ReadyFounder is now Entrepreneurial Performance Labs!




I’m thrilled to announce that ReadyFounder Services and Brice Consulting Group have joined forces to form Entrepreneurial Performance Labs (EPL), a new kind of knowledge-driven firm.

To learn more, visit our temporary web site and watch this brief video snapshot.

Our clients include aspiring entrepreneurs and students, active founders and founding teams, venture investors, entrepreneurship educators, M&A sponsors, and corporate growth leaders and innovators. We customize our solutions to address client needs, goals, and dreams, while bringing fresh insights and approaches to the problems they face.


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For Startups, Feeling Good Is Not the Same as Progress

Note: We recently re-acquired full rights to my book 6 Secrets to Startup Success (AMACOM, 2011) in order to refresh, enhance and re-purpose the content. Below is the first in a series of revised excerpts from the book (new Kindle version available here).


As a parent, or as an entrepreneur, you begin imprinting your beliefs from Day One, whether you realize it or not. If you have made the mistake of doing business one way for five years, you can’t suddenly impose a layer of different values upon it. By then, the water’s already in the well, and you have to drink it.

Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks

In a startup environment, every choice you make sets a tone and drives a pattern.

  • What kinds of issues are openly discussed?
  • Which topics are politely avoided?
  • How are tough questions raised and resolved?

These choices plant the seeds of your future culture. Better yet, these choices are your culture. And, with time, the moist clay of these early choices will harden into a force beyond easy control.

Instead of surfacing tough issues, many venture teams surrender to a psychological pressure to do the opposite. A kind of beggar’s mentality takes hold of new founders, who are so grateful for support from partners and investors that they shrink from delivering bad news or raising thorny topics. They want to seem—they want to be—on top of things, so a lot of energy goes into posturing instead of seeking the truth. The paradoxical result is that the most critical topics are the least likely see the light of day. As consultant Ken Macher observes, “the thing that people feel most sheepish about bringing up is often the very thing that needs to be discussed.”

One by-product of entrepreneurial passion—and the motivational media that feed it—is that founding teams too often behave as if feeling good is the same thing as forward movement. If we are floating on air, the thinking goes, then things must be on track. Conversely, people who ask scrutinizing questions are cast as negative or disloyal. Doubt is an enemy to be banished.

But every new venture journey is fraught with real risks and real threats. Doubts and fears, when properly prioritized and evaluated, clarify problems that desperately need attention. “Startups are right to be paranoid,” says Y-Combinator’s Paul Graham. “But they sometimes fear the wrong things.”

This tendency for positive spin shows up in a familiar shell game between entrepreneurs and investors, where founders amplify good news and sanitize the bad. But smart investors know that rosy reports don’t equate to value creation. Chris Holden remembers how impressed he and his colleagues at Court Square Ventures were when a newly funded founder raised what could be considered bad news just after finalizing the investment deal. “One of the reasons his business took off so fast is that he had no pride about coming back to us, five minutes after the ink was dry on our deal, saying ‘I think I might have misjudged this piece of the equation, and we need to change it this way or that way.’” In countless other deals, Chris has worked with founders who won’t acknowledge tough issues. “They don’t want to go back to their investors with anything that makes them look like they weren’t perfectly prescient, with perfect foreknowledge, or anything that makes it look like things are shaky underfoot,” he says. “But in reality, what the investor craves is the opposite. Because you know that things are going to be shaky underfoot. You’re on shifting sands always. What you want to see is their reaction.”

Think of adversity as more than an inevitable companion on your startup journey. It is a sign that you are focusing on knotty problems that need untangling. Turbulence builds muscle and opens windows into your team’s talent, character, and commitment.

Mastery in any field comes through tough stretches of grinding and problem solving. The path to sustained venture success is no different. For the most part, value creation is the result of unglamorous day-to-day toil, not satisfying high-five moments. As Warren Buffett  noted of a similar playing field:  “Beware of investment activity that produces applause. The great moves are usually greeted with yawns.


John Bradberry – Charlotte, NC


Posted in Cognitive Bias, Communication, Culture, Decision Making, Execution, Founder Readiness, The Passion Trap, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

9 Reasons to Start a Business (and Why All Reasons are Not Created Equal)


“He who has a why can endure any how.”

                                                                                               Friedrich Nietzsche 


On a regular basis, people ask me whether I think it’s wise for them to take the plunge and pursue their business idea.

Or they’ve already decided to launch and want my advice on how to go about it.

In either case, the first questions out of my mouth are:  Why? Why now? What are your reasons? What do you want to achieve?

