Category Archives: Community Articles

Articles written the the Yerevan ProductCamp Community

The Art of Networking Meeting Interesting People

The Art of Networking Meeting Interesting People
By Laura Bilazarian

One of the most initially intimidating aspects of being an entrepreneur or salesperson is networking.  (And let’s just get it out there, it’s basically impossible to be an entrepreneur without also being a salesperson)

The first step to go from dreading networking to enjoying it is to think of it as meeting interesting people instead of networking.  For example, at Product Camp, I’m going to meet three interesting people.  This will help with being genuine, which is critical for success.  It also makes networking fun.

I’ve complied some tips below as a foundation anybody can use to get started, but like anything, it’s practice, practice, practice.  Remember, half of your success is what you are saying, but half is also body language and subtle nonverbal cues (how you present yourself).*   As you practice, watch others who you think are doing well and mimic the parts that also work for you. 

Last, never ever be intimidated by anyone.  Remember, that in most cases, the only difference between the über successful and you is years of hard work.  Most remember fondly the time when they were in your shoes, in the trenches, fighting every day, and love meeting young entrepreneurs or technologists (assuming you are polite and confident). An exercise to help you get over intimidation is to go to series of events and walk right up to and have a conversation with the most intimidating person in the room. (Although if you want to do business with this person, this violates my “always get introductions” rule – see below)

networking-people

Expert Rules for Networking

Be Confident, Genuine and Smile:  Smile, eye contact, firm handshake and be genuine.  Change your mindset to being interested in what makes this person awesome, rather than in what they can do for you.

Questions and Connecting:  Ask a lot of smart questions. If you have something to pitch, try to work it into something the other person is saying, but remember events are not really the place for full-on pitching; they are a place for learning, for serendipitously meeting awesome people, and for hosting meetings that you planned in advance with people you got introductions to, which brings me to my next rule

Get Introductions:  Always get introductions if you can, especially for high level people (and if you can’t, find a way to).  This means in advance of an event, look up who is going and who you want to meet.  Find a way to get an introduction, or if you truly can’t get an intro, find a way to be of value.  For example, hey mister CEO, I hear you are coming to Armenia, would you like meet so I can give you a brief overview of the landscape? I can arrange a bunch of meetings or an event with all the top Armenian startups if you’re interested.  You can make it more appealing by having the meeting while you show them some local tourist or other off-the-beaten-path spot.

SHORT Elevator Pitch:  That said, always have an elevator pitch.  This should not be more than five sentences.  If the person is still interested, you can tell them the next fifteen, BUT

Leave at the peak of the party:  Once you feel you’ve connected with someone, ask for their card and move on.  Business is about momentum and trust, and it takes multiple interactions to build both.  The point of first meeting is to get people interested in you and maybe your idea, and then the rest comes down to follow up, so…

Follow up while people are still high from the party:  This means the day after the event.  Send a short “nice to meet you” note with your contact information (or a linkedin request – but with a message!) and whatever follow up you spoke about (try to add value!).  This is critical because they will assume if you are doing that with them, you do this in other aspects of your business (ahem, with customers).

Be nice to everyone, including the crazies:  A VC friend of mine is one of the most connected people on the planet, and when I asked him how, he said “Give time to everyone, even the crazies, you never know where a hot lead or idea will come from,” but then he did add “only fifteen minutes for the crazies.”

Golden Rule #1:  It’s very simple:  give before you get.  The happiest people with the strongest networks are those who are always thinking how they can help others out first.**  I promise once you flip your mind to be focused on “what can I do for this person?” rather than “what can this person do for me?” the world will open up in entirely new ways for you.

Golden Rule #2:  Busy people hate uncertainty (and long emails, phone calls and meetings).  When you are asking a busy person for something, try to be as brief and direct as possible.  The higher up they are, the more important it is to narrow your ask to one or two direct action items.  Also, don’t ask for general meetings or phone calls – send an agenda in advance or at least give a reason for the meeting.  Don’t ever ask busy people anything you can figure out by Googling it.  
*Working out regularly really helps with your presentation because you will naturally stand taller and appear more formidable and healthy. There’s this phenomenon among VCs that any entrepreneur who looks like Mark Zuckerberg gets funded. In my opinion, most fit techies look like Mark Zuckerberg.

**The first golden rule is a bit of a nebulous concept for those who haven’t been practicing.  I suggest getting started by trying to think of three things you can do for everyone you meet and make introductions as often as possible – without forcing it of course.  When in doubt, you can ask “Is there anything I can do for you?”, but this is a bit of a lazy way out – come prepared with ideas!!

