Being able to sponsor my own MBA is the biggest dream I’ve ever had.
But realistically speaking, it might take me 5-8 more years to gather the required funds & fly abroad (as of this writing).
So I thought I’d do the next best thing and start reading up on great books meant for MBA aspirants & marketing leaders or business professionals. Additionally, I’m also paying a weekly visit to some of the best business blogs like HBR (Harvard Business Review).
Nothing can beat the whole experience of going to a great university, but until that time comes for me, I still want to grab as much knowledge as I can from the internet.
In my reading journey, I’ve found many bookmark-worthy “mental tools” that can help you make savvier business decisions.
Think of them as frameworks that will give you proper direction across different stages; some of them come in handy during the initial ideation phase, while others may help you react to an ongoing crisis more smartly.
The list below includes all such charts, diagrams, tables, insights, roadmaps, etc. that I’ve amassed over the years.
Hope it aids you on your journey to becoming a kickass entrepreneur!
As a business leader, you’ll constantly be swamped with hundreds of to-do tasks every week.
There’s no end to it – unless you’re planning to pull the shutter.
So learning how to prioritize activities & distribute your energy/time throughout the day is a crucial skill we all must learn.
This is where the Eisenhower Matrix comes into play.
It helps you to divide all incoming tasks into 4 categories, each attached to a recommended action you can take:
- Urgent & Important (with a deadline, immediate consequences)
- Urgent but not important (need to be done but don’t require your individual attention)
- Not urgent but important (without a deadline, but payoff in the long term)
- Not urgent, not important (knowledge gaining, leisure, or personal activities)
With priority tasks at the top left quadrant, it’s recommended to “eat the frog” i.e. do the hardest, most painful thing first.
Once you’re done with that excruciating task that you’ve been putting off for so long, you feel much lighter & motivated to get through the bulk.
This can be going to the gym in the morning rather than delaying it for the day. Or completing your toughest assignments before lunch.
For crucial tasks on the bottom left, learning to delegate some duties to a team member will really change your life. Often times, you’ll feel the need to do everything on your own – but that’s the control freak in you speaking.
Try to look back at your day, and ask, “What’s something I did that I could’ve asked a colleague or loved one to help me with instead?”
It can seem like you’re begging for help at first, but if every entrepreneur thought this way, we’d never see empires like Google, Amazon, or Facebook rising up.
All successful leaders are super-delegators. They pick people with hard skills; identify the tasks that are taking up most of their manual labor, energy, and time; and then assign such workload to their team.
This frees up time for them to:
- Look at the bigger picture
- Strategize long-term moves
- Come up with innovative ideas to grow their business
- Learn a new skill on the side / read a self-help book
- Hit the gym to stay fit & capable of working
- Build relationships with other stakeholders (networking)
BTW, the above activities, together called “deep work,” are essentially what the top right quadrant is all about (not urgent but important). These are tasks that don’t give you immediate rewards or gratification, but have massive payoffs in the long run.
Coming back to the bottom left quadrant, delegating doesn’t mean simply pushing your work onto someone. You must ask, “Do you have all the resources to get the job done?”
This includes ensuring your team mate has:
- Access to all folders, documents, accounts
- Knowledge & context/background on what’s happened so far
- Clear expectations outlined in the brief
- Ample references on what the end product should look like
- Priorities & most important points highlighted
- Contact details of all concerned parties/partners
- Timeline for execution with Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 marked
Last but not the least, activities that don’t have any productive outcomes can be indulged in every weekend.
These also have a role to play as they relax your mind, and enable you to just have some freakin’ fun!
All work & no play makes Jack a dull boy, so hit the party deck & lighten up; you deserve regular breaks to rejuvenate & reflect.
Last but not the least, if you want to visualize this matrix, pick one of these project management tools:
Metrics to Evaluate a Market
This exhaustive checklist comes from Josh Kaufman’s “Personal MBA” (2010).
Before launching any business venture, you’ll need to prove its potential for scalability.
The million-dollar question is, “Will this actually work?”
While nobody can predict with certainty, you can use the following table to arrive at a near-accurate answer of how attractive & practical the opportunity really is.
