Nobody wants to admit this, but good people are the ones who kill startups

You keep your great people and terminate the bad people- we all do that. But it’s the merely good people that will kill you.

“Steve is a good guy”, you tell yourself. He didn’t do anything so egregious that he deserves getting fired.

And maybe his performance will improve if you give him more time. After all, he’s relatively new and you feel guilt from not having as much time as you’d like to answer his every question multiple times.

Perhaps Steve is friends with another teammate, which creates an awkward situation. Maybe he has a new wife or has a kid on the way and you know they need the money. Or it’s Christmas. Nobody gets fired during Christmas, right?

But the trouble with merely good is that you’re spending so much time on them, while neglecting your star performers. Because the squeaky wheel gets the grease, you’re penalizing your best people.

Unless your company or group doesn’t have to be efficient, you should be spending at least 50% of your time on the top 10% of your people if you want to maximize productivity.

That leaves no room for the “good” people that you’d very much like to keep around. It’s not that you’re a heartless manager or don’t care– see it as you stealing time from those who deserve it and have earned it.

My mentor, Al Casey, who was CEO of American Airlines, taught me that there are 3 types of managers- those who are loved, those who get results, and those who do both.

95% of people are in the first two categories. The loved ones are pushovers who don’t enforce the rules, so their teams don’t feel any discomfort or need to improve their performance. The results-oriented managers are often task masters- the bosses mocked by Dilbert and Office Space.


But the managers who are loved and get results are those who have high performance teams to start with, then have clear standards. If you are frustrated with the merely good people, I assure you that you aren’t keeping or attracting the high performers, as they see they aren’t getting love.

A great team member is not just slightly better than a good employee. They are TEN times better or more.


One of our star FB ad specialists, Jason, might cost double what a good employee makes, but their output is 20-50 times better. We don’t have to hold his hand, he achieves stellar results in an hour that an average specialist can’t do in 50 hours, and is better all around.

Have you identified your Jason’s and Steve’s?

The longer you wait, the worse it is for morale.

How to scale up your agency: a fresh approach

A colleague and I were discussing “leadership” and what that truly meant.  We came up with this analogy, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Imagine you move rocks for a living.  The more rocks you move, the more you’re paid.  You don’t move rocks, you don’t get paid.  Thus, you understand the direct linkage between putting in time and compensation.  This is the hourly wage model– some rock movers get paid more than others, whether flipping burgers, working in a big corporation, or drilling teeth. The more teeth you can drill, the more you’re paid.  Are you a corporate wage slave or someone who is paid piecemeal?  This was me for twenty years of my life– a prostitute selling my time for money. Whether I billed $5 per hour or $250– it was the same thing. One day in the proverbial quarry, you decide that moving more rocks to get paid more was not the right answer.  At best, you might move 20% more rocks than the other guy in a particular day, but it wasn’t sustainable.  So you leave the quarry for 7 days, much to the surprise of your fellow laborers. In that time you move no rocks and make no income.


But when you come back, you are driving a bulldozer.  Now, in one day you are able to move 100 times what a single laborer can do. But to get that bulldozer, you had to temporarily earn nothing– plus spend money to buy the vehicle and spend time learning how to drive the thing.  Your fellow laborers, noses down, continue to keep moving rocks— they don’t look up to see you in the bulldozer. They have heard about bulldozers in the magazines, but never thought it was something possible for them.

You hang out with the other guys driving bulldozers.  You have newfound wealth, which is fleeting, since the crowd you run with also enjoys the same standard of living.  You’re right back in the middle of your peers.  It feels great to be 100 times more productive than you were before, but you’re not quite fulfilled.


So you leave the quarry again and disappear for 7 days.  In that time you move no rocks and make no income.  And when you return, you are back with 100 bulldozers and 100 other eager new bulldozer operators. You’ve opened a bulldozer training school!  Flocks of manual laborers who used to move rocks now come to be trained by you.  And you make a commission on the rocks they move, since these laborers didn’t have enough money to buy their own bulldozers.  These laborers are now moving 100 times what they did before, but given the costs of training, equipment, and your profit, they only make 10 times what they did before.  Still, they are happy.

And you are temporarily happy.  With 100 bulldozer operators moving 100 times as many rocks as a single man can do, you’re at 10,000 times your earlier productivity.  Your lifestyle has changed, too.  You have have a Granite Card by American Express and have a new mansion in Boulder. People admire you–you’re a ROCK star. They think that the secret to your success is getting stoned.

But it’s not enough– something inside you is not quite satisfied.  You can only train so many new bulldozer operators per day.  You’re still moving rocks in a sense, just mass quantities. Growth in your bulldozer school is directly related to the amount of time you’ve put in.  So one day you close the bulldozer school.  The press thinks you’ve gone mad– that you’ve lost your marble.


You disappear for 7 days.  And when you return, you’re holding a brochure in your hand– “How to Open Your Own Bulldozer Training School”.  You’re created a franchise model, where you are training up other school owners. You have first hand experience in training new bulldozer operators, so new school owners can rely on your experience.  You now have sold 100 franchises, each one with a happy owner training 100 bulldozer operators, who in turn do the work of 100 laborers.  That’s 1 million times leverage.


