How long have you been doing what you do and how did you get to be an early-stage founder coach?
I have been working with early-stage founders since 2014. To give more background, though, I started working with innovation and startup theory in 2003, when I was working in innovation at IBM Global Services. Before that, as an engineer, I worked in a "lean manufacturing" inspired facility, so the actual "lean" part of "lean startup" methodology goes back a long way for me.
I became a founder coach when I realized that I loved the extreme uncertainty of the early-stage of starting a business. I became somewhat obsessed with studying lean startup methodology at the end of 2013. I began applying the tools immediately with new clients in 2014 and have worked with over 100 founders since then.
What I am doing now goes beyond the scope of "lean startup" to be a more advanced early-stage methodology. It is something that is continuously being updated and improved. My current version works very well for beginners as well as people who are very well versed in "lean startup."
Who are your clients exactly?
My clients are people who are starting a business that have an element of uncertainty. It could be a small business or a high-growth startup, but in both cases, they need an approach to de-risk their new idea. Most of my clients are people who have done this before or are very experienced in something. They are looking for something more advanced and practical, that will help them make better decisions and save time.
I have had many clients who were past the "early stage" in their startup journey, but still were not getting the results that they were expecting. This is common and often the result of skipping steps in the early stages.
Once they review their business strategy with better tools, they can more easily decide if they 1- have something and should go full steam ahead, 2- should pivot, or 3- should decide to stop.
What happens if you haven't yet worked with people in my field?
It may seem counterintuitive, but I find that it is better when I don't know too much about the field. My job is to bring you the tools and frameworks to improve your decision making -- so my focus is on a rigorous process that can help defuse the extreme uncertainty. From there, it is up to you to become a better CEO and navigate through a continuing journey of discovering what customers value -- I am here to support you improve your approach, not to be an expert in your field.
How are you different from other "business coaches?"
I focus on the "person" – you -- not the "business." I am a founder coach, not a business coach. I help my clients think, plan, and experiment so that they are effective as founders and CEOs. My job is having you gain competency through tools, frameworks, and concepts so that you can make better decisions in the early-stage.
My approach is an "engineering-based" approach to business. All engineers study theory and then apply it in the real world. For example, mechanical engineers study physics and mathematics and then use those concepts to design and build a system or a machine.
I have taken the same approach to studying business theory and as a result, have selected and synthesized the most effective tools and concepts into one integrated, efficient system.
Since most founders are not engineers, nor have the time to study business practices and concepts, this is tremendously helpful. People who work with me love the clarity and improved efficiency that they get when they put their ideas through a rigorous process and can finally see what's working and what pieces are missing.
How do you help founders become better leaders?
The thing I will say about this is that everything in business comes down to people. It helps to know how people think, what motivates them, and what can have someone choose well. Some of the answers and approaches come from business theory, but there are a lot more in other fields like philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. I study these as well and interweave these with the startup methodology. This extra layer, I have found, makes all of the difference.