A little story about “A” players

'A' Players

No doubt you want your startup to be filled with ‘A player’ hackers and hustlers.

This is the common reason why we people talk up the importance of so called A players:

A Players attract A Players


B Players attract C players.

Personally, I think we are all A,B and C players. What determines our quality of play is the culture we are immersed in. The people we are around, the tasks we are asked to do, whether this is the right industry or project for us, and maybe even the playing habits of those in charge.

I strongly believe A, B and C players are a function of the environment, not the person. We’ve all had periods and places where we’ve excelled and others where we have been the weak link. So in real terms, our job in any organisation should be about creating a culture where A players happen to emerge.

Follow me on SnapChat – search ‘Sammartron’ for more business insight.

What entrepreneurs can learn from my terrible cover band

Beatles tribute band

As a teenager I was in a cover band. Which is bit like selling imitation goods at the market for discount prices. We practiced a couple of times a week, for about a year. Sure we improved, but never thought we were good enough to start doing gigs. We never left the garage. What a waste.

Maybe we were good enough, maybe we weren’t. Whatever we thought didn’t matter because there was no feedback from the market, only voices in our heads and group think. (pun intended).

But worse that that, is this. We would much rather have played our own songs, but didn’t believe we had the talent. We didn’t even allow ourselves the privilege of doing what we believed in. We ended up hidden away playing ‘songs we liked’ and never sounded as good as the originals. Which no one ever can. Our fear from ourselves killed our dream before we even started. Our net results was worse than if we tried to do originals and failed.

When starting anything, here’s a few things to remember:

  • We’ll never be ready.
  • Copies get compared to who came first, and always make less money.
  • It’s harder to compare, when you make original stuff.

Get out of the garage and be original. It is better to fail being you, than fail by not quite being them.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Entrepreneurs, it’s ok to copy


There’s a tension in our connected world about being the originator. Apparently those who invented it first always win. It is said that the best entrepreneurs are those who change things. It turns out though, those that win reinterpret that which is already here.

Here are a few examples of things that weren’t invented by who you think:

Some break dancing way before it ever appeared in the Bronx.

A graphical user interface & mouse way before Apple.

The first automobile from China in 1672, way before Carl and Henry.

So the next time you get accused of copying someone, just tell them they copied their DNA from their parents. They copied their language from their community and they should also start copying their ideas from the giants who came before them. We first must copy before we can create. Go forth and copy.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

What I always tell door to door sales people might surprise you

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Whenever a door knocker comes to my home to sell me something I probably don’t need, or already have – like electricity, I always tell them the same thing:

Congratulations – you’re going to be rich!

Yep, I give them praise for what they are doing (one of the most difficult jobs there is). I then go onto tell them about how the skills they are gathering will give them a massive life advantage in any developed economy. I remind them what these skills include:

  • Dealing with rejection. (Yes, I politely tell them I am not going to buy upfront)
  • Learning how to sell to a stranger.
  • Learning to sell products which are homogenous, boring, commodities & even unwanted.
  • Learning how to talk and pitch – their pitch time is at most a few seconds.
  • Understanding body language.
  • The power of persistence.
  • How much courage they have and their willingness to work (I’m guessing it’s job you only take out of desperation)

There’s more but you get the picture.

Most often they are pleased I’ve noticed this, and sometimes the hardworking sales person doesn’t even realise what a terrific opportunity this ‘horrible job’ turned out to be. I tell them it only gets easier from here. And if we happen to get into a conversation I give them some tips on selling, recommended some great sales trainers they can listen to; like Brian Tracy and Jim Rohn, and even some books worth reading. Lastly I explain to them that all CEO’s simply have to be Sales Rain Makers.

Even when we choose not to buy, we can still create some value for the seller.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

You don’t need an investor

Venture Capitalist

Yesterday I got an email from Sam Birmingham from Pollenizer, and it’s message was so compelling, I had to share it here:

It is something we hear all too often… “I was wondering if you could help me find an investor?”

You don’t need an investor. You need customers.

You don’t need an investor. You need to prove that you are developing a sustainable business model.

You don’t need an investor. You need to focus on learning as much as you can with the finite resources at your disposal.

Sometimes having limited time / money / people can be an advantage. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Stop making and start answering the most important question in entrepreneurship – what comes next? 

For more startup goodness be sure to check out the Pollenizer blog. 

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

The best single lesson Bill Gates gave every startup & product manager

Bill Gates 1980's

The worlds richest man, Bill Gates, did something important all those years ago when he lead the personal computing revolution. He didn’t let perfection get in the way of success. In fact, he became the worlds richest man by selling a product which in many ways was well, suboptimal. His software crashed so often it was just a normal part of the product usage experience. And we accepted the situation for one simple reason: it was better than the alternatives. It was better than doing the work manually. It enabled us to create malleable work. It enabled us share information electronically. At the time this was such a shift forward in communication, the imperfections, the problems, the crashes and other stuff Microsoft became famous for still made it better than the substitutes.

This story makes clear two points when it comes to product strategy:

  1. Users will tolerate imperfect products that provide significant utility jumps over what they are currently using. Think game changers – Tesla short mileage range comes to mind.
  2. If the product is a ‘me too’ offer, then the only thing that will create success is the exact opposite: Seamless user experience, beauty, stability and reliability. The hassle of switching must be worth the effort. Instagram comes to mind.

If our startup is introducing people to a much better option, we need to move quick and fill the void, even if it has known imperfections. We shouldn’t be afraid of making it better later, once it’s already in market. But if, we are entering an established game, we better be sure it’s not full of bugs. But sometimes the hardest thing to do is not fool ourselves as to which category we are actually playing in.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Going back to the well

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This year I’ve been working steadily on my new book and sharing ideas with people who want to know about the technology revolution. And while it is true we are always learning while on the job, I feel like people in the information business need an off-season as much as professional sportspeople and musicians do. Problem is we don’t tend to plan for it on an annual basis as much as other ‘seasonal industries’ do. Which could lead us into a dangerous pattern of already knowing what we know, or at worst obsolescence through ignorance. The ironic thing is that this exact behaviour pattern is what is causing large corporations to be disrupted. They are so busy doing what they do, making what they make and utilising the assets they already own that they rarely go back to the well.

If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer (like I am) then we need to ensure we don’t get so deep into our work wormhole that we ignore the world around us. Screens and offices are very dangerous places to watch the world from. It’s probably better to make, break and explore a few things outside of our work to ensure we keep our edge.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!