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Here’s the program.
Andrew: Hey everyone. It’s Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious up-start. Today I’ve got with me Christine Comaford. According to her bio, she has built and sold five of her own businesses within an average 700 percent return on investment. She has served as a board of director or an in the trenches advisor to 36 start-ups and has invested in over 200 start-ups, including Google as a venture capitalist or angel investor.
Christine has consulted to the White House, both the Clinton and Bush administration. 700 of the Fortune 1000 companies and over 300 small businesses. She has repeatedly identified and championed key trends and technologies years before market acceptance. Christine has led many lives. Buddhist monk, Microsoft engineer, geisha trainee, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist.
I’ve been reading directly from your bio, Christine, and that’s just a small portion of it. Welcome to Mixergy.
Christine: Thank you, Andrew. It’s awesome to be here.
Andrew: So, we were talking before the interview started about how it all started with you dropping out of high school. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Christine: Well, it was just boring. And, I think a lot of entrepreneurs have ADD of sorts. Where, we just feel, like, “Come on. Let’s do something.” You know? And, I just found that I could either go through the whole channels or I could go and start my life. And I think that’s what so many entrepreneurs have is a kind of healthy dissatisfaction. And, we have to figure out how to take the healthy dissatisfaction and not mess our lives up, right? But, capitalize on it.
So, long story short, I ended up starting a bank for high net worth individuals. That worked great. It was sold to Union Bank several years ago. What I found was that you don’t really need an MBA or a degree of a certain type. But, you have to have a GSD. And, if you can get stuff done, than that’s what matters.
Without dwelling to much on that, I don’t want people to look at my past success and say, “Oh, that’s because she had such and such.” It’s not. I am probably far less educated than most of the people watching this interview.
Andrew: [laughs] And you have done a whole lot with your life. And, I want to get into it. But, here’s one of the issues I had as I researched you. You are so good at getting your information out there, that even if I went pages and pages and pages back in Google’s search results, I still couldn’t find information that wasn’t directly written by you. Or, wasn’t somebody copying your bio and putting it up on their website.
So, I thought what maybe we could do, is just go through the bio here together and understand how you got here.
Christine: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: So what is the first company that you launched?
Christine: Yeah. Let me say one quick thing, first. I have been totally under the radar. I retired in 2002. And, I went off and contemplated my navel and did all sorts of stuff. So, I haven’t really been in the press much. I’ve been, sort of, a star maker. I did the whole star thing. I did all ‘The Wall Street Journal” blah blah exposure thing. So, now what I am really intrigued by is building other people into stars. So, yeah. I’m pretty low profile, and I’m loving it.
Andrew: [laughs] Well, not anymore. I’m telling you. I see a lot of information up there that’s pretty much your bio that other people have either rewritten or copied and pasted the way that I did in the intro here. Why don’t we start off this way? What’s the biggest success of all these successful businesses that you were in?
Christine: You know, I have to tell you, Andrew. The biggest success has been the businesses that I’ve built, probably in the past couple of years. With my clients. Because, here’s the thing. I love being able to build a bunch of companies at once. And, that was kind of the cool thing about being a venture capitalist. But, still it wasn’t that satisfying, because you couldn’t get that operational.
But, now, one of our clients, they did $150,000 grand in 2008 and $3.4 million in 2009. And they are on track for $15 million in 2010. That’s the sort of stuff that makes me high. Another one of our clients is going from $40 to $400 million in the next few years. That’s what I love.
So, I guess for me, if we don’t look at the whole star maker thing that I’m doing now, we look at my past. I think one of the things I’m most proud of was the company Planet You, where we were delivering internet based promotions across the net. We got all the big guys, Proctor and Gamble, Hunt-Wesson, Warner Lambert, all those guys to sign up. And this was in 1997. I mean, the net hadn’t been around for that long.
So, getting these huge juggernauts to buy into this vision of basically taking money, because that’s what a coupon is, it’s money from the manufacturer. And distributing it out onto the net but also moving it down to point of sales. You could walk into Safeway, you could scan your driver’s license or something, and the coupon value would be taken off.
And, we did really wicked hyper targeting. I know everyone is talking about hyper targeting now, but we could do time sensitive location based psychographic, demographic overlay, and we could figure out, Andrew, if you were the sort of guy who would like yogurt, low fat or regular, fruit at the bottom, or stirred, organic or regular. I mean, we could totally nail what you were gonna buy with about 80 percent of accuracy. So, that’s just kind of like a geeky, cool thing that we did that I’m proud of.
And, I sold my shares to Rupert Murdoch’s news corporation.
Andrew: I saw that. That was in 1999. You sold, actually, in 1999, NewsCorp bought 22 percent of the company. The company as a whole was sold in 2001 to another company called Transora.
Andrew: It raised money in the beginning, in the early days from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, from SoftBank, from Petricoff.
Andrew: My question is, well, actually, you sold your shares? The 22 percent that was sold to NewsCorp was just you selling your piece of the business?
Christine: Oh, OK. Good point. Well, I left because my founder and I, he wanted to go in a different direction. So, I said, “Great. Take it in that direction. I’m gonna go off and build something else.”
Andrew: All right. So what kind of return did you get for yourself?
Christine: God. I think I got a really good return. [laughs] I got, I don’t know. 15 to 20x.
Andrew: 15 to 20x of the investment you’ve put in.
Andrew: And what kind of investment as an entrepreneur who is getting funding from companies like Draper are you putting in?
Christine: Wait, wait, wait. No. It was well over what the original fair market value for the common was at that point. You know, I think it’s 15 to 20x of what common was at that point. When we first had that fair market value rate.
Andrew: I see. So, you put your own money into the business?
Christine: I always put a little bit of my own money in. It depends.
Christine: It really varies across the board.
Andrew: So, how much would you put into a company, let’s talk about Planet You for a little bit. And then we can move on to what you’re doing now.
Christine: (________) long time ago.
Andrew: Very long time ago.