For every metric/question, assign a score between 0 to 10, 0 being extremely unattractive, expensive, or difficult; and 10 being extremely attractive, lucrative, or easy.
|1||Urgency||How badly do people want or need this right now – are they in pain? |
(Renting an old movie is typically low urgency; seeing the first showing of a new movie on opening night is high urgency, since it only happens once)
|2||Consumer Size||How many people are actively purchasing things like this? |
(The market for underwater basket weaving courses is very small; the market for cancer cures is massive)
|3||Pricing Potential||What’s the highest price a purchaser would be willing to spend for solutions? |
(Lollipops sell for $0.05; aircraft carriers sell for billions)
|On average, how much money & effort will it cost you to make one sale? |
(Restaurants built on high-traffic interstate highways spend little to bring in new customers. Government contractors can spend millions landing major procurement deals)
|5||Cost of Value Delivery||How much will it cost you to transfer the product/service to the end user?|
(Delivering files via the Internet is almost free; inventing a product and building a factory costs millions)
|6||Uniqueness of Offer||How unique is your offer versus competing offerings in the market, and how easy is it for potential competitors to copy you? |
(There are many hair salons, but very few companies that offer private space travel)
|7||Speed to Market||How quickly can you create something to sell? |
(You can offer to mow a neighbor’s lawn in minutes; opening a bank can take years)
|How much will you have to invest before you’re ready to sell? |
(To be a housekeeper, all you need is a set of inexpensive cleaning products. To mine for gold, you need millions to purchase land and excavating equipment)
|9||Upsell Potential||Are there related secondary offers that you could also present to purchasing customers? |
(Customers who purchase razors need shaving cream and extra blades as well; buy a Frisbee, and you won’t need another unless you lose it)
|Once the initial offer has been created, how much additional work will you have to put into it in order to continue selling? |
(Business consulting requires ongoing work to get paid; a book can be produced once, then sold over and over as is)
If your total is anywhere below 75, you may want to rework the idea or model to make it more viable to take live.
Value Creation Pathways
This one is also from Kaufman.
When you’re thinking of launching a business, you’ll need a clear understanding of how you’re delivering value to your customers.
Overall, there are 12 ways to get it done, and although there are new models popping up every day, many of them are iterations or extensions of these basic methods.
|1||Product||Create a single tangible item or entity, then sell and deliver it for more than what it cost to make (Goods)|
|2||Service||Provide help, skill, or assistance; then charge a fee for the benefits rendered (Counselor)|
|3||Shared Resource||Create a durable asset that can be used by many, then charge for access (Gym)|
|4||Subscription||Offer a benefit on an ongoing basis, and charge a recurring fee (Netflix)|
|5||Resell||Acquire an asset from a wholesaler, then sell that asset to a retail buyer at a higher price (Walmart)|
|6||Lease||Acquire an asset, then allow another person to use it for a predefined time for a fee (Karaoke machine)|
|7||Agency||Market/sell an asset you don’t own on behalf of a third party, collect commission (Literary, Residential)|
|8||Audience Reach||Create a mass following of a targeted group, sell access to third-parties for advertising (Event Sponsors)|
|9||Loan||Lend money, then collect payments over time equal to the original loan plus interest rate (Banks)|
|10||Option||Offer the ability to take a predefined action for a fixed period of time in exchange for a fee (Tickets, Deposits)|
|11||Insurance||Take risk of specific bad thing happening to policy holder for premiums, and only pay claims if bad happens|
|12||Venture Capital||Purchase an ownership stake in a biz, collect part of profit as a one-time exit payout/dividend|
Use this table to evaluate your business model & if possible, improve it by adding any of the other modes to open up other revenue lines.
Startup Pitch Essentials
This gorgeous template comes from Romeen Sheth, who heads Metasys as of 2022.
Startup pitches are the first step to getting investors or crowd support for your new business.
Many gurus will ask you to keep them concise, but that doesn’t make it easy. If anything, founders often leave out some of the most crucial elements, which results in rejection.
But Sheth’s table helps you prevent the pitfalls by underscoring how missing each element can hamper the overall impact of your pitch.
He notes the ingredients in his post:
- Problem: Is this an issue?
- Solution: Do you have the fix?
- Market: Is this a big enough issue?
- Business: Can you make money?
- Team: Can you pull it off?
First, the Problem Statement has to show that its a painful gap or issue that is hurting customers. Without it, there’s no purpose.
Second, the Solution is your golden hook – people buy how you’re going to tackle the problem. Without it, you won’t get any traction.
But getting initial traction isn’t enough. So third, you need a huge enough, well-segmented niche Market that’s projected to grow in the coming years (with a scientific analysis).
Fourth, once you have these customers ready to buy, you need a Business Model to print actual $$$ on a consistent basis because without it, you’re just a charity. Investors only really care about how you’re going to manage the cashflow + what are they getting in the exit/IPO.
Fifth & last, you need to prove that you have a solid team with complimentary skillsets & some background in the industry you’re venturing. How are you going to execute the plan & why are you the best ones to take it forward?
Sheth wisely notes that any slide you include your deck will inevitably be a blend of these basic blocks.
