Diversity in the Triangle – a list of women and minority entrepreneurs

As our community continues to grow, more and more women and minority entrepreneurs are launching, leading, and growing amazing companies. Take Tatiana Birgisson of Mati Energy Tea, she went out and crushed the Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Day and Anil Chawla, the founder of Archive Social, took home the $100K from Steve Case’s Rise of The Rest tour. These are just two of the many great examples of awesome people we have right here in the triangle.

With the help from folks like Derrick Minor and Ellie Gamache of American Underground (much thanks!), I started to comprise a list of females and minorities in the entrepreneur scene along with business resources / mentor-ship available to both females and minorities

Woman led companies, entrepreneurs and investors in the Triangle:

Food and Beverage:

Slingshot Coffee Company
Mati Energy Tea
Raleigh Raw
Videri Chocolate Factory
Raleigh Brewing
Simply B Gluten Free
Gadabout Food
Bombshell Brewing
AC Restaurants (Ashley Christensen)
Fiction Kitchen
The Cupcake Shoppe
ORO Restaurant
Bida Manda
Pie Bird
Cast Iron Group (The Cookery/ Dashi)
SweetPea Bakery
YAWP bars
Escazu Chocolate
Nighthouse Kitchen & Bakery
Yellow Dog Bread Co.
Empress Room
C. Grace
Sweets By Alexandria

Clothing / Retail:

Vital Plan
Edge of Urge
Scout and Molly’s
Raleigh Denim
High Cotton
Nora & Nicky’s
Moon & Lola
Martian Creations
Lyf Shoes
Impress Coffee
Lisa Stewart Designs
Kenda Kist Designs
Dear Hearts
Clique Publique
UVO Luxury
Ramble Supply Company
Arrow + Sage
Textile Scents


Hostel Rocket
Sprout Pharmaceuticals
Imangi Studios
Wiser Systems
ArtHive Online
Albright Digital
Akili Software
MedPro Rx
Remedy Health
Axial Exchange
Thrive 47
Task Torch
Clave BIOdesign
Mlinzi Vaccines
Intelligent Campus Solutions
Nine Oak Media

Marketing / Professional Services:

Brooks Bell
Greenroom Communications
One Woman Shop
TJA Accountant
The Paystub People
WunderBar Translations
MMI Public Relations
Crossroads PR & Marketing
Sepi Engineering
Carolyn Scott Photography
Mulkey Engineering
Phreckles Photography
Simply Photography
Esther Campi (Campi & Co)
HeskethOak City Labs
Abby Nardo Photography
BWPW Photography
Glenwood Agency


Innovate Raleigh
Leadership Exchange
Headbands for Hope
Redress Raleigh
Activate Good
Umstead Hotel & Spa
NC Theatre
Visual Art Exchange
SOAR Triangle
e51 Community
Raleigh Arts Collective
Nicole Wicker Consulting
Change The Triangle
Shannon Andrews Consulting
Art of Cool Project
HEAT Studios
Turn Me Loose
Live Work Play

Women doing awesome things and involved in the scene:

Mayor Nancy McFarlane
Christina Motley
Delisa Alexander
Noreen Allen
Sheryll Waddell
Heather Allen
Jan Davis
Jennifer Meeks
Carter Worthy
Liz Tracy
Allyson Sutton
Samantha Attard
Molly Demarest
Ellie Gamache
Jennifer Stanigar
Jes Averhart
Laura Baverman
Melissa Kennedy
Amy Huffman
Lizzy Hazeltine
Reagan Reynolds
Dana Calder
Jessica Mitsch
Cicely Mitchell
Kelly Sexton

Minority Led companies, entrepreneurs and investors:

Food and Beverage:

J Anthony’s BBQ Sauce
Lonerider Brewing
Eschelon Experiences
Nickelpoint Brewing
Bida Manda

Clothing / Retail:

Martian Creations
Nyla Elise


Global Data Consortium
Archive Social
BioPharma Advisors
Singh Development
Remedy Health
ELXR Health
Global Market Resources
Maintec Technologies

Marketing / Professional Services:

Sepi Engineering


Parks Hospitality


Office Hours – HQRaleigh, American Underground, The Startup Factory, Groundworks Labs, and many more local organizations widely publicize that they hold free office hours with local professionals. To my knowledge, no one has ever been turned down based on gender or race.