Your basic purpose will (should) dictate how you build your business, and what kind of business you build.  Your personal motives will not only drive your performance as a founder — they will determine your level of happiness. Some reasons pack more motivational punch than others, and some have greater lasting power. Your desire to get away from an awful job or a bad boss, for example, might kickstart your entrepreneurial process, but that escapist urge won’t serve you well over the long haul. What will be your source of energy and focus after the thrill of your initial leap is gone?

It pays to honestly reflect on why you are sprinting down the startup path. Every motivational force has its own set benefits and tradeoffs. Here are nine common reasons for plunging down the startup path, along with considerations to keep in mind:
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Founder Profile 2.0 + Research Opportunity

Strange as it seems, being around 600+ people helps me come up for air and reflect a bit, so here’s a quick update from the floor of the Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC, where we are proud to serve as a conference sponsor once again.


  • The past year has been fast, furious and fruitful.  We have enjoyed working with clients in locations as varied as Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Hartford, London, Paris, Singapore, St. Petersburg, Bratislava, and Dubai.
  • One favorite project has involved immersive work in helping a $25B global biopharma company develop a more entrepreneurial culture.
  • Also in 2014, we helped hundreds of leaders in global tech and financial services companies operate more successfully across boundaries and extend their positive influence and impact.
  • I’ve also enjoyed serving as a mentor for the Lean Startup Conference as well as for Eric Ries’ new kickstarter campaign.
  • Most excitingly, over the past year, we rebooted our Entrepreneur Core Characteristics Profile (ECCP) and moved it to a new hosting platform (PAN).

  • We want to generate additional data — lots of it — on what makes entrepreneurs tick.
  • If you work with entrepreneurial populations, please get in touch if you are interested in using the assessment tool for research, education, coaching/advising, etc.  We can make the tool available at minimum cost in exchange for having access to the data generated.
  • We are especially interested in helping large enterprises identify, retain, and develop entrepreneurial talent (before it walks out the door to chase that big idea….).
  • Interested in exploring?  Contact me via twitter (@johnbradberry) or email Dawn Ballenger at

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The Problem with Absolutes


 (This is a revised version of a post I wrote for American Express OpenForum a couple of years ago… )

With much of the world’s work and play taking place online and the rest of our lives moving in that direction, Web content is clamoring and competing for your attention. It’s a world in which bloggers, authors, and other experts besiege us with ideas and opinions — and where extreme views often carry greater perceived value than facts.

As one of those authors who posts an occasional opinion, I’d rather not get caught up in the attention-getting sweepstakes — the sea of articles that attack common business practices with titles like “10 Things to Never Do With Your Website,” “Say No to Meetings,” and “The 4 Deadly Sins of Business.”  It’s not the formats of these pieces that give me heartburn. It’s the dogmatic language, designed by advice-givers to seize your attention and hold it. And usually lurking underneath the title is an impassioned argument that presents a particular business principle as an ironclad law.  No questions asked.

My usual reaction is: “Really? Are readers expected to believe their businesses are failing because they hold meetings? This is why sales are plummeting?”

The problem with business absolutes is that while they might reflect sound principles, they don’t apply perfectly within the real world of everyday business. Experienced entrepreneurs and leaders know this and consider everything they read with a grain of salt. They use their own judgment, take what is useful, and discard the rest.

Here are a few of my favorite absolutist attacks from the past few years:
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What Would You Do? The Hidden Cost of Hurriedness

(NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from a book chapter I wrote titled “Integrity of Communication.”  It outlines a classic social psychology experiment that sheds light on the question:  Why do we so often avoid taking the most obvious and essential steps to building a solid startup foundation?  I’ve shared this story many times in 2014 while helping a large global company build a more entrepreneurial culture. Many of the leaders I’ve worked with — in this company and others — are haunted and hounded by pressing to-do lists, compressed calendars, and a sense that they are always behind schedule.  While speed/agility are critical to entrepreneurial success, the “hurriedness” that accompanies them can have debilitating consequences).

  • Why do we, as founders, not put adequate attention to the things we (say we) value?
  • Why do we not do what we know to be good for us?
  • What gets in the way of doing the right things?

I’m convinced that a major obstacle is the unrelenting urgency and haste—the perceived lack of time—that dominates most startup environments. It can be argued that time is a founder’s most precious resource. Infusing your venture with high-integrity communication requires the use of this resource. Venture changing conversations can’t always be scheduled in advance or put on a convenient agenda, and they don’t lend themselves to hurried shortcuts.

