I was a CEO once. In my first real company, Feld Technologies, there were two founders – me and Dave Jilk. I was President (we didn’t use the CEO title then, but as the President, I was the “chief executive officer”) and Dave was Vice President. As we grew, other people had different titles, but the two of us ran the business.

I’ve been told that I was a good CEO, but after about ten people I didn’t like the role of CEO. But we stayed after it and built a successful company that was consistently profitable and acquired by a public company in 1993 for a few million dollars.

The Acquisition

At the time it was acquired, we had 20 people. For the next nine months, I ran the consulting group of this public company. I reported to the two co-chairman and we quickly scaled up to 50 people in two offices. By the time we got to 50 people, I hated being the CEO of consulting group (I have no recollection what my title was, but again my role was the CEO role of this group).
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A little over a year ago I was in a precarious position, the Series A Crunch was in full swing, and I was debating on how to proceed with my startup BizeeBee. I had initially bootstrapped the business with personal savings and taking some angel investment. All the proceeds went towards product development.

While we had been generating revenue for 2 years, we weren’t quite at break-even. I knew that we needed to build even more product and start spending money on marketing to get there.

Faced with the decision between of getting acqui-hired and throwing in the towel, I chose a third option: bootstrapping. Except this time the funds would not come from investors or myself but directly from customers!

This guide will walk you through everything that I learned.

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startupcultureThere are a lot of cliches out there about organizational culture:

  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast
  • People leave the culture, not the company.
  • Your culture is your most valuable competitive asset

And in 20 years of working with organizations as both an internal and external consultant, here’s what I’ve learned: those cliches are all true. They may overstate the case a bit (they are cliches, after all), but I have seen these points play out in real life time and time again. A company has very clear intentions and plans about how they will compete, or how they will attract and retain the best talent, yet their culture ends up incompatible with these plans in important ways, and in most cases it’s the culture that wins and the plans (and results) that lose.

What’s doubly frustrating is that before you hit this rough patch, your culture seemed to be cooking along just fine. You WERE attracting the best talent and you WERE beating the competitors. You had created the proverbial “cool” place to work. So what went wrong?

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It’s hard to believe that 2014 is already here. For entrepreneurs, it’s a great time to take a jump and try something new. If you’re thinking about those much-anticipated next steps for your business, here’s some great reading material to guide you. In no particular order, here are Clarity’s top 11 posts from 2013.

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The best way to learn is from folks who have been there before you. Whether you’re starting your first business or your third, the journey can feel foggy. That’s why we rounded up some words of wisdom from 23 of Clarity’s most inspiring entrepreneurs last month. Readers loved it, so we’re bringing you 13 more tips. Read More…


Delight is a force of nature. It’s using an iPad for the first time. It’s getting a handwritten card from a Zappos employee. It’s seeing Red Bull’s Felix Baumgartner jump from the edge of space.

Delight strikes a chord with our humanity. It’s memorable, emotional, and powerful in building long-term relationships with your customers that directly impact ROI.

The problem is, few brands get it right. They take shortcuts or neglect delightful experiences altogether. Here are the steps you need to take to cultivate a truly meaningful brand experience.

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Clarity’s Q&A Spotlight is a series that features the top conversations from Clarity Answers. This week, we’re sharing insights about starting a new business.

Starting a business is an emotional roller coaster. One day, you’re thriving on the freedom. The next? Shit hits the fan. What’s important to remember is that this feeling is totally normal. Keep your cool, and the fog will clear. Luckily, there are others who have been there before:

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My name is Mike Jirout and the image above is my view as I write this blog post. It’s three weeks after the close of my first successful tech exit. My company developed Ship Mate, an application to help cruise-goers get excited about and prepared for their vacation.  Our motto is “let’s get shipfaced,” and I’ve been aggressively reinforcing the brand this week.

Over the past three years, we’ve had over 600k mobile downloads and reached #2 in Apple’s Top Paid Travel Apps (behind Kayak), bootstrapping the company the entire way. And by bootstrapping, I mean cooking Hot Pockets on irons bootstrapping. Here’s my advice for fellow entrepreneurs:

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Half the battle of a start-up is simply getting started, but once you have an idea and a team, there comes another hurdle: finding the right product-market fit.

The quest to product-market fit or ‘PMF’ is often filled with false positives, failed features, and trying to figure out the fastest possible way to generate revenue.

But what does that look like in real life? How do you measure your path to PMF? How do you validate along the way? These are questions that I hear time and time again from entrepreneurs, so I thought it was high time to share the lessons that we learned (the hands-on way) at ConsumerBell on our journey to PMF.

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“He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else”.
- Benjamin Franklin

Starting a company nowadays is pretty easy. You just need a designer, a hacker, and someone doing the marketing. Give three people an internet connection and they are off to go, right?

The answer to this question seems to be divided. Lean startup enthusiasts will typically chime in with a big ‘yes.’ But the rest of us? We’re convinced that it should take years to get up and running.

We come up with excuses like “I’m not experienced enough,” “I can’t find a co-founder”, “I don’t have an idea” etc. Yeah, some of those excuses are valid. But most of the time, we’re wrong. We end up wasting time waiting for a jump that never happens.

This was something that I wanted to prove — that the ‘jump’ seems much crazier than it actually is. So, I joined the StartupBus, which is exactly what it sounds like — a bus ride where entrepreneurs get together and launch companies. Within 72 hours, I was part of a team and bringing a business concept to life. On paper, it was crazy. But in reality, it was one of the sanest things I’ve ever done.

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