Structured programming – Organizations like CED, SCORE, and Entredot have structured programs to help small (and established) businesses get off the ground. Most of their programming is free, but some events and programs do have a small cost.

Soar Triangle – Backed by Google, the yearlong program offers tailor-made mentoring and investment opportunities for four female-led startups. Soartriangle.com

Black Girls Code – Based out of American Underground @Main, BGC focuses on girls aged 7-17 in hopes to help fuel the passion for a STEM focused career path. http://www.blackgirlscode.com/

E51 Coffee Connections – Peer mentoring groups, which are part of the new Entrepreneurial Ecosystem powered by women. Contact HQRaleigh.com for more info.

Derrick Minor’s email – The most comprehensive entrepreneur and startup focused event list delivered right to your inbox every few weeks. To sign up visit derrickslist.com

American Underground has launched an initiative to have its membership be comprised of at least 50% females and minorities. To back this up they’ve hosted events and organizations such as Black Girls Code, partnered with CODE2040 to launch an Entrepreneur in Residence program to support minority led firms and launched Soar Triangle to close the funding gap for female led firms.

Of course I couldn’t possibly cover everyone and every resource. If I’ve missed something, please feel free to either comment on the blog or email me will@vergestartups.com

8 Universal Qualities of Great Pitch Decks

“Send me your deck.”

Early entrepreneurs hear this a lot. And it’s because a pitch deck is a great way for an investor or potential customer to quickly size up your company. 

So, don’t leave this important communications piece to chance. We interviewed eight experienced entrepreneurs to get their perspective on the important aspects of an effective pitch deck.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one lesser known thing you can include in a pitch deck that will really wow a VC?

1. Revenue

Danny BoiceWe very deliberately set out to have a solid revenue story for investors from day one. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s unfortunately quite rare. I can’t believe how many investors we’ve pitched to who couldn’t believe that we had revenue our first month in business.

– Danny BoiceTrustify

2. A Personal Connection

Kristopher JonesDo research on the personal background of the person(s) you are sharing a deck with, and find one or more things in common to create a lasting personal connection. Maybe you went to the same college or high school. Maybe you are both Philadelphia Eagles fans (that would make three of us) or both attended Burning Man. A genuine personal connection can impress a VC and set the tone for discussion.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

3. Synergies With Their Current Investments

Daniele GallardoI found that it is really important to understand the portfolio of your VC or strategic partner. Browsing the companies that they funded in the past gives you an understanding of what is important to them. If the companies are in the realm of what you do, it is often very simple to find synergies that the VC would really love to see in your deck. Do the homework for them, and show them!

– Daniele Gallardo, Actasys

4. Lessons Learned

jared-brownTelling VCs that you’ve made mistakes and sharing what you’ve learned from them will definitely make you stand out from the other startups that might be pretending to be perfect. You’ll show them that you’re adaptable, resilient and perceptive — all qualities they’re looking for in a potential investment. Then show how the lessons added to the value of your product or expanded your market reach.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

5. People Who Believe in You and How to Contact Them

dave-nevogtIf you already have influencers and advisors on board, show VCs who the three or four most important ones are and how to best get in contact with them. Having established entrepreneurs and businesspeople who will sing your praises to potential investors is an important signal of credibility, and in some cases, it can sway a VC that’s potentially interested but still needs some reassurance.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

6. Video

Miles JenningsVideo and imagery are what attracts attention most from any audience you are trying to speak to, even an audience of VCs. Include a short video in your pitch that shows who you really are as a company, what you have accomplished and what your goals are. The video will make your story more tangible and will give a VC an inside look at your company and what you have to offer.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

7. Thorough Financials

Jason LaAs an active investor in early stage companies, I review pitch decks every week, and I would be impressed by a thorough discussion of key metrics beyond mere sales projections. This should include compound annual growth rate, customer acquisition cost and return on equity as well as a timeline of the cost to achieve specific milestones. Thorough financials demonstrate solid business acumen.