Social psychological research supports the idea that hurriedness is a major culprit in our lack of attention to things we say we value. In a famous study conducted in 1973 at Princeton University, John M. Darley, a professor of social psychology, and doctoral student C. Daniel Batson, researched the phenomenon of “Good Samaritan” behavior. They wanted to know what kinds of personality traits and situational factors influence a person’s likelihood of stopping to help an obviously distressed victim. In the study, they asked seminary students to walk across campus, one at a time, to a building where they would give a presentation. En route, each subject encountered a man (an actor) in obvious need of help, slumped in a doorway, moaning and coughing. The question of interest was: which students would stop to help and why?

Upon analyzing the results, the researchers were surprised to find no relationship between subjects’ personalities and whether or not they would stop to help the victim. Instead, helping behavior was mostly tied to a single variable: the degree to which subjects were in a hurry.

  • Of those subjects who were told they had “plenty of time” to arrive at their presentation site, 63 percent stopped and rendered aid to the victim.
  • People who were told they had “a few minutes” to spare stopped 45 percent of the time.
  • A third group of subjects, those who were told that they were “already running late” to their presentations, stopped only 10 percent of the time, even though they passed very close to the victim (a few even stepped over him on the way to their destination).

The message of the Good Samaritan study is that our sense of urgency can greatly influence whether our actions match up with our espoused values and priorities. The “hurried” seminary students in the study would claim to be just as altruistic as the other participants, but their sense of urgency clearly diminished their ability to act according to their stated values. Similarly, many entrepreneurs intend to create highly functioning, well-communicating teams, but often cast these good intentions aside amid the time pressures of the startup climate, where an ever-growing list of urgent concerns and to-dos crowds out more fundamental value-creation opportunities.

J.C. Faulkner, when asked about how he established trust and cohesiveness among his high-flying management team, concurs with the idea of no shortcuts. “It’s real simple. It took time” he said. “Trust is not something that you can buy, or that happens quickly. It is an intense thing that has to be developed over time.” The paradoxical good news for D1 was that this investment of time led to terrific speed and growth. “We had a goal to produce forty million dollars of business in a three year period,” J.C. recalls, “and we did it in twelve months. In my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought it would happen, but I learned that an efficient management team that trusts each other can make so many decisions. The question is: how quickly, how effectively can you have conversations to make the best decisions? Some teams are too slow in making decisions, and some are very quick to make bad decisions. But if you are fast and you make the right decisions, it’s explosive.”

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The Commoditization of Ideas

Had a great time last week working with 50+ students at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Flagler Business School. The students are part of the GLOBE program — an 18 month program bringing together undergraduates from three business schools: UNC’s Kenan-Flagler, Copenhagen Business School (CBS), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).


I took the students through our Entrepreneur Core Characteristics Profile (ECCP) and helped them identify implications of their results — how their personality matches up with what is typically required to launch a successful venture.

One of our more interesting conversations was about the relationship between ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  I find that a lot of aspiring founders believe that startup success is mostly about the idea, when, in fact, ideas have become commoditized in today’s world. Because the world’s knowledge and data are instantly, globally google-able and sharable — chances are any brilliant idea you’ve developed is hatching in multiple sites and minds across the planet.


The metaphor we discussed is illustrated in the three posted pictures …

  • Ideas are like seeds:  plentiful, inexpensive, easy to access.
  • Innovation is getting a healthy plant out of the ground, generating fruit.
  • Entrepreneurship is farming — it’s about pulling together an entire process for creating value, putting food on tables (metaphorically) for a market that will pay for that value.  As such, entrepreneurship requires a wide range of capabilities and resources, not the least of which is time and (almost always) lots of patience.


Here’s the full slide deck from my talk.

Thank you Ted Zoller and Chris Mumford for inviting to work with the students.  Look forward to next time!


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Why Startups Fail at Communication (“Let me close the door”)

The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.

Edward R. Murrow, 1964

On the face of it, you’d think startups and small businesses would be bastions of open, healthy communication, full of people who have sworn off the secret obsessions and toxic climates of the big corporations they left behind.

It should be easy to have direct, no-nonsense conversations in an early-stage venture. Right? No bureaucratic red tape to stifle candid dialogue or common-sense problem solving.

The reality is not so simple.

Case in point: An early-stage startup I advised a few years ago — a venture with only fifteen employees — where the firm’s COO listened to my private conference room interviews through the wall of his adjacent office by putting his ear to a cup against the wall (you can’t make this stuff up).
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Don’t Let Complexity Kill Your Value Proposition

I was working with a senior leader of a Fortune 100 company last week.  He was nervous about an upcoming product launch, one that had gotten countless hours of development and a treasure full of capital. Product developers were beaming and corporate expectations were through the roof.

