Asking Questions

16 Aug

Day 7

It has been a full week since I received the news.  Finally today, I put the emotions aside and begin to create a market test summary and next-step strategy deck for my recent project on a mobile beta app.  It isn’t easy, I feel like I’m wrapping up something that was just beginning to gain momentum.  It was months of grueling work designing and creating the product.  And the marketing effort last month has not been easy after the Investor relations team threw my go-to-market plan out a week before launch, demanding that my market test stay out of the press since they have not announced a mobile strategy to the street and don’t want this to be mistaken for one.  I am, however, allowed to do “grassroots marketing”. Not sure think they understand the concept of grassroots marketing if I’m not allowed to have anybody blog about it, but I respectfully obliged.

The exact wording was I am allowed to do in any marketing in person, with no budget. So for the last month, aside from the the social media Facebook/Linkedin/Twitter marketing, I spoke at small business and tech events, handed out flyers, looked for any cork board I can find in New York to post handouts, and chatted up anyone and everyone on the streets.  I even got a sports podcast to mention my app to its listeners and someone to drive around NY/NJ with a promo flyer of my app stuck to their car.  If you can think of it I probably tried it, aside from tattooing the app name on my arm.

I wouldn’t say I’m attached to the success of this beta product, as I understand that being a lab, every product I work on is market test, and they can succeed or fail as long as I fail fast.  But while I’m conducting the market test, while I’m developing the product, While I believe this would benefit the small businesses that it serves, I intend to work my butt off market testing the heck out of it.  My boss was surprised at the number of downloads for an app that had no marketing budget and wasn’t allowed to be in the press.  He skeptically joked that I must have a a very large network of friends, but I don’t think he realized the amount of work and creativity I put in to it.  Sadly, I will leave this job before my largest speaking engagement at a prestigious event I worked very hard into next month.  I think I will notify the sponsors Monday, after wrapping up this project.

At lunch, I met with a colleague today and conducted more discovery interviews on both her and another friend for my new idea.  The thought of moving on to my own project was empowering after a sad morning.

In the evening, I attended a workshop on how to ask better questions.  Open vs. closed, understanding vs. problem solving, etc.

It was strangely therapeutic as we learn to become better listeners and better motivators by asking the right questions.  We paired up to practice our skills, and my first partner talked about his recent layoff from Zynga, his two months off spent with his family reconnecting with his life, and his recent employment at a start up group within a large tech firm.  I could hear the energy in his voice, and the relaxed tone from having taken a good break.  In exchange, I told him my story.  After, he gave me a high-five and welcomed me to the club, and shared with me what he sensed in my voice: fear, sadness, and a lot of excitement.

The latter half of the class I worked with a woman visiting from Saudi Arabia, and a local New Yorker who loves to travel.  We were, by way of asking the right questions, to help each other solve a current conundrum.  The visiting tourist was gorgeously beautiful and looked to be in her late teens/early twenties, so I was surprised when her conundrum was feeling guilty when she would spend less time with her children so she could visit the gym and spend some “me” time.  She had a graceful air about her, and her thoughtful look gave hint that her real conundrum could be more troubling, but those insights were reserved only for her confidants, if not herself.  The New Yorker in contrast was open and sharing, much like a cheerful sunflower.  She wanted desperately to take a ski or surfing trip with her husband, but was obliged to attend a wedding in Hawaii and visit her sister in London.  I led her with questions to conclude at combining the trips, then later suggested sites for hotels, nearby ski/surf locations, and places she could visit.  Lastly, I shared my conundrum – Do I try to start my own start up?  Or do I find a job while my skills are still desirable?  While one woman smiled at the understanding of how I came about to focus on travel, the other asked the pointed question “what is your fear?”

My greatest fear is to have squandered this opportunity.  Finding a job now would make the opportunity not exist, and offer an exit out of this dilemma.  Pursuing the opportunity gives it the possibility that I might have nothing to show for after 6 months, and having no accomplishment to show for is far worse than failure because you never even got the chance to fail.

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