– Jason La, Merchant Service Group, LLC

8. Future Vision of the Industry

Mike SeimanInclude the vision of the future of your industry. Too many people get caught up in the numbers and forget to tell a story. VCs want to know the bigger picture – where your company and your industry is going. In the end, marketing and finance decks aren’t that different. Both tell VCs a story and focus on getting them to invest in that vision.

– Mike SeimanCPXi

How to Steal the Best Digital Marketing Ideas

Eric Clapton MasteryEric Clapton became a guitar god by first practicing riffs created by blues guitar legend Robert Johnson. Clapton developed his own style as he listened to other artists, played with new bands, and found the guitar licks that he grew to love.

Becoming a master of digital marketing is no different.

But first, you’ve got to get the right stuff into your brain (Clapton wouldn’t have become Clapton if he’d imitated amateurs). If you want to master digital marketing idea generation, you have to first get comfortable with borrowing things that work elsewhere.

Use this 20-minute daily practice to steal the best digital marketing ideas for your start up or growing company.

Become a magnet for digital marketing strategy ideas.

Set aside 20 minutes a day. Go ahead and block it out on your calendar so you commit to it. Then use the time as follows:

First 5 minutes: Choose the 10 best growth articles of the day.

Skim through the 3 best marketing ideas bubbling up on the internet that day. You can subscribe to company emails that you like to find fresh digital marketing ideas. But I like to use Q&A and user-submission tools to help me identify what’s worth reading and what isn’t. I highly recommend:

During this first 5 minutes, you should simply identify the 5-10 most compelling articles. Identify these by finding the submissions that have the most upvotes, comments, or keywords in the title that indicate the article might be particularly relevant to your business.

Pro Tip: You can do this process even more quickly by hold shift while you click each tab. This will open the article in a new tab without changing windows and allow you to complete this first part of discovery quickly.

Second 5 minutes: Identify the best digital marketing ideas.

Is it worth reading every word of every article that catches your attention online? (hint: probably not)

digital marketing ideas

Get in the habit of good skimming technique by taking the 5-10 articles identified in your first 5 minutes of discovery and forcing yourself to review the article in 30 seconds or less. Do this by reading through the headlines and subheads, bolded words, and key phrases (which generally appear in the first and last sentences of paragraphs).

Your goal here should be to find the best 3 articles for you to dig into and really comprehend. These should be articles that challenge you to think in a new way or learn something new.

Third 5 minutes: Dig in.

Now that you’ve figured out where the gold is hidden, it’s time to put on your headlamp and headlamp. Because, we’re going mining!

In each of your final three digital marketing ideas, look for explicit tactics that are tied to measurable outcomes. As you identify clear tactics, jot some notes on how you might apply those same marketing tactics to your business. Here’s an example of a digital marketing concept:

“Add a live chat function on product pages”

Keep it brief, but descriptive. If necessary, add a couple of extra thoughts on how you could make this marketing idea work for your business. We’ll need that for the final step.

Final 5 minutes: Build out one digital marketing idea.

You should have about 7-10 concepts from three articles at this point. Now it’s time to identify and dig in once again.

Rank your marketing concepts by potential impact to your business or ease of implementation, depending on your current work capacity. Write a number to the left of each concept statement indicating which should be top priority (number 1).

Then, take your number one idea and bullet out a few more notes on that concept:

  • What existing campaign or marketing strength would this concept leverage?
  • Given your existing marketing strategies, what kind of impact could you expect to your key metrics? Write these down as rough goals.
  • How quickly could you expect to implement? Jot down what you think might be a good goal.

Save these notes to review at the end of each week. This is an important step for getting your marketing ideas implemented

Make your digital marketing idea your own.

Using this 20-minute daily practice with allow you to see enough digital marketing ideas to come up with your own ideas. By giving yourself some time between initial idea generation and review at the end of each week, you’ll give your subconscious the space it needs to gestate.

By making this a daily habit, your brain will begin to see patterns in digital marketing ideas. This discipline will help you steal and implement the best ideas, and give our business the biggest opportunities by making them your own.

BONUS: How to Get the Best Marketing Ideas before they hit the Internet

Pssst… here’s a little secret that the best entrepreneurs and marketers don’t want you to know…

The very best marketing ideas are usually shared at industry conferences months before the case studies get shared publically on the internet. This gives you time to capture the market and refine before others start stealing the same marketing ideas.