Andrew: So, but if that was the big success, let’s understand your big success. The reason I want to do it is I want to establish that you’re not just a person who is doing webinars and teaching, but what you’re teaching is based on your own experience as an entrepreneur . . .
Andrew: . . . and in your own success. And that you were able to do it for yourself, and now you’re helping others do it for their businesses. That’s why I’m spending a little bit of time on your bio. And, specifically, I picked Planet You because that’s the one you brought up.
Christine: Yeah, but let’s also look at different ones. Because what was so cool about Planet You was getting these huge juggernauts to buy into this crazy high risk technology.
Christine: So, I think if you look at all the different companies, each one of them has something unique. Corporate Computing was unique because we were taking mainframe systems and moving them down to client server.
And, Corporate Computing was interesting, because we were going head to head with the big, at the time, the big six. And people were looking at me, going, “Well. I can go with Anderson, which looks a lot more stable or I can go with this woman who is in her late twenties and that feels kind of risky.” You know?
So, each company, Andrew, has a different set of challenges. That’s why I love to talk about a variety, because you can pattern match. So, for me, it’s all about pattern matching as you build businesses. First, how do you move juggernauts, and what’s involved in doing that? How do you get funding and what’s involved in doing that? How do you go against a huge competitor and get them to take a risk on you when it’s safer probably to go with a big six firm because no one gets fired for hiring Andersen. Or, now Accenture. Theoretically, no one gets fired.
For me, as an entrepreneur, I always want to look at what’s the greatest challenge? And, when you’re building a business, it’s so easy to get tunnel vision and our client that went from $150 grand to $3.4 million, they originally wanted to build a huge direct sales force. And, I could pattern match on my past, and go, “Wow. Huge direct sales force. Are you sure you want to do that? It’s so expensive. It’s so time consuming. Sales people can be whiners.
You know, ‘Oh, the marketing guys didn’t give me enough leads. Oh, it was Tuesday and the moon was full, so I missed my quota.’ Why don’t we just go to a distribution channel where distributors already are selling complementary products, get our plug to prop in to that channel. That way they can increase their ticket sale, they can increase the size of each particular sale, because our product is complementary and it’s easy for the sales people to get up to speed on it.”
So, for me, it’s always people, money, and model.
Andrew: Before we get into what you’ve learned, I want to just understand that a lot of what I’ve seen in your bio is, “I’ve built successful businesses and I’m gonna show you how to do it.” So, I want to just establish how successful this was. So, when we’re talking about Planet You, what kind of an exit was it for you? How profitable of an exit was it?
Christine: I’m trying to think of exactly how much I made.
Andrew: Roughly is fine. Are we talking . . .
Christine: My shares, and I sold a fraction of my shares, and it was a little bit over three million.
Andrew: OK. So, a little bit over three million dollars is what you sold your shares for in ’99 to NewsCorp.
Christine: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: And, roughly, what kind of investment did you personally make in the business?
Christine: God. Oh, you know, I totally cannot remember this.
Christine: It was so long ago.
Andrew: But, less than a million. We can say that?
Christine: Oh, god. Oh, yeah. No. It was probably, like, $5,000 or something.
Andrew: OK. Perfect.
Christine: So, I was thinking, yeah. You always look at the fair market value of common stock at the last financing before your transaction, which is what I look at. I don’t look at, “I put in five grand and I got three million out.” That would be like a crazy multiple.
Andrew: OK. All right. I’ve got a sense now of how big that company got and how much you were able to achieve there. Why don’t we talk a little bit about what you did before you got there? You were a software engineer working for Microsoft?
Christine: Well, way back, yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: Way back.
Christine: In the eighties.
Andrew: Can you tell us a little bit about what you did there?
Christine: Yeah. Well, for starters, since I had no high school diploma, and no college degree, I had to test software which was really challenging for my ego. Because I saw myself as an engineer. And, they were, like, “Well, you’ve got no degrees. So, here. You can test software.”
So, I was originally brought on to write testing applications for OS2. So, if you remember OS2, it was an operating system that was jointly developed between Microsoft and IBM. And they had this really rich graphics engine called Presentation Manager.
So, I was working on what was called the RTG, Random Test Case Generator. So, we wrote this big monster blob of software that tried to break the graphics engine. So, that’s what we did. We wrote software to break the graphics engine of OS2. And eventually that got boring.
Andrew: And what does that mean to break the graphics engine of OS2?
Andrew: What does it mean to break the graphics engine of OS2?
Christine: It means to stress the heck out of it. So, when you have a rich graphics environment, you want to draw a ton of lines. You want to have a ton and ton of overlapping windows. You know? You want to do everything you can to stress the ability to repaint the screen, to generate a wide variety of colors, messing with a bunch of different fonts, etc. And that got, frankly, a little boring after a while. I mean, it was challenging and fun, and then it got kind of boring.
So, ultimately, I left, since I couldn’t become an engineer there. But, I did hear from many of my friends, if you leave and go somewhere else and you’re an engineer, then Microsoft will hire you back as an engineer. And, I was a contractor the whole time. So, I went to Lotus, and I got an engineering job there. So, ultimately, then I could come back to Microsoft, this time as an engineer.
Andrew: I see. Bill Gates paid you a compliment. Can you tell us what that compliment was and how you met him?
Christine: Super high bandwidth.
Andrew: That’s what he said about you?
Andrew: That you’ve got super high bandwidth.
Christine: But, it’s a blessing and a curse. And he did sit me down when I was, I don’t know, 26 or 27, and said, good news, bad news. You’re super high bandwidth, you think really fast, OK. That can be great. The bad part is people won’t always follow where you’re going. You’ve got to slow down if you’re going to manage people. Blah, blah, blah.
But, we met originally at a beer and pizza party back at Microsoft a million years ago. And then, ultimately, I got him to write a check for AIDS action committee. And, God, this is such ancient history, Andrew.
What was it? The late eighties, I guess it was.
