUp Tip #105: Want to be more creative? Get bored


One of the rare things that happens to people today is that they hardly get bored.

In the information age, people are surrounded by information 24/7 and are connected to other human beings than ever before.

We have smartphones, tablets, laptops, internet, social media, pay-TV, series TV, Reality TV that keeps us hooked all the time.

We have wifi almost everywhere, at least in major cities.

With all these, it is difficult to be bored.

Anyway slight opportunity to get bored, you pull out your favourite gadget and surf away.

When was the last time you remember being bored? Or even having a moment free from distractions?

I know it sounds strange, but I welcome boredom. It forces me to ponder.

To make sure we are on the same page, when I speak of boredom, I’m not referring to killing time on your smartphone, your iPad, or your laptop.

I’m not even talking about paging through a magazine.

I mean bored as in doing absolutely nothing.

I have observed that it is when I go for a walk in the morning that I’m able to think clearer.

When I go for a walk, I leave my phone in the house. Without my phone, I don’t have distractions, my mind has no choice but to think things through.

Some people prefer “sleeping on an issue” before making a decision the following day. When you are sleeping, you have no choice but to think, your mind stands a chance of processing issues uninterrupted.

Here is the rub, when we are at our most bored we are forced to push our creative boundaries, and unearth the root of whatever problem we are working on.

A quick glance around and you will notice that it is almost impossible to be bored in our 21st-century environment.

The last time you were alone at a restaurant waiting for a friend to join you. Chances are you reached for your phone and did something with it, anything to avoid appearing like the lonely loser in the corner.

Boredom, however, is becoming an endangered activity.

Little boredom in your day opens up the potential for more creative thinking.

Truly amazing ideas and offbeat solutions have often come from endless hours of daydreaming.

In the industrial revolution, people who had boredom proneness might have slowed down work because creativity was not as important as it is today.

The next time you find yourself bored at work, go ahead and let your mind wander.

You should embrace this state of boredom because feelings and emotions highly affect the things you think about.

If you find yourself without any great ideas, try boring yourself even more by answering emails or doodling.


StartUp Tip #104: Vital few vs. trivial many


Being able to distinguish between what is vital in your business and what is trivial is a critical skill for successful entrepreneurs to have.

The tricky thing is that it is not a skill you can just sit down and learn.

It is forged in the fires of trial and error.

You learn this one by trying and trying again.

Mentorship and collaboration can help close this feedback loop a bit tighter.

What is vital to growing your business? And what’s trivial?


  • Doing what you say you will do.
  • Hitting your deadlines.
  • Responding to your clients’ communications in the form they desire, if they use email, reply. If they call you, answer (call them back).
  • Cultivating relationships with clients and partners who fit your company and your growth strategy.
  • Laughing with your team and having moments of enjoyment each day.
  • Thanking the people in your life who are there for you and help you (investors, partners, employees, managers, family members).


  • Checking the status of your FB post and seeing how many likes you got.
  • Checking your email every 30 minutes.
  • Cold calling people who are not your ideal customer.
  • Talking about how hard it is to grow your business. Stop your whining!
  • Staying current on all of your favorite TV series.
  • Responding immediately to all those WhatsApps and SMS pings on your phone.

Focus on the vital.

Ban, reschedule, and delete the trivial.

Your success depends on this.

StartUp Tip #103: You either hold a rock concert or ballet concert


As Warren Buffett said before:

“Either hold a rock concert, or a ballet, but don’t hold a rock concert and advertise it as a ballet.”

Customers comes in all forms, shapes and sizes.

They have different expectations, different approaches, different beliefs about what they want.

There is no one type of customer.

When you build your startup, you have to super clear about what kind of company you want to build and who your customers are.

You need to think through and make decisions based on where you want your company to go.

It is very difficult to switch midstream. So if your company is a rock concert, it will be very difficult to transition to a ballet and take much time and clear communication with your investors, and most importantly customers. It is near impossible.

You have to be super clear at the beginning about what kind of company you are trying to build and how you are going to do it.

Not everyone will love what you do. At same time, not everyone will hate what you do. Your job is to find those who will embrace what you do.

Again, you can hold a ballet or rock concert and both can work, but you can only hold one.

Be clear about what you are as a company and people can self-select from there.

Whatever you do don’t build a company that is a rock concert but advertise it as if it’s a ballet concert.

Just be very clear about what type of business you are building.

You can’t be everything to everyone.





StartUp Tip #102: There is always a boss


Everyone has a boss

Maybe it is your biggest customer.

Maybe it is your wife.

Maybe it is your chairman.

Maybe it is your dad.

Whatever. It does not matter who your boss is.

It just matters that you don’t forget it. Especially as you become successful.

When you find success its easy to think your unaccountable, answerable to no one.

That way lies failure.

Someone needs to keep you honest, to hold you to a higher standard, to help you skirt the line between being a cowboy to being a crook.

Make sure you know who your boss is, and listen when she speaks.

If you do not like your boss, find another one.

Adapted from Alan Knott Craig Jr’s The Big Almanac blog.

StartUp Tip #101: Build a culture of caring

CaringHeart_-01 copy

Caring is not cheap.

To care for someone may actually cost you, time, money, resources, emotions etc.

But in the long run, caring pays for itself.

We care because caring is part of being a human.

Create a culture where peers inspire peers, in which each employee acts like a leader, pushing the culture forward.

When you free your employees to act like people [as opposed to cogs in a profit-maximizing efficient machine] then the caring cannot help but happen.

People like us do things like this. People like us, care.

Creating the culture of caring is also far and away the most difficult to create. Culture is a posture that lasts.

It is corroded by shortcuts and by inattention, and fed by constant investment and care.

Big company or small, it does not matter.

There are government agencies and tiny non-profits that have a culture of care and service. And then there are the rest…

StartUp Tip #100: Fellowship of the journey

post 100

This is the 100th StartUp Tip.

What started as something I thought I will do for 5 days, has now culminated in 100 startup tips and thoughts.

I write and edit every word myself, and always have. This is me, unvarnished.

Showing up daily is not my challenge, it is learning to live with the fact that I cannot say everything I want in a single post, that the trade-off of reaching people easily is that you can also lose people easily.

It is a journey, for both of us, and I am thrilled to be taking it with you.

For me, the privilege is sharing what I notice, without the pressure of having to nail it every time… I treasure the ability to say, “this might not work.”

Building a business is a journey, a journey harder than writing StartUp Tips everyday.

You need to have comrades riding with you on this journey, it makes the heavy load lighter.

Building a business is like fellowship of the ring in Lord of the Ring.

Success is a team sport.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t do it alone, they are part of team.

You have to be team player and leader, but you work in a team.

Thank you to entrepreneurs I mentor that I have learned from and have helped shape these StartUp Tips.

Thank you for letting me write this tips for you, and thank you for being along for the ride.


StartUp Tip #99: Two parts to any failure


There are two parts to any failure:

  • There is the event itself, with all its attendant disappointment, confusion, shame; and
  • Then there is our reaction to it.

It is this second part that we control.

Do we become introspective, or do we bury our heads in the sand?

Do we make it safe for others to acknowledge and learn from problems, or do we shut down discussion by looking for people to blame?

Failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.

I have failed at so many businesses, I have bankrupted businesses before. Sometimes the experience is painful, other times letting go of a business is a relief.

What I have learned though is that an essential aspect to creativity and innovation is not to be afraid to fail.