Join the MBO Digital Marketing Conference and Ideate Like a Boss

Verge HQ teamed up with one of the Midwest’s best digital marketing conferences, MBO. We’re hosting our pitch night this Wednesday, April 29th. We’ll have a panel of marketing tech thought leaders, as well as some of the most innovative software companies presenting their tech and marketing.

But just for you, you can attend the entire MBO conference and get more than $60 off your registration with the code VERGE15.

Register now >>

MBO Indy




It’s no secret that Indianapolis is a leader in Marketing and Tech. I hope you’ll join us!


From Open Waters to Red Oceans: T.A. McCann’s Adventure as a Successful Sailor and Entrepreneur

T.A. McCann is one of the few people on the planet who can claim astronomical success in not one but two areas; in his case, sailing AND entrepreneurship. But are they that different? I sat down with the tech company founder and America’s Cup winner about both bouncing back from failure and tips for achieving success.

Watch the full interview with T.A. McCann here:

Adventures in Entrepreneurship and Sailing with T.A. McCann

sailing and entrepreneurshipMcCann got the entrepreneurial bug around the tender age of 12 when he started a lawn care business: “The feeling of independence and being able to control my own destiny has always been important to me.” Perhaps that’s why, after graduating from Purdue (which is still going strong when it comes to shaping entrepreneurs!) and becoming a mechanical engineer, he quit to pursue the freedom of the open waters. An accomplished professional sailor, he won the America’s Cup in 1992.

What do Sailing and Entrepreneurship Have in Common?

Quite a lot, in fact! In his blog post on the subject, McCann observes that the skill, engineering excellence and perseverance shown by Larry Ellison and his victorious Oracle Team USA are “all things that go into a building a successful startup.” From finding a competitive advantage to working under a deadline, watch McCann draw all the parallels →

“If you’re only achieving at 20%, the goal is too hard. If you’re achieving at 100%, then the goal is too easy.”

-T.A. McCann, Sailor / Entrepreneur / Investor

Resetting the Goal Posts.

TA MccannMcCann’s sailing career was not without some setbacks. When competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race (now called the Volvo Ocean Race), his team was closing in on victory when suddenly, the mast fell down. Bitterly disappointed, almost everyone on the team wanted to quit. But in the three days it took to get back to land, a transformation from despair to hope took place: “We tried to find what we could salvage. Could we still win the last leg? Could we actually complete the race?” After resetting the goal posts, the team did in fact win the last leg handily and achieved a lot of reset goals.

“We just showed up at the wrong time.”

Not every entrepreneurial venture was a success, either. McCann returned to the tech world from sailing in the late 90s – in the midst of the dot-com bubble – with a startup called Helpshare: “It was a reasonably good idea, and we had built the company properly, but right when we were planning to go raise money, the crash happened.”

The Case For Corporate Experience.

ta-mccann-americas-cupThe loss was devastating, and McCann ended up joining Microsoft. During his three years there, he financially and emotionally recharged while still innovating and learning skills on the scale of a large company, “things that are different than what you need to learn for a startup,” like how to build software for hundreds of millions of customers in 123 languages. Eventually, a venture capitalist McCann had worked with through the product he had built for Microsoft Exchange invited him to become an entrepreneur-in-residence.

Entering a Red Ocean.

In 2008, McCann launched Gist amid several competitors already in the content discovery space. It started with the goal bringing users relevant news but evolved, using integrations with Google’s and Twitter’s APIs, into a social address book: “If I have all of my contacts in one place, and the system can give me news both about them and by them, then I can use to better understand them, and by understanding them I can build better relationships with them.” Through consistent customer feedback, Gist evolved into a relationship manager and caught RIM’s eye, which acquired the company in 2011.

The Importance of Building Relationships.

rival iq ta mccannWhen I asked him for advice he would give to entrepreneurs, McCann underscored the importance of building relationships for recruiting, reaching thought leaders, courting investors, and finding customers: “The stronger a relationship is, the more likely someone is going to do something for you or recommend you or your product to somebody else.” His most recent tech venture, Rival IQ (which we use at Verge, and I highly recommend), can help you learn how to best build relationships with customers through data-driven marketing. McCann also shared his 5-3-2 Rule for building relationships on social media. Watch him explain the strategy →

Want to learn even more from T.A. McCann?

