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A guest post originally published on TNW

In my first startup, TopManage (now SAP Business One) I spent the first couple of years as the chief salesperson. It is something that many founders experience (selling to customers or pitching to investors) and it meant four to five out-of-office meetings a day.

Each meeting could lead to thousands of dollars in immediate revenue that was crucial to us back then. My day was a constant balance between cramming as many meetings into a day and not being late to any of them. Why? Because, in my experience, being late to a meeting means you are probably 20 percent less likely to close the deal.

While there is little research on this area (no sales person will admit tardiness), this was certainly true when I ran the SMB sales team at SAP and in multiple startups. I’ve spoken about this with heads of sales across the industry and heard many times that being five minutes early to a sales call is actually being late.

Why is being on time so important?

For me it boils down to one thing: owning the meeting. Good sales people own the meeting and lead it. They set the agenda, decide when small talk is appropriate, when it is time for the slides, the demo, and finally, the ask. A good sales meeting is one where everything goes as you planned for it.

If you were ever late to an important meeting, you know that what I described here can’t happen if you are arriving 10 minutes late. Small talk is replaced with apologies and you’re only half listening as you try to pull your laptop from the bag and set everything up.

Worst of all, you lose points in your customer’s mind before the meeting even starts.

Compare that to arriving 10 minutes early, stopping by the restroom, getting a drink and chatting with the receptionist for few minutes, then getting some background info about the mood in the office or anything else that can help you in the meeting.

Why is being on time so hard?

running to work late 730x426 The importance of being on time (and why we often run late)

We are horrible at predicting the future and we tend to be optimistic in our estimates. This is a normal human tendency (and the reason why “it ended up taking twice the time and double the money” is probably something you’ve heard many times).

We also tend to underestimate things - like the time it takes to get to the car, finding parking and traffic. Even when presented with driving time data, we often fall into the illusory superiority trap, thinking that we can make it on time since we are better and faster drivers. (The best example for illusory superiority is the fact that 93 percent of the drivers rank themselves as above average. I wonder how bad the seven percent that think they are below average…)

We like to round. Our brain is efficient because it is lazy. Thinking that you need to leave 37 minutes before a meeting is hard, so our brain rounds it to 30 minutes (see optimism) so even if traffic is perfect, we will still be late.

Lastly, it is tedious to calculate all this in your head and repeat it for every meeting. Most of us just don’t like tedious tasks.

Be honest with your time

We’ve spent tons of time thinking about this problem at Magneto. We used our collective experience and interviewed dozens of salespeople, early stage startup CEOs and business development executives, and we are convinced that if you want to be on time, you have to plan to be on time and do it every time.

How can you do it?

  • It has to be on your calendar. It is not enough to know that a meeting in San Jose starts at 1:00PM. You should also know that you need to leave at 11:48 AM to make it on time.
  • Block time on your calendar for travel, so you or others don’t chip into your travel time and makes it hard for you to leave when you planned to.
  • Use services like Google Now (will let you know when to leave) or specialized calendar apps to plan ahead

Being on time takes getting used to, but once you are, you will never go back. It can be difference between making your quota or losing another deal.

I have no special knowledge or opinion about the resignation of Peter Stern, Bit.ly CEO, but thought that most appropriate way to announce it should have been a bit.ly link. So here it is…

Bit.ly/CEO_resigned

And, it actually works… Send you back right to my blog…

ImageAn email from a friend who works at Microsoft sent me back in time and got me started on #shityousayinenterprise last week.  Ray Wang asked me to convert it to a blog post, which sounded like a fun project. For each sentence you hear in the enterprise, I added a short explanation for the startup gang…

What do you mean you can’t build this feature? I am going to escalate it to your manager

Escalation is one of the most commonly used threats in the enterprise. A customer complains? Let’s escalate to the head of engineering. You can’t accept a task someone from Marketing asked you to finish? He will escalate it to your manager. Someone made a nasty comment? Let’s escalate to HR.   Read the rest of this entry »

ImageUntil yesterday I thought that Mailbox nailed their launch. They seem to have done everything right: created hype, designed a great-looking app, came up with an intriguing video, built a robust waiting list, and got tons of press.