Andrew: I see.
Christine: So, that was his first donation to AIDS. Yay.
Andrew: Yeah, I was gonna say, way before he was a big supporter of charities. Way before he was who he is.
Christine: OK. Here’s a really sweet story. So, when was it? It was ’95 to ’96 or so. Maybe ’97, when his daughter Jennifer was born. And, I got this solicitation from Habitat for Humanity, so I filled it out and I put it in her name, and I donated some money to Habitat. And, then I sent Bill an e-mail, saying, “Hey. I just donated some money to Habitat for Humanity under Jennifer’s name. May it be the first of her many charitable acts.”
Christine: And, he e-mailed me back, and he said, “Well. I’m gonna do a lot of charitable acts, too.” And, I was like, “Well, get on it, dude. Come on.” So, I think enough of us were kind of prodding him, that in some maybe very small way, all those prods added up to him being more philanthropic, but yeah. Whew.
Andrew: I also read that you pushed Bill Gates to improve Windows.
Christine: Oh. Well, OK. I don’t get credit for all that. Because a lot of us did. A lot of us did.
Andrew: What was the issue at the time? And then, how did you come into it? How did you express your frustration.
Christine: Well, for some reason, it was OK for people to have tiled windows. You know? Just like tiles on a floor. It’s like, we don’t work that way. What does our desk look like? There’s all sorts of overlapping stuff and we’re moving stuff around. That’s what our desk in our world looks like. So, it wasn’t mimicking the real world.
So, I was saying, “Look. If you’re gonna rip off Apple, just do it with style. Do it right.” And mimic our real world. Because no one can read all these stupid little tiled windows, and you’re constantly resizing and it’s just a pain in the butt. And we’re not going to get TWD, which is Microsoft’s favorite thing. Total world domination, if we don’t mimic the way people work in the physical, real world.
Andrew: So, at the time, the only way to organize windows on a screen was to tile them so that they are sitting side by side? You couldn’t have them overlap?
Christine: Yeah. In Windows, what was it? Windows 3.0 changed everything. Windows 1.03 and 1.04 were when I first started using Windows. 2.11, this is really ancient history. I think 2.11 was the beginning of attempts at overlaps, or it might have just been 3.0.
Andrew: I see.
Christine: Sorry. I don’t remember.
Andrew: OK. All right. So, I read, you called him up. You said, “This isn’t the way to go.” And, he took you up on it. He said, “All right. Then you come in and you tell me.”
Christine: Yeah. Well, don’t give me total credit. A lot of people were telling him that it was stupid.
Andrew: Right. Right.
Christine: But, when I called up Microsoft and said, “Windows is a great idea. It’s a really lame execution of that idea.” They said, “If you’re so smart, come and fix it.” And I said, “Great. I’ll be there in an hour.” And, I showed up and just basically crashed Windows and then disassembled it and showed them where the bugs were.
And, they were, like, “OK. OK. Stop doing that. We’ll give you a short term contract and then we’ll fire you if you suck.” And I was, like, “Yeah. OK. Whatever.”
Andrew: And, total world domination? That’s something that they talked about actively over there?
Andrew: Wow. Looks like they had it for a while. Totally.
Christine: Yeah. Well, and now we are going to see what happens with Google. It’s so interesting to see the mighty rise up and then the choices that they make. Right? Free will, baby.
Andrew: With Google, and Mobile, maybe it’s gonna be Apple, who knows who’s gonna end up dominating.
Christine: I don’t know.
Andrew: So, as I said in the intro, it looks like you invested in Google in the early days. Can you tell us how you got that? How you made that investment?
Christine: Yes. I paid, this time I know the exact number. I paid two dollars a share. Because it was more recent and I was in an angel group. Called, oh, god, what was it called? Was it Angel Investors? Was it as obvious as that? It may have been. I’m in a bunch of different angel groups.
Christine: So, one of the angel groups with Ron Conway and a bunch of other guys.
Andrew: Oh. Why can’t I think of the name?
Andrew: But, I see what you mean.
Christine: I know.
Andrew: So, within that angel group you invested in Google. Pre-IPO?
Andrew: I see. Wow.
Christine: Oh yeah. 2002. I think it was 2002.
Andrew: OK. So, here’s my concern. I don’t know enough about you. And this was a concern that I walked into this interview with. And, that’s why I wanted to spend so much time in the beginning of the interview finding out about you.
Andrew: You know what? I should have. I didn’t know we were doing this interview until this weekend. Otherwise, I would have. And, I’m unprepared and I’m willing to admit it. But, I’m also concerned enough about my audience and the program here that I’m putting together to make sure that if I have somebody on that we explain what their background is and why they’ve earned the right to say, “I know how to help you build a business. It’s not just that I’ve got a bunch of websites. It’s not just that I’ve got some kind of seminar. It’s because I have the experience.”
Christine: Do it baby.
Andrew: And now I think we’ve established that you have the experience.
Christine: Whatever you need. Yeah. You get to a certain point in your life, where you’re just like, “This is me. You know? If you dig it, great. If you don’t dig it, that’s great, too.”
Andrew: I do know that about you. Here’s one of the things that I love about you in the research that I’ve done. You’ll do video . . .
Andrew: And, the video camera will go on and you’ll talk. You’ll shut your eyes as you talk in the beginning. And I say, “That takes a lot of frigging confidence. She’s not looking at the camera. She’s just being herself. Her eyes are closed while she’s explaining.” But, that’s the way you think things through. And, I saw you do it right here in the interview.
Christine: It is. I have to access the database.
Christine: That’s how it happens. [laughs]
Andrew: All right. We were saying that one of the things that excites you about helping entrepreneurs build their businesses is pattern matching. What are some of the patterns that you’ve seen?
Christine: OK. Yes. OK. So, there’s three things . . .
Andrew: This is the part that you love. This is the part that I should have jumped right into.