Join 1,000 founders, investors, and builders at this year’s Innovation Showcase in July! A limited number of Early-Bird tickets are available for the full conference with more than 70 fundable companies. Reserve your spot here →

Raw notes/timestamps:  show

Why did Jay Baer move to build his business in Bloomington, Indiana?

I lived there for three years of my life. But I was still surprised when I heard that Jay moved his wife and kids more than 1,600 miles to make their home in Bloomington, Indiana.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Bloomington. I mean, I started and sold my first real business in B-town. It’s just that you don’t run into many people who relocate their lives to what you might call a “college town,” and then not do business with the university. Best-selling author and marketing keynote speaker, Jay Baer recently explained his reasoning for moving to Bloomington, Indiana. Watch this candid story, shared at The Speak Easy co-working space  in Indianapolis:

In case you don’t have a relational database pulled up in another tab, let’s break it down in case you’re considering “B-town” for your business.

Pros of Bloomington, Indiana for Business:

  • jay baer bloomington indianaSave your capital for building your company. You sure as heck won’t need it to find a great place to live. In Bloomington, you can live and eat well, while keeping cash in the bank for your next full-time hire.
  • There’s literally a talent factory producing tech talent through the IU Informatics and Computing program as well as business brains pumped through the #1-ranked public school for entrepreneurship, The Johnson Center.
  • There’s a community of other people building businesses in Bloomington. Whether you visit startup accelerator, SproutBox, or an event at Verge Bloomington, you’ll find an energy unlike anything you’ll find on the coasts.

Cons of Bloomington, Indiana for Business:

  • It’s a college town, so there is a certain amount of transience. It could be more difficult to get local clients, if that’s your thing.
  • You have a smaller pool to test your product. Whether you have a new service, widget, or app, you have around 100,000 people in the town to use as your testing ground.
  • There’s less access to capital, if you don’t know where to look. While there are startup accelerators like SproutBox, who have helped build several successful companies (with a few wins, already), there just aren’t as many angels or VCs as you’d find in a metro area. That said, many investors travel to Bloomington regularly for business, visits to IU campus, and national conferences like The Combine.

Speaking of The Combine, I hope I’ll see you there this weekend. Yep. I’m going going, back back to B-town.

And I’m pretty stoked about it. With a few hundred people registered and keynote presenters like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (and serial entrepreneur, Jay Baer!), Bloomington is going to be a blast this Thurs-Sat. Use the code “INDYVERGE2014” and get 25% off when you register. So, if you haven’t already, get yours now!

So, what has your experience been with doing business in a college town? Is Bloomington an anomaly?

Reducing Small Business Expenses: 3 Startup Expenses That Pay For Themselves

Reducing Small Business ExpensesStartup founders are always looking for a creative way to reduce small business expenses. And to some, it may even seem almost pathological. 

“You ride your bike 10 miles to the office every day, Tim! Are you training for a triathlon or something?” …nope. Just reducing small business expenses. 

“Why is this proposal printed on the back of a takeout menu?” Well, obviously I’m reducing small business expenses. 

“Really? Dumpster diving!?”

Reducing. Small business. Expenses.

Luckily, Lauren Rose from BlueFirePR has broken down 3 small business expenses that end up paying for themselves and outlined how your startup or small business can benefit (and so you can sleep better at night). 

Less than 1 percent of entrepreneurs in 2009 came from an extremely rich or poor background, reports OnStartups. The finding represents 549 major company founders, and stresses a greater truth about starting a business: One does not need to be wealthy or come from extreme beginnings to flourish as an entrepreneur. One way start-up business owners can succeed is to use the techniques listed below to find small business necessities that pay for themselves.