You would not have been able to pull this off unless you had personal experience moving rocks, driving bulldozers, training bulldozer operators, and running a franchised business.  You were able to take your knowledge and multiply it.   If you didn’t intimately understand each aspect of the business, scaling up would have just multiplied losses.

Now examine your life and what you do.  Are you moving rocks or are you multiplying? Writing software is a multiplication process.  You can write one copy and sell it an infinite number of times.  You could hand-build a single PPC campaign for a client or perhaps write a campaign management tool that can do it over and over in an automated fashion.  But just like the rock moving analogy, if you aren’t a practitioner with hands-on experience in managing campaigns, your automation won’t be effective.  There are lots of guys selling software that builds websites, manages PPC campaigns, creates SEO reports, sends out emails, and any variety of tasks.

If you want to create massive value, consider the rocks that you are moving. Can you write software or processes that can make life easier for others– or perhaps do some task faster, more effectively, or at lower cost?  Everyone has something they know exceedingly well.  What is that skill for you?  You don’t have to be able to write code.  Software is nothing more than rules for machines, just like processes are rules for humans.

McDonalds is a software company that just happens to make burgers.  People go to McDonalds not because it has the most delicious burgers, but for the consistency of the food and the experience. You can take pimply-faced teens all over the world, minds distracted with their latest relationship dramas, speaking different languages, skilled or not– and still turn out that same value meal each time. That’s process for you.


BlitzMetrics is about empowering individuals to become entrepreneurs– we provide the tools and process to allow folks who know little about internet marketing, but are eager and willing to learn, to perform like experts. Our analysts are trained to help small business owners grow their practices.  We’re about the little guy helping the little guy.  Do you want to be a part of our team?  Contact me to find out more.

As an entrepreneur, you face the most concentrated of unspoken evils.

Yes, you’re busy. But go watch this video right now, anyway:

It’s 48 minutes of encouragement and perspective for entrepreneurs with Elon Musk.
If you’re still reading this, go back and at least watch from 34 minutes onward.

As an entrepreneur, every problem in the company is brought to you, so you end up spending most of your time doing stuff you don’t want to do.
Elon Musk calls it staring into the abyss and eating glass– to continually be on the verge of extinction and have a high tolerance for pain.
It’s a lonely place and something we’re not supposed to talk about. So keep on pretending.

Whether people admit it or not, life is hard.
So be kind to one another.

Elon poured half of his gains from PayPal into SpaceX, being fully comfortable that it might be a complete loss.
And even though he’s been quite successful– commercially to deliver payloads to the International Space Station and send satellites into orbit– he still predicts 13-14 years to even achieve his goal of sending a mission to Mars.

He’s been at it since 2002, so he’s already a dozen years into it.
And he’s got the same trajectory for Tesla, which will also take at least a dozen more years to get to where half of all cars in the US are electric (made by Telsa or not).

It takes 10 years to become an overnight success.
Ask Facebook, Google, or most of the businesses you know, technology-related or not.

The most important causes take a decade to realize.
And for a founder to be willing to eat glass, it better be a cause of that magnitude.

Are you working on something that’s truly worthy of your time?

Is it the kind of mission that inspires others to join in your WHY?

Are you looking to get bought out by some other company or do you want to grow to where you can buy out others?

Alex Houg and I have been working on BlitzMetrics for the past few years, but it’s been an idea incubating for much longer.
We’re long-term believers in changing how students transition from K12 to the workplace and we’re building these connections with businesses.

Khan Academy gives away their online education for free.
They believe knowledge should be free.  We concur and go one step further to say that job support should be free, too.

Next year will be 10 years since I left Yahoo! to be an entrepreneur, so my hope is that the time I’ve put in will truly start to pay off.
If failure is the best teacher, then I’m one of her most familiar students.

My hat’s off to anyone who is trying to get their business off the ground, make the next round of payroll, or take their mission to the next level.

My favorite trick to weeding out unqualified job applicants

You probably heard of Van Halen’s 53 page contract rider and how it required a bowl of M&M’s backstage– brown ones removed.
It’s not that brown M&M’s are necessarily bad. Rather, the band was checking for attention to detail.
If there were brown M&M’s there, they knew to expect sloppiness in the lighting, stage set-up, and other details.

So we’ve been following a similar strategy in our job postings.
In this particular one, we asked the candidate to say “INCEPTION” in their response.

We find it’s a good proxy for whether they will be sloppy when hired.
You don’t want people messing up on your projects now, do you?

Do you want to really understand Dennis Yu?

I did an experiment yesterday on Facebook. I posted a quote, unattributed.


And it got a few dozens likes immediately. Ironically, it was a Simon Sinek quote, which a few people spotted.

Martin Luther King was able to get 250,000 people together Washington DC on that August day in 1963 not because they followed him, but because of the vision. He just happened to be the conduit.

Sinek quipped that it just wouldn’t be the same if MLK said “I have a plan.”
The WHY is more powerful than the WHAT– the dream vs the plan.

Then I tested by posting something informational.
You can build influence by becoming an subject matter expert.