Christine: But here’s the thing, Andrew. I mean, it makes me nutters. It’s all about people, money, and model. And, whenever you see a company that’s broken or isn’t breaking through, isn’t just knocking itself out, it’s one of those three things.
And, with people, it’s either they don’t have enough, the right, internal people or they don’t have the right external people. And, I think a lot of us miss the external people. I’m still amazed at how many entrepreneurs I talk to who don’t have an advisory board. An advisory board is wicked easy to set up. It gives you credibility by association. It gives you additional skill sets that you don’t have. It makes a huge difference.
I mean, I was lobby surfing at Cisco for one of our clients. I got the former CIO of Cisco. In fact, he was the CIO at the time to join on the advisory board. And, the rest was history. Then, that network infrastructure company now had credibility and they could sell to the Fortune 1000. And, they wouldn’t take our phone call before.
So, always look at who can be on my external team. So, people. Money. Obviously a financing strategy, we can talk about that forever. Sales. Most people don’t do quota busting and they don’t do just qualification. When you do quota busting, to actually understand that the quota is the baseline, it’s not the Holy Grail. It’s where you start.
And, you don’t just do qualification. See, we need to figure out, not who is my client, but who isn’t my client. Someone comes in with all these leads. You’re like, “No, no, no. Don’t get excited about all those leads. Let’s nut them out really quickly and only spend our time chasing people who are truly ready to be our client.”
And, when it comes to model, most of us don’t have a product path. We’re gonna sell widget, then son of widgets, then widgets gone wild. Most of us don’t have a path to guide our customers through increasing value as they spend more money with us and get a deeper connection with us. So, kind of a quick riff on that.
But, what questions did you want to ask?
Andrew: All right. Well, I’ve been taking notes as you said that. Let’s start off with advisory board. If somebody asked me to be on an advisory board. I’d say, “Listen.” No, if they did.
Andrew: When they do. I’d say, “Listen. I’m a little bit busy. I don’t have time right now to help you out.” And, I’d imagine that the people who you’d want on your advisory board would be the ones who would be to busy to help because they’ve got their own stuff going on. How do you make it worth their while to join?
Christine: OK. Excellent question. First of all, the pitch has to be tight. And if you want, I could e-mail you a .doc that you could put up on your site.
Christine: It’s a tutorial. It helps you figure out exactly how to create an advisory board. And, it takes a company that we worked with and helps you figure out, well, here’s their gaps. Here’s the advisors they need. So, if you give a proposal to be an advisor, first of all you need to figure out what exactly is the ask?
And a smart entrepreneur will say, “I just want access to your mind. I want 15 minutes a month. It can be over phone or e-mail.” I mean, how can you say no to that? Because, you don’t have emotional equity with them, yet. So, you can say yes to that. And over time, you’ll fall in love with their company, and you’re gonna give them more time.
But, so many people ask for too much up front. And, you’re like, just like you said, “Hey, I’m busy.” So, 15 minutes on phone or e-mail every month. That’s easy to ask for. You ask for a two year term. And then you offer them about .25 percent of your common stock.
Andrew: I see.
Christine: Vesting in equal monthly installments over two years. Now, have we given more than that? Absolutely. If we have an advisor that has really rich, rich, deep sales experience and they agree in our advisory board offer letter where you spell out what they’re supposed to do for you. They agree to introduce us to ten new leads per month. Whatever. Then you’re gonna give them more. Or, you’re gonna give them the base, but you’re gonna give them some incentive stock as well.
So, you have to make it easy for people to say yes. And, this is what, also, I don’t ask for favors anymore. I stopped asking for favors maybe, I don’t know, ten years ago. I ask now for advice. People love giving advice. It engages their ego and it engages their emotions and they’re gonna follow through to make sure that you followed their advice. They’re gonna be calling you, “Did Sue call you back? Did she help you out? She didn’t? OK. I’m on the phone with Sue.”
You know? Makes a huge difference. So, that’s a good way to net out an advisor. And, again, if you want, I’ll send you an advisory board worksheet and you can post it up on your site.
Andrew: I would love it. Basically, what you’re saying is, ask very clearly. Here, I’ll have a note here to myself to follow up.
Christine: OK. Cool.
Andrew: So, you’re saying, ask very clearly. Ask for a clear, small, a clearly defined amount of time that you are expecting from them. Long term, two years. Give them something clear, which is a share in the company. Shares in the company which vest over time.
Christine: Two years.
Andrew: Two years. And, you’re saying ask for advice because people love to give advice.
Christine: Yeah. Don’t ask them for favors, just ask them for advice. And, please don’t ask them for money. Oh, it’s so tacky. It’s gauche meter in the red. The first thing you want to do is show them that you value their mind.
Andrew: I see.
Christine: They will open their wallet later. But, I hate when people, two months into an advisory board member being on board, they are asking them to invest. No. What you can say is, “We’re so excited about our company. Who do you know who might want to invest?” Let them say, “Oh. Pick me.” But, don’t be gauche about that.
Andrew: I see. All right. Do you have advisors now? Or is this the kind of thing you do when you’re launching a business?
Christine: Right now, I have some mentors. I don’t have advisors at Mighty Ventures.
Christine: Because Mighty Ventures is a lifestyle business. I’m not building it up to sell. But, I definitely have coaches and mentors. But, what I love to do is put advisory boards and boards of directors together for our client companies.
Andrew: I see.
Christine: We just got the former head of E-Commerce for one of the top three retailers on board at one of our companies and I am psyched beyond measure. Because this company does security commerce at the edge of the web. So, having this major E-Commerce executive from this huge retailer is game changing. Yeah.
Andrew: How did you do that?
Christine: It took me about nine months to build that. I wish it happened overnight. It doesn’t, to build that relationship. What’s cool is he reached out to me. He was, I guess, going through LinkedIn. He found my profile, he was like, “Oh. I think we met a long time ago. You seem really cool. I read your book. It was bizarre and fascinating. Let’s meet.”
