A month ago I got an invitation from the local chapter of Startup Grind to speak about 356labs, my story and the presentation world. It was a long, but incredibly interesting and more importantly honest conversation.
I can’t summarize this one in 1 sentence, so please read. It’s an important and an interesting one. That’s why it’s number 10.
When I started 356labs, it was clear to me that we were going to offer both company trainings and opened trainings in which individual people who want to learn more about the world of presenting would enroll. That’s what we did and that’s what we continue to do. Let me tell you a story about our first opened course, though, because I believe it’s a good lesson of what a founder of a company must be ready for.
See, we do not have our own training room yet. We rent such. And so I rented one of the most creative places in Sofia, Bulgaria for our first opened course. At the end of the day our we were teaching storytelling & presentation design. The place needed to be… special. I didn’t want a hotel room.So far so good. I rented the place(meaning, I paid for it — that’s important and you will see why) and a day before the event I went there to set up everything.
I walked in that place and it was… gosh, it looked ugly. Everything was covered in dust — chairs, tables, everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. The trash cans were not cleaned. Yes, including the one in the toilet.
That’s not what I paid for, I said to myself! Problem was there was no time to go and complain to the host. The course was starting tomorrow morning! I needed to do something myself because one of the things about our trainings is that I want us to deliver an experience. An incredible experience to our students. That means that not only the content and our materials must be top level, but every single other thing should be too — the venue, the food, the organization, the communication prior the event, everything.
On the next day the training went incredibly well. Many of the people who came and paid for the event are now coming to every single one of our events and recommend us to others. So to all of you founders, co-founders and all of you who truly care about your customers — get ready to do things you have never ever thought you would if you really and I mean really, want to deliver incredible experiences.
P.S. After this training, we gave this room another chance and hosted another course there. We were faced with the same and that was the last time we rented it. We now moved to a new place which is a true state of art. The place that I was looking for from the start of 356labs…
Forgetting that meetings in an enterprise environment are different.
A few months after I launched 356labs, we were invited on a meeting with the CHRO (Chief Humman Resources Officer) of one of the biggest telecommunications company in Bulgaria because they were interested in the presentation design service we offer + a training on a storytelling.
Great, right? Indeed it is great to hear that companies that big have interest in your services. The problem was that I understood from the person who invited us that “we were only about to meet with CHRO”. Whatever that meant in my mind…
What I completely forgot is how corporate works. And I have worked in a corporate for 3 years. I should have remembered…
In a corporate environment and when you have a C-level executive with you on a meeting, you should have a really important word in mind — time. Because time is precious to those individuals(and to everyone of us nowadays), there is a pre-defined agenda, let’s call it, on meetings like this. So even though I thought we are “going to just meet”, the 30 minute meeting didn’t exactly go like this.
When the CHRO arrived at the room, she was one of those executives that displays 0 emotions on her face. Normal for the corporate world, I told myself. The interesting part was just about to start, though. She sat on her chair and directly fired her 1 question at me and that question and my respective answer screwed up the whole meeting. What she asked was something really simple and something that I should have expected knowing we are in such environment:
What is the goal of this meeting? — she asked.
This question, for some reason, threw me off guard. I don’t remember what exactly I responded, but let me promise you that I didn’t answer in the below fashion:
We are here to help you communicate more effectively. It really is that simple. We know and understand your presentation challenges and we are happy that you invited us because we are the team that you are looking for.
That… was not my answer and because it was not my answer all that followed was… not as good as it could have been.
The moral of the story — make sure you know what to expect on every meeting and prepare well. And I mean very well.
Have you been on a customer meeting which didn’t go as you expected it?