Arguably, the hottest current topic– plus I tagged a thought leader in online marketing.

Yet it got zero response.

Here’s a post from a friend that got almost 300 likes:


Another WHY post. And as much as I like Christine, it’s about what she stands for, not her personal beauty.

It struck me that people who seek to be wealthy or famous as their goal are hollow compared to people on a mission.

This speaks volumes about the nature of influence.

Here is the most popular post of all time on Facebook with over 4 million likes.
Can you guess under what circumstances, as opposed to by who?

People who clicked like did it because of what THEY believed and a celebration of THEIR success.

It wasn’t about the attractiveness of Michelle or Barack, nor the quality of the photo, but of mission.

Mission is shared and owned by many– inclusive, not exclusive; giving, not taking; clarifying, not distracting.

Did you know the Greeks had 4 different words for love?

A general love via the warmth of friendships and pleasures. I love donuts, ultimate frisbee and episodes of StarGate.  Maybe you really “loved” that restaurant last night?

Physical, passionate love tied to a person.  This is where “erotic” comes from. Infatuation creates love goggles, masking lust for other things.

Affection usually between family members, based on acceptance and mutual protection. David and Jonathan had one of the strongest friendships in the Bible. It was not sexual, but one of fulfilling mission– David’s anointing to be the next King.

Unconditional, sacrificial love. To lay down your life for another man. Continuing to give, and not reciprocal. Spiritual and without sexual implications. Think of the Good Samaritan. Or for Christians, consider Jesus and that “God is Love”.

If Jesus were to be walking the planet in 2014, I’d bet he’d be on Facebook. And I bet he’d be a killer marketer.

Up until a year ago, my life was always about me. I wanted to be in the spotlight as the image of success.

But now it’s about a mission that all of us can embrace.

It’s time for others to step up into the spotlight and for me to be in support.


You wouldn’t believe this was me a year ago

A year ago, I had nothing– no health, no money, and a career that looked more like a homeless man’s exploits than what might pass as a functional business. I explain what that life feels like here.

Ever chase money and feel like a hamster on a wheel?

I was chasing the idea of success, as no entrepreneur wants to admit public failure. They ask each other at tech events how things are going, and out come the white lies. This reinforces the false reality of running a business, creating a loneliness that only a founder or business owner would know.

I still get the email subscriptions of people who have worked for us, which creates a chore for me to unsubscribe. Do you sweep the floors, too?

Today, I saw a video of a young man pitching his self-help materials. He was standing on a yacht, talking about how he could teach us success. Gold watch, blazer– all that was missing was the exotic car or bikini babe.  Though he was promising how you could be 3-5 times more successful by following his advice, all I could think was “Gee, how much did he pay to film his one minute video on that docked yacht? Or maybe his parents have a kind friend.”

I downloaded his ebook and read it in 3 minutes flat.  It was a younger version of Tony Robbins– good for young folks to understand that hard work, passion, and planning count and that we have to set goals in our careers, personal lives, health, spiritual lives, etc…

And while the advice wasn’t necessarily wrong, it reinforces the very problem it claims to solve.  Kids coming out of high school still don’t know what they want. And neither do adults well into mid-life, as they are just older kids.

I never understood the transition from school to work, so I was still swimming when the water turned to land.  The techniques I used to get good grades didn’t seem to work in getting me a job.

In fact, it hurt me.

School taught me that collaborating with others was cheating, that there was always a singular right answer in the book, and that once you submitted the paper, that bit was over.  People in the real world know the opposite is true.

You must act quickly to fail quickly and iterate.  Business owners make decisions based on relationships, not by your GPA. The stuff you need is not in the textbook, although Googling things can be quite helpful.  Yes, I used to work at Yahoo! and us engineers were using gmail and googling things.

And in doing Internet marketing for the last 20 years, if you count bulletin boards and dial-up, I’ve witnessed the same transition struggle for business owners. They understand the core of their business– the customer, their product, and how to drive sales.  But the electronic world has left them befuddled in a maze of software and witch doctors selling their wares. I get confused, too.

The education system is like a giant soft serve machine that oozes out vanilla twist, left on with nobody watching.

It’s pumping out millions of graduates each year, who are not equipped to work in today’s modern world. It’s not the school’s fault, since a degree was never a promise for a job. And it’s not the businesses’ fault, since it’s not their role, at least not in the United States, to train students on basic business principles.

We’re not even talking about teaching the mechanics of Facebook ads, learning how to program, or fancy stuff.  What’s missing is simply being able to communicate in a business setting, knowing how to manage your time, and fundamentals that matter in any type of gainful employment.

Living here in Minnesota, the land of not 10,000 lakes, but actually 12,000 lakes, we have many rivers, too. To portage is to carry your canoe out of the water to get around an obstacle or something in the way. It’s a necessary transition that requires multiple people to lift the canoe and someone to guide the group.

I had no direction or true vision a year ago, though I could talk a good game.  But now, I have a family of close friends, a mission that matters, and a support network that is far more valuable than money.   And this is a transition, a portage, that has taken me a long time.  We have a lot to share and I’d welcome your help in this journey.

I’m looking forward to sharing this with you over the coming weeks and months.