So we met and we became pals and nine months later after really working it, he decided to join the board. So, it takes a while. I mean, these are relationships. This is building trust. This is building rapport. This is building credibility. And, we all know, about 90 percent of those stock options aren’t worth anything.
Christine: So, people have to feel like, “Well, I might never get a pay off, but at least I had a good experience, I met cool people. We created something together.”
Andrew: I see.
Christine: You know, it’s not all about money.
Andrew: All right. That explains a lot of the process. And you mentioned mentors. I read that you say that we should get mentors also. What kind of mentors do you have?
Christine: Oh, gosh. I’ve got about six. So, I have kind of a life mentor, overall.
Christine: Who I really call when I’m making difficult life decisions. Because, he’s 86, he is super wise. He always just has a very grounded approach.
Christine: I have another mentor, a business mentor. A coach. Because we are doing more and more executive coaching, which for me is fascinating. I love entrepreneurs, but I like to work with a really small group of entrepreneurs who just want to absolutely change the game. So, I’m working with a coach there.
I, of course, have a exercise, etc., physical coach. I’m a dancer. I actually professionally danced. So, of course I have a mentor and coach there. I mean, God, I’ve got coaches all over my life.
Andrew: We’ve got someone from Fresh Apricot who’s asking how do you establish new mentor relationships?
Christine: Oh. OK. So, you’re gonna really like the advisory board worksheet that you get, that you download. That Andrew’s gonna have on his site. So much of it is finding out what people care about and helping them get it. So, this is what I call palm up networking.
So, when you find out about what people care about and you help them get it, that’s the best way to start a relationship. Because, so many people are out there trying to get stuff. Palm down networking. Gimme, gimme. Gross.
And, when you approach people with, “Hey. I just want to know how I can be of service to you.” And it’s genuine. I mean, I have helped people for years and years and years who have never helped me back.
But, see, the universe has a perfect accounting system. Somebody from out of the blue will come up and help me. So, don’t keep score on individuals. Just, kind of look at life as a much bigger picture. This also happens as you get older.
So, find out what people care about, help them get it. Check this out. This worked great for me. I sent probably 10 FedExes to Steve Jobs. You can call it stalking. You could also call it pursuing. And I was calling about every week, and I was saying, “I just want five minutes with Steve Jobs. I just want to pick his brain. I really just want to get some advice.”
Finally, after all of these FedExes and all these phone calls, and his poor admin going through this. She finally puts him on. And, he goes, “Christine. I give up. OK. Come in, you get five minutes, and bring a timer.”
So, I bought one of those egg timers, like when your mom used to make cookies and it would go “Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.” So, it’s kind of noisy. I brought one in and I put it on his desk and set it for five minutes. “Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.” I asked him for all this advice. It was over. It went, “Ding.” And I go, “OK. Thank you so much, Steve. I really appreciate this.” I’m shaking, I’m bowing, I’m walking out of the office. And he goes, “Wait. I’m not done with you. Come back.” We talked for another 45 minutes.
So, one of the pitches that I give to people is I say, “If I can have five minutes of advice, I will give five hours to your favorite non-profit.” It’s pretty hard to turn down. When people approach me with that, since I know they were listening to me, I’ll say, “What do you want advice on specifically?” Because I would want to know that they were going to show up prepared.
And that’s when often people never get back to me. [laughs] So, tell them that you want advice on something concise, compelling, and complete. And then, you’ll give them five hours for their favorite non-profit and chances are good they are going to see you.
I’ve worked with Steve Jobs, Barbara Walters, Hilary Clinton, etc.
Andrew: You’ve done it with all of them?
Christine: Yeah. It works.
Andrew: This is incredible, by the way. The audience loves it. I see Olivia, my wife is in the audience. She is saying, “That’s cool.” Joseph Jack saying, “Awesome.” Andrew SG is asking what kind of advice you asked Steve Jobs for?
Christine: You know, I was asking him about the future of technology. And, he was a little surly. Because he knew I had been at Microsoft. But really, it was about the future of technology, and I could tell you I have that old cassette tape. I have it. Because I taped it.
Andrew: From the conversation with him? You taped it?
Christine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. From the conversation like a gillion years ago.
Christine: And I can tell you, I mean, he didn’t know it was gonna be called the iPod. But, he saw it. It’s pretty amazing. That guy is . . .
Andrew: When was this? What year did he see the iPod?
Christine: OK. Hang on a second. When was this?
Andrew: Accessing the database.
Christine: I was writing my column for PC Week. I was the top IT corporate computing columnist for five years. And, it was in the middle of that. So, it was probably somewhere, this is really broad, it was between ’94 and ’97. I would need to narrow that down on what the cassette tape says.
Andrew: You said quota busting earlier. What do you mean? Oh. Actually, wait. Before we move on from this. Olivia, she’s my wife, so I gotta ask her question from the audience, is saying, “How do you give to non-profits?” You say, “I’ll give five hours to non-profits.” How have you done it?
Christine: Oh. Yeah. OK. Good. Well, first of all, you have to find out what non-profit they care about. Right?
Christine: So, whatever. Pancreatic cancer, at risk kids, often it will just be, “I care about such and such category. Go help them. So, I actually go and I do it. And then I send them an e-mail back and they’re usually amazed by that. So, Barbara Walters cared about kids. So, I did five hours. Actually, I ended up doing about 50 because I got so emotionally connected. For LifeWorks. Which is a really cool farm for at risk kids.
Christine: Yeah. So, a really neat organization. But, I’ve been doing hospice. So, most people hear that I’ve done hospice for 11 years, and they’re like, “Oh. Just do more hospice.” But, also, most people just never ask me. But, I do it anyway just because I want to be cool and I don’t want to burn a bridge and karma is real. So, if I promise something, I’m going to follow through.
Andrew: Listen, I’ve got a guy in Guatemala who edits my videotapes. Would it be inappropriate for me to say, “Can I have five minutes of your time and the guy in Guatemala will do the five hours of community service?” Or is that inappropriate?