Reduced Small Biz Expenses vs. Tax Write-Offs

The earliest stages of business development rely on those welcomed tax write-offs that will become inevitable at the turn of the first year, which include many purchases discussed in greater detail below (system software, tax filing). Such purchases pay for themselves because they can be deferred as tax write-offs and may include business cell phones, computer parts and entertainment purchases related to business that affect the bottom line. Bankrate.com details the big 12 write-offs that are self-paying:
  • Vehicle mileage
  • FurnitureReducing Small Biz Expenses Meme
  • Home office supplies
  • Child care
  • Social security
  • Retirement contributions
  • Insurance
  • Business-related gifts
  • Travel
  • Software
  • Telephone
  • Meals

Setting Up the Paperwork

doing-paperwork-like-a-bossPaperwork is a major initial expense for a small business. Fortunately, such an expense will rarely appear again, and may vanish forever. Because paperwork is required to start efficient business practices and attain prosperity in the field, it pays for itself almost immediately (though certainly in a different way than more tangible aspects of business). Paperwork pseudo-assets include bonding forms, tax identification, EIN number qualification and general business type filing for corporate, LLC, partnership and other company types, according to SBA.gov.

Of course, legal documentation is important. For a business in a creative field, trade marking various graphics and names will pay for itself immediately because doing so protects the business from being inherently sued right out of the gate. Copyrighting and trade marking logos, general business graphics and the business name facilitate business credibility. Without them, the business is left more vulnerable and may potentially collapse due to legal fumbling.

Software: The Crux of Small Business

small business cloud computingMany businesses prosper because of the software behind their functionality. A graphic design firm requires a sophisticated design software to succeed, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. A company that offers cloud services for firms unduly rely on cloud computing software systems to offer the service. These pivotal software systems, detailed by PC World, pay for themselves, because a firm would not be able to realistically offer the service without them.

One example, WordPress, is a borderline groundbreaking component to the modern Internet and business landscape, signaling WordPress-built home pages, integral blog pages and SEO-qualified specifications. Quickbooks by Intuit becomes paramount for accounting businesses, as well as Peachtree for administration and tax accounting.

As far as software goes, one of the most complete and essential is credit card processing software. The system is necessary to receive digital payments. AmericanExpress.com cash flow, for example, assists business in grounding their digital transactions en masse.

A business stands on the use of its software, whether the field is digital-based or not. No business can escape the need for a quality software and, if it does, it is unlikely to be a business that can gain major traction in this globally focused, small business environment.

For more information about starting your first business, check out these business skills you can put into practice for better results.

Where 11 Leaders Turn to Boost Business Decision Making Prowess

Business Decision MakingWe make hundreds of little decisions every day. Wear the black shoes, not the brown ones. Salad for lunch. Turn left. We don’t often doubt our own judgment in these situations. There isn’t much at stake, after all.

But when we run up against big business decisions that come with serious implications, something changes. We become more aware of just how unreliable our brains can be, and the stress we feel from uncertainty amplifies our own doubts. In these situations, we need a little help.

Avoid Common Business Decision Making Traps

Sometimes, we’re able to help ourselves. Here are a few examples of how you can pull yourself out of a business decision making trap (from the HBR):

  • Anchoring. Many people give disproportionate weight to the first information they receive. Be sure to pursue other lines of thinking, even if the first one seems right.
  • Status quo. Change can be unsettling and it’s easy to favor alternatives that keep things the same. Ask yourself if the status quo truly serves your objectives and downplay the urge to stay in your current state.
  • Confirming evidence. If you find that new information continually validates your existing point of view, ask a respected colleague to argue against your perspective. Also try to avoid working with people who always agree with you.

Here’s a little trick to pull yourself out of the quicksand of uncertainty and take action on a decision:

Work towards a binary decision (i.e., yes or no, this or that) and, once you have two options, flip a coin. Don’t go with whatever George Washington tells you to do–rather, try to gauge your reaction to the coin toss. If you’re disappointed by the outcome, then you should go with the other option.

Sometimes all of us need a little help.

So where do some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs turn to enhance their business decision making?

Business Decision Making Inputs

The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Where Leading Entrepreneurs Turn to Make Better Business Decisions

Michael Patak1. My Team
My team is going to be with me before and after a big business decision, so they should be part of the process. They know our customer base, and they can offer valuable insight to things that will affect the company.
Michael Patak, TopstepTrader



Laura Roeder2. My Intuition

I’m a huge believer in following your gut. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” for a scientific explanation of the incredible amount of wisdom and knowledge stored in your intuition. When faced with a tough decision, I go inward. Is my gut telling me this feels right or wrong? I’ve never regretted listening to my intuition, but I’ve often regretted ignoring what I knew to be true.
Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media