The icing on the cake was their brilliant plot to shoot up to the top of the  iTunes most-downloaded app list (currently number 4 overall): they sent everyone on their waiting list an email which asked the recipients to download the app in order to check their position on the waiting list. Read the rest of this entry »

Here is a common advice: don’t send emails when you are angry. You will regret it later once you are calm and had some time to think about it. The problem is that when we are mad, we can’t really control the urge of sending this mail and tell those corporate goons/our boss/our spouse what we think of them. When we are mad, we want revenge and email is the nerd’s machine gun…  Read the rest of this entry »

The first time I viewed a professional focus group I was impressed. We sat behind a mirror wall, were served great food and wine and watched business owners answer questions asked by a professional moderator. For a long while, I was in love with the concept: pay some money and get a glance into the future, read your potential users minds and build the perfect product that they will use for ever. If only it was so simple…

Later in life I understood that the most important thing to remember about any user feedback is that people don’t tell you what they think, they tell you what they think they thinkRead the rest of this entry »

habit lppoI just finished reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. In short, the book uses new brain research to explain how habits are created and how one should go about changing personal or organizational habits (anything from eating a dessert after your meal to produce products of higher quality…). The book is worth reading: the short of it is simple- habits are automatic stored procedures  in our brain. They start with a cue, and end with a reward (cue-finishing lunch, habit- eating dessert, reward-sugar…). I will stop at that- read the book if you are interested…

What the book only touched on briefly is measurement as a way to build or modify a habit. Say that you live half a mile from your local grocery store and you go there 3-4 times a week to buy fresh produce. You know that walking there will save you money and add some points into your health jar but than again, you still get into the car and drive there since it is easier. Read the rest of this entry »

ImageMost designers secretly or publicly hate their managers. It can be a CEO in a startup or a product manager in a larger company. They hate us all. Some of it has to do with the fact some of them are just precious flowers and their work can not be criticized by regular humans but often, it is only our faults.

Here are some dos and don’ts that will make your designer much more productive, and therefore creating better products:

  • Your “gut feeling” about the design is not important: We all watch baseball matches but don’t think we can play professionally. We all watch hospital dramas but don’t think we can operate on anyone. We all use  web products but we DO think we can design them better than the designer we hired. Your design expert is the designer you hired. If he/she are not good enough, replace them. You are unlikely to be better than them. Read the rest of this entry »

I am not going to Austin for SxSW this year and a minute before I apply my “don’t show me anything tagged #SxSW on Twitter” filter, I wanted to share some of my personal favorites in the city, in case you are looking for good places to eat or play. The source is my very own Bizzy List from my two visits in Austin last year…

  • Amy’s Ice Cream- The very best ice cream in Austin. Don’t miss! My Original comment: “Like Cold Stone but with high quality ice cream”
  • The Steeping Room- In the middle of the town of ribs, greasy food and Mexican beer you can find this elegant place with awesome coffee and tea selection and sophisticated brunch food. A bit out of the way but can be a great place for a meeting away from the crowd. What I said back then? ” I am back in the sane world where they serve artisan coffee and organic granola and yogurt. This place is my new BFF (plus an amazing selection of teas)”
  • BBQ Heaven- BEST. BRISKET. EVER (Ellen makes a better one but only once a year or when a friend is having a baby). Open really late and a perfect place to get a late night sandwich you’d never forget. “Same awesome Brisket, same great people. Best (immobile) food truck ever.” Read the rest of this entry »

I hate the gym. I really hate the gym. I f***ing hate the gym. At the same time, I have been going to the gym 3-4 times a week for the last 5 years (yes, it was my 2007 new year resolution…) despite my hectic (at most times) work and personal life. I developed few little rules that helps me persist that I wanted to share with other people that try to stay healthy… I’ve written it from my perspective (ever changing work schedule with some flexibility) and I am pretty sure it will not work for everyone , but worth trying if other methods failed you before…

  • Plan to go every day: No, I don’t really go every day. I just pack my gym bag, get everything in place and plan a convenient time based on my next day schedule. Sometimes the day goes as planned and I end up going and sometimes something changes and I don’t but since I plan to go every day, I still get to go 3-4 times every week in average.
  • Treadmills are evil: but at the same time, they are the fastest way to get a good 30 min of cardio. At first, I tried the classic “30 min workout” music on my iPod to stay engaged but I couldn’t get myself to persist. Than  I tried TV but there is never something good and the commercial breaks are huge downer when you run. Than I tried to listen to audio books: it was an improvement, but still, the 30 minutes felt like 30 days. Just when I felt I could not listen to one more book, I bought an iPad. Since I rarely watch TV at home, there are million TV dramas that everyone talks about and I never got to see. I started downloading seasons and watch one episode every visit to the gym (right now I am watching Breaking Bad, gym TV at its best). Now since my rule is that I can’t watch it at home, I kind of looking forward to get to the gym and enjoy 30-40 minutes of good, commercial free TV.   Read the rest of this entry »
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