Christine: Oh, you are bartering somebody else’s time?
Andrew: Yes. Is it inappropriate for me to say to Steve Jobs, “Listen, I’ll help you out, but Joe in Guatemala will spend five hours on your favorite charity.”
Christine: That doesn’t feel right to me. That’s not working for me baby.
Andrew: All right. All right. [laughs] OK. So, quota busting. You used that expression earlier.
Christine: Yeah. OK. There is a way to sell more effectively. And, I call it quota busting and it’s a really simple process. Step one is you have to find out why people want to buy. And, there are only three reasons people buy. They buy to make money, to save money, or to reduce pain and frustration. That is it. So, you find out what they care about, OK? Which of those three reasons.
Then you present your product or service in the way that, because every product or service can make money, save money, or reduce pain and frustration. You don’t talk about every feature. You just focus on their pain or their purchasing reason and that’s all you talk about with your product.
Then number three is, you say, “Great. You’ve shown me why you want to buy. I’ve shown you how my product can meet your needs. Now, it is time for you to step up.” So, you present the offer. And then number four, where everybody makes a mistake. This is where you shut up. OK. So often, a salesperson will do this beautiful, lucid presentation.
And, I did this with Andy Grove and he busted me on it. He said, “That was a very lucid presentation.” And, I said, “Great. Now, would you like to invest in my venture fund?” And, I stopped and I counted to five. He didn’t say anything. So, I started talking again. I said, (________). And he said, “Christine. That was a very lucid presentation. Why are you starting the presentation again? This is the part where I’m supposed to decide. This is the part where you’re supposed to be quiet.” And, I was like, “Oh. Right.” So, I was like, “OK. Yes, sir. Right.” And I’d be really quiet and it was really hard.
So, when you ask for the sale, you have to shut up. Because, this is where people are figuring out if you truly believe in your product or service. But, also, when you get nervous or uncomfortable, you’ll start talking again, and then to them, it’s, “Oh. We’re not at decision point yet. I thought we were. Great. So, now I’m just gonna listen for more features and stupid information and then I’ll decide later.”
So, most of us get uncomfortable with that selling tension. Where we present exactly what the customer needs, we ask them for the sale and then we have to shut up. I sat for five minutes once when I was closing a big sale with a Fortune 1000 company.
Five minutes. I was watching the clock and I was going, “I’m not going to say anything. I’m not going to say anything.” The guy was staring at me, I was staring at the guy. And after five minutes, he stuck his hand out, he shook, and he said, “I will buy from you because you would not let me psych you out.” And, it was my first $300,000 dollar sale. And, I was, like, “Woo-hoo.” I kind of lost my cool after that. And he became a great customer and he sent us a bunch of other folks. But, quota busting is that last step where you have to shut up.
Andrew: That’s going to be hard for me, too. Did Andy Grove end up investing?
Andrew: He did. Wow. From that presentation? The one that you just described to us.
Andrew: Was Andy Grove interested in making money? What were the three? Making money, saving money, or saving time?
Christine: Or reducing pain and frustration.
Andrew: Reducing pain and frustration. What was it for him?
Christine: Making money.
Andrew: I see. Wow. So, the guy behind Intel, the guy who ran Intel, who made a killing off of that, still wants to make money? Everybody wants to make money.
Christine: Yeah, but he is smart, though. Right? I mean, you make money. You don’t want your money to just sit there. You want it to keep working.
Andrew: I see.
Christine: You know, money is energy. It needs to stay in motion.
Andrew: You said earlier to ask yourself who is not a customer and how you can bring them in. What’s the distinction? Don’t all businesses say that?
Christine: OK. OK. So, here’s the thing. So many of us, especially early on, were like, “Please, be my customer.” You know? We’re like Oliver, trying to sell to anybody who has a pulse. Right? But, here’s the thing. You need to sell to people who are the people that you are supposed to serve. And most of us have to get really clear on this. This is what I spoke on at eoAlchemy that was so groundbreaking for people. Find out who you are. Find out who you are supposed to be serving. And, find out exactly how you are supposed to be serving them.
Because, many of us, and I know anybody who has been in business for a while has had this experience, we sell to people because we want to get more customers and then we get the customer from hell. Who we never should have sold to. They take up all of our energy. So, the disqualification process, and this is another whole long process.
But, the disqualification process really is asking people to make a commitment at every single point through the process. So, for instance, if you are calling people up. “I’m Sue Smith from Speedy Web Hosting. We design websites that make you money while you sleep. Is that something you’re interested in?” “No.” “Thank you. Goodbye.” Don’t try to talk them into it. They don’t want it. “Thank you. Goodbye.” OK.
“Yeah. Tell me more.” “Well, I will in a moment. So, you do want a website that will make you money while you sleep?” “Yes, I do.” “OK. Great. Well, to teach you about that, you would need to agree to a 45 minute presentation meeting where all decision makers will be present. Can you agree to that?” “No.” “Thank you. Goodbye.”
“Yes.” “OK. So, all decision makers will be present at this 45 minute meeting?” “Yes, they will.” “OK. Great. At that meeting, we will present a proposal in which we will ask you then to make a purchasing decision if the proposal meets your needs. Would you agree to that?” “Yes. I will.” “OK. Great. Let’s book the meeting with all the decision makers present. It’ll take 45 minutes.” “No, I won’t.” “Thank you. Goodbye.”
So, we have to keep making sure that people are meeting our criteria, too. Because, most sales people spend a spectacular amount of time chasing prospects that will never, ever buy. So, they’re not really, seriously a prospect. So, a sales pipeline, and I can’t believe how often I go through this, but a sales pipeline is heat plus stage equals probability.
So, heat means, how hot is that lead? OK? Is it a list that you bought? OK. That’s totally cold. Is it somebody who dropped a card in a fishbowl at a conference? OK. That’s a little warmer. Is it somebody who walked up to you and said, “Andrew, you’re awesome. You saved my friend Susie Q’s business. I want to work with you.” Oh. That’s pretty hot. OK. “And I’ve got budget now and I need to meet you tomorrow.” Whew. That’s smoking.