Joe Apfelbaum3. My Partners and Mentors

When I am faced with a big business decision, I always speak to my partner first. He is the person I spend the most time with in business, and we discuss everything. I also have a few mentors with whom I discuss decisions. I do that because they have been there already. They know from experience where things can go wrong, and there is nothing better than experience.
Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union


Panos Panay4. A Broad View of Perspectives

I tend to reach out to multiple people with multiple experiences and relationships to get as broad of a perspective as possible. It’s not uncommon for me to talk to as many as 15 people. Once I feel that I have input from a good cross section of people, I’ll make sure that I have some time alone to ponder the feedback, figure out how I feel and what my own inner voice says. Then I act.
Panos Panay, Sonicbids


Trevor Summers5. My Competitors

Yes, I talk to my competitors and people facing highly analogous challenges. You will be surprised what you can learn if you are willing to be transparent. Your secrets aren’t so secret, and if you help a competitor and yourself, you are both better off than facing the entire marketplace alone.
Trevor Sumner, LocalVox



David Ehrenberg6. A Group of Dissenting Opinions

I like to be surrounded by strong people who think differently than I do and whom I respect. These kinds of people who have different opinions are my go-to people when I’m facing a big business decision. They attack the issue from a different angle, play devil’s advocate to my traditional line of thinking and challenge me to defend my perspective.
David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services



Andy Karuza7. My Business Partner

My business partner and I are open in our discussions about our ideas. Most business decisions ultimately affect him, so it’s good to put two heads together to solve the problem by dissecting it and brainstorming possible solutions. Both of our experiences and the way we think are different, but our values are the same. The different ideas and aligned values help us make good decisions.
Andy Karuza, brandbuddee


Vanessa Van Edwards8. A Personal Board of Advisors

A personal board of advisors is a group of people you meet with regularly who are smart, savvy and trustworthy. They do not have to be in your industry; they just need to be able to help you when you have a big business decision. I love my personal board of advisors because the group is an amazing way to get feedback and have a personal support system.
Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People


Derek Capo9. My Father

My dad has a lot of experience growing a business as a pseudo-entrepreneur. He deals with the operations of the business and was instrumental in teaching me how to communicate with employees, suppliers and potential business partners. He isn’t afraid to give me constructive criticism on the decision or the process, and it is something that is needed for me and the company to improve.
Derek Capo, Next Step China


Eric Holtzclaw10. My Top Five

I have a group I call my top five, and it serves as my personal board of directors. I rely on my top five to help me look at big business decisions from different perspectives. I make sure these individuals have varying outlooks, experiences and temperaments. My Vistage group, a professional organization of other CEOs, has helped me more than I can express with some of my toughest decisions.
Eric Holtzclaw, Laddering Works


Heidi Allstop11. My Non-Startup Friends

Few founders use friends outside of the startup world and wrongly assume that they won’t understand. Though non-startup friends rarely ask questions about ROI, competition and investors, they often shed light on the valuable humanistic aspects of the decision, asking things such as, “Why are you hesitant? What do your users think? What do you want to happen?” Outsiders reveal a lot.
Heidi Allstop, Spill

How to Use Open Book Management to Drive Bottom-up Success

Open Book Management A company performs best when its people see themselves as partners in the business rather than as hired hands.

-John Case, Inc. Magazine

“Why is it that when private companies share their business data, everyone freaks out?” Scott Hill, Co-founder and CEO of PERQ, said as we examined the performance metrics plastered on a wall next to PERQ’s kitchen. “I mean, nobody gets uneasy when public companies disclose their earnings–they have to, after all–but when a private company does it, people wonder why. I don’t get it.”

Cracking a smile, Hill explained to me how Open Book Management has become core to PERQ’s culture–and success–in the video below.

Open Book Management Turns Business into a Game

“I’m not going to show the score to my team,” Hill said, tongue in cheek. “I’m just going to tell them when to play hard, I’m going to tell them when to be excited, I’m going to tell them when they’re not doing well.”

Yeah, right.

“We believe that business can be played as a game,” Hill said. “And in no other game does it make sense to not show the score.”