- Problem-Market = Industry Dynamics
- Solution-Market = Competition
- Market-Business = Unit Economics
- Problem-Solution = Product Viability
So the suggestion is to first get your 5 basics right, then create the slides.
To learn how one must structure their startup pitch deck, watch these insightful videos by Slidebean.
Although knowing the structure helps in theory, taking direct inspiration from a few good examples can really help you hit the nail on the right spot.
So where can you find these examples? Easy! Pitch Deck Hunt is a dedicated platform that contains 200+ pitch decks from successful startups across various industries & funding stages (like Seed, Series A, Series B).
Check out their site to learn from the best pitchers at Shopify, Airbnb, Uber, Coinbase, WeWork, and more. Oh, did I mention it’s all free?
BTW, have you created a pitch deck for any of your ventures?
Share the link below & we can dissect what works + what can be improved!
Barriers to Purchase
While making any sales, there are five factors that usually cause people to hesitate when they have to pull out their wallets.
Addressing these barriers in your communications can help you preemptively tackle their effects and convince the customers before they even raise the concern.
|1||Cost||Spending too much money on it i.e. loss aversion||Flexi-pricing plans, No-risk return policy, ROI calculator|
|2||Effectiveness||Doubts about whether it will actually work||Free live demo, Testimonials|
|3||Personalization||Doubts about whether it’ll serve their individual needs||Questionnaire, Free trial, Guarantees|
|4||Time||Willing to wait & look around for a better tradeoff||Countdown time-bound sale, create Urgency to solve|
|5||Convenience||Feeling it will be too difficult to operate or understand||Live tutorials, Resources & Training, FAQs page|
These objections are not restricted to traditional offline sales.
If you’re a digital marketer making a Landing Page for a product or campaign, addressing the above concerns will give you more conversions from incoming traffic, and also result in a lesser bounce rate as visitors will spend more time reading your messaging with keen interest (because it directly addresses their fears).
This table’s also from Kaufman’s book. Any other barrier you think he missed?
Let me know in the comments.
Team Motivation Levers
The biggest challenge all leaders face is keeping their colleagues invested in the project/company through the tough or boring times.
PM Leadership on Instagram notes the 5 Kinds of Motivation you need to impart daily as a team lead or group manager.
LEVER 1: CLARITY OF DIRECTION
Your #1 job is to find a required goal & then chart the rough direction or path to achieve it. Most managers suck at the latter.
That’s because they think they can just fix the deliverables, set the targets and then sit back as their team figures it out. They think that giving steps or guidance = spoon-feeding. IT’S NOT.
“What the heck does my boss want me to do?” is the most common complaint from execs. Lack of clarity is the biggest de-motivator at work.
So when you’re briefing:
- Start with “why do we need to do this” – explain why it matters
- Share references, examples, case studies, etc. to set context
- Be clear on who the stakeholder/target audience is + what they’re expecting
- Suggest possible routes/options & the steps to get there
- Encourage asking questions, pitching alternatives, brainstorming, etc.
Always end your brief by asking “Are you clear on what’s expected? What resources & info will you need to get it done?”
LEVER 2: PERSONAL GROWTH
Most companies do a 6-month or yearly appraisal for their employees. There’s no discussion in-between on how the person is working every day, which hurts the consistency of how much they care.
But smart managers follow a monthly “Growth Plan” for their team. Every day is about learning new things, logging your mistakes and picking up new skills. The whole point is to make work look like an opportunity to find happiness, not as a chore just to pay the bills.
If people do what they enjoy, they’ll enjoy what they do. When employees know they can pursue a steady track record of learning & improving, they’ll stick around.
Set clear goals every month and show them the difference it will make if they achieve that growth, such as:
- In January, you’ll learn Excel basics from me. I’ll train you for 15 mins. every day. If you do well, you’ll be given more responsibilities to handle & be promoted to Senior Executive.
- This year, you’ll get to work on all 4 social media channels of our brand (one each quarter), becoming skilled to handle them all as a team lead next year.
- In Q2, your goal will be to collaborate with any 2 teams of your choice outside the marketing department. If you do well, you’ll be a good candidate to manage the whole cluster.
LEVER 3: BELONGING/CONNECTION
Most companies claim to be families. But they do nothing to actually act as one.
People lose interest when what they do to earn money … has no relation to what they do outside. They lose interest when their life feels disconnected from the workplace.
You must make them feel like they belong here naturally – that their life goals fit neatly with the job they do.
Do you only talk about work-related topics? Stop doing that & ask about their larger dreams, hobbies, likings, interests, travel plans, etc. outside office. If someone dreams of starting their business, instead of feeling threatened, see how you can support them in-house.