And then, off course, it’s stage. The stage is initial conversation to proposal to demo to proposal, blah, blah, blah. So, what stage are they at? What heat are they at? Those two together will determine the probability. And, so often we mess up our sales pipelines. I see this in almost all of our clients.
And, so we have to get really tight pipeline management or else we can’t predict accurate quotas. We can’t predict accurate sales and then we get all messed up because we missed our quarter. We missed our month, etc.
And I like to have quotas at the monthly level and not at the quarterly level. Because, why wait? If something’s not working, you’ve got to nail it after a month.
Andrew: How do you personally do it online? When you have a sales process that pretty much starts and ends on the internet?
Christine: So, you mean, for who?
Andrew: For your business.
Christine: See, we have webinars and good stuff like that. But, really, seriously, it’s about getting people in the room with us. That’s where the magic happens. So, we have all these little baby products and stuff to get people in the room with us.
Andrew: And each one of these products is a way of qualifying your sale and making sure that it’s the right sale for the business. I see. So, you’re not on the phone saying, “Are you the decision maker? Will the decision maker be in the room?” You are basically saying, “I’ve got this to buy. If you want to buy it from me, then you are telling me that you want to take another step forward towards our main product.”
Christine: Yes. And, if they get in the room at Business Acceleration Intensive, then the magic happens. Because here’s the reality. Most information goes in one chakra and out the other. Right? Most of us don’t actually implement all this great stuff that we learn.
But, if they are in a room with me for three days, they can’t avoid implementing. Because, I’m putting their business up on a hot seat. We’re going through all the areas of the business that aren’t working. They’re developing a 90 day plan and they are walking out with a plan in their hand knowing exactly what to do for 90 days. And, I’ve blessed that plan. I’ve gone through it with them.
But, if they can’t get in the room, then they are really more of a not ready to seriously build a business person. And, that’s OK. Because, down the road, they will be. Or they won’t. In which case they won’t get in the room with us. In which case, they won’t go to the next level with us. We’ll do it with somebody else. That’s cool.
Andrew: OK. We’ve got more here in this interview. But, for anyone who wants to know where they can check out this program, where do they go?
Andrew: OK. And, what does it cost for that?
Christine: Business Acceleration Intensive is $2,997 unless you get on the early bird. If you get in on the early bird and the websites tell you which ones have early bird slots available, it’s $500 off.
Andrew: All right. Well, I’ll let them go check it out on the website.
Andrew: You were a Buddhist monk? I’ll get back to business, but I’ve got to ask about that.
Christine: [laughs] Yes. I was. For seven years. Yeah.
Andrew: What was that like, and how did you get into it? Wait. You were a Buddhist monk where?
Christine: In LA and also in San Diego.
Christine: Tibetan Buddhism. (________) I started reading Buddhist and different spiritual stuff, literature, when I was 13.
Christine: Because, I was looking around, and going, “OK. Well, we’re living in (________).” My parents have a fair amount of money. We have nice vacations. Well, they don’t seem happy. The neighbors don’t seem happy. Seriously, is this it?
So, I started reading all these different religious texts and stuff. I started going to all the different churches and synagogues to try to figure out, “OK. Where’s my path?” And really, Buddhism made sense. So, at 17, I took my vows. I became a monk. Now, that’s kind of radical. Why did I do that?
But, you have to understand that I left high school at 16. And, I went to New York City without really a plan. And, I ultimately got a job doing modeling. But, they said, “Well. You’re too short and you’re ugly.”
Christine: And, I thought, “Well, I can get around that.” [laughs] So, I did lingerie modeling. Because I had the right hip, waist, bust ratio which you’re just born with. OK? And they didn’t have to look at my face. [laughs] And, I made really good money.
And men always think Victoria’s Secret. Well, no. It was more like Bloomingdale’s tighty whities. It was not exciting. But, to be 16 in New York City with a fake ID that says you are 26, going to all Studio 54, CBGB’s, Mud Club. By the time I was about 16 and a half, I was pretty burned out.
I was thinking, “OK. Well, I’ve done all this. This isn’t that exciting.” So, it was good. It was really disillusioning. So, since I’d kind of been an adult and seen the limitations of that, I’d just been around all these people with money and beauty and glamour and that wasn’t it either. I was thinking, “Wow. What the heck is it?”
And, I just kept seeing so much suffering. So, I thought in my naivete, that if I learned how to meditate and I meditated really, really hard, maybe I could reduce some of the human suffering out there.
And, ultimately, what I realized was that I had to be in the world. Although, I just spend a very fabulous week serving the Dalai Lama, which is a whole another cool story. But, I have to be in the world to help people remove their own pain. I can’t really just do it separately.
Andrew: What I’ve found is, in business, if you can focus well, not get distracted by your worries, not get distracted by what’s going on Hacker News for the day or on Digg, then you can get a lot more done.
Andrew: Has meditating for that long taught you how to do that?
Christine: Yes. Yes. OK.
Andrew: What can you teach me? I’m not willing to put in that kind of time, and apparently I can’t get Joe to do it for me, so, what could you teach me in a shorter amount of time about focusing?
Christine: Five minutes, my friend.
Christine: If you can just get five minutes of silence everyday, it will make a huge difference for you.
Andrew: And, what do I do in the five minutes of silence?
Christine: OK. So in the five minutes of silence, most people need to do a visualization, because their brain goes nuts. So, you could either close your eyes, see yourself as you are right now. Whatever outfit you are wearing, whatever chair you are in, it doesn’t matter. Just, see yourself that way. And, then you can see white light pouring all over you. And you have to be thorough. You have to visualize it until your whole body, your hands, your toes, everything is totally covered in white light. That will keep your mind busy. Focusing for a while on that.
