I’m an opinionated and overzealous entrepreneur with 2+ decades of success and failure. More at servicezealot.com

Learning what drives value within a business will set you apart.

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Photo by Daniel Xavier from Pexels

I was content to sling code all day long — working away in my little world. People that interrupted me were dumb. That went double for marketing people and project managers.

Knowing what was important came naturally to me. At least my definition of what important meant. Yet no one outside my team shared that definition. …

3 reasons big companies make bad early-stage customers.

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At least, that is what social media and business books love to portray. Yet they do little to highlight the dark side.

Sure, you will likely grow, but it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Why? Because big companies eat little businesses for breakfast. Probably, not on purpose, but due to critical needs that don’t align.

What are you to do, if you want to punch above your weight class?

5 things I wish I knew when starting my entrepreneurial journey

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Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

I knew I was a terrible employee, but I didn’t yet know why. The lure of “being my own boss” was powerful. Even if the fear of failure loomed when I thought of my wife, three kids, and the mortgage.

Can you relate? That irrational fear of walking away from a consistent, “guaranteed” paycheck. The thought of finding your own medical benefits. The weight of your choices affecting your family. The threat of failure.

That’s where I was a decade ago.

I knew entrepreneurship was for me, yet the anxiety of failing my family loomed larger than life. …

3 rules to spot the signs before it’s too late

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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

If you believe the hyperbole pushed by social media, your business should be a rocket ship. The pursuit of growth at all costs, your main priority. Targeting ever bigger customers for their logos, prestige, and massive wallets.

While I don’t disagree completely, the priorities and motivations are just plain backward. As entrepreneurs, we are force-fed this dogma at every turn. It’s no wonder first-time founders often think they need venture capital at the outset. Before they’ve even started.

That’s why I love to see founders pushing back. Bucking the trends of the day to grow organically. No external funds needed. …

It’s not complicated, you just need to listen, engage, and filter.

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Photo by Elias Castillo on Unsplash

In fact, it took moving my family to North Carolina and accepting a job as a consultant to find my listening skills.

As an adult, I had always been quiet unless around friends, family, and good beer. I was content to hear what others had to say. I’m sure some of that was due to a lack of confidence in certain situations, but you get the point.

My quietness and tendency to think before speaking helped me win the respect of most colleagues. Apparently, silence is an art and can even make you look intelligent. I was never one to suck the air out of a room. That was for someone else to do. Offering quick insights and clarifications were my preferred tools of the trade. …

Lessons I learned as a skinny kid in junior high school

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Blow Pops 48-Count Blue Razz Berry on Amazon

Seventh grade sucked! The town I lived in had no middle school so this was a massive transition year for everyone.

I had spent the first seven years of school making friends and gradually moving up the pecking order. Now it was starting all over again, but exponentially worse.

Junior high was an education. Sure, there was learning within the classroom, but I’m talking about socio-economic status. I quickly learned that I was poor.

Believe it or not, I had no real clue until seventh grade! That is a testament to my hardworking parents.

You never know who is lurking so raise your expectations.

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Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

This was me about 10 years ago.

I was working for a software company within its Professional Services organization. I was rolling onto a large project for a multi-billion dollar corporation. My main responsible was integrating a newer, niche product with the main product.

Most people believed the niche product was unreliable. Yet I had worked with it before and knew others familiar with it. I realized the main product lacked the necessary integration hooks for success. That was the real reason for so many failures. …

For a century they have been incentivizing the wrong behavior

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Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Timesheets are a plague that suppresses value. Too much?

Did you know they were never intended to be customer-facing? In fact, the billable hour was an unintended invention, created by lawyers just over a century ago.

It has never made sense to me. The concept of tracking time completely misses the point. Professional service businesses are creative — ideas do not follow a linear path so how can tracking hours describe anything of real value?!

In a nutshell, your customers come to you to solve problems. They don’t wake up in the morning with the desire to make you rationalize every fraction of an hour that your team labored away on a set of tasks. …

A guide to scaling your service business without timesheets by aligning with customer needs and minimizing harmful events

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Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

In the professional services world, most businesses start the same way.

You begin with billing by the hour, growing revenue by hiring ever more people, and struggling to keep everyone engaged by constantly finding new projects and customers to keep the plane in the air.

Every year, revenue begins at zero and an educated guess as to what is probable based on last year. That century-old operating model is tired, very tired. It’s the opposite of a scalable and sustainable business.

What if there was a way to start every year with guaranteed revenue?

Hourly Billing Is The Only Way, Right?

I despise the billable hour and its evil sibling, the timesheet. You probably think customers will reject any creative alternative. So did I, but I was wrong. When I finally got fed up, I had real conversations with my customers. I was shocked by where the conversations went. …

Find out who is bluffing and really wants the value you provide

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Inevitably, when you price correctly, some clients will tell you that your prices are too high. In fact, if you are not hearing that routinely, you are not charging enough.

So what do you do? Give them a lower price.

I’m not suggesting you cave on price

While lowering your price, you must also remove value from your solution. It must be a “get-give” trade-off. In other words, you give the client a lower price and they get less value.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t play out this way for most young consulting firms. They tend to relent on price while maintaining much of the promised value.

I’ve done it. I’ve caved on price yet failed to reduce the scope of work. It hurt the relationship. That mistake created an “us versus them” mindset and opportunities for mutual benefit suffered. …

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