Ask about their families & loved ones. Who are the people in their house? When are their birthdays? What do they like as gifts?
Be a part of their hardships, sorrows, celebrations and personal achievements. Celebrate their happiness even & especially if its not connected to their job or performance.
Work is a PART of people’s lives. So if you try to make it their whole life, they’ll back out. Instead focus on how you can acknowledge & enrich other parts of their lives because that energy will come back multi-fold.
LEVER 4: VARIETY
Stop assigning fixed roles & hierarchies. Gen-Zs prefer the flexibility to collaborate with other teams & explore all their talents.
They should feel free to walk up to the CEO & ask if they can try their hand at a project in another department. I know someone in client servicing who used to be a very good photographer in his free time. That has always been his natural talent but he wasn’t pursuing it professionally because the pay-scale was low.
So our boss asked him to become the company’s official photographer since they wanted someone for that role anyway. Now he’s enjoying his new job & delivering much more value (and also getting fairly paid for it). If the boss had restricted him to his chosen role, he would’ve never bloomed into a key hire.
Unless you push people, they will stick to their comfort zones. Motivate them to come out & become multi-layered in their work.
If you encourage people to rotate between teams, you will benefit in the end, too, because you’ll end up with “Super Leaders” who can spot the links faster, taking the company forward. Nothing is more dangerous & powerful than a cross-functional, T-SHAPED Leader.
LEVER 5: SIGNIFICANCE
If people don’t see how they’re making a difference to the larger team, they’ll stop trying & just do the bare minimum.
Your job as a leader is to show them that they matter. They can’t see it for themselves, you must reveal the difference they make. It’s your job to communicate HOW they’re important or valuable.
Don’t just stick it on their work desks or by the water cooler. Make the praise real, quantified and personal.
Praise in public & give feedback in private – I can’t stress this enough. People feel very happy when you praise them in front of everyone else. Every fortnight, conduct a meeting to acknowledge the efforts of each member.
To sum up:
1. Set a clear direction
2. Push for personal growth
3. Invest in their hobbies/dreams
4. Encourage team-switching
5. Appreciate honest efforts
Without daily motivation via these five levers, your team will wither like cut roses kept in the cold.
So make it a daily habit to keep up the josh! (josh = energy)
Know your Golden Hours
As an entrepreneur, productivity is your biggest asset. But because you’re dealing with so much all the time, burning out is inevitable, for yourself and also for your team.
So how can you manage your work/time better? Here’s a simple insight.
Your 4-6 AM is not the same as your 12-2 PM. This is the most important time management lesson I’ve learned. Many friends & colleagues often ask, “Manik, how do you juggle so many personal hobbies with your work? When do you find the time to do all this?” The truth is … I don’t.
I have the same 24 hours as you.
The same job pressure & stress.
The same responsibilities at home.
And the same amount of energy.
But I’ve realized that time works differently for me throughout the day. I started tracking my productivity for a few weeks to understand when I get most work done or come up with my best ideas. The results were interesting.
I am a complete beast from 4-6 AM. The world is quietly sleeping & my creative muscles come into the fore. I type at light speed & do mental heavy lifting with ease. So this is when you’ll see me sending out my briefs or emails (although now I schedule them to go out later so my colleagues don’t feel concerned).
I’m very serious & I kill all distractions during this slot. I then go back to sleep for a couple of hours before getting up to leave for the office.
Conversely, I’ve noticed that I slow down after lunch & around 5 PM. This used to bother me because it felt like I was procrastinating. But now I welcome it with the label “Recharge Time.”
So I do all the listening, meeting others, aligning with teams, catching up on emails, etc. during these slots because these tasks don’t require my full energy/involvement.
I’ll browse Pinterest & YouTube to feed my brain but refrain from creating. Mind you, I’m still working … just in a different way. Because I’ve realized that deliberately slowing down & relaxing is an important step in sustaining your energy.
I also get tired while coming home from the office so I’ve been using this time to listen to good podcasts or music. To everyone, it looks like I’m working hard all the time.
But I’m simply splitting & slotting different types of work depending on the energy I know they need. Find your golden hours. Then double down on them. You’ll become a time traveler, trust me. The takeaway? Time management isn’t about utilizing all your time.
It’s about knowing how time WORKS IN YOUR CASE. Have you taken the time to figure that out?
So those were some of my favorite frameworks to tackle problems in the business world.
Have you already applied any of them before? Which ones are you going to use? Do you have any more concepts that we could add to this list?
Let me know in the comments below!
The Power of Lead Generation: How to Generate More Leads Than Ever Before
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