Tag Archives: Chris Brogan

Is Work Life Balance in a Startup A Good Thing?

What do you think about this (quoting a discussion at thefunded.com):

I Don’t Believe in Work Life Balance as a Startup Person. Am I Wrong?

In the discussion on thefunded.com, the person who asks the question is co-founder and CEO of a startup, and is working 60 hours a week. But there are problems: 

I wish we all would work like there’s no tomorrow, at least until we reach certain status where we can be confident that we have reached product market fit… However my co-founders have their families and they have to go home when work hours end … I am very dissatisfied because I feel like we can do much more if we tried harder.

If you get into that discussion, you’ll see that the startup community there is divided. There is no consensus.

Just yesterday blogging guru Chris Brogan posted an eloquent argument for balance in his Pay Yourself First:

But when you wonder how I’m getting as successful as I am, oddly, it’s because I’m doing the opposite of what you’d suspect. I’m working fewer hours now than I used to work last year. The trick of it all is that I’m working the right hours, and I’m managing my time and demands on my time much better.

This question keeps coming up. I jumped on a similar discussion a couple of years ago, when I posted Is Startup Life Life, which followed a public debate about work/life balance triggered by this zinger from Jason Calcanis in his How to Save Money Running a Startup

Fire people who are not workaholics. Come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. Don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it. Go work at the post office or Starbucks if you want balance in your life.

Me? I’m not sure.  I hope for that happy medium, the gray area that isn’t either black or white; a startup that people believe in enough to work like mad, but one that gives them meaningful work to do, and one that hopes they manage to preserve a life as well. As if that were possible.

On the Value of Good Computer Games

My thanks to Chris Brogan for posting Games and Fun on his blog this morning, linking to Jane McGonical’s Gaming Can Make a Better World video on TED.com (embedded below).

In his post, Chris says:

Forget the rest of my blog post and just watch this. Ask yourself whether or not you could make more fun and more games out of what we all do for a living.


Which reminds me that I think some kinds of games are great teachers. I’m very grateful that I spent a lot of time as a kid playing strategy games, particularly the Avalon-Hill strategy games that took hours and involved lots of cardboard pieces on maps. I played that one forward with my own kids, in a sense, by spending time with them on computer strategy games, most notably Age of Empires. I think a good game is a powerful lesson. Especially when it’s fun.

I should add, though, that I’m talking here about good games. The strategy games teach. And a lot of other types of games are quietly teaching while doing. Think of the word games, puzzle games, role playing games. Take a look at Civilization, the game.

And I have to add that I’m definitely not saying all computer games are good for anybody. Obviously. There are a lot of computer games out there that are mind numbing or (think shoot-em-up) worse. In my opinion.

Curious Case of Experts vs. Managers

How do you react to this quote? This is Mark Shaeffer about social media experts, in this post. I quoted him in my post here yesterday:

How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”

Now wait a minute.

Who says marketing experts have to have sales experience? Why do they need to have been accountable for a new product?

I want my experts smart, experienced, and knowledgeable. I want them to listen. I want them open to new ideas. I want them to give good advice.

But I don’t care if they’ve had sales responsibility; or if they’ve launched a new product. Why should I?

Do I care if my doctor has built a house? Do I care if my accountant can sing? Why do I want experts to be managers?

What about you? Do you think a business expert has to have line management experience? Can a single-person expert really be an expert if he or she hasn’t run a company?

Do you think the best programmer makes the best manager?

“Line vs. staff” was a big deal to multinational executives and managers I consulted for in the 1970s and 1980s. As a consultant and newsletter generator, I was staff. Line managers had responsibility for sales numbers or profitability. And they were proud of it. It was important to their career.

Does that still matter? Or is it confusing makers and managers? And don’t the experts have to close some sales now and then to survive in business?

Not that the idea threatens me at all – I’m safe on this respect, since I’ve built a company, based on my own software, so whatever expertise I claim will pass that “sales or new product” test.

It’s just that experts and managers are like apples and oranges. Different skills. I want managers to be managers, and experts to be experts.


Late addition: I had the above post ready to go when I was dealing with comments from yesterday and picked up Chris Brogan’s defense, here. He picked up on the same underlying assumption:

Have I held a sales job in a big company? Hell no. I’m not a salesman. Instead, I’m someone who equips salespeople with new tools to drive to value. I’m a hell of an opener, and decent with the first 2/3 of the cycle, but if my kids had to eat on my ability to close complex sales? Hell no.

Interesting perspective. Can you trust me? Beats me. I’ll let my work stand for itself. : )

No argument from me there.

(Photo credit: karbunar/Shutterstock)

But Can We Trust the Trust Agents?

I was just getting back to the office yesterday, a Monday morning after a week away — 4 days of business, and 3 relaxing and invigorating days in Yosemite, which is really away — when Dan Levine (@schoolmarketer on Twitter) suggested I read The social media country club on Mark Shaeffer’s businessgrow blog.

Yes, I’m a sucker for contrary points of view. Get a group going, approach consensus, and I want to read the one who’s out in left field. If everybody else is right and this one’s all wrong, so what, I can work that out. But then how often is left field the right place to be?

Mark starts out objecting to rave reviews of Trust Agents, the book by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. It’s subtitle is “Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.” I haven’t read it, but I’ve read a lot of favorable comments. Mark, however, says those favorable comments are the result of group think and myth making:

The “thought leaders” of social media marketing are a country club fearful of saying anything negative or controversial about another club member. The real commerce of social media is trading favors and a negative comment breaks the favor chain.

He paints a picture a lot like the fable of the emperor’s new clothes. You can see with this quote, under the general heading of credibility, that at the very least he’s making his position clear:

Take a close look at the credentials (if you can find any) of nearly any leading social media marketing “expert.”  How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”  In a communication channel already dominated by porn-peddling, get-rich-quick nimrods, it simply doesn’t help our collective credibility to have our most visible advocates spouting incredibly naive statements about marketing fundamentals they know little about.

I don’t know that I agree; it seems too harsh to me. I don’t think expertise is measured only by job history, or sales history, or middle management in a big company history, which seems to be laying just under the surface of the blogger bashing. And I wish Mark had said which statements in the book are naive. But it’s certainly a very contrarian point of view. And worth considering. So I’m sharing it here.

(Photo credit: STILLFX/Shutterstock)

Marketing Textbook in Top 250 Blog List

What if the question was: what’s the best book about marketing to read and recommend? And the answer was: read this compilation: Top 250 Blog Posts – Advertising, Marketing, Media and PR Spotlight Ideas. How things have changed. 

Not Kotler’s Principles of Marketing, not Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, not even Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerilla Marketing. But read the 250 posts included in this top 250 posts list at SpotlightIdeas, and you’d have a marketing education.

The posts are divided into meaningful categories, and include a highlights list of best bloggers in any of these marketing-related topics. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Leo Babuta, Robert Scoble, and many other generally-recognized blogging leaders.