My EOx talk on empowerment, trust, and freedom in the workplace

EOx is a quarterly event put on by the Atlanta chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization. They invite entrepreneurs to give a brief talk on “entrepreneurial ideas worth sharing.”

Outside of Forum, EOx is my favorite EO event, and I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to this crowd. Joining me at the podium that night were Robert Dreesch, Benjamin Rudolph, and Reid Smith-Vaniz of Reliant Technology (one of my forum mates). Last quarter, two other forum mates shared their stories: CBQ of Big Nerd Ranch and Sean Cook of ShopVisible. Set aside an hour, and listen to what they have to say.

For my talk, I decided to share the short version of how our company switched from a rather conventional organizational path to the path we’re on today. To pack it into eight minutes, I left out a ton of stuff, but I tried to hit all the high points. Let me know what you think!

Speakeasy deserves some special thanks. They are one of EO’s sponsors and helped all the presenters (me especially) avoid looking and sounding like complete fools. ATV hosted us, and Friendly Human aced the video production.

Some entrepreneurship studies I’d like to read

I have searched for these sorts of studies and been unable to find anything. If anyone knows anyone who might help me uncover these answers, please let me know:

1) Is there a correlation between starting your career with a large business vs a small business and ultimately going on to start your own business?

2) Are people who start their own companies after working at small businesses more or less likely to achieve success than those who start their own companies after working at large businesses?

3) Are software companies started by software developers more likely to be in business in ten years than those started by non-technical founders?

4) Are companies started by MBAs more likely to be in business after ten years than those started by non-MBAs?

5) Are companies started by 18 year olds more likely to be in business after ten years than those started by 50 year olds?

Technical Talent & Entrepreneurial Spirit

In technology, people talk a lot about how we need more programmers in order to have more innovative companies, and more innovation in general. When I started GuildQuality, it never occurred to me that I needed to be a programmer. I knew I needed to work with programmers, but I never entertained the notion that I needed to be one. Up to that point, I’d made my career in construction and real estate – professions where every player contributed their part, and no one was particularly more valued or critical than another.

And now, more than a decade after launching a SaaS business, I still think the software industry’s similarities to the building industry are greater than its differences. Great neighborhoods are no more built by carpenters than they are by masons. And great software companies are the same way.

Every single day, my team gives me a reminder of their awesomeness. I get sales and marketing reminders; I get operations reminders; I get design reminders; I get service reminders; I get reminders of empathy and emotional intelligence; and yes, I also get brilliant programming reminders. I get these reminders every day from thousands of wonderful acts by all sorts of great people. Together, in concert, the business works. If the business tries to stand on a single leg, it collapses.

Today, the startup rate and the rate of self-employment are at all time lows. That’s a mentality issue, not a skills issue. Simply focusing on creating more programmers isn’t going to change that. To see a real change, we’ll need to cultivate in our children an adventurous spirit, a respect for those who blaze their own trails, and a humble appreciation for the beautiful diversity and value of every artisans’ skill.