Another thing that works great is we all watch the news. Right? Or actually, some people do. I actually don’t have a television. But, it scrolls across the bottom. There’s news blurb, white space, news blurb, white space. So, the Japanese term is (________), which is like the space between the notes, the space between the words, etc. Focusing on that with your thoughts.
So, see your thoughts that whiz by when you are trying to stop your thoughts as that ticker tape. And, start to focus on the space between those thoughts. That gets really interesting. Because, the space starts to get bigger as you’re focusing on the space. The space starts to get bigger between the thoughts.
A third thing that works great for people is to focus on a rosebud in the center of your chest. And the rosebud, whatever color you want, it doesn’t matter, is just gradually opening. And, focus on that for five minutes, that will help, too. So, one of those techniques will help you get five minutes of silence. Listen to whatever music. Not with words, though, because you’ll start singing along with it. Or maybe in Sanskrit, like, (________) or something.
But, getting five minutes of silence will help you get much more attuned with who you are. So that you’ll know truly what you want. Because when I gave this speech at eoAlchemy, which is how we met, through one of your colleagues. There were 500 people in the room. And, I said, “OK. How many of you guys in the past couple of months have really thought about what you want?” And, almost everybody raised their hand. 500 people.
Then I said, “Of those of you who really thought about what you want, how many of you got a clear, concise answer?” Three people out of 500 knew what they wanted. We don’t know what we want. Because, we don’t know who we are. So, really making a practice of finding out exactly who you are. That way, all the stuff that you do, because we are so good at doing, all the stuff that you do is in line with who you are.
And then, the Dalai Lama, when I was working with him on his Midwest tour in May, talked a lot about that. About how Americans need more emptiness. We really do.
We should have a few minutes of fun, too. We should talk about George Lucas’s party, too.
Andrew: You are talking about this past weekend, what you did?
Andrew: Tell me. Yes.
Christine: Because that was pretty heavy stuff. So, we have to inject some play.
Andrew: OK. Tell me about what you were up to.
Christine: OK. So, here’s what’s cool. This is why you want to build a great company. Because, you can have a great play land. And, you can take really great care of your friends. So, on July 3rd, I was at George Lucas’s party and he had so many games.
He built this whole lake and we had a raft race on the lake. It was pathetic because those little rubber rafts are really hard to steer. But, everybody was colliding. It was a mess. But, it was super fun. You know, we had an egg toss, etc.
You can create worlds where you can play, where your friends can play. But, also, the creative space he has built there is fascinating. I mean, there’s a whole sound stage where you can just create anything. There’s a whole writer’s haven, there’s a whole gym. There’s a whole commissary with amazing food. There’s a whole place where everybody can sleep.
You can just go out to Skywalker Ranch and you can just hang there and be creative for years. So, it’s just cool to see what you can create with money, frankly.
Andrew: All right, so somebody is in the audience right now, saying, “You know what? I would like that kind of a lifestyle. I would like to be able to work hard so I could get to a place where I could play like that.” What do they do with that desire at the end of this interview?
Christine: OK. So, we should send people to a free audio.
Christine: Buildtosellformula.com/gift. See, the problem is, most of us have these really great ideas.
Christine: But, we don’t have our end game really clear. So, if you could come to me, saying, “OK. I want to build this business, Christine. And, in five years, I want to sell it for whatever. $50 million dollars to one of these five or six types of companies or industries and here’s what the assets are gonna be.” Then, I would say, “Right on, brother. Let’s build it.”
But, the vast majority of entrepreneurs who come to us haven’t figured out their end game. So, one of the first things we do is we figure out why are you building this business and I hope you are building it to sell. Not that you have to sell it. But, that way you can have the choice.
I want you to have the choice to sell it. OK. So, you design it up like George Lucas. He built Industrial Light Magic. He just sold off a chunk of that. He sold off the special effects division. Great. You know? He decided that he wanted his energy to go somewhere else.
That’s fine. People are selling off chunks of their business all the time. Or their whole business. 99.9 percent of entrepreneurs are serial entrepreneurs. We’re gonna build another one. So, don’t get too attached to your baby. Build it up, create an amazing asset, monetize that asset, take a break and do it again.
So, go to the Buildtosellformula. It will guide you through the six steps of building a business intentionally, so it’s not so purely chaotic. So, you are actually marching down a path to build a business that you can sell in five years or less for many millions.
Because, most of us don’t do that. When you follow that formula, I swear to God, it works. It’s worked for 153 companies.
Andrew: And, they’re not going to have to pay for anything? They can just go down there and download it?
Christine: Go down there and download it. It’s free. Yes.
Andrew: And, what I admire about that, is now we’ve gotten them in your funnel. You’re not just saying, “Hey, everyone out there. You should create a funnel and bring customers in and figure out who the right customer is for you.” You are showing us that you are doing it yourself.
Christine: You know what? And if you opt out afterwards, I’m OK with that.
Andrew: I’m OK with it, too.
Christine: You know? Just go get the value and decide what to do with it next or don’t do anything with it. [SS]
Andrew: Buildtosellformula. Somebody in the audience has got it up there. Buildtosellformula.com/gift. Final question.
Andrew: Christine.com. How did you get that domain? You’ve got your own first name as a domain?
Andrew: I’ve got a guy, a domainer in the audience. He is going nuts here. He pounded me with questions, making sure that I asked you that. I’ve got to ask just for his own pain.
Christine: OK. This was in ’95.
Christine: So, remember that. OK? This was registered in ’95. It was a present from a friend. So, this is what geeks give each other for the holidays. Domains.
Andrew: All right. Awesome. Well, thank you very much. It’s great to meet you and great to learn from you. We’ll all go check out Buildtosellformula.com/gift. And next time I get interviewed, I’m going to do something like that, too. I’m going to say, “Go to mixergy.com slash something.” That’s a great way to follow up with somebody who’s met you in this interview.
Andrew: Thank you for doing it, guys. Thank you all for watching. Bye.
Christine: Thank you.
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