Scaling on up…

When a business is in its start up phase its simple; The entrepreneur is involved in every aspect of the business and most everything can be done by the boss. Save for some exceptions and the cases of selling the skills of the entrepreneur as a professional service, this period of innocence is usually (hopefully) short lived and is followed either by sudden death or the need to scale up. If you are at the threshold of turning from a small business to a medium sized enterprise here are some tips for paving your way into a smooth transition.

Get a loyal core team – Your business is entering a phase where it is going to be harder and harder to personally pay proper attention to everyone that comes and goes. Know who your loyal team is and never forget that loyalty is a two way street. Don’t spare any time or resource to get to know your core team and invest into their development. This will show a genuine dedication and will be rewarded generously.

Trust, delegate and switch from visual to instrument flight – If once you knew every customer and the entire history and nuances of their purchase, it is not humanly possible to have this information in your head and deal with situations when you have tens of thousands of customers. This means that you have to delegate not only tasks but also the authority to make decisions. Beware of the entrepreneur’s tendency to micromanage. You will feel like you can do things better than everyone else but you are probably wrong, nobody will do things exactly as you would but at the end of the day they will probably do a great job in their area of expertise and let you focus on actually running and growing the company.

Getting good people on-board – Its cute and all when you are the smartest person on board when you first launch your company but you should be working on changing this very early on by coming in contact with and attracting talented people as early as possible. If you have tens of thousands of customers and your turn over is in the millions and you are still the smartest person at the company then start worrying, you are probably not running at optimal thrust and are headed for stalled growth in the near future. Go to events, network, advertise and interview. Get smart people on board, you will find a use for them.

Invest into technology – You don’t have to build software yourself but no matter what you do, even if you are in a more traditional branch like pharma or real estate, every business needs good software to run on. Your software will always be the most scalable part of your business, so when you are ready to scale up be sure to have a stellar software backbone.

Identify the gaps that affect the quality of your service or product and build systems to plug the big holes – If quality assurance is an unknown discipline to you now is a good time to get to know it. Remember, quality pays for itself and is the only option for a business that plans to be around for a while. Learn how to perform root cause analysis, implement systems for continuous improvement with corrective and preventive actions, perform risk analysis and listen and react to your customers’ complaints.

Of products and product managers

The New Normal in Marketing
by Khachik Badeyan

Management

Gone are the days when a boss would sit in an armchair in his cozy room isolated from his employees who are just a cog in the mechanism generating money for the former. What matters nowadays is the team and the management.

A good manager is the one who can outsource as much routine and repetitive tasks to his employees and respective departments as possible. However in the case of CEO or any high rank manager even that is not enough as there is a need to monitor all the job done and the product progress. If we look even further – when a new project starts the high rank managers won’t have enough time to monitor all change and keep up with the daily tasks.

Who are Product Managers?

Product managers are people who grow products, whose each decision is based on numbers, on analytics and logical reasoning. The product is their sun and they revolve around it. Their sole goal is the product growth.

Every product manager has KPIs and all of them unite in one term named growth.

What is Product?

As stated by Simon Sinek in his why/how/what presentation at TED it does not matter what you offer to people, if you don’t know why they should want have it, and how you shall make the product exist and deliver them to customers. A product is the feeling, an urgent need to have the thing a company can offer.

Companies shall never proceed to thinking about how to deliver a commodity to the customer before

  1. creating an itch or finding a pain that troubles many
  2. putting the product there to comfort those
  3. creating an emotional bond

Product Growth.

No matter what is the product and what are the KPIs of a product thes 3 steps are crucial to every growth strategy

  • Getting Visitors
    make people see your product
  • Activating Members
    make people take action
  • Activating Users
    make people believe in your product

The most important for doing the above of course is having the right data and the right tools to analyse it. Implementing the analyitics is one of the most important tasks of a product manager.

A thing to remember – product manager without numbers is a disaster.

The Team

The 2 cornerstones of hiring:

  1. CEOs hire Product Managers who know more than them.
  2. Product Managers hire those who know what they don’t and do what they don’t (want to) do.

The big problem with old style business was that only people with lower than the employer qualifications would be hired (mostly). But the progress shows that managers shall hire people from whom learning something is possible.

Automation

The next big piece in this game is the time management. The product manager shall automate whatever actions is possible (paying bills, sending response emails to customers, shipping) and outsource as much action to his employees as possible.

Often employees need to decide whether to accept the money transaction or the refund dispute or reject it? In the old style business all employees need permission from superior officers. The new business on the other hand won’t work like that: employees shall inherit a part of the decision making permissions from higher ranked personnel. The last also creates ground for the employees to grow both as professionals and business owners (by the means of being part of the decision making process).

Product manager suggests but does not force. All in all the best Product Manager is the one who leaves the company and nothing breaks.