The Basics of Open Book Management

When John Case coined the term Open Book Management in the early nineties, he described three principles that would amount to a fundamental shift in business management:

  • Know and teach the rules: every employee should be given the measures of business success and taught to understand them
  • Follow the Action & Keep Score: Every employee should be expected and enabled to use their knowledge to improve performance
  • Provide a Stake in the Outcome: Every employee should have a direct stake in the company’s success-and in the risk of failure

The Great Game: Open Book Management Book

While John Case coined the term, Jack Stack at SRC Holdings made Open Book Management famous. For more info on Open Book Management, including Open Book strategies and the conference for Open Book Management, check out The Great Game.


Just Knowing the Score isn’t Enough

“If you know the score and you’re just playing a game of basketball, people might not care if you win or lose,” Hill said. That’s why simply sharing business data with employees isn’t enough. For Open Book Management to really succeed in practice, employees must be empowered to take independent action and incentivized to do so.

Hill’s game board is updated daily on where the team stands for the day, the month, and the game period, “So everybody always knows how they stand on their bonus opportunity.”

“To me,” said Hill, “There is nothing worse than a bonus being paid out in March for the previous year and no one even knows what they did or how it occurred, it’s just ‘Here’s your bonus for the year.’ You’re not getting the actual performance increase you can have happen when the team understands how the bonuses actually occur and what they can do to improve upon that.”

Questions or Comments About Open Book Management?

If you have other examples of Open Book successes (or failures), or if you want to dig a little deeper into Open Book Management, you know what to do–comments are below.

Special Invitation: We’re Launching PERQ’s new platform, FATWIN, at a very special Verge Pitch Night event on November 20th.

UPDATE: This event is SOLD OUT! But there will be a livestream on the Verge Facebook page. Here’s a sneak peak of the PERQ office:

The Art of the Ask

how to close more sales







Everyone knows that one person that has the “it” factor. They hustle, they convince, and they close. And whether they’re raising a round for their startup or making a sale, perfecting the art of the ask is the closer’s surest path to success. So, what do we know about the art of the ask?

Close More Sales Through the Art of the Ask

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Be intentional. Spend plenty of time thinking about your audience’s pain points and structure your conversation around that. Form each chunk of your pitch so that the next segment or point is the next logical step. The first 80% of your pitch should lead naturally to the ask. Establish a chain of logic to do this, one that your audience can follow step by step. If you’re asking them to purchase a product, walk them through a use case. Your ask is the punchline, so build to it.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Draw out the simple equation for success in your venture, and show them exactly where and how they can be a part of it. For fund raisers: if you don’t begin your pitch by telling the audience precisely what you’re asking for, then you should at least give them a good idea of what your ask will be. And your ask slide should have three easy to read points:

  • What you’re asking for
  • What you’ll do with it, and by when
  • Projected outcome

Prove it

While entrepreneurs might thrive in uncertainty, buyers don’t. Ever. Before you make your ask, you’ll need to demonstrate the value (track record, energy, core values, external validators like clients/other investors/team) your audience seeks. This helps establish credibility–and creditability is fundamental to the ask.

Similarly, build credibility with your audience by appealing to their intellect. People like their intelligence to be respected. So, while you may need to do some education in your pitch, be sure to discuss ROI, the marketplace you’re playing in, and the probability of success your audience can expect.

To really be able to prove it, you’ll also need to know exactly what you need. That’s what you’ll ask for–that, or 20-30% more (for negotiating). This is debated, but both are reasonable strategies.

Drama Isn’t a Bad Thing

Appeal to your audience’s emotions. People require data to qualify their decisions, but they respond emotionally to stories. You already know that emotion (pain points) drives most buying decisions, so be sure your pitch is focused in on those emotions.

In order to really understand how to appeal to your audience’s emotions, it’s a good idea to spend plenty of time creating buyer personas for your audience before entering the conversation. If you haven’t created them before, you really should learn more about buyer and user personas.

And when you can appeal to your audience’s nobler motives (Dale Carnegie nailed it) while solving their pain points, your ask will feel like a no-brainer.

Shut Up

Ask and then shut up. Don’t fill space with more babble because it feels awkward. Some people call this the silent close.

React with clear next steps if they say yes. Don’t act surprised, don’t waver, don’t give them any reason to second guess. Communicate REALLY well. And, regardless if they say no, don’t fail with a “second ask.”