His concern: the product would be dead on arrival because it was too complex for core customers to understand, and, at a more basic level, it was too complicated for even the company’s own salespeople to grasp and explain.

While the basic premise underlying the product was brilliant, the concept had been overtaken by feature creep — a proliferation of bells, whistles, bed knobs and broomsticks. Value had been eclipsed by complexity. Perfect had become the enemy of good.

The chart above, by Marc Effron, illustrates a simple, powerful business principle: the value/complexity curve. Effron uses it to explain why so many HR programs and systems are never implemented by an organization’s managers. Simply put, most corporate programs are too complicated for the average manager to put into use (Effron’s primary focus is on talent management systems, but the point travels well across all HR programs, and across nearly any internally driven corporate improvement program). The reality is that no program or product has any value unless it is implemented, and the tragedy is that few managers have the time and bandwidth to implement most programs, however well-intentioned, because the programs are over-thought and over-designed.

As Effron notes:

Our belief is that implementation is everything — if we simply get talent management practices implemented, they are going to deliver the results that you’re looking for.  And, if we can prove to managers that the practices will add more value to their life than more complexity, they are much more likely to use them.

His point reminds me of a strategy truism:  A B-level strategy, effectively implemented, is infinitely more valuable than an A-level strategy that is poorly or sporadically implemented.

The value-compexity curve applies in spades to the startup process, and emphasizes the value of getting a minimum viable product in your customer’s hands.

Simple works, mainly because it’s more likely to actually happen. Everything beyond that is called improvement.


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Here’s to Sharper Attention and Greater Depth (Update)


I first came across Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, nearly two-and-a-half years ago, in June of 2010, as I was piecing together the last chapter of my own book.  When I say “came across,” I mean that I learned about Carr’s book via online publicity, scanned some of its content, and skimmed a few early reviews.  Within a few computer clicks, I had grasped the book’s message (I thought) so confidently that I referenced it in Chapter 8 of my book, right there on page 186:

“And in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, journalist Nicholas Carr offers the well-formulated thesis that our 24/7 information age is robbing us of nothing less than our ability to think deeply.”

I knew at the time that Carr was on to something tremendously important. At an intuitive level, his core premise resonated with my experience almost perfectly.  Of course, I didn’t actually read his book. I was too busy finishing my own. And I certainly didn’t understand, at the time, the comic irony of my quickly and shallowly dipping a spoonful of content from the deep well of his synthesized work.

On Saturday afternoon, I finally picked up the new paperback edition of The Shallows and immersed myself in it over two days.  It’s been at least 20 years since a non-fiction book gripped me with such force, and I can’t think of one I would recommend more highly. Carr isn’t formulating academic theory, but instead, through his synthesis of a wide array of historical observations and neurological research, he’s telling a tale about how the human mind interacts with the forces of technology, for better and worse.  For all the incredible advances and conveniences offered by networked computing, we humans are riding a technological wave that might be returning us back to the viscerally-directed attention patterns of our pre-literate ancestors.

The book’s insights not only hit home for me at a personal level. Most of my professional work involves supporting and improving the performance of executives and entrepreneurs.  Many of them are harried, distracted, and drowning in torrential streams of unfiltered data. They reflexively snap their heads back and forth in hopes of capturing a few key bits and bytes of information. When they move with speed it’s usually toward unclear destinations, but more often they feel as if they’re running in quicksand.  Our ongoing joke about adult ADD has become so common that it just tires us even more.

Plenty of controversy has flown back and forth about Carr’s conclusions, with valid viewpoints on both sides, as he points out. But, when it comes to understanding the stuff of which we are made — how we think, choose, and act — and the direction in which we are moving as a species, this debate might be the most fruitful of our time.

Here’s wishing you, your families, and your firms a wonderful 2013, full of clear thinking, deep attention, appropriate velocity, and the joy of engaging in all the right challenges!


Two notes: (1) The absence of hyper-links in this post is intentional — read Carr’s book to find out why (not a permanent practice, just a nod on my part). (2) This is not a PR-driven post. I don’t know the author or his publicists.

UPDATE – click on ‘comments’ below to get a broader perspective and more detailed response from Elizabeth Helfant (@ehelfant). Elizabeth’s expertise is in instructional technology (check out her bio here) and she’s more deeply versed than most of us.  Please add your thoughts as well… Thanks – JB.


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